Saturday’s main slate features five games and gets underway at 7 p.m. ET with the final two games tipping off at 10 p.m. ET. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Saturday night.
Suns -7.5 (-110)
The Suns are at full strength and the Wizards will be without their star player Bradley Beal (wrist). There is little doubt that the best team in the NBA (41-10, 19-5 away) should beat a non-playoff team (24-27, 13-12 home), but can the Suns cover this sizable spread on the road? The Suns have won nine of their last 10 games and have covered in seven of those contests. In five of those covers, they were favorites of six points or more and each were away contests.
This matchup is fairly lopsided. The Suns have the second-best Net Rating (+7.6), while the Wizards sit in 23rd place (-2.5) and that’s in 40 games with Bradley Beal. Obviously, the Suns are great offensively (third) and defensively (second), but they also play at the sixth-fastest pace in the NBA. Most teams cannot compete with an efficient, fast-paced team. The Wizards rank 21st in pace and 22nd in defensive efficiency. With those numbers, not only will they certainly lose on Saturday night, but they will struggle to keep this game close.
Hornets +3.5 (-110)
The Heat have battled injuries all season long, but Erik Spoelstra is not doing his team any favors running Jimmy Butler into the ground. Over the last week, Butler played 37, 52 and 40 minutes. He was given a rest day after the 52-minute triple OT affair and fortunately the Heat blew out the Spurs on Thursday night, allowing Butler some rest (25 minutes). It looks like the Heat are intent on winning every regular season game irrespective of the long-term effects, so Butler will likely suit up and play at least 30 minutes in a paced-up game vs. the Hornets. However, at some point this is going to catch up with the Heat’s 32-year-old veteran.
On paper, this seems like a good spot for the Heat, but the Hornets are better in real life. On the season, the Hornets rank 25th in defensive efficiency (112.3), but over the last 15 games, they rank seventh (108.3). As 3.5-point dogs or larger, the Hornets have covered in eight of their last nine games and 11 of 14 going back to early November. They are 3-0 ATS as 3.5-point or larger underdogs at home, and are 9-2 as home dogs this season (7-4 on the money line).
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Thunder +7 (-110)
Say what you want about the Thunder, but this team covers. Not only are they covering, but they are winning. Since the Thunder lost Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, they have won every game without him (three in a row). They will be without their supposed best player for an extended period. Perhaps, their best player is Josh Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander’s presence was holding back the rapid development of the Australian rookie point guard. Although Giddey’s usage rate has not changed much over the last three games, he’s been a much more efficient player in each of the last three games. His Plus/Minus stats over that span have been +15, +16 and -2 (a double-double in the first two games and nearly a triple-double in the second contest). Even the -2 is a solid number for a point guard that is the main distributor on the team. His Net Rating this season is -8.2, but during this run it’s +14.5. It’s clear that when General Giddey has command of the floor, the offense and defense run better.
The DraftKings Sportsbook seems to be too concerned with the absence of Gilgeous-Alexander, Aaron Wiggins and Jeremiah Robison-Earl. The former may be overrated and the latter two are fringe NBA players according to ESPN’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Lu Dort continues to improve as a two-way player and Tre Mann has filled in as the team’s third scorer. He played a big role in the blowout win over the Trail Blazers on Jan. 31 (29 points), but even in the rematch where he was ice cold (4-for-17 FGA), the Thunder still won because Darius Bazley has been a solid contributor off the bench. The Thunder are not a good team and they may not win outright, but they are a well-coached team with a lot of heart that battles for four quarters. That’s why they are 32-18-1 ATS.
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