NBA: Best bets and analysis for Friday, February 23rd

Jonathan Von Tobel (87-68-2 | Units: +14.15) gives his daily NBA best bets and analysis for Friday, February 23rd

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Feb 8, 2024; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) during the third quarter at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my daily column of NBA best bets! Here at VSiN we have a ton of NBA content daily, so make sure to keep tabs on Zach Cohen who is doing an excellent job handicapping the league on a daily basis.

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Record: 87-68-2 | Units: +14.15 | ROI: 8.4%

*Toronto Raptors at Atlanta Hawks (-6, 244.5)

Toronto got the win and cover over Brooklyn last night, but that is hardly an accomplishment at this point. The Raptors are still a subpar defensive team, which will be an issue in Atlanta tonight. 

On the season, Toronto is 22nd in non-garbage time defensive efficiency (118.1). Since the trade that brought in both Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett the team is 26th with an even worse defensive rating (120.6). The Raptors are also a fast team that is willing to play in transition. Since the trade they are third in overall transition frequency and first transition frequency off live rebounds. They will be willing to run with the Hawks today which works in the home team’s favor.

I expect Atlanta to have a good offensive game tonight. It is third in pace (102.42) and ninth in both overall transition frequency (15.5%) and transition frequency off live rebounds (30.6%). The Hawks will find success in the fastbreak against a Raptors defense which allows the third-most points per 100 plays in transition off live rebounds (130.9). That defense is also 29th in defensive efficiency on the road (125.8) since reconfiguring its roster.

The play here will be on the Hawks’ team total. Atlanta is still a very subpar defensive team themselves. I do not trust them enough to win by margin, but do believe in them enough on offense. Their team total is high, but in a fast-paced game where both teams are getting up and down the court while playing terrible defense this number is attainable.

Play: Hawks TT OV 126.5 (-115) – Playable to 126.5 (-125)

*Los Angeles Clippers (-9.5, 223.5) at Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis surprised the Milwaukee Bucks before the break with an outright win as a 12-point underdog, but that win shouldn’t come as a massive shock. Despite one of the worst records in the league, the Grizzlies are quietly one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They enter this portion of the season ninth in non-garbage time defensive efficiency, and it is why I believe this a game worth betting under the total.

Neither Los Angeles or Memphis is a particularly quick team. The Grizzlies are 18th in pace (99.12) and 21st in percentage of halfcourt plays (80.0%). The Clippers are 21st in pace (98.58) and 15th in halfcourt frequency (79.4%). We can expect a slow game here tonight that likely has fewer than 100 possessions. In fact, two of the three games they played had only 95 possessions and the third had only 99, according to Cleaning The Glass.

Memphis is also obviously a subpar offensive team. It averages only 108.9 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time, which is the lowest offensive rating in the NBA. Los Angeles will be able to contain an offense that lacks the ability to go at a defense with defenders like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.

The market seems to agree with my sentiment here that this is a game to look under on, so let’s play this early today.

Play: UNDER 223 – Playable to 221.5

Milwaukee Bucks at Minnesota Timberwolves (-3.5, 225)

This should be an exciting game to take in tonight, but it’s going to be one that I will be hoping gets pretty ugly.

Minnesota is the best defensive team in the NBA. They have allowed just 108.5 points per 100 possessions to opponents this season, which is the best defensive rating by nearly three points. Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns’ ability to plug up the paint with their overwhelming size should work well against a team which takes 36.5% of its attempts at the rim with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor.

The Timberwolves also have defensive options for Damian Lillard at the point of attack. Mike Conley is a sound defensive guard, and both Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels are elite perimeter defenders. The Bucks will be without Khris Middleton as well tonight, which only helps congest the spacing on offense.

On the other end, despite the struggles of Milwaukee’s defense, it should be able to defend Minnesota well. The Timberwolves average just 117.0 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time. They also do not tend to run, as they rank 30th in transition frequency off live rebounds.

