The 2020-21 NBA season is set to begin later this month and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski teased the league’s tentative Christmas Day schedule on Tuesday. It’s not surprising to see that the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat are featured in the five-game slate, but there are plenty of other fun teams in the mix as well. Here I’ll take a look at each matchup and speculate on what the opening lines might be.
New Orleans Pelicans @ Miami Heat
Miami split last season’s series with New Orleans 1-1 but the Pelicans are down two starters — Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors — this time around. The Heat, on the other hand, are returning every key member of their corps. Miami was an 8-point favorite on several sportsbooks when completely healthy, so I expect the Heat to be favored by 10 points or more this time around. They’re running it back with a squad that’s a few months removed from the NBA Finals. New Orleans still needs to figure out how to incorporate Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams into the team under the leadership of a new head coach. I think there’s a good chance Miami will cover the spread, even if it’s favored by 10 points or more.
This will probably be the most difficult matchup to handicap in this slate. The Bucks will definitely be favored, as the Warriors failed to make the playoffs last season while Milwaukee posted the best record in the NBA for a second straight year. While Golden State has lost Klay Thompson for the year, adding Kelly Oubre Jr. to a group that already includes Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, and Draymond Green will make the Warrirors competitive. The spoiled the Houston Rockets’ parade on Christmas in 2019 and could do the same to the Bucks if taken lightly. Milwaukee was -1000 or better on most sportsbook when they faced the Warriors in January but failed to cover the spread in their win as 13.5-point favorites. I think the Bucks will be favored by 6 to 8 points but like Golden State’s odds to cover the spread as underdogs.
The spread should be narrow in this game and I think it’ll be the closes game on Christmas Day. Last year’s series was split 2-2 but a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant should swing the odds in Brooklyn’s favor. The Nets have the second-best odds (+275) to win the Eastern Conference on DraftKings Sportsbook and will take on the team with the third-best odds (+550). I like the road team as 3-point favorites in this one as the series was even without Irving or Durant playing in any other the games between these two teams last season. I like Brooklyn’s odds to cover the spread as well.
Dallas Mavericks @ Los Angeles Lakers
The reigning champs were favored by 5 points or less the last time they faced the Mavericks in the Staples Center at full strength, but Kristaps Porzingis is recovering from the torn meniscus he suffered in the postseason and isn’t expected to return until January. MVP frontrunner Luka Doncic is more than enough to will his team through a tough matchup, but I expect Los Angeles to be favored by around 8 points. The Lakers should cover the spread, as they’ve added too much depth to not be significantly better than last year.
This game should be a fun one, as the Clippers will get a chance at revenge after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets in the Western Conference Semifinals. Denver is returning its core duo Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic and should benefit from the return of Will Barton, who missed all of the playoffs because of a knee injury. Los Angeles has parted ways with reigning Sixth Man of the Year but still has Kawhi Leonard and Paul George manning the front. The Nuggets were 7.5-point underdogs the last time the faced the Nuggets but I think they should be 4-point favorites in the Mile High City. I think the Clippers will win and cover the spread, but it won’t be easy.
Note: The lines provided in this article are hypothetical and predictive. They are meant to be used as initial analysis.
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