Thursday night has a limited card of NBA basketball betting action but we like this game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Orlando Heat. It’s the last game before the All Star Break for both teams. Charlotte will resume play next Friday night at home against Washington while the Magic will host the Chicago Bulls the same evening.
Charlotte is currently in the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference which has them in the playoffs for now but their status is very tenuous indeed. The 8th place Detroit Pistons and 9th place Miami Heat are 1 game behind while the Magic are in 10th place just two games back. The Hornets have been treading water heading into the All Star Break with a 5-5 record in their last ten games. That statement makes Charlotte sound better than they really are. The Hornets have been awful on the road this year going 8-20 SU and 12-16 ATS. They’re equally as bad laying points going 7-18 SU and 12-13 ATS as an underdog.
The Hornets don’t do anything particularly well. They put up 111.2 points per game for the #18 scoring offense. They’re slightly above average defending giving up 111 points per game. That’s #14 in the league but you’re not going to get very far with a +0.2 scoring differential. They’re the #20 rebounding team in the NBA (44.4 per) and the #23 assist team (23.3). Since the first of the year, Charlotte is 4-9 SU on the road. They did pick up a nice win at San Antonio on 1/14 but the other three road wins were against the pitiful Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies (last and next to last in the West) and an equally bad Atlanta Hawks team.
Orlando is a team that is clearly heading in the right direction. They gave us a ridiculously easy pointspread winner in their last game, blitzing the disinterested New Orleans Pelicans 118-88 as a +5 road underdog. As we noted above, they’re hot on the heels of the Hornets and just 1 game out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. That would be significant as the Magic haven’t been a postseason participant since 2012. Management is ‘all in’ with the playoff push as was evidenced by not pursuing trades for Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross at the deadline. Both players are on expiring contracts and might be able to get a big payday elsewhere. Orlando hopes to resign both players correctly thinking that they’re a perfect fit for the Magic and that they’ll want to be part of this exciting young team.
The Magic still have plenty of room for improvement. They’re a mediocre team offensively (105.4 PPG scored), not much on the boards (44.3 rebounds per game #21 in the NBA) and just slightly above average at dishing the ball for assists (24.8 PPG for #13 in the NBA). Where they excel is on defense–they allow 107.2 PPG which is #8 in the league. They’ve got some good company atop the scoring defense table–right above them are Utah, Boston, Denver and Milwaukee.
As the NBA season drags on a team can get a lot from just being committed to playing tenacious defense. It allows them to compete with superior teams and allows them to pick up easy wins against disinterested opponents that don’t have the same work ethic on their end of the court. Charlotte might not be quite that bad but the Magic are in much better form at the moment. Orlando is on a 4 game SU winning streak and have covered 9 of their last 12 and 6 of their last 7.
The Hornets might make the mistake of looking past Orlando due to their track record of success against the Magic. Charlotte has won 10 straight against Orlando going 9-1 ATS including a 5-0 SU/4-1 ATS record at the Amway Center. This should provide even more motivation for the home side–not that they should have any trouble getting ‘up’ for a playoff qualified team just two points ahead of them in the standings. Right now, Orlando is still under the ‘public’ radar so get on ’em while the gettin’ is still good.