Check out a quick breakdown of every game 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.
Charlotte Hornets @ Indiana Pacers
Line: Pacers -3
At this point, the Pacers are only 1.5 games up on the Hornets, which I don’t think anyone would have predicted a few months back. But the trends have been working from both ends – the Pacers have been slowly sliding and the Hornets have probably exceeded most people’s expectations. Vegas set their over/under for total wins on the year at 33, and they are already at 29. Between Walker and Batum, they have plenty of firepower in the backcourt, and Marvin Williams and Big Al, while not dominant or anything even close, complement each other very well. Jefferson gives them a great option when they need a bucket in the half court, and some rim protection, and Williams gives them a more athletic body to help on defense and keep the offense up-tempo enough to make sure those guards are getting plenty of uncontested looks.
For Indiana, it has been Paul George and not much else, unfortunately. Myles Turner is looking like he could turn out to be a player. He’s scored double-digit points in eight straight, and 15+ in three of his last four, not too shabby when you consider he is also averaging six boards and three blocks a night over the same span, and the Hornets frontcourt doesn’t present so much of a challenge that you’d automatically expect less than that tonight. Even without developing a more consistent jumper, with the way the league is going now, he could still end up proving to be a very serviceable 5 on a contender.
Washington Wizards @ Philadelphia 76ers
Line: Wizards -8.5
The story out of Philly over the past week or so, once they got past the trade deadline, has been a serious drop-off in Ish Smith’s game. He has only managed 20+ points twice this month, and has been under 25 DK FP in three of his last five outings. And now the consequences are showing themselves: no more than 27 minutes in any of his last three, even while his normal backup, T.J. McConnell, had to miss time with a sprained ankle. And now, after all that, he’s got John Wall to contend with. Wall can be a serious pest on defense when he wants to, but he could also just manage to completely demoralize Smith on the offensive end, doing what he wants with the ball while his Sixers counterpart continues to struggle.
The most compelling matchup in this one is Gortat vs. Okafor. Gortat has been having a great year on both ends of the court, and I don’t see that changing in this one, but it will be intriguing to see how Okafor performs. He has got all the moves you want on the block, but great rebounding centers have been able to really limit him on the glass this year, which obviously limits his fantasy potential. And if Smith and Okafor are so easily limited, it’s easy to see why this team, well, never wins games.
Orlando Magic @ New York Knicks
Line: Knicks -1.5
Tonight I am kind of curious to see Gordon and Porzingis out there doing their things. Gordon and Vucevic together can just dominate the glass – Gordon now has double-digit boards in six of his last seven, and Vucevic has no fewer than nine in any game for that whole stretch either. It will be interesting to see if Porzingis even bothers trying to compete with that, but even more importantly, you want to see if contending with that level of physicality hurts his ability to produce on the offensive end as well. For him to be able to compete against guys like Gordon in the long term, he needs to be able to concede that he’s not leading the game in rebounding, still compete for position and make his opponent work, and still have his legs under him for those mid-range jumpers on the other end.
He should have the help of Carmelo and Lopez, however, and Lopez is exactly the kind of force that needs to be in place on the defensive glass to let the young star forward focus his efforts elsewhere. Lopez has been seeing more action under Derek Fisher, with his minutes up almost five a game, and while he has been inconsistent, the reasons to have him out there are obvious. In back to back games last weekend, he put up 47 points and 29 rebounds, and this Knicks squad just didn’t have anyone else to fill that kind of role, ever.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors
Line: Cavs -1
The top two teams in the East are squaring off here in the game of the night, and somehow, a Toronto win would actually feel like a big deal. At least, to everyone but Cleveland. The Cavs are – or should be, anyway – content in the knowledge that they are the best team in the East regardless of the outcome of this one, but Toronto is going to use this game as a measuring stick regardless. And when there is even a little bit of anticipation, the results seem a bit more meaningful.
