Tuesday night 2-1. 6-4 for the season. Wednesday:
Bucks (-2.5) @ Celtics (223.5)
Pick: Celtics +2.5 and under 223.5
It’s a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Semifinals in Beantown when the Bucks visit the Celtics. Boston looks quite a bit different with Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter on the roster now and Kyrie Irving and Al Horford among the notable departures. However, we’d expect the returning players for the Celtics to have revenge on their minds. In the eyes of many, Boston is part of a tier below Milwaukee and Philadelphia in the East. That tier also includes teams like Indiana, Brooklyn and Toronto. The NBA certainly has had its fair share of chalky seasons where the teams everyone expects to play in the conference finals and NBA Finals do indeed make it that far. However, early-season spots like this are good buy opportunities on those teams in the tier in the East that’s perceived to be below the Bucks and the Sixers. Boston already had a chance to make an early-season statement in its season opener in Philadelphia, but whiffed as the Sixers beat the Celtics by double digits. Since then, the Celtics have won back-to-back games including a win against the defending champion Raptors. A win here would put the season opener even further in the rear-view mirror for Boston and 3-1 with victories over Toronto and Milwaukee is a pretty good way to put the rest of the East on notice. We mentioned this is a playoff rematch, and therefore we expect that kind of atmosphere at TD Garden on Wednesday. That usually lends itself to both teams being fully motivated which should mean there’s more defense here than there usually is early in the season. We like the Boston side and the game under the total.
Rockets (-8) @ Wizards (233.5)
Pick: Wizards +8
How could we not handicap the biggest game in DC sports tonight? The Houston Rockets visit the nation’s capital to take on the Wizards. While both teams have only played three games, the disparity between straight-up records and ATS records is something we want to highlight here. The Rockets started the season 2-1 but are 0-3 ATS. Washington is 1-2 after three games but 3-0 ATS. Obviously, the sample size is very small. However, this may not be a fluke.
If you asked any random sports fan that does not gamble on a regular basis if they would rather place a bet on the Houston Rockets or the Washington Wizards, that person probably is going to say Houston without thinking twice. Obviously, there is a clear talent difference between the Rockets and the Wizards which makes the reply an easy one for most fans that do not gamble much. But, that talent difference is often accounted for in the point spread and is sometimes over accounted for. Then consider that the motivation for the Rockets probably isn’t very high tonight against a Wizards team that will likely win around 30 games, and this game is trickier to pick than originally assumed. If everything breaks right for Washington this season, the Wizards will be on the playoff bubble and probably still won’t make it. Teams like this are my favorite ones to bet on in the NBA regular season. Last season, two of the top three ATS records in the NBA belonged to the Sacramento Kings and the Dallas Mavericks, a pair of teams that fit the previous description to a tee as the Kings won 39 games to the Mavs’ 33 and neither made the postseason. The Warriors had the second-worst cover rate in the NBA last season going 44-58-2 ATS in the regular season and playoffs. Teams that desperately need every game just to make the playoffs are going to compete hard on a nightly basis. They’re probably not good enough to win enough games anyway, but those teams often cover the spread at a better clip than the rest of the league. Games that those kind of teams cover in but do not win outright often do not require oddsmakers to make significant adjustments on the lines involving those teams moving forward because recreational bettors flock to back teams with very good straight-up records and not necessarily good ATS records. That means there can be continued value on teams like Washington and against teams the public wants to back like Houston, and Golden State last season. We’ll look at teams in the 7-12 spots in both conferences throughout the season if the numbers line up. Eight points is enough in this case to back the Wizards at home.
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