By Raymond Harrison | @MondoHarrison
While 2020 has changed a lot of Christmas traditions for people, one thing remains constant: we get a full slate of excellent NBA basketball for the entirety of Christmas Day!
Five of the most marquee NBA matchups will don televisions for nearly 12 hours as fans watch onwards while battling a turkey coma. This year’s quintuple-header comes just four days into the 2020-21 season, meaning a lot remains unknown about these teams.
We have star players and storylines galore in this hoops-extravaganza, so why not spice things up by placing a few wagers on the holiday action?
In this piece, I’ll go over my best bet(s) for each game, and provide my reasonings behind the picks. All odds provided in this piece are courtesy of William Hill. As always, please play responsibly.
New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat (-4.5), 12 p.m.
Best bet: Zion Williamson Over 30.5 Points/Rebounds/Assists (-125)
In the Pelicans season-opening win against the Toronto Raptors, Zion did not have to be at his best. He still posted a respectable 15-10-3 stat line, but four Pelicans finished with more points than him.
I do not think that will be the case very often this year. Zion will also see heavy minutes in a game that should stay close most of the way. While it is unlikely that he averages 10 rebounds a game, his point total will surely increase.
Assuming he returns to the 22.5 point-per-game average we saw from him in 2019-20, he should be able to hit this over with ease. I am backing the young star in his first Christmas appearance.
Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks (-10), 2:30 p.m.
Best bet: Bucks -5.5 First Half Spread
There was value on the full-game spread a couple days ago, but the line has moved from 7.5 all the way to 10. Instead, I am going to attack the first-half spread with the Bucks.
This Warriors team is a shell of their former selves with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green sidelined. The Nets embarrassed them in their opening game, leading by as much as 38 points in the second half. I expect the Warriors to shoot better than 37.4 percent in this one, but they still cannot hang with Milwaukee.
The Bucks are also going to have some added motivation after letting Wednesday’s game against the Celtics slip away. Reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo missed a game-tying free throw in the final seconds, letting Boston escape with a 122-121 win.
I expect the Bucks to come out flying and have a significant lead at the half. The Warriors look like they will be unable to defend all year, or at the very least, until Draymond comes back. If a good Boston defense still let the Bucks shoot over 50 percent from the field, I am scared to see what will happen on Christmas Day.
Brooklyn Nets (-3) at Boston Celtics, 5 p.m.
Best bet: Caris LeVert Over 14.5 Total Points (-105)
This may be my favorite bet of the entire day.
While Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving understandably dominate headlines for the Nets, Caris LeVert is a high-end scorer. Last year he truly came into his own, averaging 18.7 points per game across 45 appearances.
To start the year, the 26-year-old Michigan product put up 20 points in just 24 minutes against the Warriors. He is the unquestioned leader of the team’s second unit and a top-tier sixth man. The offense runs through him when he is on the floor, which makes 14.5 points an easy hurdle to clear.
I’d be tempted to bet this all the way up to 17 points.
Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers (-6), 8 p.m.
Best bet: Under 227.5 Total Points
This line has been trending downwards after opening at 230, but I still think there’s enough value here.
The Mavericks are a one-man show. Luka Doncic is one of the best players in the NBA, but he needs some support. The team shot a dismal 9-for-37 from deep in the season opener against the Suns, who do not come close to matching the Lakers’ defensive acumen.
Unless Doncic drops 40-plus points, which he is more than capable of, I do not see how the Mavericks break 110.
On the flip side, the Lakers looked a little discombobulated on offense in their season opener as well. LeBron James barely saw the court in the fourth quarter after sustaining an ankle injury, which may continue to nag at him in this contest.
They were also one of the best defensive teams in the league last year, ranking fourth in points allowed.
These teams met four times last season, combining for an average of 222.4 points. On top of that, one of those games went to overtime. I just do not think think the Mavericks’ supporting cast can produce enough against the daunting Lakers’ defense, which will keep this game under the total.
Los Angeles Clippers (-2.5) at Denver Nuggets, 10:30 p.m
Best bet: Clippers -2.5 (-110)
The Clippers were wholly impressive in their season-opening win against the Lakers. They never trailed in the contest and their new offseason additions fit into the lineup well. Team leaders Kawhi Leonard and Paul George also combined for 59 points.
As for the Nuggets, they lost their initial game to the Sacramento Kings on a last-second tip-in by Buddy Hield. Star guard Jamal Murray only put up nine points on 1-of-9 shooting in the contest, which is a major concern after a dismal preseason.
I have to think the Clippers want to get some revenge for blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Nuggets in last year’s playoffs, and I think they cruise in this one.