NBA weekly betting preview: Harden carries hot streak to Portland
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It was a tough week to be an Atlanta Hawks bettor. On Saturday, Trae Young and co. lost to the Clippers by 50 points; the next day, the Hawks fell behind by 25 in the first quarter in a 21-point loss to the Lakers. It could be worse - they could be Golden State, which dropped its seventh straight and also lost D'Angelo Russell to an injury over the weekend.

The gap between the good and the bad is widening as the season ages, and there's value in knowing which is which.

Each week, we'll highlight some of the top betting angles and plays on the schedule. Here are some tips heading into this week's slate.

Note: Lines for Tuesday and beyond are released later in the week.


Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets (-7.5, 231.5)

Early in the season, the Rockets were floundering relative to expectations. Then, as he's wont to do, James Harden took over. He's averaging 43 points, 7.9 assists, and 6.7 rebounds over the last seven games, during which Houston is 7-0 straight up and 6-0-1 against the spread.

There's no reason to expect a dip on Monday against the Blazers' below-average defense, which is still reeling inside from injuries to the frontcourt rotation. Portland also lacks elite wing defenders, which could be troublesome against a Rockets attack that has taken the league's highest percentage of shots from beyond the arc during the team's seven-game streak.

Damian Lillard's never been one to back down from a stars' duel, so Monday's game could feature points in bunches between elite shooters. The Rockets allowed 11 made threes per game in four games last week, including eight to a Pacers team that ranks dead last in made threes per game.

San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks (-4.5, 226)

The Spurs have been dreadful this year for bettors with a league-worst 3-10 ATS record and five straight losses outright entering Monday's contest in Dallas. The Mavericks have been inconsistent with a 1-5 ATS record at home, but they have an offense well-suited to exploit San Antonio's flaws.

The Spurs allow opponents to shoot 64.9% from within five feet, the third-worst mark in the NBA, while Dallas shoots 67.3% from that range, third-best in the NBA. Luka Doncic shoots 69.4% from that distance, which ranks first among guards that take at least six of those shots per game.

If the Slovenian wunderkind can find his way inside, it could be a long day for Spurs bettors and a happy one for those playing the over, which is 7-4-1 in Mavericks games this season and 9-4 in Spurs games.


Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are playing at an entirely different level right now, and oddsmakers may struggle to bump the line high enough against hapless foes. Los Angeles (9-4 ATS) embarrassed the Hawks on Sunday after destroying the Warriors two games earlier, with a narrow win over frisky Sacramento sandwiched between them.

This year, all teams other than the Lakers are 3-19 ATS as double-digit favorites. Yet, L.A. is a cool 4-1 ATS in that spot and should expect double-digit treatment against the up-and-down Thunder.


Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta's miserable showing over the weekend doesn't bode well for its chances here. Only 18 teams in the last 25 years have lost consecutive games by 70 or more points combined; those teams went 4-14 SU/8-10 ATS in their next game with a 1-5 ATS record since 2016.

Teams coming off back-to-back 20-point losses are also 2-8 ATS in their last 10. The Hawks are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 overall and could see another grisly margin against a superior Bucks team with seven outright wins in its last eight games.

Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves

Sign me up for Minnesota, assuming Andrew Wiggins plays in this game. The Timberwolves play in Utah on Monday as massive underdogs without Wiggins, who's been the catalyst for their improved performance this year. If they lose - and especially if they lose big - Wiggins' return should boost a potentially undervalued T-Wolves club in a rematch two days later.

This situation isn't rare in the NBA; teams have played consecutive head-to-head regular-season games 27 times since the start of 2018, including once already this season. The winner of the first game is 12-14-1 ATS and 11-16 SU in the second, so a Monday loss could serve Minnesota well on Wednesday.


New Orleans Pelicans at Phoenix Suns

Are the Pelicans suddenly decent? After a miserable start, New Orleans is riding a 3-1-1 ATS run since Nov. 9, with the league's highest percentage of team points from deep (42.5%) during that stretch. There's only one problem: The Suns allow the third-fewest threes per game while boasting the third-highest 3-point percentage in the NBA (38.8%).

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry knows that a track meet won't benefit his squad against his former team. New Orleans' maligned defense has shown improvement as of late, too, so the under might be a savvy play if this total reaches the mid-230s.

C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.

NBA weekly betting preview: Harden carries hot streak to Portland
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