Happy Friday, everybody! You've done it! You've made it through another week! Give yourself a high five, and take the rest of the day off work if you haven't already. You deserve it.
You might remember earlier this week when I asked you to explain what NBA Top Shot was to me. I told you that the best explanation would receive a shout-out here, as well as a pick for the weekend delivered to them personally. Well, I received a lot more submissions than I was anticipating, and a lot of them were pretty good. Others, well, some of you missed the point a bit. I wasn't asking for a recital or a copy-and-paste job of what the first result of a Google search told you.
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Anyway, after going through all the submissions, I have determined a winner, and that winner is Mike Cohen. Mike's email was filled with a lot of expletives that I appreciated, and disdain for NBA Top Shot that I appreciated even more. The problem is that while Mike is a subscriber, and he said he loves the emails, he also told me he's not a gambler. So I'm going to give it to the runner-up.
His name is Will Hoey. Will was more pragmatic in his explanation, but it was informative and slightly judgmental of the whole process. So, Will, you will be receiving a pick from me this weekend. Keep an eye on your inbox tomorrow morning.
Also, one final shout-out for Gerald McCue. He knows why.
And now, today's reading assignments.
- Michigan State has made the latest bracket projection after last night's win over Ohio State.
- The NFLPA wants free agents to work together this offseason.
- Second-year NFL players ready to make the leap in 2021.
- An underappreciated aspect of Zion Williamson: his passing ability.
To the picks!
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Pacers at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. | TV: ESPN
The Pick: Under 219 (-110): So is Brad Stevens legitimately on the hot seat, or is it just the kind of talk we should expect considering Boston's slow start? Regardless of the answer, this is a game between two teams that should probably be doing better than they are! Sure, if the season ended right now, Indiana would be the No. 4 seed in the East, but it's still only 15-15. The Celtics, on the other hand, wouldn't even be guaranteed a playoff spot and find themselves behind the Knicks, Bulls and Hornets in the standings. I suppose the lesson here is that the Eastern Conference really sucks once you get past the top three teams.
Anyway, as for this game, we've got two mediocre offenses going against two mediocre to above-average defenses. The Pacers rank 16th in the league in offensive efficiency and 10th in defensive efficiency, while the Celtics are 15th on offense and 15th on defense. The Pacers offense has been particularly bad in its last few games, which makes me think we're going to see this game finish below the total. These teams played twice in Boston early in the season.
The first game finished with 215 points, and the second meeting featured 227. The second meeting saw both teams combine to shoot 50.6% from the floor (Indiana's at 47.4% on the season, Boston's at 46.2%), and they combined for 53 free throw attempts (they combine for 43 attempts per game on average). In other words, it took a terrific shooting night from both teams that saw a parade to the free-throw line to help them get over the total. Let's bank on an average performance from both tonight.
Key Trend: The under has gone 4-1 in the last five games following a Pacers loss.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Advanced Computer Model has cracked this game open and taken a look inside, and it finds the most value is on a money line play.
💰 The Picks
Hawks at Thunder, 8 p.m. | TV: NBA League Pass
The Pick: Hawks -5.5 (-105) -- We're getting good value on the Hawks here, even if it can be somewhat scary to bet a 14-18 team as a road favorite. The Thunder will be without Al Horford tonight, and Hamidou Diallo will be out as well after hurting his groin in the win over the Spurs. Even at full strength, I have the Thunder as around seven points worse than the Hawks, so to get them at -5.5 against a depleted Thunder team is hard for me to pass up.
Also, while I don't know precisely what the cause is, the Thunder have just been worse at home all season long. Maybe it's the lighting or the sightlines, or maybe there's a weird smell in the locker room. I don't know. All I know is that the Thunder are less efficient on offense and defense at home. That's why they're 8-9 straight up on the road and only 5-10 at home. Oh, and as the Key Trend is about to show you, things aren't much better against the spread.
Key Trend: The Thunder are 4-9-1 in their last 14 home games.
⚽ Premier League
Leeds United vs. Aston Villa, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. | TV: Peacock
The Pick: Under 2.5 (+130) -- OK, here's a confession. I might be addicted to gambling on Leeds matches. I've found myself doing so repeatedly over the last few weeks, and I'm no longer sure I'm doing it because of the value or because of the adrenaline rush. Because, believe me, no matter what you bet in a Leeds United match, it's seldom going to be easy. Betting on a Leeds match is a better cardio workout than what Marcelo Bielsa puts his players through in training.
And you better believe there's going to be an adrenaline rush betting an under in a Leeds match, but this is a great spot to do so. Aston Villa will be without Jack Grealish again this weekend, and their attack was very disjointed without him last week against Leicester City. The team's defense was still stout; even though it allowed two goals early due to some confusion, it quickly fixed. Leeds has injuries of its own. Both Rodrigo and Kalvin Phillips will miss the match, as could Mateusz Klich.
Key Trend: Jack Grealish, who will not be playing, has scored or assisted on 16 of the 36 Premier League goals Aston Villa have scored when he plays.
⚽ Serie A
Roma vs. AC Milan, Sunday, 2:45 p.m. | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Roma (+135) -- AC Milan is coming back to Earth. This team had been flying to start the season, but even when you saw the results, the underlying numbers always suggested regression was likely to come. It has. We saw a bit of that last weekend when Inter dismantled their rivals 3-0 (I hope you took the over with me!). Well, that was just the latest in a long list of bad results. AC Milan won four of its first five matches once the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 but has won only two of its last eight since. Those two wins came against Bologna and Crotone, two teams that sit in 14th and 20th in Serie A, respectively.
Meanwhile, Roma is playing well. It has won five of its last seven, with a draw and a loss mixed in. The lone loss came to Juventus, which was an unlucky loss (Juventus had an xG of 0.2 in the match). Over those seven matches, Roma has an xG advantage of 12.9-4.2. Let's take the team moving in the right direction.
Key Trend: AC Milan has only won two of its last eight matches.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Advanced Computer Model sees a lot of value on the spread in tonight's game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Atlanta Hawks.
💸 The DFS Rundown
Full lineup advice
Get winning NBA DFS picks from SportsLine pros Mike McClure and Jacob Gibbs. McClure has won almost $2 million in daily Fantasy, while Gibbs crushed the NBA last season, cashing around 65 percent of the time in cash games and nearly 45 percent of the time in tournaments. See their DraftKings advice and FanDuel lineups here.