Welcome to the Thursday, Feb. 28 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 Leans/Picks: 44-32-1 (.579)
Moneyline: 25-9 (.735)
Over/Under: 17-11-1 (.607)
2/28/19 NBA Betting Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers (14-47) vs. New York Knicks (13-38)
Typically, a late-season game between two teams with a combined 27-85 record elicits nothing but apathy. However, that could well turn out to be a disservice to Thursday’s Cavaliers-Knicks clash. Both rebuilding squads have shown some tangible improvement lately and have actually been involved in some entertaining battles. They’ve also engaged in a couple of close contests against each other already this season, with Cleveland winning both. The Cavs notched 113-106 and 107-104 victories on Dec. 12 and Feb. 11, respectively.
The visiting Cavaliers come into Thursday’s encounter having won three of their past five games. One of those victories is the aforementioned three-point triumph over New York earlier this month. And one of those losses was the epic 148-139 triple-overtime loss to the Nets just before the All-Star break, a game Cleveland largely dominated in regulation before faltering late. The Cavs’ recent surge has been buoyed by the apparent return to full health of Kevin Love, easily the team’s best player.
After missing significant time with a foot injury, Love has already worked his way back up to 28 minutes of playing time. And the star forward is back to his usual level of production. Love racked up 14 points and nine rebounds in just 16 minutes in the Feb. 11 encounter with the Knicks. He subsequently added a 32-point, 12-rebound double-double over a modest 26 minutes against the Grizzlies. Love comes into Thursday’s game with three straight double-doubles overall, and Cleveland is notably averaging nearly eight points more per game (111.0) over that span than their anemic 103.4 seasonal figure.
Love’s contributions have been complemented by those of first-round pick Collin Sexton, who’s in the midst of one of his best stretches of play this season. Sexton has five tallies of at least 20 points in the last eight games and has eclipsed 20 shot attempts in three contests during that span as well. Then, even while Tristan Thompson remains out with his own foot issue, the Cavs continue to benefit from the solid play of Ante Zizic, who has 15- and 18-point efforts in two of the last three contests. Second-year wing Cedi Osman is also enjoying a productive campaign and coming off a stellar 27-point showing versus the Trail Blazers on Monday night.
It’s also worth noting that despite problems throughout the season, the Cavaliers defense has seen some improvement of late. The 109.3 points per game Cleveland is allowing over the last three contests is a four-point improvement over their seasonal figure. The Cavs have allowed 107 points or fewer in four of their last six games overall. And in the two prior meetings versus the Knicks, Cleveland has held New York to shooting percentages of 43.6 and 45.7, including a 26.9 percent tally from three-point range in the second game.
That said, the Knicks are also on the rise after snapping their infamous 18-game losing streak before the All-Star break. The Knicks have since notched wins over the Hawks, Spurs, and Magic, even as DeAndre Jordan has missed the last two contests with an ankle injury. The veteran big man is set for another absence Thursday, but young big Mitchell Robinson has proven more than capable of making up for Jordan’s inactive status. Robinson has back-to-back double-doubles and a whopping 11 blocks in those contests.
Plus, New York seems to have found something with the young backcourt trio of Dennis Smith, Jr., Emmanuel Mudiay, and Damyean Dotson. Smith had a 19-point, 13-assist double-double two games ago and has scored in double digits in seven of the last nine contests. Mudiay has come back from a shoulder strain to generate between 15 and 19 points off the bench in the first three games since his return. And Dotson is just two games removed from sinking an eye-popping eight triples in Sunday’s win over the Spurs.
The one pivotal factor in what should be another close contest could be rest. While Cleveland has enjoyed two full days off since their last contest, New York played on Tuesday.
By The Numbers
The Cavaliers are 22-23-1 (48.9 percent) against the spread after a loss. Cleveland is also 6-5 (54.5 percent) versus the number in games they’ve played on two or three days of rest and 20-19 (51.3 percent) against the spread in conference games.
The Knicks are 11-17-2 (39.3 percent) against the spread as a home team this season, including 2-4 (33.3 percent) as home underdogs. New York is also 14-17-3 (45.2 percent) versus the number in games they’ve played with one day of rest and 16-23-3 (41.0 percent) against the spread in conference games.
The Final Word
This game could actually be one of the more intriguing of the night, considering the past two games the two teams played against each other and the improvement each club has shown recently. I see yet another tight contest that could legitimately go either way in terms of a winner. But I’m leaning toward the more rested Cavaliers sliding in under the small number.
The Lean: Cavaliers +2.5