Saturday’s slate of games will be played under unprecedented circumstances. There is no telling what impact a three-day hiatus caused by a player protest will have on the court. If you have a theory, by all means, chase it, but the truth is that every NBA team is grieving right after the shooting of Jacob Blake, and there is no way of knowing which teams are feeling it most.
With that in mind, today’s top picks will be focused strictly on basketball. I’m not a psychologist. Most of you aren’t either. If you plan on betting Saturday, make sure your picks are grounded in basketball factors. Here are today’s best bets.
All lines via William Hill Sportsbook
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Orlando Magic: Bucks -14
The Bucks have either reached or exceeded this spread in each of their past three games against the Magic, they averaged a 17-point margin of victory over Orlando during the regular season, and they covered a theoretical 14-point spread in all four games of their first-round sweep over the Pistons a year ago. The Bucks crush mediocre opponents. Describing the heavily injured Magic as “mediocre” is almost too kind right now. The Bucks will finish this one off in style on Saturday.
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Thunder +5
This line moved two points in favor of Houston with the news that Russell Westbrook is likely to return from injury, but there is a reasonable chance that his presence actually helps the Thunder. Westbrook, no matter how healthy, hurts Houston’s spacing. He’s worth it at 100 percent, but given his reliance on athleticism, if he’s even a little hobbled, his presence might cause more harm than good. In such a close series, that possibility makes Oklahoma City’s line too tempting to pass up.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers: Under 222.5
While Game 4 represented a best-case scenario for the Lakers offense, the reality is something closer to Game 3. The Lakers put up 116 points on 10 made 3-pointers in that one, and if that’s approximately what they can expect in this one, the under feels safe as Portland has no consistent means of shot creation with Damian Lillard sidelined. Get ready to see a lot of inefficient Carmelo Anthony isolations on Satuday, and don’t be surprised if Portland finishes well below 100 points without its leader.