Today's Top Picks: Jazz will drag the Nets down to Earth, Bucks will pick up where they left off vs. Knicks
Also, watch SportsLine on CBS Sports HQ at 6 p.m. ET on weekdays for all the day's best bets
There isn't a better time to bet on the NBA than mid-January. Teams have more or less settled into what they are, inoculating you against the scourge of unfulfilled preseason expectations that plagues early-season handicapping, but the trade deadline hasn't yet reconfigured the landscape enough to render all of that sweet early-season data useless. That turns February into a minefield. March and April create their own complications thanks to tanking, and the postseason is a separate beast altogether.
It is the one true benefit of mid-winter. For a few short weeks, the NBA makes complete and total sense. So let's enjoy what should be a fairly reliable slate of NBA games and dive into today's top picks.
All lines via William Hill
Utah Jazz at Brooklyn Nets: Jazz -3.5
The 22-point margin of victory the Nets posted Sunday against the Hawks belies the truth of the struggles they are likely to face for the next several weeks. The Nets, by record and most underlying statistics, got better without Kyrie Irving. While there was a variety of factors that led to that, fitting him back in with Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert is going to be difficult. Dinwiddie was one of the highest-volume pick-and-roll players in the NBA when Irving was out. He took only seven shots Sunday. The Nets still have some offensive soul-searching to do. The Jazz have won nine games in a row. This isn't the team to do that soul-searching against.
Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies: Grizzlies +5
The Grizzlies and Rockets have identical 7-3 records over their past 10 games. The difference in their net ratings over that span is only 0.4 points per 100 possessions in Houston's favor. Yes, schedule is a factor there, but thrashing the Clippers in Los Angeles and beating the Thunder in Oklahoma City are both extremely impressive wins. Memphis probably isn't going to play at a 57-win pace for the rest of the season, but this is clearly a fringe playoff team at the very least. They shouldn't be getting five points against anybody at home except perhaps the Lakers or Bucks.
New York Knicks at Milwaukee Bucks: Bucks -16.5
These two teams have played twice this season. The Bucks won the first game by 44 points without Khris Middleton. They won the second game by 21 on the road without Eric Bledsoe. Milwaukee is home in this game. They'll have Middleton and Bledsoe. The Knicks will be without Marcus Morris and have a variety of other injuries. This one isn't rocket science. The Bucks have lost only one game to a team below .500 (the Spurs). They have 15 wins of 17 or more points this season, while the Knicks have only 11 wins, period. Rarely will a 16.5-point spread be justifiable at the NBA level, but this one feels about as safe as such lines come.
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