Thursday, February 22, 2024

NBA Odds, Best Bets Today: Expert Picks for Celtics vs. Bucks, Pelicans vs. Nuggets

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Thursday’s sports slate has plenty to offer bettors: Opening Day baseball, NIT championship in college basketball, golf. However, the NBA has plenty, too.

There are just two games on the NBA schedule tonight, but both games are potential matchups that we could seen when the playoffs begin in April. In the early game of the TNT doubleheader, we’ll see Celtics vs. Bucks (7:30 p.m. ET) and in the late game we get Pelicans vs. Nuggets (10 p.m. ET).

Our Action Network analysts are all over both games with five best bets today, including player props, spreads and totals. They break down those matchups and expert picks for Thursday below.

NBA Odds & Best Bets

Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Pick
Over 236
Book
PointsBet
Tipoff
7:30 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Andrew O’Connor-Watts: It’s not always good practice to look at points per game when handicapping totals, but one reason I like the over tonight is the Bucks and Celtics are averaging a combined 246.8 over their last 12 games overall — a significant offensive sample size.

Both teams are 7-5 to the over in that span and have trended heavily to the over when they meet during the regular season. In the playoffs, when the game slows down, the defenses tighten up and the refs tend to swallow their whistle more, these teams are 8-4 to the under. But in their last 11 regular season meetings, the over is 10-1, with both games going over this season.

March has been a speedy month for the Bucks. They have the fastest Pace in the league (103.7), according to NBA Advanced Stats. They’re running up and down the court off of rebounds catching defenses off guard. In 13 of their 14 games this month, more than 30% of the Bucks defensive rebounds led to a transition play, per Cleaning the Glass.

While not a very fast-paced team, the Celtics are also scoring in bunches, but they’re doing so with efficient halfcourt execution–something they’ve done all year. The Celtics are third in halfcourt offense on the season, and that efficiency has sustained itself recently too. Boston’s halfcourt offense has ranked in the 70th percentile or better in six of their last 10 games.

This total is on the high side, but I can’t buck the recent trends, especially the way these two offenses are humming. The Action app has tracked some sharp movement on the over, so we may not see the current number for long. I like the over up to 238.5.


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Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Pick
Over 236
Book
PointsBet

Chris Baker: The Celtics and Bucks have combined for 256 and 257 in the two games they’ve played against each other this year.

In each of those games, neither team was as healthy as they currently are. Both of these teams rank top-five in defensive rating but the Celtics defense is highly overrated in my opinion.

The Celtics have played the 3rd easiest schedule of opposing offenses this season according to dunksandthrees.com. However, the Celtics have also played the 6th most difficult schedule of opposing defenses this season, so their offense may actually be a bit underrated.

This team has the ability to space the Bucks out with 5 shooters on the floor and that will challenge Giannis and Brook to close out. I expect them to have success attacking Brook Lopez in drop-coverage as they force him to close out on either Al Horford or Grant Williams. This will force Brook away from the rim and open up driving lanes. On the flip side of the ball, I do not expect the Celtic bigs to be able to contain the frontcourt of Lopez, Giannis, and Bobby Portis Jr.

The Bucks have so many elite scoring options and this will present issues for a Celtics defense that does have some holes. Jrue Holiday is coming off a career-high 51-point night against the Pacers last night. I mention this because when he is clicking this Bucks offense hits a different level, and I expect him to be confident tonight given how well he played last night.

Finally, this game should have playoff intensity but I expect both teams to be cautious given how close we are to the playoffs. It’s hard to quantify but I expect the defense to be slightly softer as both of these teams look to compete while simultaneously avoiding any injuries prior to their playoff runs.

Monitor the injury reports here, but if both teams are relatively healthy I will be on the over 236 here up to 237. This should be a fast-paced game between two of the league’s best offenses.


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Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Pick
Jayson Tatum o28.5 pts (-115)
Book
DraftKings

Bryan Fonseca: I think we’ll get another big TNT performance from Jayson Tatum tonight, whose Celtics will have a night’s rest going into Thursday’s contest with the Milwaukee Bucks, who just had a 149-136 win (in regulation!) against the Indiana Pacers. I don’t care how fast the game has gotten, that won’t ever look right to me, hope y’all had bet that over, though.

Anyway, Tatum had 28 last time out, but has gone over this 28.5-point prop in three of his past five. None of those defenses — the Pacers, Kings or Blazers — did much to prevent this, but his first performance against the Bucks this year provides reason for encouragement tonight.

In December, Tatum lit up Milwaukee for 41, and that was a Christmas Day game under a microscope. He’s had 29 or more points in 44 of 70 games this season. He’s put 40 or more on elite defenses like the Bucks, Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers, and he has a 39-pointer against the Memphis Grizzlies.

We’ve all watched Tatum go off in national TV games against good-to-great teams enough over the years to not question why the over would be a good call against a Bucks team on a back-to-back, who just allowed 136 from the Pacers.


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Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Pick
Marcus Smart o4.5 AST | o5.5 AST
Book
DraftKings

Joe Dellera: I wrote about how I’m betting the spread in tonight’s game between the Celtics and Bucks (you can read the full betting guide here), but I’m also betting a player prop.

One player who has thrived in these matchups against Milwaukee has been Marcus Smart. Smart is a utility knife of sorts: He can defend, score, and facilitate as needed. In these games against the Bucks, his facilitating has shined through.

Over the past two seasons (including a playoff series), Smart has exceeded his assists line of 4.5 in nine of 11 matches against the Bucks with six or more in each of those. I’ll split my wager between 4.5 assists at (-155 DraftKings) and over 5.5 (+108 BetRivers) to take advantage of his facilitating.


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New Orleans Pelicans vs. Denver Nuggets

Pick
Pelicans +6.5
Book
DraftKings
Tipoff
10 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Jacob McKenna: I wrote about this game in today’s betting guide (you can read that here.) Both of these teams have been rather dominant over the past week or so, but I like New Orleans to cover the spread here as an underdog.

It should be noted that the Pelicans have had a cake walk of a schedule in the past six games, three of which came against the three-worst teams in the Western Conference. However, I don’t think that should take away from the fact that the Pelicans posted a +108 point differential in that stretch.

Additionally, New Orleans has held its ground against Denver this season, despite being 1-2 in the season series. The Pelicans won the first matchup by 15 points and lost the following two games by a combined 10 points.

This is the first game of a back-to-back for Denver, with the second game coming against the Suns. It’s possible we see Jokic sit this one out, but even if he suits up, I like New Orleans on the spread. I would play this down to 5.5.


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