Get ready for mismatch night. We've hit the fourth slate of games for the In-Season Tournament, and of Friday's 11 games, eight feature lines of at least five points in one direction. On paper, this looks like a night for favorites to pad their group play records before the real showdowns left to come.
But this is basketball, and basketball rarely conforms to our pre-game expectations. There are going to be upsets on Friday, and those upsets mean quite a bit at a stage of tournament play in which teams have only four games to earn advancement to the knockout stage. So let's dive into Friday's slate and make our picks against the spread for night No. 4 of the In-Season Tournament.
Buckle up folks. The Wizards are the worst defensive rebounding team since the 2009 Warriors at a preposterous defensive rebounding rate of 65.7%. The Knicks are the best offensive rebounding team since the 2012 Bulls at an offensive rebounding rate of 35.2%. Prepare for a bloodbath on the boards. Mitchell Robinson might get 20 offensive rebounds. The Pick: Knicks -6.5
I'd recommend staying away from this game for the obvious reason that Giannis Antetokounmpo is questionable. If you insist on making an early bet, take the Hornets. The Hornets aren't doing much well right about now, but they are loaded with perimeter threats offensively, and the Bucks have absolutely nobody to contain the perimeter. Their No. 24-ranked defense relies on Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez protecting the rim. If one of them is out, the Hornets can floater the Bucks to death. The Pick: Hornets +7.5
The lines aren't quite reflecting just how bad the Spurs are right now just because of how public a team they've become since drafting Victor Wembanyama. They have a minus-13.4 net rating so far this season, a full six points worse than any other team. The gap between them and the No. 29 Wizards is bigger than the gap between the Wizards and the No. 19 Cleveland Cavaliers. This team is terrible. It isn't actively trying to win while actively hemorrhaging points during the disastrous Jeremy Sochan at point guard minutes. Until Vegas starts treating the Spurs like the worst team in the league, enjoy the lines pretending this team is half-decent. The Pick: Kings -6.5
Even if we knew Joel Embiid was going to play, this is Philadelphia's third game in four nights. The first two were losses to contenders, and running with the Pacers and chasing Boston's shooters takes a toll. This feels like a schedule loss for the Sixers. Trae Young should be back after the birth of his child kept him out Tuesday against the Pistons. The Pick: Hawks -1
Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers
The Pistons have lost seven games in a row... but none by more than 12 points. Cleveland hasn't won a single game this season by more than 14 points. These are not teams that typically play blowouts. With Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland nursing injuries, grab the points and enjoy the Ausar Thompson show. The Pick: Pistons +8.5
This one is simple. The Celtics are world-beaters. Their last seven wins have all come by double digits. They have two losses all season, and they were both on the road by single digits against contenders (the 76ers and Timberwolves). It would be irresponsible not to pick the Celtics in their current state, even given the absences they're dealing with at the moment. Until someone proves they can fully outplay them, the Celtics should be favored over everyone except the Nuggets. The Pick: Celtics -6.5
Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are giving up a miserable 118.9 points per 100 possessions over their past six games, a symptom of all the minutes they need to devote to Matt Ryan and Jordan Hawkins for offense. You cannot put poor defenders on the floor against Denver. Nikola Jokic hunts them into extinction as a passer. The last time these teams met, New Orleans built an early lead only to get demolished in the second half. There's just no way the Pelicans can defend the Nuggets in their current state. The Pick: Nuggets -4
Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls
The Magjc just beat the Bulls in Chicago on Wednesday, but more pertinently, the Bulls are in full-on trade rumor mode right now. The news of Chicago's interest in trading Zach LaVine came out on Wednesday, but with two days to percolate on it, things are only going to get worse for the Bulls now. The team knows it's going to get broken up this season, so it's hard to imagine particularly enthusiastic play moving forward. The Pick: Magic +1.5
The Blazers are more or less out of guards. Scoot Henderson, Malcolm Brogdon and Anfernee Simons are all out. Shaedon Sharpe can't do it all. There just isn't enough ball-handling available in Portland right now to reasonably expect to keep up with any competent NBA team. Even with the Lakers nursing injuries of their own, they can at least properly balance the floor. The Pick: Lakers -7.5
Phoenix is more of a jump-shooting team than a rim-pressure team, but the absence of Walker Kessler should give the Suns some of the easy baskets they need to start generating offensively. Bradley Beal's back injury will likely keep him out, but Kevin Durant and Devin Booker will be more than enough to strain one of the NBA's worst defenses. The Pick: Suns -5
The Clippers had their best game since the James Harden trade on Tuesday when they lost to the Denver Nuggets, but they are still losing Harden's minutes by 21.8 points per 100 possessions. Adding Daniel Theis will help with their front-court deficit, but starting Harden and Russell Westbrook together continues to make zero sense, and until the Clippers actually commit to putting the right players around Harden, they're going to keep losing with him. The Pick: Rockets +5.5