Welcome to the Friday, Dec. 21, 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: 18-13 (.581)
ATS Leans: 7-6-1 (.538)
Moneyline: 11-5 (.688)
Over/Under: 7-2 (.778)
12/21/18 NBA Betting Pick:
Minnesota Timberwolves (14-17) vs. San Antonio Spurs (17-15)
Over/Under Total: 221.0
Multiple teams are seemingly competing for the mantle of most disappointing relative to preseason expectations thus far. The Timberwolves are one of the leading candidates. Their season began mired in Jimmy Butler-related drama, an issue they eventually resolved via trade. However, their 14-17 record still leaves plenty to be desired. Then, they’ve been notably at their worst on the road. Minnesota has just two wins in 14 tries outside of Target Center.
A current ankle injury to starting point guard Jeff Teague hasn’t helped matters either. He’s missed the last two games and will be out again Friday. With or without the veteran in the lineup, Minnesota’s defense has also taken a dive over the last five games. The T-Wolves have allowed over 115 points in three of those contests. Unsurprisingly, given their body of work away from their home floor this season, two of those have come on the road. For the season, the T-Wolves are allowing over eight more points per away game (115.7, compared to 107.5 at home).
It isn’t just defense that’s been an issue, however. Minnesota is also scoring nearly six points fewer per game on the road (108.1, compared to 113.7 per home contest). That downturn is naturally accompanied by a decline in shooting when the T-Wolves travel. They’re draining 44.0 percent of their attempts on the road, the fifth-lowest figure in the NBA for away contests. That figure includes a 34.7 percent success rate from three-point range outside of Target Center. That qualifies as a near-two-percentage-point dip from their 36.6 percent home figure.
Meanwhile, the Spurs struggled with defense in their own right over a good portion of their first 26 games. Yet the light seems to have gone on in that regard over the last six. San Antonio hasn’t allowed any of the Jazz, Suns, Clippers, Bulls, 76ers, or Magic to eclipse 100 points. They held both Phoenix and L.A. under 90 points. And even prior to that stretch, San Antonio’s defensive issues had mostly come on the road. They’re allowing the fifth-fewest points per game (104.3) on their home floor. That’s a drastic drop from the 116.3 they’re yielding outside of AT&T Center. The Spurs also limit their opponents to a 44.8 percent shooting on their home court, compared to a generous 49.3 percent in away games.
That said, the Spurs haven’t been an offensive juggernaut at home. They’re scoring a respectable 110.8 points per home tilt that ranks as the 10th-lowest home figure in the NBA. That even accounts for recent wins against the Clippers and 76ers where they tallied 125 and 123 points, respectively. Even if the Spurs do continue to maintain the hot hand that’s led to an NBA-best 55.3 shooting percentage over the last three games on Friday, their recent defensive efforts hint at a lower cumulative total than what’s projected.
By the Numbers
The Timberwolves have gone under their projected total in 19 of 31 games this season (61.3 percent). That includes in 11 of 14 road games (NBA-high 78.6 percent). They’ve also come in under their total in 14 of the 21 games they’ve played with one day of rest (66.7 percent) and in 13 of their 20 conference games (65.0 percent).
The Spurs have gone over their projected total in 18 of their 32 games this season (58.1 percent), with one push included in that sample. However, they’ve held their last six opponents to under 100 points, with all of those games coming under Friday’s projected total. San Antonio has also come in under their projected total in six of 11 games as a home favorite (54.5 percent).
The Final Word
A couple of weeks ago, the projected total for this game could have easily been 228-230 based on how the Spurs were playing defense. They seem to have legitimately figured something out on that end recently, however. That, coupled with the Timberwolves’ atrocious body of work on the road, has me projecting the under on a total that still factors in a decent scoring performance from both clubs.
The Pick: Under 221.0