And while winning a game like this at home could give Toronto a huge boost of confidence, the general consensus is going to remain the same: come playoff time, the Cavs still have the best player in the conference, and guys in Kyrie and Love who can win a game by themselves. And all of that could be true in this one too, if they want it to be. But in Toronto, I would not expect the Cavs to win this one with their defense. They’re going to have to outscore a Raptors team that will feature DeRozan and likely also use Ross for large chunks in place of Carroll, relying on Valaciunas to hold down the middle while they look for as much scoring as possible.
Chicago Bulls @ Atlanta Hawks
Line: Atlanta -7
I feel bad for Bulls fans. It was so much fun watching Jimmy Butler earlier this season, and then he went down and it was really demoralizing. And then, even though you knew their long-term prospects were shot without their star shooting guard, it was maybe even more fun watching Derrick Rose start to look like the Derrick Rose from 5 years ago again. And then Derrick Rose had to go and get hurt again. And least this time it is “just” a hamstring, but it is certainly enough to remind fans they can never trust Rose to stay healthy again, which is never a fun feeling. There is, apparently, still a chance he plays tonight, but reports are he’s not back to 100%, so why would he? And even if he does, I would be hard-pressed to trust him at a price that was based on his increased role and production, when who knows if this injury will limit him in some way.
And without Rose, and Butler, and Noah, and possibly without Gasol, what else is there? You could find some good cash game options on the Bulls just because all the prices are so low, but what you really should be looking for are the good GPP plays on the Hawks. They are playing a team of backups, and their prices simply do not reflect their upside. From Teague in the backcourt to Millsap and Horford up front, this team is suddenly, at least for one night, full up with some very appealing options.
Denver Nuggets @ Dallas Mavericks
Line: Mavs -5
I don’t really understand this line. Dallas averages about 101 points per game and gives up 102. For Denver, those numbers are 100 and 103. For both of these teams to exceed all of those averages, it seems like Vegas is predicting a game where Denver is able to dictate the pace, and yet Dallas is favored by five. I feel like one of those numbers is wrong – for Denver to win by five or more, the scoring will have to be lower.
But the thing is, neither of these teams actually defend all that well, they just keep scoring down with their style of play. And that means that if any one player can win their individual matchup, he should be primed for success. One matchup that could go a long way towards determining the outcome here is Gallinari vs. Parsons. If one of those guys can get hot, it might be exactly the boost this offense needs.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Sacramento Kings
Line: Clips -2.5
The highest line on the board, there really is no reason you shouldn’t expect a big scoring night out of both of these teams. I’m not 100% sure what the cause of all the problems in Sacramento is, because they actually have some talented players, but I can tell you that one of the symptoms they’ve got is a complete inability to defend creative guards. And tonight, they are playing Chris Paul. That’s not going to work out well.
DeAndre Jordan is going to put up fantasy stats here – you might say despite the fact that he’s the only big man for the Clippers, facing both Boogie and a little of Cauley-Stein. Or you could say because he’s the only big man. Yeah, that’s what I would say. The Clips just have no one else to turn to for rebounds and rim protection and he is more than capable. He’s up to 15 straight games with double digit rebounds, with fifteen or more in ten of them. And his value on defense is in slowing down penetrators, so his presence doesn’t even have to scare you off Cousins. Win-win.
Editor’s Note: Rajon Rondo is listed as Questionable for tonight’s game. Darren Collison has averaged 40.1 DraftKings Points per game in 2 games without Rondo this year.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Lakers
Line: Memphis -4
With Gasol out, Zach Randolph is going to get as much run and as many opportunities as he can handle. The problem with that is that at this point in his career, not having his running mate out there means he’s not quite as efficient with the extra chances. Fortunately, everyone’s efficiency goes up when they face the Lakers. You might actually see the full value of his juiced up role in this one.
But the fact that Gasol isn’t there obviously hurts Memphis’ interior defense, and removes a key man on the glass. Enter Julius Randle. He has three double-doubles in his last four games, and has routinely been out there for 30+ minutes. His increased usage has coincided with more minutes for D’Angelo Russell, an indication that the Lakers have finally decided they should be using this season to see what they have in their young talent, and that’s going to mean increased value for both of them. At this point, their prices haven’t quite caught up, so get on board soon.