We’re just days away from the NBA’s Christmas Spectacular and Friday night is a great appetizer at Michigan Sportsbooks. Joel Embiid has the Sixers on a tear and they welcome in the Raptors to the city of Brotherly Love. You’ll never believe the Hawks record against the spread this season. It almost sounds like a misprint. There is lots of drama out west where the Suns try to get it together against the Kings.
NBA Expert Picks and Best Bets | December 22
Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers Best Bet
Joel Embiid has been the best player in the NBA the last two weeks, yes, even better than Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in Oklahoma City. The Sixers have won seven of last eight games and Embiid had 51 in a win over the Timberwolves Wednesday. When Embiid’s jump shot is falling, he’s unstoppable, because the moment you move out on him, he can go to the basket.
Toronto is a good team, but stuck in last place in a loaded Atlantic Division. They’ve lost six of their last eight and are 13-14 against the spread. Scottie Barnes has scored 20 or more points in his last six games and also leads the Raps in rebounds, steals and block.
Toronto’s defense ranks 17th in the NBA in points allowed and are 3-8 on the road. It’s going to be a long night for them in Philly.
Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Best Bet
We have to talk about the Atlanta Hawks.
What they are doing right now is incredible. The Hawks are 7-20 against the spread this season, which is almost incredible. Vegas sportsbooks don’t miss that much, that often.
The Hawks are a strange team. They can score a lot, but also seem disinterested at times. Trey Young controls the ball and the tempo for them and when he’s hot, the Hawks are good. Atlanta also got back Bogdan Bogdanovic from an injury last week.
Injuries are the buzz around the Heat. Jimmy Butler is out for this one with a calf injury, but Tyler Herro is back. He scored 28 in a win over the Magic. Bam Adebeyo missed a bunch of games with an injury, but he’s back, giving the Heat that inside-out balance.
The Heat beat the Hawks earlier this season. And 7-20 against the spread? There’s some bad mojo with the Hawks right now.
Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Best Bet
A bunch of interesting storylines have developed in the Western Conference. One, are the Clippers able to merge all that talent? Two, is Golden State’s run over? And three, what the heck is wrong with the Suns?
Phoenix added Bradley Beal to the mix along with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant and it just hasn’t clicked. Phoenix has lost seven of their last 10, and is 1-9 against the spread during that time. Defensively, the Suns just don’t seem to buy in. Phoenix is 14-13 overall and ninth in the West.
Meanwhile, the Kings are quietly having another good year, although they got destroyed by the Celtics on Wednesday. De’Aaron Fox has scored 25 or more points in nine of his last 10 games.
The Suns are starting to get asked questions in the media about what’s wrong and getting contentious. That’s never a good sign. Stick with the Kings at home.
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.