Sunday’s main slate is light due to most of the league being scheduled for action on Monday’s annual MLK Day celebration. This small, three-game slate gets underway at 6:00 p.m. ET with the final game tipping off at 8:00 p.m. ET. Let’s survey the slate and pick the best bets for Sunday night.
Kings -6 (-110)
The Rockets have failed to cover the spread in 14 of the last 17 games. They covered against Detroit, Washington and more recently against the Spurs. That cover against the Spurs is a bit of a concern until you look closely at the stats. How were they able to upset the Spurs at San Antonio? They were unconscious from the field, shooting 55% and 44% from the 3-point line. That’s not going to happen again, so the Kings are pretty safe.
This game could go either way. Both teams play at a torrid pace with little regard for defense. Neither are great offensively, with the Kings ranking 19th in offensive efficiency rating (109.1) and the Rockets ranking 26th (106.3). It’s safe to assume this is simply a replay of what happened on Friday night, when these teams squared off in round one of Rockets at Kings. That game went to Sacramento 126-114 and the Kings held close to a double-digit lead for most of the second half. There were no anomalies in that game. Each team played their typical game, and the better team won at home. Speaking of home advantages, the Rockets are 5-19 on the road and have failed to cover the spread in six of the last eight games. In all of those contests, they were between a 5.5 and 13-point dogs, so they’re not really keeping games close on the road.
Timberwolves -5.5 (-110)
If Minnesota can’t cover a four-point spread (now a 5.5-point spread by the time of article submission) then they need to shut it down and call it a season. The Warriors will be without Steph Curry and Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson will likely be on a minutes limit with Gary Payton II listed as questionable. Who’s left? Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole are fine role players and contributors, but they have no business beating the Timberwolves — fully healthy — in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves have been a streaky team this season. They win in bunches and lose in bunches. The game log is quite remarkable. They will win four or five in a row, then drop four or five. Currently, they have dropped two in a row because their typically top-10 defense allowed 116 points to Memphis and a shocking 128 points to the Pelicans. That will happen when the Pelicans nail 48% of their 3-point shots. As long as the Warriors role players don’t catch fire from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves should cover the spread.
Nuggets +4.5 (-110)
The Nuggets are better than their record indicates. In Saturday’s Best Bets article, I stated that the -3.5-point spread against the Lakers would be a joke at the end of the Nuggets’ home stand. I was wrong. It was a joke before the fourth quarter began. The Nuggets nearly won by 40.
The sports books and public are sleeping on the Nuggets. Their poor record is the result of two factors: injuries and schedule. Denver started the season without Jamal Murray then lost Michael Porter Jr.. Aside from the normal COVID issues, key players have been in and out of the lineup all season. The other issue is that Denver spent nearly the entire last month on the road (14 of 20 games on the road). This is the second game of a five game home stand where the Nuggets have been a much better team over the years. They have the third-best home record over the last four seasons (95-33).
The Jazz looked like championship contenders several weeks ago, but since then, they have been on a skid. They will get Rudy Gobert back tonight, but their struggles pre-date Gobert’s absence (they did play much worse without him). The Jazz have lost four in a row and failed to cover in each contest. Over that span, their No. 1 ranked offense ranked 17th and their once sixth ranked defense ranked 29th. Gobert’s return will fix a lot of their problems, but it’s hard to imagine that this team suddenly snaps back into form on the road against a solid team.
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