NBA betting: Four picks for Sunday's slate

ByAndre Snellings ESPN logo
Sunday, February 25, 2024

This first Sunday of action after the All-Star break finds the NBA at a much different place than two weeks ago. Instead of teams battling exhaustion, both mental and physical, after four straight months of the NBA marathon, this week finds them relatively fresh after extended time off. In addition, teams in contention for the postseason can now focus on the finish line, less than two months away while young, lottery-bound teams can start to lean more on their younger players to prove themselves ahead of the off-season. These changes in motivation and energy level tend to show up in game action and outcomes and will shape some of my picks. Without further ado, let's dig further into the schedule to identify some opportunities of interest.

Milwaukee Bucks (-4.5) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (-110).

The Bucks struggled heading into the break, losing seven of 10 games under new coach Doc Rivers. But, after having the media shine a light on their warts throughout the break, the Bucks returned with an impressive road win over the top seed in the Western Conference, theMinnesota Timberwolves. In that game, even playing without Khris Middleton (out, ankle), the Bucks played excellent defense while taking advantage of their size on both ends of the court to look more like what we've expected them to be all season long. It was only one game, but for today I'm willing to believe they will continue to play at this level moving forward. If they do, they should be able to cover today against a 76ers team missing their MVP that also entered the break struggling.

Los Angeles Lakers (+3.5) vs. Phoenix Suns (-105).

This pick is contingent on the Lakers having both LeBron James (game-time decision, ankle) and Anthony Davis (game-time decision, hip) available to play on Sunday, which is the general expectation after both started and played typical minutes and production without reported setback on Friday. The Lakers and Suns have already played four times this season, with the Lakers winning three of the four before the Suns won the most recent matchup in January. That matchup was the only of the four in which (a) the Suns had Bradley Beal (out, hamstring) in their starting lineup and (b) the Lakers did not have D'Angelo Russell alongside James and Davis in theirs. The Lakers have a strong advantage in the paint, with enough scoring firepower to outproduce the Suns missing one of their core three scorers in those matchups. Beal is out again Sunday, while Russell is expected to start, so if James and Davis play, the board will be set for this game to play out similarly to the previous three meetings this season when these conditions were met.

Dallas Mavericks (-1.5) vs. Indiana Pacers (-115).

This matchup features two of the teams I expect to finish the season strong coming off the break. The time off seems to have finally allowed Pacers All Star Tyrese Haliburton (hamstring) to get healthier, closer to full strength while playing next to his new All Star teammate Pascal Siakam. But the Mavericks are also healthier, able to put both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on the court at the same time. They also have a much-improved interior game after adding big men Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington at the Trade Deadline, along with rookie center Dereck Lively II (probable, nose) returning as well. Doncic is playing at an MVP level, the Mavericks have won seven straight games, and I look for them to cover on Sunday as they continue their late-season push to take control of the Southwest division.

Denver Nuggets (+1.5) vs. Golden State Warriors (-110).

The Warriors are playing some of their best basketball of the season, winning eight of their past nine games as they try to play themselves up into the postseason. But, it is perhaps telling that the only time in that stretch they faced one of the top-four teams in the West, the Clippers at home, was their only loss. The Nuggets are also one of those top-4 Western teams, and they are getting video game-level production from their MVP candidate Nikola Jokic. In two games since the break, Jokic has two triple-doubles with averages of 25.0 PPG, 17.0 RPG and 14.5 APG while shooting a whopping 81.5% from the field. The Warriors, despite their improved play, still lack the size to deal with or slow down Jokic.

LA Clippers (-5.5) vs. Sacramento Kings (-115).

Despite blowout losses in the last game before and the first game after the All-Star Break, the Clippers have still won more than 81% of their games since December 1 with Kawhi Leonard in the lineup. They have had the Kings' number in both of their previous matches this season, winning both games by double digits with an average margin of victory of 17 points. This season, the Kings' defense ranks in the bottom five in the NBA in points allowed to opposing point guards and small forwards, and bottom-10 in points allowed to opposing power forwards. For the Clippers, those positions are manned by All Stars James Harden, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, and they've been able to consistently take advantage of those defensive weaknesses to control the action. I look for more of the same on Sunday.

Projections and injury reports

Odds provided by ESPN BET.Basketball Power Index by ESPN Analytics. Injury aggregation by

1 p.m.Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia

Records (Against the Spread)

Bucks: 36-21 (22-35-0)

76ers: 33-23 (32-24-0)

Line:Bucks (-4.5)Total:234.5

Money Line:Bucks (-190), 76ers (+160)

BPI Projection:76ers by 0.5, straight up 52%, 231.6 total points.

Injury Report:

Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, (GTD - Knee); Khris Middleton, (OUT - Ankle)

76ers: KJ Martin, (GTD - Ankle); Robert Covington, (OUT - Knee); Joel Embiid, (OUT - Knee)

3:30 p.m., Footprint Center, Phoenix

Records (Against the Spread)

Lakers: 31-27 (26-32-0)

Suns: 33-24 (24-32-1)

Line:Suns (-3.5)Total:240.5

Money Line:Lakers (+135), Suns (-155)

BPI Projection:Suns by 5, straight up 67%, 235.1 total points.

Injury Report:

Lakers: Anthony Davis, (GTD - Hip); Cam Reddish, (GTD - Ankle); LeBron James, (GTD - Ankle); Gabe Vincent, (OUT - Knee); Jarred Vanderbilt, (OUT - Foot); Christian Wood, (OUT - Knee)

Suns: Eric Gordon, (GTD - Groin); Jusuf Nurkic, (GTD - Ankle); Bradley Beal, (OUT - Hamstring); Damion Lee, (OUT - Knee)

5 p.m., Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

Records (Against the Spread)

Mavericks: 33-23 (31-25-0)

Pacers: 32-25 (30-25-2)

Line:Mavericks (-1.5)Total:251.5

Money Line:Mavericks (-120), Pacers (+100)

BPI Projection:Pacers by 1.6, straight up 56%, 241.3 total points.

