NBA: Best bets and analysis for Friday, March 15th

Jonathan Von Tobel (103-88-3 | Units: +8.9) gives his daily NBA best bets and analysis for Friday, March 15th.

Feb 7, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) holds on to a rebound in front of Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) in the first half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-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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NBA Best Bets

Record: 103-88-3 | Units: +8.9 | ROI: 4.3%

*Los Angeles Clippers at New Orleans Pelicans (-6, 217)

This is the fifth game in seven days for Los Angeles and it is playing on no rest. Obviously, this is one of the most negative scheduling spots a handicapper can find. However, every situation is different. 

Kawhi Leonard essentially sat out two of the five games after leaving the game against Minnesota with back spasms. Paul George rested in the game against Milwaukee. For Leonard this would only be a normal back-to-back – which he has played through all but twice this season – and for George it is his third game in four nights. The market clearly expects some rest from either of these two, but given the magnitude of this game I would expect both to play.

James Harden is truly questionable with a shoulder injury, but his history would tell us there is a solid chance he returns after sitting out in Chicago. If he doesn’t that is obviously a loss, but that still doesn’t get you to this number.

These two teams met in New Orleans on Jan. 5 and the Clippers closed as 1.5-point favorites in that game. When Los Angeles returned from a seven-game road trip they hosted New Orleans and closed laying six points. The Clippers are obviously not in the same form they were during that time of the schedule, but how do we swing nearly seven points on a neutral power rating over that time?

This is just a play of principle mixed in with some risk. There is certainly a chance that Leonard or George sit, but I do not believe that will happen. The market has believed that all season long, and it has been wrong at every turn. New Orleans is three games back from Los Angeles for the fourth seed. This win could stick the dagger a bit deeper in its side and give the Clippers a high probability of homecourt in a first round series.

Best Bet: Clippers (+7.5) – Playable to (+5.5)

NBA Best Bets

Clippers (+7.5)

Remaining Games

*Phoenix Suns (-9, 217) at Charlotte Hornets

After the loss and failed cover in Boston last night Phoenix fell to 5-6 SU/2-9 ATS in its last 11 games. Over that span the Suns have been outscored by 1.4 points every 100 possessions in non-garbage time. Yet, the market continues to price them as a borderline elite team. Even this morning the market is pushing this line up to -10 despite the negative scheduling spot. There is certainly a chance one of Bradley Beal or Devin Booker could rest as well. Until there is clarity on Phoenix’s roster tonight there is no reason to lay such a big number with a team that has covered at such a low rate recently and is 7-10-2 ATS as a road favorite.

Miami Heat (-6.5, 214.5) at Detroit Pistons

Detroit grabbed a big win and cover over Toronto on Wednesday to improve to 3-2 SU/4-1 ATS in its last five games. The Pistons are also 19-8 ATS in their last 27 contests – which includes a cover in Miami just 12 days ago – but the market is moving against it for good reason. Cade Cunningham is questionable with a knee injury. If he does not play Detroit will be up against it. Cunningham has averaged 21.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game on 46.0% shooting from the floor. He’s also shot 41.8% from deep over that span. He has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Pistons over these 27 games. Until his status is clear there is no case to be made for the team that has covered 70.4% of its last 27 games.

Orlando Magic (-7, 217) at Toronto Raptors

Scottie Barnes, RJ Barrett, Chris Boucher and Jakob Poeltl remain out with injury for Toronto. Gary Trent Jr. is questionable to play with a groin injury. Until this injury report clears up the Raptors are not a team worth backing. They are 1-7 SU/2-6 ATS in their last eight games, and since the new year they are one of the worst defensive teams in the league. The problem is that the market has jumped on fading this team and the price is getting higher. Orlando is already an 8.5-point favorite on the road here. The best option is to wait for an in-game opportunity. Toronto put up a fight in Detroit and led by double-digits at one point before failing to cover the pre-flop line. The same situation could unfold here.

Denver Nuggets (-9, 223.5) at San Antonio Spurs

Since returning from the All-Star break the Denver Nuggets are 10-1 SU/8-2-1 ATS with a +13.5 net rating. They have covered by 3.9 points per game despite laying an average of 6.7 points per game. Denver is an absolute machine at this point, and there is no need to try and get in front of it. San Antonio is on a 9-4 ATS run over its last 13 games, but it has no answer for Nikola Jokic on defense, even with Victor Wembanyama on the floor. The market seemingly agrees with my thoughts here, as the Nuggets are now -10.5 across the board.

Atlanta Hawks (-2.5, 224.5) at Utah Jazz

Injuries continue to mount for Atlanta. Saddiq Bey was lost for the season with a torn ACL the other day. Tonight, the Hawks will be without Bey, Trae Young and Onyeka Okongwu. Jalen Johnson and Bogdan Bogdanovic are questionable to play. Johnson could make his return from an ankle injury, but Bogdanovic is a true question. It’s hard to lay it on the road with this team given the nature of its roster. Having said that, the Jazz are not in any better shape. Jordan Clarkson, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen are all out tonight. By my measure, it is an easy game to stay away from.