The second half of the NBA season tips off on Thursday after a lengthy All-Star break, and each game will start to become dramatically more important as we head toward April and the NBA playoffs. The Boston Celtics remain title favorites and used a huge turnaround in the second half of last season to make an NBA Finals appearance in June. The Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets round out the top contenders of the second half.
Here are some trends to watch out for as the 2023 NBA season enters the home stretch.
Atlanta Hawks: In theory, an up-tempo team with strong guard play should thrive in high-scoring environments, but the Hawks are just 13-20 ATS when over cash tickets.
Boston Celtics: The best teams take care of business in those coin toss spots and the C’s are 11-3 ATS when the spread is three or fewer points. They get the Pacers on Thursday, but then figure to have three straight games with a tight spread: at Philadelphia, at New York and vs Cleveland.
Brooklyn Nets: The Nets have covered 10 of 14 games entering the break. In order to keep rolling, they will need to hold serve on the road, as nine of their next 11 are away from home.
Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets play an exciting brand of basketball and that’s great, but be careful in how you bet it. Through the first half of the season, the unders are 17–6 when a Charlotte game as a projected total of at least 235 points.
Chicago Bulls: Unders are 8-2 in Chicago’s past 10 road games and 7-2 in its past nine games on zero days rest. So yeah, I’m setting aside a unit per game when they have road games on consecutive nights during the first week following the All-Star Break.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The stingy Cavs are 29-21-1 ATS when the projected total is under 225 points (4-6 otherwise).
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Dallas Mavericks: The Mavericks have been the rare team to target when they are on limited rest: 8-2 ATS on the second night of back-to-backs this season. The next time they are in such a spot is a Wednesday night showcase against the Pelicans on ESPN.
Denver Nuggets: The fighting’ Jokic’s are 13-8-1 ATS when the pregame total is at least 232 points. They will close the season with a handful of games that satisfy this strength, but the immediate outlook isn’t as advantageous … they open the second half of the season with games against the top-2 defenses in the league.
Detroit Pistons: The Pistons open the second half of their season with four straight games against sub-.500 teams, putting them in low-spread spots. Is that good? Nope. They are just 6-12 ATS this season when the spread is no greater than six points.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry’s return from a leg injury is TBD at the moment, but with their star sidelined, the Warriors’ point projections will be low in the short-term. Golden State is just 6-13 ATS this season when the game is expected to have no more than 230 points scored.
Houston Rockets: When sportsbooks think the Rockets will play a lick of defense, listen. Unders are 14-9-1 this season when the team opposite Houston is projected for 118 or fewer points, compared to a 14-19-1 mark otherwise.
Indiana Pacers: The Pacers are 22-10-1 ATS when they give up 116 or fewer points and an ugly 9-18 ATS when they give up more. They open the second half of the season against the Celtics, one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA. Not ideal.
LA Clippers: Unders are 14-7 this season in games that involve the Clippers and a projected total of at least 225 points. With two of the three most efficient offenses in the league on their schedule to open the second half of the season, we figure to see higher projected totals.
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Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers come out of the break and will see plenty of pace up teams like the Warriors and Grizzlies… gold! Los Angeles has a 59.1% cover rate in games with a projected total of 235-plus, a huge step up from its 38.2% rate otherwise.
Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizz are 12-16-2 ATS when under cash tickets compared to 14-11-1 when the game goes over the numbers.
Miami Heat: Over tickets have cashed in eight of Miami’s past 10 games as an underdog, something to keep in mind given its difficult schedule during its upcoming two weeks.
Milwaukee Bucks: As good as the Bucks are at home (18-11 ATS), over tickets in those games have been even more reliable (19-10). They came out of the break with four of five being played in front of their home fans.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves are just 5-10-1 ATS in road games that go over the projected total this season. Four of their first five games out of the break come on the road against teams that are more than capable of lighting up the scoreboard (Warriors, Clippers, Lakers and Kings).
New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans begin the second half of the season in Toronto and with five of their next six games on the road. They are just 11-16-1 ATS on the road this season.
New York Knicks: The Knicks are 8-12-1 ATS this season when their implied total is under 111 points, but 12-7-1 when sportsbooks pencil them in for over 113. They could be a team to fade out of the break with five straight games. coming against top-10 defenses after their date with the Wizards on Friday night.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Looking for a Same Game Parlay building block? When the Thunder cover a game, the overs are 22-13-1.
Orlando Magic: The Magic have cashed over tickets in 11 of 15 games when their expected total is 112-plus points. (18-25-1 otherwise).
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers are more than happy to play slow and when they matchup against another slow team, sportsbooks have underestimated the overall offensive output. In their past seven games against below average pace teams, five have gone under the total. And guess what? Four of their first five games coming out of the break are against such teams.
Phoenix Suns: The 2016 Warriors were 46–35–1 ATS, but just 37–40–5 the next season after adding Kevin Durant. The 2020 Nets were fine against the spread (37-34-1), but the 2021 Nets covered just 10 of 23 games during KD’s first healthy streak with the team. No, he doesn’t make teams worse … but there does seem to be a tax in betting markets that might be a touch high. Just be careful as we near an official introduction to the Super Suns.
Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers were a nice story early this season, but things have soured for bettors since. Portland went 19-10-1 ATS through 30 games, but limped into the break having covered just 10 of its past 28.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings opened the season 0-4 and we were all down on them. We were too slow to react, as they covered 9 of their first 14 games when labeled a favorite. However, since then, they are just 8-13 ATS when expected to win, a position they will find themselves in often over the next week with three of their next four coming against sub-.500 teams.
San Antonio Spurs: Do a little math and you’ll be able to feel good about handicapping San Antonio games. When their opponent has an implied total north of 121.5 points, the Spurs are an ugly 4-17 ATS. That’s obviously a big number, but the fact that it has happened 21 times already is telling (20-18 ATS when the other team doesn’t have such an optimistic projection).
Toronto Raptors: The Dinosaurs are just 11-15-2 ATS on the road this season, a drastic dip for a team that was 27-16-1 away from Drake & Co. a season ago. Toronto plays five of its next seven games in the States.
Utah Jazz: If you like the Jazz, you like points. Overs are 20-11-2 this season when Utah covers for its loyal backers.
Washington Wizards: Overs are 10-4-1 since Thanksgiving in Washington home games. Four of the Wizards’ first six games coming out of the break are at home.