First to 15 NBA Odds & Picks: Target Knicks vs. Raptors, Cavaliers vs. Nuggets Friday (January 6)

Action Network Senior Editor Malik Smith previews how to bet the First to 15 for two Friday games: Knicks vs. Raptors, Cavaliers vs. Nuggets.

There are so many ways to bet an NBA game, but for those bettors who can’t bear to sweat the full 48 minutes, there are other markets that offer more instant gratification. One of those markets is the Race to 15 Points. It’s as simple as the name suggests: The first team to hit 15 points cashes the bet.

It was a rough go on Wednesday with two heavily juiced picks both falling short on the doorstep of 15 points. A routine runner from Ja Morant could have (nay, should have) given us at least a split on those bets. But it wasn’t meant to be.

For Friday’s slate, we’re eying two teams that the market seems to be undervaluing. Let’s get into today’s First to 15 NBA odds and picks.

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New York Knicks vs. Toronto Raptors

First to 15 Odds Knicks: -108 | Raptors: -118
Time | TV 7:30 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass
SportsBook FanDuel

The Knicks are 10th in first quarter scoring and sixth in first quarter point differential this season. Since the start of December, they’ve been even better — eighth in scoring and second in point differential.

Conversely the Raptors are 25th for the season in first quarter scoring and 24th since Dec. 1. Their game on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks — the Raptors scored 12 points total in the first quarter — was the most extreme example of their early scoring woes.

The Raptors are 22nd in the Race to 15 standings and are just as bad at cashing these bets at home as they are on the road. While the Knicks aren’t particularly great on the road in this respect, they tend to start well (then make you hold on for dear life in the second half) and they’ve been the first to 15 in eight of their past 10 games.

Again, the poor scoring we saw from the Raptors was extreme, but I don’t think their struggles are an outlier. The Knicks don’t have the Bucks’ defense, but they are among the best defensive teams in the league. I think they can keep the Raps down long enough to get over the threshold here.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Denver Nuggets

First to 15 Odds Cavaliers: +104 | Nuggets: -130
Time | TV 9 p.m. ET | NBA League Pass
SportsBook FanDuel

Surprise, it’s the best team in the NBA when it comes to Race to 15 bets. I have extolled the virtues of the Nuggets in the first quarter many times in this column, but they are the most efficient first quarter offense in the league.

The Nuggets blew the doors, windows and everything else off the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night. The Clippers scored exactly 15 points for the whole first quarter. Typically, betting a team on the second leg of a back-to-back to remain hot in the first quarter of their next game would be dicey, but the Nuggets have two things in their favor. For one, they are playing at home, where they have been the first to 15 in 15 of their 18 games this season and second, only one of their starters played more than 25 minutes last night.

The Cavaliers won’t have Donovan Mitchell for this game and at the time of writing, Darius Garland is questionable to play with a thumb injury. Those two are the only Cavaliers players with Usage Rates above 20% on the team, so even if Garland plays, the offense will take a hit. The Nuggets are just different at home. I think -130 is great value for the best first quarter team in the league.