This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
We've got a nine-game slate to analyze Wednesday, and I'm going balanced, picking two favorites and two underdogs, plus an under.
Bulls at Hawks -2.0 (-112) – DraftKings, 12:44 PM CT Wed.
Despite the absence of John Collins (suspension), the Hawks were able to pull out an eight-point upset over the Spurs on Tuesday, which pushed Atlanta up to 4-2 against the spread and up to 12th on Basketball-Reference's Simple Rating system with a mark of 3.6.
Meanwhile, the Bulls managed to cover the spread last night against the Lakers, but it was an absolute showcase in how to blow a game during the second half. Chicago got outscored 70-47 in the third and fourth quarters. Their SRS mark of -9.4 is now the third-worst in the league.
Both teams are on the second game of a back-to-back here, but the Bulls are the ones who had to travel, and they've been a much worse team that the Hawks so far this season. The absence of Collins is important. But Atlanta actually has an identity (unlike the Bulls), which is hardly reflected in them being favored by only two points. Finally, while not a massive discrepancy, the referee crew for this game favors the home team 110-88-6 ATS over the past two seasons.
Warriors +15.5 (-110) at Rockets – FanDuel, 12:54 PM CT Wed.
In the span of about a week, the Warriors have gone from a depressing, injury-riddled former dynasty to a scrappy underdog led by Eric Paschall. I actually think oddsmakers have overcorrected here. The Warriors are somehow only the fifth-to-worst team in the league according to SRS (-7.4), and they hold a better record ATS (2-4-1) than the Rockets. This spread is just massive. Golden State could get blown out and still cover. Betting Warriors +1150 to win would also be a fun small-stakes wager. Adding to Golden State's case, this game's referee crew is a combined 125-85-2 in favor of the road team ATS over the past two seasons.
Congratulations to the Rockets for (barely) getting their first cover of the season Monday against the Grizzlies sans Russell Westbrook. Both he and James Harden still have negative net ratings, however, and Houston's SRS rating of -3.5 (18th) suggests they're not even an average team. There's absolutely no way Houston should lose this game based on talent alone, but their talent isn't clicking, and the spread is so massive that it's hard to have faith.
Timberwolves -5.0 (-110) at Grizzlies – FanDuel, 1:13 PM CT Wed.
Despite missing Karl-Anthony Towns for two games, the Timberwolves have stayed afloat, checking in as the 13th best team according to SRS (3.3). They're also a solid 3-2-1 ATS. While the potential absences of Jeff Teague and Shabazz Napier should be taken into account, neither of them are taking 10 shots per game or have cracked 20% usage. Towns' dominance can probably make up for it. Furthermore, the referee crew for this game is a truly absurd 105-64 combined ATS in favor of the road team over the past two seasons. I don't understand how that's possible, but it probably matters.
Somehow, the Grizzlies have been overrated this season despite having a pretty bad roster, going 1-5 ATS. They're the second-worst team in the league according to SRS (-10.2), and that's probably a product of having both a rookie point guard and rookie head coach. Jaren Jackson and Jonas Valanciunas have their moments on defense, but Jackson's foul rate is through the roof and Valanciunas isn't mobile enough to deal with Towns on the perimeter. Being a five-point dog at home is often a spot to bet a team, but I just don't like it here.
76ers +2.0 (-109) at Jazz, and Under 210.5 (-108) – DraftKings, 1:25 PM CT Wed.
Joel Embiid – available for this one – has played only three games this season, but the 76ers still rank third in SRS (9.2). Philadelphia is also 4-2 ATS, exceeding expectations even when Embiid sits. The matchup against Rudy Gobert is a cause for concern, with Embiid shooting just 44.4 FG% in three career matchups against Gobert. But the rest of the team is so talented that I think they can pull this one out.
The Jazz haven't been as dominant as some hoped, going 2-5 ATS. They're ranked a solid seventh in SRS (7.5), but still two points lower than the 76ers. Mike Conley and Joe Ingles should positively regress shooting the ball soon, which is a fair reason to potentially back the Jazz (plus home court), but Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic are essentially shooting a combined 50 FG% and 45 3Pt%, which won't stick.
The over/under is set very low, which might scare people off. But I still believe in the under. The Jazz have the best defense at the league and play at the third-slowest pace. Philly has a good defense as well, ranking 10th, but they actually play at the sixth-fastest pace. Still, the teams have hit the under a combined 11 times in 13 tries.
Two Games that Just Missed the Cut
Knicks +4 at Pistons
NY: 4-3 ATS
DET: 3-5 ATS
Refs: 98-74 in favor of the road team
Wizards +4 at Pacers
WAS: 5-1 ATS, -0.6 SRS
IND: 2-4-1 ATS, -5.8 SRS