The NBA regular season is officially in full swing. After a five-game slate on Christmas, the NBA is offering up a 10-game slate on Saturday. The action gets underway with the Grizzlies vs. the Hawks at 5 p.m. ET and wraps up with the Trail Blazers vs. the Rockets at 10 p.m. ET. I can’t think of a better way to decompress after the Christmas holiday than with a full day of basketball.
The only way to make it better is by getting in on the action. Here are three of my favorite bets on Saturday’s slate.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons (-2.5):
I was impressed with how the Cavs played on opening night. They recorded a 121-114 win over the Hornets, and the final scoreline could’ve been much worse if not for an unreal shooting night from Terry Rozier. The Hornets obviously aren’t elite competition, but the Cavs managed to win outright as underdogs without Kevin Love.
The biggest development for the Cavs was the play of their young backcourt. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland were their two lottery picks over the past two seasons, so they are big parts of the Cavs’ future. They both played great on opening night, combining for 49 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds while shooting 55.2% from the field and 50% from 3-point range. If they can play at that level all season, they’re going to be better than expected.
Love is questionable for this matchup, but I think there’s a chance the Cavaliers are better without him. Love is clearly not the same player that he was in his prime, and they were better last season with Larry Nance Jr. on the floor rather than Love. Nance is coming off a monster performance on opening night, so more minutes for him should be a good thing.
On the other side, the Pistons might be the worst team in basketball. They’re relying on veterans like Blake Griffin, Jerami Grant and Derrick Rose, and all three players were -13 or worse when on the court on opening night.
I think the Cavs are the better team here, so I’m happy to grab them as underdogs.
Toronto Raptors (-1) @ San Antonio Spurs:
Spurs +1 (-112)
This line is a bit surprising on the surface. The Raptors have been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference over the past two seasons, while the Spurs were expected to be one of the worst teams in the West. So why in the world are the Raptors only one-point favorites?
For starters, the Raptors may not be the same team this season. They lost both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka during the offseason, which leaves the team without their top two centers from last year. They did bring in Aron Baynes as a replacement – and Chris Boucher looks like a solid role player as well – but they struggled in their first game of the new season.
Additionally, the Spurs might be better than initially thought. They put up a ridiculous 131 points in their first game of the season, and they did it without arguably their best player in Derrick White. The combination of veterans like DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge with young guys like White, Dejounte Murray and Lonnie Walker IV means this team could be back in the playoff hunt once again this season. As usual, doubt Gregg Popovich and his team at your own risk.
Indiana Pacers (-4.5) @ Chicago Bulls:
Pacers -4.5 (-112)
The Pacers never seem to get the respect they deserve. They garnered virtually no hype during the offseason despite the fact that they won 61.6% of their games last season. They also did that with Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and others all missing large stretches of the year.
This team is essentially healthy at the moment, so I like them to take care of business on the road vs. the Bulls. Their current starting roster of Brogdon, Oladipo, Sabonis, T.J. Warren and Myles Turner played just 85.6 minutes together last season, but they outscored opponents by a margin of +9.4 points per 100 possessions.
Chicago has some promising young players on the roster, but they still have a long ways to go before they can hang with teams like the Pacers on a consistent basis.
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