Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors.
Friday’s NBA slate features six games with two national TV games on NBA TV: Cavaliers vs. Heat (8 p.m. ET) and Raptors vs. Lakers (10:30 p.m. ET).
Action Network’s analysts have best bets today for those games and more of the matchups on the evening’s slate. You can find their analysis and expert picks for Friday below.
There is no question that Jimmy Butler is one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Butler prides himself his energy on the defensive end and more times than not it shows up in the box score. He ranks second in the NBA in steals per game (1.9) being OG Anunoby. In 14 career games against the Cavaliers, Butler has two steals in 13 of those matchups (yes, you read that right) cashing at a 92.8% rate.
In fact, Butler has gone over this projection in three out of the last four games and four out of the last six games. With the lowest total on the board tonight, I am expecting another tightly contested game between the Cavaliers and Heat tonight.
The Heat continue to rank as one of the best defenses against the guard position and I expect Butler to get another multi-steal night. I am going to bet Jimmy Butler Over 1.5 steals tonight up to -140.
Matt Moore: The Nets are on the second night of a back-to-back, on the road here, but I’m mostly focused on the Wolves in this spot. The under is 21-14 (60%) in Wolves home games this season. The Wolves are the rare team this season that doesn’t become much of a different team home vs. away. They have roughly the same offensive and defensive rating, and actually shoot slightly better on the road.
The Nets benched their starters in their loss to the Bucks Thursday, but that doesn’t really save the wear and tear of warmups and travel in the back to back. An interesting trend? The under is 50% on the second night of a back-to-back in the last six seasons. But in games in the last quarter of the season (beyond Game 60), the under jumps up slightly to 52%. That’s not super meaningful, but at least it’s not working against us.
The Wolves apply a lot of pressure on ball handlers, and the Nets are short on them. I have this projected at at 225.5 and am good with any number to that spot.
Joe Dellera: The Nuggets should easily dispatch of the Spurs today as they are in full tank mode for Victor Wembanyama as the season winds down.
When the Nuggets have won, Michael Porter Jr makes his 3s. He has exceeded 2.5 3s in 69% of Denver’s wins compared to 43% in their losses. In both of Denver’s games against the Spurs this season, he’s exceeded this line in two victories.
Additionally, the Spurs are allowing their opponents to shoot nearly 40% from 3-point range, the worst number in the league. This is a great spot for Michael Porter Jr and this SGP gives us positive correlation.
Chris Baker: The Raptors have lost their past two games, but they played two teams that are considered title contenders by Vegas: the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers. I thought the Raptors defended admirably in each of those games, but they just didn’t have the firepower to win.
The Raptors have stalled a bit over the past two weeks but I think much of that can be attributed to some poor defensive shooting luck. In five of their past six games opponents have shot better than 40% from beyond the arc and cleared the 60% Effective Field Goal mark five times.
I’ve watched this team over the past few weeks and they have looked like an entirely different team since acquiring Jakob Poeltl. The numbers bear this out as the Raptors rank in the 88th percentile of Net Rating with a +6.6 when Poeltl is on the floor.
The key to defending this Lakers team is preventing paint/rim-looks as the Lakers take nearly 40% of their shots at the rim, ranking first in the NBA in rim-rate on the season. The Lakers also rank eighth in the NBA in post-up rate as they love to get Anthony Davis touches on the block.
This is a great matchup for the Raptors defense as they rank first in the NBA at defending post-ups allowing 0.83 points per possession against post-ups. The Raptors are drastically better than the rest of the league against post-ups, as the next best team is all the way up 0.90 points per possession allowed. The Raptors defense struggles against teams that can shoot the three ball as they rank 29th in spot-up rate allowed in the NBA.
Fortunately for them, the Lakers rank just 29th in offensive spot-up rate so defending the three point line shouldn’t be a huge concern tonight. I love this matchup for the Raptors and I expect them to be extra motivated to compete given the playoff implications and given the controversies with the referees in two straight games. Play this up to -2.
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