Tonight's NBA slate has an unsettling uniformity to it. Five of the seven games feature lines between 7 and 8.5 points, and a sixth is in shouting distance at 10.5. Strangely, the favorites all seem fairly appealing. While I landed on three in particular, the only underdog drawing serious consideration tonight was the Miami Heat, who have the only short line on the table (+1.5).
This is either a sign that we're headed for a night full of blowouts, or a sign that I'm not nearly open-minded enough about picking bad teams. All lines via William Hill.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves at Indiana Pacers: Pacers -7.5
Karl-Anthony Towns being a game-time decision obviously makes an enormous difference here, and if you'd feel more comfortable waiting to hear his status officially, that would make sense. The broader point is that now is the time to move against Minnesota. On Thursday, they traded Jeff Teague, leaving them with just one point guard on the active roster (Shabazz Napier) and another on a two-way deal (Jordan McLaughlin).
Having a point guard, any point guard, is extremely important when it comes to just setting up offense. The team they traded Teague to, the Atlanta Hawks, knows this intimately. They only acquired Teague because small forward Evan Turner had been moonlighting as their backup point guard, and in minutes Trae Young wasn't on the floor, they had been outscored by 14.1 points per 100 possessions. They are hoping Teague changes that. Minnesota likely plans to acquire another point guard, but until they do, their offense is going to be extremely sloppy.
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2. Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs: Spurs -8.5
The Spurs have been scoring 117.8 points per 100 possessions since Dec. 23. LaMarcus Aldridge took five 3-pointers in that game, and has averaged 5.1 per game since after shooting only 1.7 per game prior. Aldridge firing from behind the arc has opened up everything offensively for San Antonio. DeMar DeRozan is shooting 65 percent from the field ever since. Gregg Popovich has more lineup flexibility since he doesn't need to shoehorn extra shooting onto the floor. The entire Spurs roster has seemingly fallen into place over that one adjustment, and in Atlanta's last game before Jeff Teague likely arrives, we have one last chance to cash in against them in their awful non-Trae Young minutes.
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3. Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks: Mavericks -7
The Blazers have struggled mightily at the basket this season. They have the NBA's worst field goal percentage within three feet of the hoop (60.5) and are averaging the second-fewest points in the paint in the NBA (43). Some of that boils down to injuries, as Jusuf Nurkic was incredibly important to last season's success, but some of it is just hard to reconcile with their roster talent. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum can both get to the rim, and have done so at more or less their typical rates this season. Hassan Whiteside isn't particularly skilled, but he's big and athletic enough to score easy points at the basket. Until the Blazers actually start scoring at the rim, though, it's hard to expect them to start doing so, even with Kristaps Porzingis out. Those extra points his absence bakes into the line just aren't worth much for the Blazers.
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