Welcome to the Wednesday, Dec. 19, 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: 6-6-1 (.500)
Moneyline: 11-5 (.688)
Over/Under: 6-2 (.750)
12/19/18 NBA Betting Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers (8-23) vs. Charlotte Hornets (14-15)
Over/Under Total: 216.0
The Cavaliers surprised the Pacers on Tuesday night with a 92-91 road upset on a last-second Larry Nance Jr. tip-in. While it was a rousing win for Cleveland, it served to corroborate further their difficulties generating offense on the road. It also likely served to tax them to an extent. The game was a battle from opening tip to final buzzer. Four of the five members of the Cavs’ starting five played 32 minutes or more, led by Cedi Osman‘s 40. Then, two second-unit players, Jaron Blossomgame and Alec Burks, played 23 and 26 minutes, respectively.
A significant part of Cleveland’s current offensive limitations stems from the absence of two key players — Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson — due to foot injuries. The presently healthy members of the roster who see regular playing time haven’t been at their sharpest when it comes to shooting. Nance is an exception with a 51.9 percent success rate, although he had a lot of time near the basket. The other four components of Tuesday’s first unit — Collin Sexton (44.7 percent), Rodney Hood (44.3 percent), David Nwaba (42 percent) and Osman (37 percent) — have ranged from average to poor regarding their success rate from the field. And Burks is draining just 33.3 percent of his attempts off the bench.
Sexton is the leading scorer for the season among the current iteration of the starting five. He’s averaging a solid but relatively modest 15.2 points per game (PPG). Also, Sexton is in the midst of an offensive downturn. He’s averaged just 9.7 points over the last three contests. Hood is a somewhat distant second with 13.1 PPG. Osman follows with 11.2 PPG and Burks provides a modest 11.0. Despite some recent successes, Nance still checks in at 8.3 PPG.
As alluded to earlier, even when they’ve been successful, the Cavs have often found points hard to come by away from Quicken Loans Arena. They check in with the second-lowest scoring average in away contests (100.1). Unsurprisingly given that number, they’re shooting just 43.9 percent on the road, the fifth-lowest in the NBA. But it’s also worth noting the Hornets haven’t been much better of late. They’re generating the sixth-lowest shooting percentage (43.7) in the NBA over the last three.
Moreover, Charlotte has been in a bit of an offensive depression on its home floor. The Hornets are averaging 107.5 PPG in their last four non-overtime Spectrum Center contests. That’s a notably lower figure than the 115.5 they’re averaging there for the season. That sample includes an embarrassing 128-100 defeat at the hands of the Lakers last Sunday. They shot a pedestrian 42.4 percent in that contest despite a favorable matchup, including 24.1 percent from three-point range. The starting five of Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams generated a paltry 32.4 percent (12-for-37) success rate. That included a 2-for-13 showing by Walker.
And speaking of Walker — the Hornets’ top scorer by a wide margin with 24.9 PPG — he’s shot just 28.6 percent across 33 minutes over two prior games against the Cavaliers this season. His past struggles are yet another factor that lends credence to the possibility of a slightly lower-scoring game than projected Wednesday.
By the Numbers
The Cavaliers have come in under their projected total in 17 of 31 games this season, with one push (56.7 percent). That includes coming in under their projected total in nine of 14 games as a road underdog (64.3 percent), as well as in 57.1 percent of 22 conference games (one push).
The Hornets have come in under their projected total in six of 13 games as a home favorite (46.2 percent). As stated earlier, they’ve also averaged eight fewer points per game than their season average (107.5, compared to 115.5) in the last four non-overtime home contests.
The Cavaliers are also 12-10 (54.5 percent) versus the spread in conference games, and 4-1 (80 percent) against the number when playing the second game of a back-to-back. In turn, the Hornets are 6-7 (46.2 percent) against the number as home favorites, and 2-4 (33.3 percent) versus the spread when playing on two or three days’ rest.
The Final Word
While the Hornets have been one of the better offensive teams in the NBA this season and have often struggled on defense, the total is high enough to account for both. Moreover, the Cavs are on the second game of a back-to-back after a wire-to-wire battle versus the Pacers on Tuesday. They’ve also consistently struggled to generate offense on the road. Therefore, I’m projecting the under in this matchup. Then, the spread is particularly elevated for a game between two teams that aren’t as far apart as such a number might imply. Therefore, I’m leaning toward Cleveland coming in somewhere under the inflated number.
The Pick: Under 216.0
The Lean: Cavaliers +13