Injury Report:

Mavericks: Dereck Lively II, (GTD - Nose); Luka Doncic, (GTD - Nose); Maxi Kleber, (GTD - Nose); Dante Exum, (OUT - Knee)

Pacers: Jalen Smith, (GTD - Back); Aaron Nesmith, (OUT - Ankle)

6 p.m., Capital One Arena, Washington

Records (Against the Spread)

Cavaliers: 36-19 (28-26-1)

Wizards: 9-47 (26-29-1)

Line:Cavaliers (-12.5)Total:234.5

Money Line:Cavaliers (-900), Wizards (+600)

BPI Projection:Cavaliers by 12.2, straight up 87%, 221.5 total points.

Injury Report:

Cavaliers: Donovan Mitchell, (GTD - Illness); Tristan Thompson, (OUT - Suspension); Ty Jerome, (OUT - Ankle)

Wizards: Deni Avdija, (GTD - Heel); Isaiah Livers, (OUT - Hip)

7 p.m., State Farm Arena, Atlanta

Records (Against the Spread)

Magic: 32-25 (36-21-0)

Hawks: 24-32 (17-39-0)

Line:Magic (-1.5)Total:225.5

Money Line:Magic (-120), Hawks (+100)

BPI Projection:Magic by 2.5, straight up 59%, 233.8 total points.

Injury Report:

Magic: Markelle Fultz, (GTD - Knee)

Hawks: Trae Young, (OUT - Finger); Mouhamed Gueye, (OUT - Back); Onyeka Okongwu, (OUT - Toe)

7 p.m., Toyota Center, Houston

Records (Against the Spread)

Thunder: 39-17 (35-20-1)

Rockets: 25-31 (28-26-2)

Line:Thunder (-6.5)Total:233.5

Money Line:Thunder (-240), Rockets (+200)

BPI Projection:Thunder by 6.3, straight up 71%, 231.1 total points.

Injury Report:

Thunder: None reported

Rockets: Tari Eason, (OUT - Lower Leg); Steven Adams, (OUT - Knee)

7 p.m., Smoothie King Center, New Orleans

Records (Against the Spread)

Bulls: 26-30 (29-26-1)

Pelicans: 34-23 (30-26-1)

Line:Pelicans (-4.5)Total:222.5

Money Line:Bulls (+150), Pelicans (-175)

BPI Projection:Pelicans by 4.8, straight up 67%, 230.1 total points.

Injury Report:

Bulls: Torrey Craig, (OUT - Knee); Lonzo Ball, (OUT - Knee); Patrick Williams, (OUT - Foot); Zach LaVine, (OUT - Foot)

Pelicans: Brandon Ingram, (GTD - Illness); Zion Williamson, (GTD - Foot); CJ McCollum, (OUT - Ankle); Dyson Daniels, (OUT - Knee)

7 p.m., Chase Center, San Francisco

Records (Against the Spread)

Nuggets: 38-19 (24-31-2)

Warriors: 29-26 (29-24-2)

Line:Warriors (-1.5)Total:230.5

Money Line:Nuggets (+105), Warriors (-125)

BPI Projection:Warriors by 5.1, straight up 68%, 234.7 total points.

Injury Report:

Nuggets: Jamal Murray, (GTD - Lower Leg); Jay Huff, (GTD - Knee); Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, (GTD - Finger); Hunter Tyson, (OUT - Finger); Vlatko Cancar, (OUT - Knee)

Warriors: Chris Paul, (OUT - Hand)

8 p.m., Delta Center, Salt Lake City

Records (Against the Spread)

Spurs: 11-46 (26-30-1)

Jazz: 26-31 (31-26-0)

Line:Jazz (-6.5)Total:240.5

Money Line:Spurs (+220), Jazz (-265)

BPI Projection:Jazz by 9.7, straight up 80%, 243.9 total points.

Injury Report:

Spurs: Marcus Morris Sr., (OUT - Not Injury Related); Charles Bassey, (OUT - Knee)

Jazz: Otto Porter Jr., (OUT - Not Injury Related)

9 p.m, Moda Center, Portland

Records (Against the Spread)

Hornets: 14-42 (22-34-0)

Blazers: 15-40 (25-30-0)

Line:Blazers (-2.5)Total:213.5

Money Line:Hornets (+120), Blazers (-140)

BPI Projection:Blazers by 4.6, straight up 66%, 224.3 total points.

Injury Report:

Hornets: Davis Bertans, (GTD - Knee); LaMelo Ball, (OUT - Ankle); Mark Williams, (OUT - Back)

Blazers: Malcolm Brogdon, (OUT - Elbow); Moses Brown, (OUT - Wrist); Rayan Rupert, (OUT - Ankle); Scoot Henderson, (OUT - Thigh); Shaedon Sharpe, (OUT - Abdomen); Robert Williams III, (OUT - Knee)

9:30 p.m., Arena, Los Angeles

Records (Against the Spread)

Kings: 32-23 (29-25-1)

Clippers: 37-18 (29-26-0)

Line:Clippers (-5.5)Total:239.5

Money Line:Kings (+190), Clippers (-220)

BPI Projection:Clippers by 7.1, straight up 74%, 237.1 total points.

Injury Report:

Kings: Alex Len, (GTD - Illness); Sasha Vezenkov, (OUT - Ankle)

Clippers: Norman Powell, (GTD - Ankle)