Play: UNDER 225.5 – Playable to 224.5

NBA Best Bets

Hawks TT OV 126.5 (-115)

Clippers/Grizzlies UN 223

Bucks/Timberwolves UN 225.5

Remaining Games

*Cleveland Cavaliers (-4, 229) at *Philadelphia 76ers

Donovan Mitchell is still questionable to play after missing the loss to Orlando last night. His status is paramount to attacking this number, as he is obviously very impactful to the spread. Whether he plays or not, this is still a winnable game for Cleveland. The 76ers were crushed on the offensive glass, allowing an offensive rebounding rate of 28.9% and a 1.714 putback points per play rate. The Cavaliers can win the rebounding battle with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen while going after this shoddy perimeter defense with any one of their guards. Philadelphia is 4-11 ATS in its last 15 games and just not in a spot worth betting on right now.

*Washington Wizards at *Oklahoma City Thunder (-14.5, 241.5)

Oklahoma City looked incredible in their win over Los Angeles last night. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting and the Thunder averaged 1.141 points per play in the halfcourt. Gilgeous-Alexander now gets to go after the worst defense in the NBA – 121.6 points allowed per 100 possessions in non-garbage time – with not a single perimeter defender capable of staying in front of him. This number is as high as -16 in a couple of shops, and it is not hard to see why.

*Phoenix Suns (-3.5, 230) at *Houston Rockets

Houston fell to 12-21 ATS in its last 33 games after losing and failing to cover in New Orleans last night. The Rockets gave up 1.222 points per possession in non-garbage time and allowed the Pelicans to go 25-of-33 at the rim. The Suns won’t pressure the rim as much, but they still have two incredible offensive players that their opponent will have no defensive options for. Phoenix put up 1.172 points per possession in the loss the Dallas last night, but it was clear they missed Bradley Beal. His status is unknown for today, but it is unlikely he plays tonight as he wasn’t available last night.

Miami Heat at *New Orleans Pelicans (-3, 222.5)

Jimmy Butler will be back on the floor after missing the last three games before the All-Star break with personal issues. Still, the Heat are banged up in the backcourt with both Terry Rozier and Josh Richardson out. Miami is better with Butler though, there is no question. When he and Bam Adebayo are on the floor together the Heat allow just 111.5 points per 100 possessions, and opponents take just 27.9% of their attempts at the rim. That latter figure is important against New Orleans takes 34.9% of its attempts at the rim on the season, and with Zion Williamson on the floor that rate jumps to 39.6%. Brandon Ingram missed the game last night against Houston with an illness, so keep an eye out for his status today as well. The market’s early move here is to the under, as the total is down two points from the opening number.

*Denver Nuggets (-10, 220) at Portland Trail Blazers

Portland has a lengthy injury report tonight, especially in the backcourt. Malcolm Brogdon, Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe are all out with various injuries, and Jabari Walker is questionable. Sharpe has been out for some time now, but that is potentially three other players – unless Walker can play – who average over 22 minutes per game for Portland that could miss this game. Still, the market has moved toward the Trail Blazers this morning, something we usually see when a team is playing on no rest like Denver is. The Nuggets are also a candidate to rest some of their players tonight, so keep an eye out for the injury report from Denver later in the day.

*Charlotte Hornets at *Golden State Warriors (-12.5, 230)

Charlotte got the outright win as a 9.5-point underdog last night to improve to 6-1 ATS in their last seven games. The team is also on a 4-0 SU run, but that likely ends tonight in San Francisco. The Hornets are a team I believe is worth following now that play has resumed, but this is a spot where I am going withhold from playing because I believe the Warriors to be in the same vein. Golden State’s win last night improved their record to 10-5 SU/11-4 ATS since Draymond Green returned from suspension. This team is much better than its record would indicate, and now that they are experiencing continuity with its personnel the results are following.

*San Antonio Spurs at *Los Angeles Lakers (-9, 237.5)

Los Angeles took one on the chin last night in San Francisco without LeBron James, but it would seem that James will be back on the floor tonight. If that is the case then it explains why we’ve seen this line move up to -10 at multiple shops. With James on the floor Los Angeles is a much better team, specifically on defense where they allow just 113.8 points per 100 possessions. San Antonio got the cover in Sacramento last night, but the team is still 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games. This will be a big test for Victor Wembanyama tonight, as he will be asked to bang with Anthony Davis down low. Speaking of, with this being the second leg of a back-to-back it would help to wait for the injury report. Davis usually plays through his daily questionable tag, but clarity wouldn’t hurt with Los Angeles playing on no rest.