NBA weekly betting preview: Raptors look to keep cashing as home favorites
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Even as the NBA continues its business as usual, Kobe Bryant's sudden death will be an inescapable part of the games in the coming days. It was drawn plainly on the faces of so many players Sunday, some of whom answered with performances in the former NBA star's name.

Perhaps the betting angles feel trivial in comparison - truthfully, they are. But the league goes on, and the markets will, too, so we'll continue to highlight some of the top betting plays in a difficult week for the sport.

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


Orlando Magic at Miami Heat (-4.5, 211.5)

On Sunday, in the hours following Bryant's death, some bettors expected some lethargic play from the 16 teams in action. Instead, only two of the games went under, and six players scored at least 35 points.

Jimmy Butler could be the next player to step up his game when he takes on a Magic defense that, while impressive in stretches, has allowed the 13th-most points per 100 possessions (112.7) amid a 1-5 run against the spread (ATS). The Heat are riding an 18-5 over run and have two days' rest - Miami is 13-6 ATS and 12-7 to the over at home with at least one day of rest.

Dallas Mavericks (-1, 225) at Oklahoma City Thunder

We've said it before and we'll say it again: What more do the Thunder need to do to gain oddsmakers' respect? They own the best ATS record (31-15-1, 67.4%) in the NBA but are still catching points, a spot in which they're 19-5 ATS this year and 6-1 ATS at home.

The Mavericks have been a stellar 14-6-1 ATS on the road - second only to Oklahoma City - but have gone just 3-4-1 ATS in their last eight games away from home. Take the Thunder, who should be favored, anyway.


Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers

Editor's Note: After this article was published, the NBA made the decision to postpone Tuesday's Lakers-Clippers game.

Here's the math: The Lakers have gone 10-4 straight up (SU) but just 4-10 ATS in their last 14 games with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They've gone 0-2 both SU and ATS this season against the Clippers - who have covered five of their last seven contests - and they're 3-6 SU and ATS in their last nine games against teams with a winning percentage above 60%.

Here's the reality: Do you really want to bet against the Lakers in this spot? Few players in the history of the game can turn it on when it matters most like James, and this game - his first since Bryant's death - will likely matter more to him than nearly any he's played. Don't bet against the King.

Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors

Trae Young went off for 45 points Sunday with an eerily symbolic final stat line, helping Atlanta score an insane 152 points in a 19-point win. However, it could set up Young and the Hawks for a massive hangover Tuesday.

Only eight teams since 2010 have scored at least 150 points in a game - all since last January - and those clubs went 2-6 ATS in the following contest, scoring an average of 114.8 points. The Raptors are 13-7 ATS as home favorites, as they will be in this one, making them worth playing as a Hawks fade.


Detroit Pistons at Brooklyn Nets

Three days removed from Bryant's death, Kyrie Irving is set up for a masterpiece in this game if he plays against the Pistons. He sat out Sunday for personal reasons, while Young and Damian Lillard lit up opponents in performances they attributed to the late Bryant. Irving, who was close with Kobe, should be able to do the same.

It helps, too, that the Pistons have had the fifth-worst defensive rating (113.4) since Dec. 16, with a 6-15 ATS record and a 15-6 over run in that span. Irving dropped 45 points for the Nets when these two teams played on Saturday and he could be similarly explosive in this one.


Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets

For those skeptical that Utah's impressive play would be short-lived, I present you Exhibit A: a 15-2 ATS stretch dating back to Dec. 21, during which the Jazz have had the best offensive rating and the second-best defensive rating in the NBA.

This looks like the team that oddsmakers had such high hopes for entering the season, and Utah is worth a play against the Nuggets, who have gone 3-9-2 ATS in their last 14 games against teams with winning records.

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: Raptors look to keep cashing as home favorites
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