NBA Restart: 3 Games to Bet Based on Line Movement
As we prepare for the resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season, there has been some line movement among the opening weekend games. The league has an eight-game schedule set for a 22-team tournament in order to cement each team's postseason seeding and NBA draft fate. Down in Disney World, organizations have reported for duty and started working out together while taking safety protocols.
The FanDuel Sportsbook has seen the odds of games change over the last three weeks since the schedules were announced. Opening night features two games, and the following day a full six-game schedule slated to begin at 2:30 pm ET with the last tip at 9:00 pm ET. Here are three games that have seen reverse line movement, jumps in spreads, or significant news to their team that's affected betting on each matchup.
Utah Jazz vs. New Orleans Pelicans (-2.5, 220.5)
The NBA's bubble opener features the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz, two squads who played three exciting games this season and set to face for a fourth and final time. The Jazz beat the Pelicans twice this season in their first two encounters and lost the third matchup in a 138-132 overtime thriller. The first two games were just as fun, as the Jazz won handily 128-120 the first game, then escaped in New Orleans with a 128-126 victory the second.
This has been a competitive series all season long, and the kicker is the Jazz haven't played against Zion Williamson yet. Williamson turned the Pelicans into an offensive powerhouse, averaging an NBA-best 120.1 points and 44.3 field goals made per game in his 19 games. New Orleans went 11-9 with him his since Jan. 22, and the Jazz have gone 11-10 during that stretch, so not much better despite their regular season differential.
With Williamson playing, there's no wonder why the Pelicans are favorites and the media debacle of whether or not there are chemistry issues in the Jazz's locker room, stemming from the Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert situation. Both players are in the bubble to play ball, and if there are any chemistry issues, this is an unfortunate time to have them.
This game opened with the Jazz as one-point favorites, but public or sharp money has driven the Pelicans to 2.5-point favorites. The over has been the money-making play between the two teams. The over has hit in 19 of the last 26 times, and 12 of the last 13 in New Orleans. Although this game will be on neutral floors in Orlando, one has to wonder how much defense, especially transition defense, will be played in the very first game back? Utah averaged 110.6 points per game (24th) since February (16 games) and allowed 107.9 points per game (9th) over that stretch. The Pelicans were one of the worst defensive units in league with 116.7 points per game allowed (26th) and 119.4 points scored per game (1st) in the same stretch.
The final meeting of these two teams will come down to who's more in shape and can knock the most rust off their jumpers. Adding Williamson to a series that's already been decided by 5.3 points per game, and one overtime outing is a positive for the opening game. I'm going to bet on the Zion-effect, and the younger, more athletic Pelicans' squad come away with a victory as they chase the eighth-seed.
Best Bet: Pelicans ML -142
Brooklyn Nets vs. Orlando Magic (-6, 211.5)
This game opened up at two-point spread for Brooklyn before they announced what seemed like half their roster will be out. Not even 24 hours after the line was on the FanDuel Sportsbook, it reversed to a two-point spread in Orlando's favor and has climbed steadily to a six-point spread. The total opened at 213 and has slowly gone down to 211, due to all of the offensive weapons for Brooklyn opting out. The Nets will be without Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Taurean Prince -- leaving them depleted, which led Brooklyn to sign Jamal Crawford and Michael Beasley.
The Magic were on a hot streak offensively to close out the regular season, going over the game total in 15 out of 21 games. As the favorite, Orlando's game total went over in seven of their last eight games. The Magic have also covered the spread in their last four versus the Nets. The Nets finished the last month of play going 9-8, including a two-point loss to the Magic. Orlando has covered the spread well against teams with a losing record like Brooklyn, doing so in 20 of their last 27 outings. The line movement in this game is well deserved, but is it too much in the Magic's favor?
Surprisingly enough, Orlando has won by six points or more points in 20 of their 30 victories this season, a remarkable number for a team with a losing record (30-35). The race for the eighth seed begins right away, and with the bubble being in Disney, the Magic might have the advantage over Brooklyn, even though it's not there normal home-court. The Magic have won by six or more points in 11 of their 16 home wins and beat Brooklyn in both meetings this season by 12 at home and two on the road.
This will be the first of two meetings on the eight-game restart schedule, and Orlando has the upper-hand while only being a half-game back of the seventh seed. Brooklyn has made some additions to remain competitive, but either way, the short period of practice won't be enough for a remotely good Magic team -- who have played 65 games together -- under their belt. Orlando as a six-point favorite will continue to climb closer to tip-off, so if you're looking for value, these games are already gone.
Best Bet: Orlando Magic -6 (-110)
Washington Wizards vs. Phoenix Suns (-7.5, 225)
Once Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans were announced out for the restart, this spread went from the Suns as -3.5-point favorites to -7.5-point favorites, and rightfully so. Beal and Bertans are the two top scorers on the Wizards, while their fourth-leading scorer and leading rebounder, Thomas Bryant, has tested positive for COVID, hurting his tournament outlook. For the Suns, Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker, and Ricky Rubio are all expected to see lower minutes in the eight-game tournament.
The Suns have a 0.1% chance to make the playoffs, so there isn't much of a point in risking severe injury to their core players. The Wizards have a 4.4% chance of making the postseason since they are 5.5-games back of the eighth seed. The Nets are missing over five players, so there's a window for Washington, but without Beal and Bertans, it's a tiny window at that. The Suns earned the 20th spot in numberFire's Team Power Rankings, and the Wizards rounded out the 22-team bubble field in 22nd.
That two-spot differential doesn't change the fact both teams are essentially in the same situation, and one of their postseason chances will likely end with a loss here. In the last 22 meetings, the Suns are 15-7 ATS versus the Wizards, and they're also 5-17 ATS in their previous 22 games of the 2019-20 season as a favorite. The over has been a hot pick in this series as it hit five of the last six games, but with this matchup potentially featuring the Wizards' top three scorers being out, the offense will be sporadic from Washington.
The over/under being set at 225 is an intriguing bet here as both teams will need to knock the rust off, and Washington won't have nearly as much firepower for a 110-point effort. The Wizards' team total should hover around 106-110 points for this game -- based on the spread and current line -- and that will be worth keeping an eye on as well. From February on, the Wizards ranked 9th with 115.2 points per game and the Suns at 111.3 points per game. Take Beal and Bertans' combined 52.1% usage rate and 45.9 points per game out of the equation along with four months of no competitive basketball, and this has the makings of an under for me.
Best Bet: Under 225 (-110)