NBA Odds, Expert Picks, Predictions: 4 Best Bets For Thursday, Including Clippers vs. Nuggets (January 5)

NBABet's NBA analysts break down their four best bets for Thursday, including a trio of bets on Clippers vs. Nuggets.

The NBA has a smaller slate with only four games tonight, but our betting analysts are ready. They have four best bets tonight, with all four coming on tonight’s TNT doubleheader. Andrew O’Connor-Watts is betting on Celtics vs. Mavericks, while Joe Dellera, Jim Turvey and Chris Baker each have plays on Clippers vs. Nuggets. Check out their expert picks and predictions for Thursday below.

>> Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds, track your bets and follow all of our experts’ picks.

NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a game to skip ahead
Celtics vs. Mavericks Spread 7:30 p.m. ET
Clippers vs. Nuggets Prop 10 p.m. ET
Clippers vs. Nuggets 1Q Spread 10 p.m. ET
Clippers vs. Nuggets Total 10 p.m. ET

Celtics vs. Mavericks Spread

Pick Mavericks +3
Book FanDuel
Tipoff 7:30 p.m. ET

Andrew O’Connor-Watts: I like what I’m seeing from the Mavs lately. It’s hard not to when a team is on a seven-game winning streak, albeit against some lackluster competition (three games have been against the Rockets).

After a four-game winning streak for the Celtics to end 2022, they have dropped their last two—one against the Nuggets and Tuesday against the Thunder, where they were absolutely annihilated 150-117—with both losses coming on the road.

The Mavericks and Celtics both match up well defensively. They both shoot a lot of 3s (first and third respectively), and they both do well to defend the 3. Dallas ranks fifth in the league in 3-point defense while Boston ranks seventh.

One could argue this is a get-right spot for the Celtics after a blowout loss to a Thunder team in the mix for a Wembanyama tank, but I like the Mavericks to get revenge from earlier this season when the Celtics beat them 125-112 in Boston.

Prior to their loss earlier this season, the Mavericks had won the previous four meetings. Bet on Luka Doncic and the Mavs tonight down to -1 as my model actually favors the Mavericks in this game.

» Return to the table of contents «

Clippers vs. Nuggets Prop

Pick Nikola Jokic Over 11.5 Rebounds
Book FanDuel
Tipoff 10 p.m. ET

Joe Dellera: I’m targeting the reigning back-to-back MVP’s rebounds prop at 11.5 rebounds. Although he’s hit this in just five of his last 10 games and fewer than 50% of games this season with a 10.8 rebounds per game average on the season, I love this spot. This is an excellent matchup for Jokic, and he’s had great matchup data versus his counterpart, Ivica Zubac.

Over the last three seasons, Jokic has played Zubac eight times. He is averaging 26.6 points, 13.3 rebounds and 7.8 assists in those matchups. I’m specifically targeting rebounds. With the number set at 11.5, he’s exceeded that in six of eight games and grabbed 13+ rebounds in all six, including a matchup from this November.

If Zubac is on the floor, he cannot handle Jokic, but if he gets into foul trouble, this becomes an even easier rebounding matchup for Jokic, and I expect him to be a force on the glass tonight.

Pick: Nikola Jokic Over 11.5 Rebounds

» Return to the table of contents «

Clippers vs. Nuggets 1Q Spread

Pick Denver First Quarter -1
Book DraftKings
Tipoff 10 p.m. ET

Jim Turvey: The Denver Nuggets play host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night in a top-tier Western Conference matchup on TNT.

The full game line is sitting at Nuggets -5, but the first-quarter line is what you want to target. The Nuggets are the best team in the NBA by Net Rating in the first quarter this season, due in large part to that being the quarter they typically get the most Nikola Jokic.

Their +15.4 First-Quarter Net Rating is a massive gap over the Clippers’ +1.8, and furthermore, the books haven’t baked that dominance into their lines well enough. The Nuggets are 22-15 against the spread in the first quarter this season, compared to the Clippers who are 17-20-2.

The Nuggets are also at home, where they have played much better this season, and Paul George is currently listed as questionable for the Clippers, who we all know tend to be as cautious as any team in the league.

I would play this to Nuggets -2 (-110).

» Return to the table of contents «

Clippers vs. Nuggets Total

Pick Under 229.5
Book FanDuel
Tipoff 10 p.m. ET

Chris Baker: I like the way these two teams match up with each other here, and I disagree with this line movement up to 228.5 at most spots as of this writing. It’s always scary to take an under in a game with this much star-power, but I think it is highly likely that this Nuggets defense is being undervalued.

The Nuggets have played the fifth-most difficult schedule of opposing offenses according to Their defense ranks 28th in Effective Field Goal % but 15th in Location eFG%, which attempts to predict opponent FG% based on expected field goal percentage given the shot quality of the looks this defense is giving up. This defense hasn’t been as bad as the surface-level numbers would lead you to believe.

The Clippers offense has been legitimately awful as they rank 29th in Adjusted Offensive Rating despite playing the easiest schedule of opposing defenses. Kawhi Leonard’s sporadic return to games has certainly helped their offensive efficiency, but it has more profoundly impacted their defense.

The defense is -10.1 points better per 100 possessions with Kawhi on the floor this season. Keep in mind, this defense already ranks fifth in Defensive Rating (111.0), so for them to improve this markedly form an already elite level is just remarkably impressive.

With the claw on the floor, the Clippers have a Defensive Rating of 103.4, a full six points above the No. 1 ranked Grizzlies defense. This Clippers defense is legit, but their offense is not, and I think that their style of offense does not exploit the Nuggets defense. The Clippers rank fifth in Isolation Rate but just 24th in Isolation Points per Possessions (0.86). The Nuggets have traditionally struggled against pick-and-roll-heavy offenses, but that is not really what this Clippers team is trying to do.

On the flip side of the ball, we have the Jokic-led Nuggets’ top ranked post-up rate offense going up against a Clippers defense that ranks first in points per possession (0.80) allowed against post-ups. This Clippers defense has been elite defending the post this season, and they will continue that trend tonight.

Factor all of these matchup edges in with the fact that the Nuggets and Clippers rank just 19th and 22nd in Pace, respectively, and I am not entirely sure why this line is getting steamed up towards 230. Take the under in Denver tonight.

» Return to the table of contents «