NBA Picks ATS For March 30: Riding Home Underdogs
Ok ok ok. So after a few winning weeks in a row, we just broke even last week. Not ideal, but not exactly a crippling blow. It’s time to hand out a solid group of winners today, but not just for the NBA action. Stay tuned throughout this afternoon, as I help line your wallet both this weekend and by the end of the baseball season. But the job at hand is to win you money and here is how to do that tonight with my NBA picks against the spread.
Boston Celtics @ Charlotte Bobcats (-3.5)
Another day and another massive game in terms of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics are currently a half game behind the eighth seeded Nets and the Hornets are a mere half game behind that. A victory today would allow the home team to leap frog both the Celtics and the Pacers, and with a Nets/Pacers game on tap tomorrow, Charlotte’s time to make a move is right now. I’m expecting this game to be a high energy affair, something that favors the rested Hornets, as the Celtics took part in an up-and-down game with the Clippers last night. The fatigue may not show initially, but I’ll happily take my chances with a motivated Al Jefferson facing an already shallow front line that gives up the fifth most paint points per night. It may have come against the Hawks backups, but Kemba Walker looked like what Kemba Walker looks like in March (21 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and just 1 turnover) on Saturday and I’d expect more of the same even against a stingy Marcus Smart. The NBA is a “get buckets” league, and I’ll take the team that has the top to threats.
Soppe Score: Hornets win 102-94
Los Angeles Lakers @ Philadelphia 76ers (-3.5)
Let’s be honest here: you’re going to have to take a shower after placing this bet, regardless of which side you take. These teams are more the subject of challenges potentially presented by elite college programs than their ability to compete at the professional level, but someone has to win this game and the Sixers are playing more inspired ball of late. Combine that with the fact that Nerlens Noel (16.3 points and 11.8 rebounds over his last six games) is proving why the franchise views him as a centerpiece moving forward and the Sixers are the pick here. The Lakers are playing with their rotation (Ed Davis was a CD – DNP last night and there is speculation that Jordan Hill could draw the short straw tonight) and really seem like the more confused franchise these days. Both teams played last night, further leading to speculation that this game could set professional basketball back a decade or six. I’ll swallow the points here, citing the Sixers confidence gained from really competing for the most part with two elite teams (the Clippers and the Cavaliers) in their last two games (I know they lost to LAC by 21, but they lost the third quarter by 18 and essentially played even for the other 36 minutes). Keep an eye on the three point line, as the Sixers rank seventh in percentage of points scored from distance and the Lakers rank below average on the defensive side of that metric.
Soppe Score: 76ers win 103-92
Houston Rockets @ Toronto Raptors (-1)
From a health perspective, neither one of these teams is exactly peaking for postseason play. I’d be surprised if Dwight Howard suited up on the second night of a back-to-back and Kyle Lowry is questionable at best as he continues to fight off back pain. The reason I like Toronto is not because I think the Howard absence means more than the Lowry absence (in terms of value, I’d argue the other direction), but it is the quality of player that will be filling the void. Donatas Motiejunas (back) and Terrence Jones (lung) are nice players, but both are banged up and are not being counted on. While Houston scrambles to find a paint presence to deal with the improving Jonas Valanciunas (he’s shooting 60.4 percent from the field in March and has seen his usage rate spike), the Raptors have a more than capable duo of Lou Williams and Grievis Vasquez ready to handle the short-term point guard duties. I think this is a close game, but with the Raptors winning two of every three games at home and the Rockets losing their last three back ends of road back-to-backs by an average of 15.3 points (losses to the Pistons, Clippers, and Jazz), I’ll bite the bullet and bet against The Beard.
Soppe Score: Raptors win 107-99
Milwaukee Bucks (+8) @ Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks rested all of their starters on Saturday, an indication that they are wisely pacing themselves for postseason play. They are unlikely to sit everyone again, but in a competitive league, teams that come to play without the “must-win” intensity tend to struggle and I believe we could see a bit of that not only tonight but for the remaining two weeks of the regular season in Atlanta. Now, they are still a talented team that is better than the Bucks, but I’ll gladly take the points and the team with the increased level of desperation. The Bucks are fading fast (4-12 over their last 16), but they need every win they can get down the stretch in order to avoid a first round series with the Cavaliers. The Bucks actually rank as the fourth best defense in terms of opponent shooting percentage, a statistic that should allow them to keep this game close down the stretch. Add in the potential of the Hawks limiting minutes of key players and this could very easily turn into a backdoor situation.
Soppe Score: Hawks win 97-93
Utah Jazz (-3.5) @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Both of these teams are better than their records indicate and have plenty to be optimistic about in the near future. The Timberwolves won an overtime thriller last Monday, but I viewed that performance as a positive for the Jazz. Minnesota made three more triples despite attempting nine fewer three pointers and the Jazz missed 12 free throws, yet they had a chance to win down the stretch. If both those stats trend toward the mean, the Utah should cover the spread. Minnesota is an average team in the paint and one of the five least efficient offenses in the league, both of which are major problems against the shot swatting stylings of Rudy Gobert. Andrew Wiggins is capable of limiting Gordon Hayward, so don’t be surprised if Rodney Hood and/or Joe Ingles (combining for nearly three 3PM at a 38 percent clip this month) make a few big shots against the third worst defense when it comes to 3P% against.
Soppe Score: Jazz win 96 - 89
Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies (-8)
Once again, I’m siding with the team that has something to play for. The Grizzlies are trying to catch the Rockets (0.5 games back) and avoid a first round date with the defending champion Spurs while the Kings are simply playing out the string, seemingly just trying to inflate DeMarcus Cousins’ numbers in the process. The Grizzlies have been getting killed by the media, and deservedly so, for not coming to play against the top shelf teams (consecutive losses to the Cavaliers, Warriors, and Spurs), but the Kings don’t exactly fit that mold. With Rudy Gay nicked up, Sacramento’s offense runs through the paint … good luck with that against Memphis. We never consider the Grizzlies a capable offensive team, but they actually average more assists and fewer turnovers than the Kings, resulting in a higher offensive efficiency. I’m not thrilled about the Grizz having played yesterday, but with three days off before their next game, I have no worries about them controlling this game.
Soppe Score: Grizzlies win 106-91
Phoenix Suns @ Portland Trailblazers (-7)
The Suns are fading fast (four games out of the final playoff spot) and while the Trailblazers aren’t exactly peaking (6-6 in their last 12 games), they need to finish strong as they look to possess home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs (currently even in the loss column with the Clippers). The Suns hosted the Thunder last night while Portland had last night off and has been at home since beating these Suns 87-81 on Friday. I expect Portland to control this game, especially if Brandon Knight is unable to go, and with their Top 5 fourth quarter defense in terms of points allowed, the Suns are unlikely to get the finishing kick that they are accustomed to as they own the highest scoring fourth quarter offense in the NBA. Portland has the third best home record this season and have lost just two games in front of the Blazer faithful over the last two months (Grizzlies and Warriors). Memphis and Portland is a nice moneyline parlay, as I think both are more than capable to cover the big spread. Maybe hedge your bet by wagering the amount you’d win on a two team moneyline parlay on a two-teamer against the spread?
Soppe Score: Trailblazers win 105-93
Photo via Getty
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