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GAMBLING AGAINST GREATNESS: LUKA AND EMBIID GO HEAD TO HEAD WHILE ZION AND GIANNIS MEET UP IN A BUSY NIGHT OF NBA ACTION

@TheWillBaldwin

What’s popping on Air-Ball

Last week was the second straight winning week, time to keep this positivity going. 

Mavericks vs 76ers

Line: 76ers -5

Pick: 76ers -5

The Mavericks are playing way better of late after their slow start but this is a tough ask for them. Philly has continued their ridiculous home record into this season and is 13-2 on the year there. What really worries me about this matchup for Dallas is two-fold. They have no one and I mean no one who can guard Joel Embiid. Meanwhile on the other hand, whether it be Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle or even Danny Green, the Sixers may be the best team in basketball equipped to stop Luka Doncic. I expect a big night for Embiid in another Sixer home win as Doncic struggles to find space. 

Magic vs Nets

Line: Nets -8.5

Pick: Nets -8.5 

Eight and a half points is a lot but outside of Utah, no one in basketball is playing better than the Brooklyn Nets. James Harden may just be playing the best basketball of his career and so is arguably Kyrie Irving. The only case for Orlando in this game is All-Star Nikola Vucevic goes off in a class matchup the Nets offer little resistance against. Unfortunately as good as Vucevic is, the fact they put up a tweet with Michael Carter-Williams as the “equal” to Kyrie tells you how big the gap is between these two teams talent-wise. Vuc may drop sixty but his Magic are going to lose comfortably to the rolling Nets. 

Kings vs Knicks

Line: Knicks -1

Pick: Knicks -1

It appears that the Sacramento Kings lied to us. Just a few short weeks ago they were winners of seven of eight, De’Aaron Fox was on the Lowe Post and getting All-Star buzz and the Kings appeared poised to push for a play-in spot. However, Fox has cooled off, missed the All-Star game as the Kings have lost eight straight. At this point, it’s pretty clear the team that sucked to start the year and is currently bad is much more the Kings of 2021 than the ones who went streaking in January. Their opponent tonight has avoided the reality check it appears Sacramento is going through now. Now All-Star Julius Randle has been carrying the team the last couple of weeks as the Knicks are now looking like a solid playoff team. In the bundled up East, they’re a part of a three-way tie for eighth meaning this game means a lot to them. Expect Randle, RJ Barrett and Thibs boys to continue Sacramento’s rough season at the Garden tonight. 

Clippers vs Grizzlies

Line: Clippers -8

Pick: Grizzlies +8

The genesis for this pick comes from me not believing the Clippers are eight points better as a road team than the Grizzlies, especially in a game they don’t really need. LA hasn’t had a flat performance in a while and I feel like a sleepy Thursday night far from national television in Memphis has the potential. For Memphis, they’ve been playing mediocre at best basketball since COVID-19 shut them down. The good news though? Ja Morant is clearly upset he didn’t get an All-Star nod and with this being his first game after being snubbed in his eyes, I expect a big performance. At some point, Memphis needs to string some wins together if they want to get above ninth or tenth and with their leader upset and motivated, I think today will be the start of a run for them. 

Wizards vs Nuggets

Line: Nuggets -7.5

Pick: Wizards +7.5 

This is a really weird game to pick. On the surface, you’d think Denver but Washington has been playing great basketball on this road trip. Russell Westbrook finally is starting to look like himself and Bradley Beal has been so good if you give him any help at all you’re going to win some games. Sure, Nikola Jokic has been awesome this season but outside of him the rest of the supporting cast has either been up and down or hurt. With how well Washington is playing and Denver’s inconsistencies, give me the Wizards to at the very least cover if not win outright in the mile-high city tonight. 

Pelicans vs Bucks

Line: Bucks -8

Pick: Bucks -8

This play is strictly off the idea Milwaukee the last few seasons absolutely murders mediocre teams at home and well, New Orleans is mediocre. The Pelicans have started to find more of an identity with Zion having the ball in his hands more and Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and other pieces of the young core have continued to improve. However, Giannis and the Bucks have won three straight since their embarrassing moment against Toronto last week. I think that game has the potential to be the spark plug moment for them in getting them back on track after a disappointing start to the season. As much better as New Orleans has looked, the second night of a back to back against a team like Milwaukee is not a good place for them tonight.  

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