Last night was not the night we thought it was going to be in the NBA. The Cavaliers looked like locks to win in New Orleans with Anthony Davis sitting out with an injury, yet Terrence Jones matched a career high in points (36) as the Pels won at home, 124-122. The insanity ensued in Brooklyn, where the Spurs routed the Nets even though star forward Kawhi Leonard took the night off.
Monday’s craziness wasn’t strapped just to injuries, of course, as the Thunder won in Utah, the Clippers smoked the Hawks in Atlanta, the Kings topped the Pistons in Detroit, the Knicks beat the Pacers in Indiana, the Bucks walloped the Rockets and the Heat took down the Warriors.
Yeah, we weren’t kidding when we said last night was weird in the NBA. Overall, home teams went just 3-6, while the only home teams to win were the Heat, Pelicans and Bucks – all of which ended up being huge upsets.
Speaking of upsets, the NBA proved to be especially volatile last night, as favorites went 1-8 across the board. It was a bad night for predicting NBA games, but it’s still a lesson in volatility and why chasing upsets at the right time can be quite lucrative.
Let’s refresh and see how things might turn out tonight on Tuesday’s six-game slate:
Los Angeles Clippers (-3.5)
Philadelphia 76ers (+3.5)
The action gets started in Philly tonight, and it could be problematic from the start. The Sixers have been very good lately (7-3 over their last 10 games) and tend to play well at home, but they will be without top big man, Joel Embiid (knee):
Joel Embiid didn't go through practice today. Left knee contusion, doubtful tomorrow and won't travel to Milwaukee
That takes a massive presence out of the 76ers lineup and shifts a lot of the focus to big men Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. On the other side, the Clippers could get a little stronger ahead of this contest, as big man Blake Griffin (knee) is tentatively slated to return to the court after a lengthy absence:
Doc Rivers says Blake Griffin "most likely" to play Tuesday in Philadelphia
The return of Griffin doesn’t cement a win for the Clippers, but they did come together last night behind a 27-point effort from Austin Rivers and have the depth to keep the ball rolling. If Embiid were healthy we might pull for a Sixers upset here, but instead the Clippers covering feels like the play.
Boston Celtics (-2)
Washington Wizards (+2)
Quite possibly the best game on this slate goes down in D.C., where some bad blood will be sorted out between the Wizard and Celtics. Needless to say, both teams will be up for this battle. Boston arguably needs the win a little more, of course, as they have dropped two straight and need to avoid a three-game skid.
Boston does enter this road date a little undermanned, of course, as star shooting guard Avery Bradley (Achilles) remains out:
#NEBHInjuryReport: Avery Bradley (Achilles) "will be out all week," according to Brad Stevens. Tyler Zeller (sick) will travel to WAS.
Bradley is an effective scorer and stud defender, so it’s a big hit for the Celtics. Bradley’s absence will move Marcus Smart into the starting lineup and also put a little more scoring pressure on Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Al Horford.
The Celtics do have some good news, as they’re not bad on the road (13-9) and have dominated this series lately (won 5 of the last 6 meetings). However, the Wizards have really turned their season around (8-2 over their last 10 games), are tough to stop at home (18-6) and seem to be out for some vengeance against these Celtics. Look for a very tight, explosive game and for the Wiz to stage the mild upset at home.
San Antonio Spurs (-3)
Toronto Raptors (+3)
Another big game takes place in Canada, where the Spurs will visit the Raptors at Air Canada Centre. San Antonio just got done wrecking the Nets in Brooklyn last night, and should get Kawhi Leonard back after sitting out last night’s contest with a sore hand:
Pop says Kawhi Leonard will sit tonight with a sore hand. Just precautionary.
Provided Leonard returns to the court, the Spurs should be mostly healthy and with a strong 19-4 road record, could be a tough out for the Raptors. San Antonio also comes in hot (won four straight) and has handled Toronto pretty easily over the years (won 10 of the last 12 meetings).
The silver lining for Toronto is they’ll be at home, where they’re a strong 15-7. The bad news, of course, is they’re stuck in a three-game skid, don’t have a great history against these Spurs and will also be without stud scorer, DeMar DeRozan:
All things considered, the Spurs look like the easy call here, even on the road.
Chicago Bulls (-2.5)
Orlando Magic (+2.5)
Who knows what to expect tonight when Jimmy Butler leads his Bulls into the Amway Center to take on the Magic. Chicago has been all over the place this year and their latest stretch (5-5 over their last 10 games) illustrates that sentiment perfectly. It’s possible Butler and co. could still get a win in Orlando, however, as the Magic are even worse off (2-8 over their last 10 games).
The Bulls are tough to trust on the road (8-14 away from the United Center), but that’s nothing compared to Orlando’s sheepish 6-14-2 against the spread record at home this year. These two teams have played each other fairly well over the years, with the last eight meetings being split right down the middle (4-4).
The kicker may be health, as the Magic are down some depth with Jodie Meeks sidelined and it’s unclear if starting shooting guard Evan Fournier (heel) will make it back tonight:
Evan Fournier (right heel/right foot) did not practice today, Frank Vogel said.
Fournier missed practice yesterday and remains a shaky bet to play. If he plays, a fully healthy Magic squad isn’t the worst upset pick at home. However, the Bulls are the better team right now (albeit not by much) and they’re healthier. We’ll give Chicago the mildest of edges behind a big Jimmy Butler performance.
Minnesota Timberwolves (+1.5)
Phoenix Suns (-1.5)
This one could be full of points, as the Timberwolves set down in Phoenix to battle the Suns in what could be a shootout. Neither of these teams defend particularly well, while both have plenty of shooters and scorers to keep things interesting.
Vegas is backing the Suns at home, which is a little odd based on Phoenix’s home record (just 8-12), as well as the fact that Minnesota has ripped off three straight wins in this series. While that’s interesting, we should certainly keep an eye on the status of star Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (personal), who missed the team’s last game:
Rubio is expected back with the team tomorrow when it travels to Phoenix to play the Suns on Tuesday. #Twolves
It sounds like Rubio will be back, and if he is, the Timberwolves will be at full strength in a series they’ve handled well the past two years. Phoenix has won their last two games and winning three in a row might feel like a reach for a team that has won just 15 games all year. Provided Rubio is back, we’ll take the T’Wolves in the mild upset.
Utah Jazz (+2)
Denver Nuggets (-2)
The last game on Tuesday night’s six-game slate goes down in Denver, where the Nuggets host a potentially tired Jazz squad that played last night. Utah burned the midnight oil in a tight home loss to the Thunder and it’s highly understandable that they’ll be tired or even rest some guys on the second night of a back-to-back set.
None of that means we should automatically side with the favored Nuggets, who are still just 10-11 on their own court and have lost 7 of the last 8 showdowns with Utah. The Jazz are a pretty disciplined team and actually have proven to be quite a handful (13-9) out on the road. They also sport arguably the best defense in the league and aside from a random inactive, are pretty healthy with only Rodney Hood so far ruled out for this game.
I can see picking against Utah under the given circumstances, but the quality of opponent has to be taken into effect here. Nikola Jokic has been on a tear, but he has an impossible matchup with Rudy Gobert tonight. Considering Jokic is Denver’s lifeblood right now, I can’t see this ending in a Nuggets win.
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