We’re closing in on the big NBA Christmas Day showcase, and get several big games on a wild Wednesday night. There’s a battle of league powers Minnesota and Philadelphia in Philly. The T-Wolvers are off to their best start in franchise history, but can they take down some beasts in the east? The Nuggets head north to take on the feisty Raptors, while Anthony Davis returns home to Chicago with the Lakers.
NBA Expert Picks and Best Bets | December 20
Minnesota Timberwolves at Philadelphia 76ers Best Bet
The Sixers have that look of a team that can beat anyone in the NBA when properly motivated. They’ll be motivated tonight when they host the Timberwolves who have the best record in the Western Conference at 20-5.
Minnesota has won three in a row, beating the Pacers, Heat and Mavericks. Anthony Edwards should be getting MVP consideration at Michigan sportsbooks. He’s putting up almost 25 a game.
But this just seems like the type of statement game the Sixers love. Joel Embiid has scored over 30 points 11 straight games. Tyrese Maxey is due for a big game. Philly lost to the Bulls on Monday night, but will have a big crowd behind them. I like them to win and cover.
Denver Nuggets at Toronto Raptors Best Bet
If you like teams that pass the basketball, this match-up is for you.
Denver is 18-10 and third in the West. Since Jamal Murray has come back, the Nuggets offense has been clicking. Denver is third in the NBA in field goal percentage at 49 percent and second in the NBA in assists per game. Of course, that’s all directly related to Nikola Jokic, who is the rare NBA star who likes to pass rather than score.
The Raptors have lost five of their last seven, but have seemed to find their identity under new coach Darko Rajakovic as a team that shares the ball. Toronto is 11-15 overall, but much better at home (8-7) then on the road (3-8).
Toronto has beaten Denver two of the last three times, which is why I am leery of taking the spread, but feel good about Denver on the moneyline.
LA Lakers at Chicago Bulls Best Bet
Lakers enigmatic big man Anthony Davis returns to his hometown where he’s had some big games. In five games with the Lakers, Davis has averaged 32.4 points against the Bulls, including 39 his last time in Chicago.
LA is only 11-16 against the spread and 5-9 on the road straight up. They’re coming off a loss to the Knicks at home on Monday.
Chicago lost star Zach LaVine with a foot injury, but has played well without him, winning six of their last nine. The Bulls got off to a horrible start to the season – remember, they’re the last team the Pistons beat! – but have played great basketball lately. DeMar DeRozan is averaging 22.2. points and Coby White has been on a tear picking up the slack for LaVine with 22 or more points in his last six games.
Getting the Bulls and some points at home is a smart play.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.