Saturday’s main slate features 10 games and gets underway at 6:30 p.m. ET with the final game tipping off at 9:30 p.m. ET. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Saturday night.
On the season, the Cavs are 29-14 ATS and the Thunder — while 14-27 overall — are a surprising 27-14 ATS. Although the Thunder have lost seven of their last nine games, they have covered in six of their last seven. This should cause concern, and it has, but with the sportsbooks. The Thunder aren’t good, but they’re not as bad as the books took them to be. In those covers, four times the Thunder were seven-point dogs or worse. They lost each of those games but covered by 1, 1.5, 3 and 3 points. On Thursday, the Thunder blew out the Nets despite being 5.5-point dogs. However, a large asterisk hangs next to that one because the Nets were on a back-to-back (also their third game in four nights), and they decided to rest everyone. To make a long story short, the Thunder aren’t terrible and the Sportsbooks have underrated them, but now it seems that the books are overvaluing the Thunder against a strong opponent.
Last night, the Cavs were 2.5-point underdogs on the road in San Antonio, and they won outright 114-109. After a streak of 14 covers in a row, the Cavs stumbled at the end of December during the Omicron Era and lost six of nine and failed to cover in seven of those contests. The team is now healthy, and that chapter has closed. The Cavs have won their last three games and have covered in their last two games, both against quality opponents — the Jazz and Spurs.
The Cavs will not blow out the Thunder in Oklahoma City, but they should hold a comfortable lead throughout. The Thunder rank 27th in Net Rating (-7.0), 30th in True Shooting percentage (51.6%) and 26th in rebounding (46.6%). The final stat should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The Cavs run three seven-footers together for most of the game.
Life after AD was going well until it wasn’t. The Lakers won of five of six games in late December and early January by being the best offense in basketball. Their below-average defense has only gotten worse in the absence of Anthony Davis. Over the last eight games, the Lakers rank 23rd in defensive efficiency (114.7) and that has finally caught up with them. Although they scored 119 points vs. Memphis, they lost by nine points. On Jan. 12 they scored 116 points on the Kings but again fell by nine. A matchup against Nikola Jokic sans Anthony Davis is not ideal, and will likely be the Lakers’ third-straight loss.
The Nuggets appear to be underachievers this season. On the surface, their 21-19 record is disappointing given that they have a walking triple-double in Jokic leading this team. However, this team has dealt with a lot of injuries beyond the COVID outbreaks that every team has dealt with. Also, health has not been the only thorn in the Nuggets’ side. Since the beginning of December, 14 of the Nuggets’ last 20 games have been on the road. The Nuggets are notorious for being a good home team due to the advantage of being accustomed to the thin air. Denver is better than a 21-win team. Their record has been suppressed by their schedule. Saturday night's game against the Lakers kicks of a five game home stand. By the end of the January, this team will be much closer to the top of the standings and this -3.5-point line will seem ridiculous in retrospect.
It’s time to jump on the Orlando bandwagon, specifically the Wagner Wagon (both pronounced with a V— Vagner Vagon). The Magic had lost 10 straight heading into Friday night’s contest at Charlotte. They were seven-point dogs, a familiar occurrence (actually this team is often double-digit dogs), but not only did the Magic cover (another rare feat), but they won outright. This rare win was the result of another rare situation: the Wagner Wagon was rolled out because Mo Bamba was ruled out. The Brothers Wagner combined for 65 minutes, 45 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. It is very likely that we see the second night of “No Mo (Bamba) Fo Mo (Wagner)”, as a toe injury forced Bamba to miss Friday’s game and there’s no clear sign he will be ready for Saturday night’s matchup. Even if Bamba is healthy enough to play, it would be foolish for the Magic to bench Mo Wagner after he and his brother, a leading Rookie of the Year candidate, propelled this team to an upset win on Friday.
The Mavs are not completely healthy, but Luka Doncic is and that’s all that really matters. Since his return from injury on Jan. 2, Doncic is averaging 21.8 points, 10.3 assists and 10.2 rebounds over those six games. The peripheral stats are great and the triple-doubles look impressive, but Doncic needs to score for this team to win more consistently and 22 points is well below the close to 30 PPG that he has averaged over the previous two seasons. Part of his limited scoring is due to his horrendous 3-point shooting since returning (17.1%). That’s almost half of what he averaged over the previous two seasons. Orlando ranks 28th in 3-point defense (36.4%), but if Doncic remains cold behind the arc, then this weakness will be neutralized.
There is little doubt that the Mavs win this game. With Doncic back in the lineup (he rested for one game, a blowout win over the Rockets), the Mavs are 6-1 with a +12.3 Net Rating (best in the NBA over the last seven games). The question is whether the Mavericks beat the Magic by double-digits. The Mavs have covered in five of seven and won each game by double-digits. That’s not a good sign, but in each one of those contests they have caught their opponents at the perfect time. The one time that the Mavs were double-digit favorites against the COVID depleted Thunder, the Mavs did not cover. Dallas’ play seems to be highly dependent on the opponent they’re facing. They have not covered as a six-point or larger favorite this season (0-6).
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is greenflagradio2) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL/IN/MI/NJ/PA/WV/WY), 1-800-NEXT STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (CO/NH), 888-789-7777/visit ccpg.org/chat (CT), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), 877-8-HOPENY/text HOPENY (467369) (NY), call/text TN REDLINE 1-800-889-9789 (TN), or 1-888-532-3500 (VA).
21+ (18+ NH/WY). Physically present in AZ/CO/CT/IL/IN/IA/MI/NH/NJ/NY/PA/TN/VA/WV/WY only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.