NBA Odds, Picks & Projections: Betting Analysis for Rockets vs. Nets, Kings vs. Spurs, More (Wednesday, March 31)

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyrese Haliburton #0 of the Sacramento Kings.

For the 2020-2021 NBA season, I’ll be publishing my projections for every NBA game on the Wednesday and Friday slates. Here’s what you’ll find in my model: projected team totals, projected combined totals, projected spreads for the matchup and the implied odds for the moneyline.

Note: My projections won’t be updated in real-time throughout the day, but Action’s PRO Projections tool is dynamic and will reflect the latest injury and lineup news.

I’ll also be highlighting some of the slate’s most intriguing matchups with in-depth, game-level analysis that goes beyond the numbers.

NBA Projections Model

NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Houston Rockets vs. Brooklyn Nets 7:30 p.m. ET
New York Knicks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves 8 p.m. ET
Toronto Raptors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 8 p.m. ET
Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs 8:30 p.m. ET

Although projections give us a solid baseline for what a number should be, it’s also important to handicap each matchup for things that the numbers can’t tell us.

Check out my analysis for tonight’s 10-game slate.

Houston Rockets at Brooklyn Nets

Pick Over 229.5 (PointsBet)
Gametime 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass

There’s always a motivation edge for both sides when a superstar plays his former team.

The last time these two met James Harden put up 29 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. The Nets scored 132 points (1.34 points per possessions) and they should have no problems putting up a similar numbers in tonight’s game. The Nets are scoring 119.1 points per 100 possessions this season and while their offense has dropped off a bit recently, that’s mostly due to the absence of Kyrie Irving who has since returned to the lineup.

If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you’ll know how much I’ve played Rockets unders (28-18 this season, according to Bet Labs). Their offense has struggled, but they’ve actually been competent since adding Kelly Olynyk, DJ Augustin and Avery Bradley. (Yes, I know how crazy that sounds, but think about how bad an offense has to be if those guys are huge difference makers.)

The Rockets are scoring just 106.4 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes this season, but it’s important to note they’ve also missed Christian Wood for significant stretches as well.

Since the trade deadline, the Rockets are scoring 113.8 points per 100 possessions and while that’s a small sample size, it’s pretty clear this offense has improved if only slightly. The Nets are still vulnerable defensively, so the Rockets should be able to take advantage on offense.

When making a play on any total, it’s important to determine how many possessions we’re likely to see. The Rockets rank fifth in Pace (101.32) while the Nets rank 12th (100.40).

I’m expecting a uptempo, high-scoring affair with the Rockets looking more competitive against their former franchise player. My model isn’t showing a ton of value, but based on their previous game, the Nets offense, the Rockets offensive improvement and the pace, I like this game to go over 229.5.

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New York Knicks at Minnesota Timberwolves

Pick Under 218.5 (PointsBet)
Gametime 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass

In his first season as head coach of the New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau has completed turned this franchise around. The Knicks rank third in Defensive Rating, holding opposing teams to just 108.2 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.

A big part of that is their pace, which is the slowest in the league at just 96.56 possessions a game. Despite allowing the sixth-highest frequency of 3-point field goal attempts, the Knicks are holding opposing teams to just 33.7% from behind the arc, first among NBA teams.

It’s no surprise, the under is 29-17 in Knicks games this season, per Bet Labs. While many people, including myself expected opponent 3-point shooting percentages to regress to the mean, that just hasn’t happened, so they’re doing something right defensively.

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t prepared to take advantage of all the open 3s the Knicks give up without D’Angelo Russell. The Wolves rank 14th in 3-point shooting frequency (36.7%) and 25th in 3-point shooting percentage (35.1%).

In reality, the Wolves aren’t equipped to score efficiently against the Knicks defense at all — they’re scoring just 107.4 points per 100 possessions, 26th among NBA teams. They also rank 28th in field goal percentage at the rim and from mid range, so I’m not expecting a huge offensive output from this team.

For what it’s worth, the Knicks aren’t scaring anyone offensively either as they’re just 24th in Offensive Rating (108.6). Although the Wolves are downright abysmal on defense, giving up 115.9 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes, these two teams played on Feb. 21 and the Knicks could only muster 103 points on 1.07 points per possessions in a game which had just 96 possessions.

With a slow paced game, two anemic offenses and one of the best defenses in the league, I’ll take the under as my projections make this game 213.

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Toronto Raptors at Oklahoma City Thunder

Pick Under 220.5 (PointsBet)
Gametime 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass

You have to give it to Sam Presti, he’s doing a tremendous job at rivaling Master P as the Colonel of the Tank. As a Philadelphia native, I’m still bitter that the NBA threw Sam Hinkie in the bushes for his epic tank job, but I still love seeing teams doing what they have to do to put themselves in a better position in the future.

With Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Lu Dot, Darius Bazely, Mike Muscala and Al Horford out of the lineup, this team simply can’t score. Gilgeous-Alexander’s loss is the most notable as the Thunder are +6.3 points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor.

The Thunder rank 29th in Offensive Rating, scoring 105.7 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes and over the last two weeks they’re scoring just 103.8. The Toronto Raptors’ defense isn’t good either —  they’re allowing a whopping 113.6 points per 100 possessions this season — but it should be able to slow down the remnants of the Thunder roster.

The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks have also struggled defensively this season, but they managed to hold the Thunder to 94 and 106 points respectively over the past two games, so I’m expecting the Raptors to step up here.

I grabbed the full game under at 223 and with my projections making this game 220.5, I think there’s still some value.

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Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs

Pick Over 230.5 (BetMGM)
Gametime 8:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass

I would be remiss to not mention that unders in second game of a back-to-back series between two teams are 40-28-1 (58.8%) this season. But you can’t blindly play trends as each game is its own independent event with its own set of unique circumstances.

This is a matchup between two teams who aren’t particularly known for their defensive prowess. The Kings rank last in Defensive Rating, allowing 118.9 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes and they’re allowing teams to shoot 62.1% at the rim, 21st among NBA teams.

The Spurs scored 1.20 points per possession while shooting 50% from the field in Monday Night’s 132-115 loss to the Kings. Even in a game in with just 95 possessions, both teams scored efficiently and I‘m not seeing much that will change in this matchup. 

While the Spurs rank eighth in Defensive Rating, few teams are equipped to slow down De’Aaron Fox and the Kings on offense. The Kings have won five straight games and six of their past seven as Fox has averaged 30.5 points on 55.6% shooting along with 5.4 assists over that span.

The Kings have been downright unstoppable over the past two weeks, scoring a whopping 120.4 points per 100 possessions in their non garbage time minutes.

My projections make this game 230, which is right in line with the market but given the way the Kings are scoring and playing defense, I’m going to ride this over again. The Kings are 27-19-1 to the over this season and after today I expect it to be 28-19-1.

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