The NBA keeps doing things that aren’t expected. On Wednesday, the Lakers won in Atlanta to give the Hawks their first loss. The Suns got their first win and gave the Trail Blazers losses on back to back nights. The Oklahoma City Thunder gave the Clippers their first loss of the season. The Thunder are one of only two unbeaten teams left, and this is without Kevin Durant. Early-season basketball is surprising because teams are settling into the season and finding what they have with their rotations. Keep that in mind if you think you see reason to go against the general consensus. Here are our NBA betting picks for Thursday.
Denver Nuggets @ Minnesota Timberwolves
Odds: Minnesota -3.5
This is a game in which the Timberwolves, who scored a blowout victory in their most recent game, will probably feel very confident without being overconfident. This is a very young team, but one with high-end talent and a new coach in Tom Thibodeau who is trying to build a rapport with them. It is easy to think that a young team will get overconfident, but Thibodeau is good enough and commands enough respect that Minnesota should remain focused in this situation. The other consideration to take into account is that Denver is probably not strong enough to exploit the Timberwolves in various ways. Denver is as young as Minnesota if not more. The Nuggets’ collection of international players is skilled, but the Nuggets aren’t going to win a skill contest against Andrew Wiggins on the wing, Karl-Anthony Towns at the center position, or against Zach LaVine. If Minnesota was going up against a quality veteran team, this might be a position for a letdown, but the Nuggets don’t fit that profile. Take the Wolves.
NBA Betting Pick: Timberwolves -3.5
Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Odds: Cleveland -8.5
This game is interesting in that it occurs in a building right next to Progressive Field in Cleveland, where the hometown Indians lost Game 7 of the World Series the night earlier against the Chicago Cubs. LeBron James stayed for all of Game 7, cheering on the Indians. Other Cavs teammates did the same. The energy inside Quicken Loans Arena for this game will be hard to peg. A lot of people in Cleveland stayed up until 2 a.m., whereas they ordinarily wouldn’t have. LeBron and his teammates might be inspired to play extra hard in this game for a city which is suffering anguish. It is simply not a normal backdrop (emotionally) for a game, and players might not be as rested or as they typically would be.
Cleveland could play with a maximum of emotion, wanting to make fans happy, but it could also fall flat. The best bet is that the Cavs will probably win, but not cover. Boston will get up for this game and keep it close, within six points.
NBA Betting Pick: Celtics +8.5
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Golden State Warriors
Odds: Golden State -11.5
It’s true that the Thunder, at 4-0, are going to lose eventually, and since Golden State already got dressed down at home by San Antonio, the Warriors are probably going to be vigilant at home. The Warriors have won three in a row and have looked really strong in the process. They have scored at least 106 points in each of those contests while averaging 120 points per game in that span. Their defense has also picked up as they gave up 129 points to San Antonio in their home opener but they have allowed just 106 points per contest in their last three. That shows how focused they’ve been – especially when you consider that those games were on the road.
They’ll play attentive defense and will want to smack down the team which almost beat them in the NBA Western Conference Finals last May. However, Golden State is still in transition. Zaza Pachulia has struggled when he’s been on the floor. Steph Curry has not shot the ball at the transcendent level displayed last season. Klay Thompson is playing a lot of ordinary basketball. Golden State will probably scratch out this win, but 11.5 is a lot of points to give. OKC will cover.
NBA Betting Pick: Thunder +11.5
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