NBA picks and best bets: Lean toward the under on Rockets-Grizzlies; Magic look to stay hot at home vs. Pelicans

Welcome back to CBS Sports' NBA betting notebook. Each week we'll take a look at a couple of trends going on throughout the league from a betting perspective.

This week, we'll start by looking at a game with playoff implications in the East. The Magic are looking for their first trip to the playoffs since 2012, and getting a win over the Pelicans on Wednesday night would help them keep pace with the eighth-place Heat. The question isn't only if Orlando can win, but can it cover? Also among the nine-game slate, the Rockets will be traveling to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies in a matchup that has historically been pretty low scoring. Will that trend continue?

(Last week's record: 1-1. Season record: 6-6)

Trending up: Pelicans at Magic

Trend to know: Magic are 7-2 against the spread in their last nine games at home.

  • Date: Wednesday, March 20
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • Location: Amway Center -- Orlando, Florida
  • Streaming: (fubo TV)
  • Live stats: GameTracker
  • Odds: Magic minus-9
  • The eight playoff teams in the Western Conference sorted themselves out much earlier than everyone anticipated this season, leaving the final few spots in the Eastern Conference as the only true playoff race.

    Most of the teams battling for those remaining playoff berths are under .500, though, which means the race hasn't quite had the same excitement as say, last year's battle for the eighth spot in the West. Still, it's worth paying attention to over the final few weeks of the season.

    One game on Wednesday night that has implications in this race is Pelicans vs. Magic. Currently sitting ninth in the East, the Magic need a win to keep pace with their cross-state rivals, the Heat, who have a 1.5 game lead.

    Orlando has also won its last two games, and should have a good chance to make it three in a row against a Pelicans team that has won just once in the last two weeks. And not only have they been losing, but the Pels have been awful against the spread as well, going 1-6 in their last seven games.

    Meanwhile, the Magic have been dynamite at home lately. They're 8-1 straight up in their last nine games at home, and 7-2 ATS in those same contests. Currently, they're on a four-game home winning streak, which includes a triumph over the Golden State Warriors.

    A big reason for Orlando's home success is its defense has been absolutely locking teams up. During that nine game stretch, the Magic boast a defensive rating of 97.9 points allowed per 100 possessions at home, which is far and away the best in the league in that time span. For context, the Bucks have the best defensive rating in the league this season at 104.5.

    There's little reason to expect the Magic's dominance on defense won't continue against a Pelicans team that will be without Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore on Wednesday night.

    With their defense leading the way, and a potential trip to the playoffs providing plenty of motivation, the Magic should be able to take this game by double figures.

    Bet: Magic minus-9

    In other Wednesday action, the 76ers and Celtics face off, and SportsLine's model simulated that game 10,000 times! Visit SportsLine now to find out which side of the 76ers vs. Celtics spread you need to jump on, all from the model that has crushed its NBA picks, and find out.  

    Over/Under: Rockets at Grizzlies

    Trend to know: The total has gone under in eight of the Rockets' last nine games.

  • Date: Wednesday, Mar. 20
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • Location: FedEx Forum -- Memphis, Tennessee
  • Streaming: (fubo TV)
  • Live stats: GameTracker
  • Odds: Over/Under 215.5
  • At this point in the season, there are plenty of games like the one between the Rockets and Grizzlies on Wednesday night, where neither team really has all that much to play for.

    Houston is three games back of the No. 2 seed Nuggets in the West, and has a 1.5 game advantage on the No. 4 seed Trail Blazers, making it likely they'll finish with the No. 3 seed. Memphis, meanwhile, has long been eliminated from the playoffs, and are without its most interesting young players, including Jaren Jackson Jr., due to injury.

    Still, while the game might not mean all that much standings-wise, it's not a lost cause from a betting perspective. Especially because we'll be looking at the point total for this game, not who wins or loses.

    While there is understandably a bit of doubt about picking the under in a game featuring James Harden and the Rockets, there are some strong trends pointing to this game going under. Most notably, the under has cashed in eight of the Rockets' last nine games.

    Additionally, this matchup features two teams who have been strong on the defensive end lately. During this current nine-game stretch, in which the under has hit eight times, the Rockets are allowing just 103.2 points per 100 possessions, which is the fourth-best defensive rating in the league in that span. During that same stretch, the Grizzlies have been solid as well, coming in with the 12th-best defensive rating.

    Furthermore, the Rockets are on the second game of a back-to-back on the road, and five of the last seven meetings between these two teams has gone under.

    Bet: Under 215.5

    NBA Writer

    Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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