Thursday brings a light schedule for NBA bettors to enjoy, with just three games on tap, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality (and betting value).
For starters, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers meet Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in a potential NBA Finals preview, while Zion Williamson hopes to stay red-hot against a tough Utah Jazz defense.
We break down the basketball odds for that and more with our best free NBA picks and predictions for Thursday, January 21.
NBA Picks for Today
Thursday night in the NBA features a potential Finals preview as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers visit Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. This matchup will be billed as the Lakers' elite defense versus the Bucks' high-octane offense, but the Lakers’ offense should be the difference-maker in this matchup.
While the Bucks ranked first defensively a season ago, they have taken a bit of a step back. Despite acquiring an elite defender in Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee ranks 11th in defensive rating this season, and what they have struggled the most with has been guarding the perimeter.
The Bucks rank 21st in opponent 3-point field goal percentage and attempts, and no one is taking more threes for the Lakers than LeBron. James is averaging 6.4 attempts per game, while shooting a passable 37.5 percent from long range. But you just know James will want to put on a show in this one. He’s facing the two-time defending MVP and coming off an out-of-character defeat to the Warriors. Bet him to go Over his made threes total in this one.
PREDICTION: LeBron James Over 2.5 Made Threes (-115)
It’s been a while since you could say the New York Knicks visiting the Golden State Warriors was an interesting matchup, but here we are. The Knicks are 7-8, having won two in a row, with wins over the Boston Celtics and the Orlando Magic, The Warriors sit at 8-6, and have also reeled off back-to-back victories including a big comeback win over the defending-champion Lakers.
The Warriors have built their record thanks mostly to their offense, and of course thanks to Steph Curry still being a bad man. But unfortunately, for the most part this season, the Warriors have not gotten reliable scoring outside of the former two-time MVP, with Andrew Wiggins being their next-best scorer. (Never a great sign). That could be a problem against a lock-down Knicks defense.
The Knicks rank fifth in defensive rating, and are tops in the NBA in scoring defense and opponent field goal percentage. That doesn’t bode well for a volume shooter like Wiggins. Additionally, the Warriors look like they have wanted to get guys like Kelly Oubre Jr. and Eric Paschall more involved in the offense. With that said, we like Wiggins to stay below his point total in this one.
PREDICTION: Andrew Wiggins Under 17.5 Points (-110)
After being a high-flying offense a year ago, Stan Van Gundy has slowed down the tempo in New Orleans, turning the Pelicans into a half-court team that ranks 26th in the NBA in pace. And it looks like superstar Zion Williamson is buying in. The second-year forward is averaging 27.8 points on 65.2 percent shooting from the floor over the last five games.
But while Zion’s scoring is up, the Pelicans’ scoring as a team is down. They rank 24th in the NBA in scoring at 107.3 points per game and they play exceptionally slow in the first half of games. New Orleans puts up just 53.3 first-half points per game this season, and will now have to deal with a stingy Utah Jazz defense.
The Jazz rank third in opponent scoring and field goal percentage, while also allowing an NBA-best 50.3 first-half points per game, and are coming off a game against this same Pels team where they allowed just 49 first-half points. With Utah’s smothering defense, and New Orleans’ slow pace, we like the Pelicans to stay below their first-half team total.
PREDICTION: Pelicans Under 53.5 First Half Team Total (-110)
Top NBA Consensus for Today
Want to know who today's biggest NBA betting and consensus bets are right now? Check out our top NBA consensus picks.
Yesterday's picks: 1-2 (-1.05 units)
Season record to date: 43-33-1 (+6.81 units)
NBA Betting Card for January 21
- LeBron James Over 2.5 Made Threes (-115)
- Andrew Wiggins Under 17.5 Points (-110)
- Pelicans Under 53.5 First Half Team Total (-110)
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