A big NBA Friday is on the schedule for tonight as 12 games will take place with a majority of the league in action. Two of the late-night games jumped out at me this morning while reviewing the board so we will cover a breakdown of those games and my best play in both of them.
The Bucks are proving once again early in the season that they will be title contenders as they are the only remaining undefeated team in the league coming into tonight’s game with a (7-0) record. They’ll be looking to keep their winning ways going against a (4-4) Timberwolves team who has looked inconsistent to begin the season.
Milwaukee’s hot start has been led by their stellar rebounding and defense. The Bucks are first in the NBA in opponent's points per game and opponent shooting percentage as their style of basketball and length all over the court has given every team they’ve played to this point fits. Milwaukee is also first in the league in total rebounds per game averaging 60.1 which leads back to MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo who is averaging a team-best 12.7 rebounds a game.
At the time of writing this both Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards are questionable with an illness so if Gobert is unable to go the Timberwolves are going to be facing an uphill battle when it comes to rebounding since Gobert is averaging 14 a game. Minnesota ranks in the middle of the league in most offensive and defensive categories which can help explain why they currently have a .500 record.
Outside of Edwards and Karl Anthony Towns, the scoring production from the rest of the team has not been strong. Even Edwards (23.1 PPG) and Towns (21.6 PPG) have not been producing at the rate they were expected coming into the season and poor execution plus lack of rhythm on offense is not what you want to be dealing with heading into a match-up with the Bucks.
The Bucks are currently (-3) in some books and that’s who I’ll be taking with my first play of the night. The number is moving around a bit to start so make sure you’re looking for the best number possible across the sportsbooks. Whether Gobert and Edwards suit up tonight does not affect my decision here as the Bucks are currently playing at too high a level on the defensive end to bet against them with a lower number. The Bucks are 6-1 ATS this season and I think the current number is a tad off with the lack of cohesiveness the Timberwolves have had to start this season not to mention their 2-3 ATS at home this year.
I don’t trust the Timberwolves bench and it seems like they don’t either as Minnesota ranks 25th in average bench minutes. The Bucks have the advantage in practically every aspect of tonight’s game so I like them as one of my best plays.
Heading to the west coast for another 10:00 ET tip-off with the (5-2) Blazers heading to Phoenix to take on the (6-1) Suns. This game will actually be the first of a back-to-back as they will play again tomorrow night in Phoenix as well.
The Suns have come out this season playing very efficiently on both sides of the court. Phoenix enters tonight’s contest boasting the best NET rating and offensive rating in the NBA which makes sense since they are currently tied for first in points per game averaging 118.3 a night. Devin Booker is a big reason for this as he enters tonight averaging 27.7 points per game. Defensively this Suns team is fifth in the league in defensive rating and is led by veteran Chris Paul who leads the team in steals.
Portland will be without Damian Lillard tonight but they have been able to play well in his absence and are currently eighth in the league in NET rating. The Trailblazers like to push it in transition which explains why they’re fourth in fast break points per game.
Jusuf Nurkic has stepped up in Lillard's absence and has been able to average 14.8 points and 12.2 rebounds per game giving this team a high level of presence down low. Lottery pick Shaedon Sharp has also provided a lot of nice minutes to the team and makes them an uber-athletic group.
The Trailblazers have a had great start to the season covering the spread with a 6-1 record ATS and 2-0 ATS when on the road. They come into tonight as (+10.5) point underdogs and I think that number is a bit too high so I’ll be rolling with the Blazers as my second best bet of the night.
Damian Lillard not being available is not ideal and a big reason for this large number but this team still manages to play well when he isn’t playing. The Blazers lost by five to a good Grizzlies team in their last game with Lillard and I think they can hang in the game enough to cover.
Phoenix is certainly an incredibly solid team and they are 5-2 ATS so far this year but this is a big number to cover against a young team who is eighth in the league in fourth-quarter scoring. Adding in the fact both teams play tomorrow as well and are both coming into this game fresh I like the Blazers to keep it within the number against this veteran Suns team.
Milwaukee Bucks (-3)
Portland Trailblazers (+10.5)