Check out a quick breakdown of all twelve games on Friday’s NBA slate. We’ll take a look at the Vegas lines and totals, recent trends, and a few players you can be targeting for tonight’s action. Good luck!
Brooklyn Nets @ Indiana Pacers
Line: Pacers -10.5
The second-highest line on the board, Vegas is not expecting the Nets to put up much of a fight here. Brooklyn got up to 7 wins, but has now dropped three straight and is facing the 15-9 Pacers, one of the top teams in the East. Paul George is actually having a first team All-NBA type season, even if he ends up as third-team just because his position is stacked. He was sick earlier in the week, but played Wednesday and racked up his normal complement of minutes, putting up 19-7 in a win. In a matchup like this one, having a guy who averages 26-8-4 with more than a steal every night is almost overkill – the Nets certainly don’t have anyone to defend him.
Portland Trailblazers @ Orlando Magic
Line: Magic -5
This is a strange game, because the Trailblazers so clearly have the edge in the backcourt, while the Magic, just as clearly, are superior up front. The big problem with the Blazers is that they not only don’t have very good big men, they also don’t have enough wings to effectively play small ball, instead being forced into trotting out Mason Plumlee for almost 30 minutes a game. In other words, I love Vucevic in this matchup.
Lillard has put together three games in his last five with over 40 fantasy points, but all you really need to know about him is this: occasionally, he gets almost 30 shot attempts in a game. He has all the upside in the world.
New York Knicks @ Philadelphia 76ers
Line: Knicks -6.5
Porzingis came through with a 30+ fantasy night on Wednesday after a few days off, and then got another night to rest. He only scored 11 points, but had an absolutely ridiculous seven blocks. That may not be sustainable, but it is nice to see a fantasy asset who can contribute in a lot of different ways – that never hurts consistency. But the story of the game Wednesday was Carmelo. The Knicks got the win because of his performance, coming through with 20-15-9, but more because of what it represented. This was a Knicks team that seemed to be focused on actually winning the game, and not just getting their own stats, and that must have been a breath of fresh air for New York fans everywhere.
Atlanta Hawks @ Boston Celtics
Line: Celtics -4
The Celtics are actually a half-game behind the Hawks in the standings, and coming off two straight losses. But they are at home, and they routinely play in the game with the highest total out of Vegas in the eastern conference, night after night. That’s not a coincidence, and it is also not a style Atlanta can match. The Hawks are going to have to hope to grind this game down to a halt, and let Jeff Teague do his part to limit the effectiveness of the Celtics’ guards.
However, what is more likely to happen is something I like to call the “Celtics effect” – where low-scoring slow-paced Eastern conference teams are suddenly thrust into a situation where they need to try to keep up with a much faster-paced opponent. When that happens, and a team like the Hawks lets Boston set the pace, it might not be good for the Hawks’ chances of winning the game, but it is good for the fantasy value of their players, as all of sudden there are more scoring opportunities to go around.
Toronto Raptors @ Miami Heat
Line: Miami -4
Miami is a top-ten defensive team against both guard spots, and power forward. That leaves small forward and center as the two best plays against them, theoretically, at least. Unfortunately, Carroll and Valanciunas are both hurt. Good times. Biyombo and Terrance Ross have been the biggest beneficiaries of those injuries, and their prices haven’t yet spiked too much from the increased usage. They have the matchup tonight, so this could be a good opportunity to take advantage of the value.
The Heat have been an interesting case all year, because for a team staying very competitive in the East, they don’t have any really dominant fantasy stars. The worst-case scenario: a low-scoring team with the production being spread out over a deep roster. No thank you.
Detroit Pistons @ Chicago Bulls
Line: Bulls -4
Chicago is sitting at 15-8, winners of four in a row, and they are facing a Pistons team that just outlasted the Celtics at home Wednesday night. They beat the Celtics 119-116 – my guess is they come in about 20 points less than that in this one. These two teams will be trying to slow the game down even when it’s already slow. Be prepared for lots of shots inside of 5 seconds on the shot clock. And do not be prepared for another 30-point outburst from Caldwell-Pope. The difference between these two teams and the Heat, however, is that while they are all relatively low-scoring teams, at least you usually know where the production is coming from with these two.
