Friday’s schedule is huge: 10 games in total, including a double header on ESPN. On the national TV front, we’ll see two potentially exciting games: Warriors vs. 76ers (7:30 pm ET) and Nuggets vs. Lakers (10 p.m. ET).
Our five best bets for Friday, feature the latter game of that pair and three more matchups across the evening’s slate. Among their plays are two spread bets, a player prop and a play on a team’s total.
You can find their in-depth analysis, expert picks and predictions for Friday night below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Atlanta Hawks vs. Charlotte Hornets
Jessica Gridiron: The Hornets are riding a six-game losing streak, but I think that ends tonight at home against the Hawks. Charlotte already beat Atlanta this season on Oct. 23. Kelly Oubre Jr. (24 points) and back up center Nick Richards (20 points) led the way for the shorthanded Hornets in a 126-109 win against a fully healthy Hawks team in that game.
The Hornets got LaMelo Ball back in the lineup Wednesday after an 11-game absence and he should improve even more than his last game. Gordon Hayward has also been upgraded to questionable for tonight’s game, which will give the Hornets even more firepower if he’s cleared to play.
The Hawks lost Clint Capela to an injury, which will allow Charlotte to dominate the boards. The Hornets’ offense should be able to expose the Hawks’ porous defense, which ranks 26th in Defensive Rating over the past two weeks, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Atlanta is just 1-6 straight up and against the spread in its past six games. Lay the points with the Hornets here.
Sacramento Kings vs. Detroit Pistons
Austin Wang: It’s Friday night during the holiday season — perfect time to light the beam and get the party started!
The Kings are on the tail end of a six-game road trip, so natural intuition says that they are in an unfavorable spot with fatigue. However, the data states otherwise. An interesting trend I found is that favorites on their sixth straight road game against an opponent off a win have gone a staggering 23-0 SU and 19-2-2 ATS since the 2015-16 season, per the Sports Data Query Language at Killer Sports.
The Kings have exceeded all expectations this season. They are 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS as favorites, 4-0 SU and 3-1 as road favorites. They are ranked fifth in Offensive Rating, and although there has been some regression in recent games, I think this will be a good opportunity for their offense to get right against a lousy Pistons defense that is ranked 29th in Defensive Rating.
I like the Kings to control the boards here with a strong rebounding advantage — they are ranked first in Defensive Rebounding Percentage while the Pistons are ranked 25th. In addition, I see another advantage in points scored in the paint — the Kings are 12th in that category while Detroit is 28th in opponent’s points in the paint.
The Pistons are off a hard-fought overtime win, which is typically a good fade spot. Home underdogs off an overtime win are 87-125-6 ATS (41%) in the history of the Killer Sports database, dating back to the 2002-03 season. In addition, they’ve played four of their previous five games on the road. With all that recent travel and getting that victory on the road, I foresee a let-down spot at home.
I would love to see Kevin Huerter in the lineup for the Kings, but even without him, I see plenty of advantages for this Kings team.
Sacramento Kings vs. Detroit Pistons
Jessica Gridiron: I’m on the other side of this matchup. Detroit is coming off a solid win against the Charlotte Hornets and is searching for back-to-back victories for just the second time this season.
Although the Pistons are 8-22 straight-up, they boast a 15-11-4 record against the spread and 10-4-4 since losing Cade Cunningham to injury, the second best mark in the league over the stretch.
This should be a fast paced game where both teams end up taking continuous trips to the charity stripe. If this is the case, Detroit should have the advantage as they have the fifth-highest Free Throw Rate in the league.
As long as the Pistons come out of the gates with their A-game, they can easily win this game outright, but I’m going to take the points in this one as my model projections show the Kings winning by 0.8 points.
Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Dylan Wilkerson: The Pacers are coming off a win against the Warriors, and the Cavaliers are returning home after taking down the Mavericks in Dallas. Both teams are coming off one day of rest, and it looks like we have all of the information we need in terms of injuries to make a best bet.
The Pacers have defended poorly against guards this year, allowing the fifth-most points per game allowed to shooting guards. Donovan Mitchell is averaging 29.2 points per game, and when we just look at the month of December he is averaging 32.4 PPG.
He has cleared this line in four of his last five games, averaging 23 field goal attempts per game. He is nearing a 90% free throw percentage as well, so he is likely to make the most out of his trips to the line.
Darius Garland is the only man that could steal the points from Donovan, however Mitchell is taking seven more shots per game than Garland in the month of December. Mitchell is the star of this team and I expect to see him shoot his shot and take advantage of every opportunity he gets.
Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Chris Baker: This is a way too high of a number for a team that ranks 21st in Offensive Rating. If you adjust for schedule strength the Lakers ranks 25th in Offensive Rating as they have played the 10th-easiest schedule of opposing defenses.
The popular narrative is that this Denver defense is awful and can’t guard anyone, but I personally don’t agree. Looking at the numbers they actually rank first in the NBA at preventing transition opportunities and first in Defensive Rebound Rate. The Nuggets are doing a great job at forcing teams to play in the half-court and finishing their possessions.
Everyone looks at the raw Defensive Rating (28th) and assumes they are giving up wide-open easy looks, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. They rank 15th in location Effective Field Goal Percentage, which essentially is a statistic that predicts the opponents eFG% based on shot location and quality. The Nuggets are essentially 15th in Expected eFG% allowed, but they are 29th in actual eFG%.
This is a disparity we would expect to regress and it is a disparity that matches up with my eye test. As someone who watches this team a ton I don’t believe they are a bottom-10 defense and I think they are due for some positive regression. This is a great spot for that to happen as the Lakers are highly dependent on transition — sixth in transition rate and second in Pace.
The Lakers also live at the rim, ranking first in the NBA in Rim Rate, attempting over 40% of their shots at the rim. This is another area where Denver is solid as they are 10th-best in the NBA at limiting rim looks.
The past two games between these teams saw the Lakers finish with 99 and 121. In that 121 game the Lakers shot 72.7% on long mid-range attempts and 43.3% on 3-pointers. This team ranks 29th in 3-point accuracy (32.3%), so I would call that last game a pretty big outlier.
The Lakers’ team total should not be this high and I would play down to 117.
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