This article is part of our Handicapping the NBA series.
Nick Whalen: Clippers at Mavericks OVER 227.5pts – DraftKings, 11:45am
If there's a team that has the personnel to put the clamps on Luka Doncic, it's the Clippers. But even with two of the league's best one-on-one defenders in the starting five, I don't see LA stifling what's now the top-rated offense in the NBA. During its five-game winning streak, Dallas hasn't dipped below 110 points – and that effort came against a stingy Raptors' defense. Since then, the point totals have gone 117, 142, 143, 137. Meanwhile, the Clippers are also a top-five offense and have already proven plenty capable of putting up gaudy point totals. They're playing at an above-league-average pace and have three games of at least 120 points during their own five-game streak. I think the Clippers get the win on the road, but both teams finish with totals in the 1-teens.
Alex Barutha: Wizards +10.5 (-110) at Nuggets – DraftKings, 12:32 PM
Somehow, Washington has put together the second-most effective offense in the league. And despite the Wizards' awful defense, they have the look of a potential playoff team in the East – they're 5-9, but their expected record is 7-7. The Nuggets have obviously been better, as they sit as the No. 2 seed in the West. Laying 10.5 points against the Wizards seems about right given the teams' Simple Rating System differential of 7.2, plus home-court advantage for Denver. Still, I don't think any competent team should be double-digit dogs when everyone is healthy, especially when you consider the potential for a back-door/garbage-time cover. The Wizards have continued to outperform expectations, going 8-3-1 against the spread, and I think they'll do so again here.
James Anderson: Nuggets OVER 117.5 points (-116) – FD at 9:56 AM
The Wizards are giving up an average of 126 points in their nine losses this season and they are 9.5-point dogs in this one. Denver's offense hasn't really been humming as expected (17th in offensive rating), but this is more of a bet on them being competent and the Wizards being their normal terrible selves (29th in defensive rating). Washington is particularly outmatched at the five, as Thomas Bryant is a complete sieve, so Jokic should be able to have his way all night, not necessarily scoring, but serving as the offensive hub.
Eric Neuman: Mavericks +2.5 vs. Clippers – DraftKings, 9:30 AM
The most beautiful words in gambling? Home underdog. That's exactly what the Mavericks are on Tuesday when they welcome the Clippers to the American Airlines Center. Behind Luka Doncic's meteoric rise to stardom, Dallas is riding a five-game winning streak and sporting a 118.2 offensive rating through 16 games. Yes, that would be an NBA record if the season concluded today. Their +9.2 point differential is also good enough for No. 2 in the entire league - just a hair behind the Bucks at +9.3. Meanwhile, after a slow start to his Mavericks' tenure, Kristaps Porzingis is quietly averaging 18.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks across 31.0 minutes per game over his last six.
So, why would they be getting points at home against anyone right now? Well, the Clippers get to start two in-their-prime, MVP-caliber players in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Not to mention, they then throw two perennial Sixth-Man of the Year (and Seventh?) candidates at you in their second-unit with Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. While this is all quite overwhelming on paper, George and Leonard have only played together three times this season and the team has squeaked out three-point victories in two of those games.
While Doc Rivers and the rest of his puzzle pieces work to figure out the right fit, Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks know exactly who they are right now. And hey, it's the front-end of a back-to-back set for the Clippers, so who knows if the dirtiest words in the game, "load management," won't come into play for either of their superstars as tip-off approaches? Anyways, Doncic is only 20-years-old and nearly averaging a 30-point triple-double (30.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 9.8 rebounds), which is reason enough to sing "Halleluka" over the holidays. I'm going to ride his and the Mavericks' wave of momentum and take the points.