Sacramento Kings @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Line: Kings -2.5
Boogie might be listed as a power forward, but this game will be, for me, a chance to watch Towns face off against one of the game’s best. He went for 25-10 against the Knicks two nights ago – the kind of performance that, if it happens regularly, makes you one of the best players in the league. He shot better than 50% from the floor, and even hit a couple of threes, stretching the floor for his teammates, and himself.
Rondo is returning to action after his one-game suspension here, and likely will want to play well, and should be able to assert himself against this Minnesota defense. He is the rare player who isn’t league-leading in any one category, but who is a legitimate threat at a triple-double every single night.
Los Angeles Clippers @ San Antonio Spurs
Line: Spurs -7.5
This was supposed to be some kind of marquee matchup, but the way the Clips are playing so far this year, you wonder if maybe the Spurs won’t bother playing all their studs. But Los Angeles is riding a little three-game road trip, so hopefully the opposite is true, and for once you see the Spurs playing at full-tilt, with all their players getting all the minutes they can handle. Doubtful, I know, even for a big game. It is still only December after all, but one can wish.
I like Jordan in this matchup, if only because Pop knows he can’t beat them on his own, so he might as well let him try. But really, this is the kind of game I think Chris Paul shows up in a big way for, shooting more than you’re used to seeing, driving harder to the hole than you’re used to and just generally doing everything in his power to push the Clippers over the hump. It might not be enough in the end, but it will be fun to watch.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Dallas Mavericks
Line: Mavs -2.5
These two teams just keep plugging along. The Grizzlies have been defined by the Gasol/Randolph duo for how many years now? And the Mavs have taken persevering to the next level, still trotting out Dirk as their primary scoring option for 30 minutes a night. For Memphis the biggest new development has been the usage of Jeff Green, averaging 5 minutes more over the past two weeks than he is for the season. He is finally starting to fit a little better with this team on the offensive end, having his two best games of the season in the past week, going off for more than 30 fantasy points against the Heat and Warriors on back-to-back nights just a few days ago.
Denver Nuggets @ Utah Jazz
Line: Jazz -5
I am not sure what to make of the Jazz sometimes, and the default is just “Derrick Favors’ team.” And who could blame me, really – he is averaging 19-9 in December.
For the Nuggets, Mudiay has been ruled out of tonight’s game, creating a nice opportunity for Jameer Nelson, who is averaging 14 points, 6 assists and almost 4 boards a night since the rookie went down with his ankle injury. The absence also likely helps Trey Burke, who is much more likely to be able to get his shot against Nelson than the much longer Mudiay.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Phoenix Suns
Line: Suns -3
I am going to be honest with you: Anthony Davis is too expensive. I was prepared for his ascension this year, and an MVP season, but right now, it’s not happening. You are looking at a player with a ceiling in the 50’s and a floor in the 30’s – he doesn’t have the upside of other elite options, and he has the downside of more mid-level talents. So when you draft him onto your team, you are doing it with a heart full of hope, and you better be doing it in a GPP, not a cash contest. But all that being said, this is actually a matchup he could exploit, against a team that will push the pace, and has no one to match up with him defensively.
For Phoenix, it’s… Bledsoe and Knight. Of course. Their value is baked into their prices pretty effectively, since their usage never changes much, so the only question is whether this is a matchup that scares you or one they can take advantage of. For Bledsoe in particular, I think it’s the former – it should be a fun matchup between him and Evans. They should both find success, but I think Bledsoe has the better chance to really push his production forward by padding his stat line with some fantasy points on the defensive end as well.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Golden State Warriors
Line: Warriors -19
This line is literally Vegas screaming at you. “Anyone want the Bucks?” “Hey, you! Take the Bucks!” “Someone, please take the Bucks. Anyone?”
With Greg Monroe out, the only threats Milwaukee has left are guys like Mayo, Middleton, and Antetokounmpo, and all three of them are right in Draymond’s defensive wheelhouse. As soon as one of them heats up, he will cool them right off, especially with no experienced PG to get them the ball in the right spots. The Warriors match up with this team so well defensively, it’s no surprise the line is this high. As for the Warriors on offense, you know what to do. Get them in your lineup. Any of them.