Welcome to the Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for tonight I feel has profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sportsbook, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.
Season to Date:
ATS Picks: 17-13 (.567)
ATS Leans: 5-5 (.500)
Moneyline: 11-4 (.733)
Over/Under: 5-2 (.714)
12/14/18 NBA Betting Pick:
Toronto Raptors (23-7) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (15-13)
Over/Under Total: 217.5
The Trail Blazers have frequently been a “Jekyll and Hyde” squad this season. Portland is simply a completely different team on the road than in the friendly confines of the Moda Center. To begin with, the Blazers own a 10-4 record on their home floor compared to a 5-9 mark when they travel. As expected with such disparity, Portland holds better metrics at home on both sides of the ball.
The Blazers are averaging 114.9 points at Moda compared to 107.1 per game away. They’re shooting 46.1 percent at home as well, a slight bump over the 44.7 percent they’re managing away.
Then, the Blazers are seven points per game stingier on defense at home. They allow 106.3 points per game there, tied for ninth lowest. Plus, the 43.3 percent success rate Portland yields at Moda is the fifth lowest in the NBA. The Blazers have notably held offensively proficient squads like the Timberwolves (twice), Celtics, Clippers, and Bucks to 105 points or fewer at home this season. And they’ve yet to suffer worse than a four-point defeat on their home floor.
Despite their road struggles, Portland continues to roll out one of the most potent “Big Threes” in the NBA in the form of Damian Lillard (27 points per game), C.J. McCollum (22 points per game), and Jusuf Nurkic (14.5 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game). Eight regular members of their rotation boast shooting percentages of 43.9 or better, with Lillard surprisingly bringing up the rear.
Portland is also boasting a slightly more proficient bench than in recent seasons. A variety of factors have contributed, including the strong play of versatile vet Evan Turner (career-best 45.8 percent shooting), 2017 first-round pick Zach Collins (career-high 7.4 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game across 19.1 minutes), and Jake Layman (career-best 51.0 percent shooting). The recent return to action of Maurice Harkless as the starting small forward also helps deepen the bench by putting Turner and Layman back on the second unit.
Now, the Raptors are undeniably a formidable opponent. Toronto is arguably the best the Eastern Conference has to offer. It’s hardly a sure victory for Portland despite their strong play at home. If Kawhi Leonard (hip) is forced to miss a third straight game though, that will naturally prop up the Blazers’ chances significantly. That said, it’s worth noting the Raptors impressively manhandled Golden State at Oracle Arena just two games ago without him.
The fact Toronto is also in the midst of a West Coast swing and playing on their third game in four nights betters Portland’s odds. Also, one other notable injury for the Raptors that is flying much more under the radar than Leonard’s is that of Jonas Valanciunas. The valued big man is out for multiple weeks following thumb surgery.
Backup Greg Monroe has certainly proven capable in multiple past stops, but he’s yet to prove himself in Toronto. Valanciunas has exponentially more chemistry with the rest of the roster given his tenure. His loss is a big one for the Raptors’ frontcourt depth.
By the Numbers
The Raptors are 14-15-1 (48.3 percent) versus the spread overall this season. That includes a 4-5-1 mark (44.4 percent) against the number as road favorites. Toronto is also 7-11-1 (38.9 percent) versus the spread when playing with one day of rest, 5-6-1 (45.5 percent) against the number in nonconference games, and 10-11-1 (47.6 percent) versus the number after a win.
The Trail Blazers are 9-5 (64.3 percent) versus the spread at home this season, including 1-0 as a home underdog. Portland is also 5-5 against the number in nonconference games. Additionally, as cited earlier, none of the Blazers’ four home losses have been by more than Friday’s four-point spread.
The Final Word
The Raptors will be riding high after their dominating 20-point victory over the Warriors on Wednesday although that could set them up for a bit of a letdown. They’ll likely be playing with a less-than-100-percent Leonard if he does take the court, and few teams have looked as different at home as compared to the road than the Blazers.
After putting up just 83 points in a loss to Memphis Wednesday, Portland is desperate to get back on the winning track. While it remains to be seen if they’ll have enough to do it here against such a quality opponent, I’m leaning, at the minimum, toward a cover.
The Lean: Trail Blazers +4