Suddenly, the top five teams in the East are separated by just five games in the loss column, making for what could be a dramatic sprint to the finish line. Our NBA betting picks will help you through the intense stretch run, and here are a few tidbits on some of the top teams to get you started.
1. Boston Celtics (+135 to Win Eastern Conference)
We’re getting to the time of the season when you either want to be hitting your stride or at least aware of what it will take to get there (get healthy, make a trade, reach an easy homestand, etc.).
The Celtics are so good at times that it’s hard to imagine them not in this perfect place. Yet, consider the words uttered by their point guard Jrue Holiday after Saturday’s beatdown at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“A good old-fashioned a**-whooping,” Holiday said. “They did everything better: Rebounding, transition, 50/50 balls, it seemed like they were a step ahead.”
Not really the words you want to hear when you’re approaching game No. 50 on the schedule. So, perhaps the Celtics aren’t quite at their best right now. In fact, they’ve suddenly lost two in a row at home to Western powers, which says something.
The loss to LA opened up a long homestand that ends with Memphis, Atlanta and Washington. So we may be sitting here in a little over a week with Boston owning the longest winning streak in the league and still the darling of our NBA basketball picks. But as we stand here today, they still have some work to do.
2. Milwaukee Bucks (+225)
They’ve won four of their last five, two of three since firing Adrian Griffin, but continue to confuse the heck out of us. After playing a solid game in a win over Cleveland, they stunk up the joint in a rematch two days later in Milwaukee, only to follow that up with a 24-point rout of New Orleans.
Giannis led the Bucks with 31 points in our last matchup with the Nuggets on March 25th, 2023.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 29, 2024
Like, if you could bottle up the best five minutes of basketball the Bucks have put forth this season, that’s the clip you’d want to show the aliens when they come down and ask, “What is this sport all about?” Just don’t let Drogdum and Grog see the rest of the video. It’s so up and down and hard to peg at the sportsbook, where Milwaukee is now 18-28 ATS.
A five-game trip begins in Denver on Monday. Buckle up for what figures would be a very up-and-down (mostly up) ride.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (+500)
Give the supporting cast for this team some credit. They hung with Denver on the road Saturday night despite playing without Tyrese Maxey and – more importantly – Joel Embiid, who was scratched moments before tipoff.
Embiid’s balky knee was giving him fits in warmups and that was enough for the staff to pull the plug on a marquee matchup with Nikola Jokic, and to put Sixers fans in a state of anxiety over the long-term condition of their superstar.
Philadelphia is now 3-8 without Embiid in the lineup, compared to 26-7 when the reigning MVP is roaming the floor. That’s just about all you need to know about this team’s chances in the spring. If Embiid is locked in and feeling fine, it’s a title contender. Without him, they’re a first-round exit.
4. New York Knicks (+1200)
It might be another week and we’ll have this squad in the third or even second position in this power ranking. They’ve won 12 of 14 since making the big trade with Toronto and it feels extremely legit, as if they opened up a box containing all the secrets to success.
There is some concern over the status of Julius Randle as the team heads to Charlotte on Monday. In case that becomes a long-term thing, the schedule should help – New York gets a boatload of home games leading up to the All-Star break.
OG Anunoby has been the perfect fit for the Knicks. They’ll need him even more as long as Randle is out. Others – perhaps fellow newcomer Precious Achiuwa – have an opportunity as well.
Sources: Knicks star Julius Randle is expected to be sidelined for at least a few weeks with a right shoulder dislocation. Appears to be a sigh of relief for New York as initial reviews of MRI reveal no significant damage. pic.twitter.com/b4JAwMI0GJ
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 29, 2024
The Knicks’ NBA Finals odds are getting much better in a hurry, but there’s still time to jump on the wagon before it’s too full and payouts start to really shrink.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (+2500)
Not only have they won nine of 10, but the cavalry is slowly coming. Star big man Evan Mobley is expected back for Monday’s game against the Clippers after missing 22 games with a knee injury.
Don’t expect Mobley to do all that much right away. He may even have some minute restrictions at first. But he should be hitting his stride around the time star point guard Darius Garland (jaw) makes his long-awaited return in the coming days.
It’ll be a challenge for coach JB Bickerstaff to reshuffle a rotation that was starting to click without Mobley and Garland, but that’s a good problem to have.
The Clippers game is a great measuring stick. After that, the Cavs are rewarded with games against Detroit, Memphis and San Antonio.
Questions of the Day
What’s been the most surprising team in the East?
This can go both ways, so for us, it’s been rather surprising just how bad Atlanta has been against the spread (11-35).
Who faces the most challenging remaining NBA schedule?
According to Tankathon, it is Milwaukee in the East. What’s notable is that Boston has the second-easiest remaining slate on this list.
The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.