NBA Friday betting preview: Back Bulls, Knicks as live 'dogs
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Exactly a month into the NBA season, some things are predictable: The Lakers and Clippers top the Western Conference, the Bucks are good, and the Timberwolves are a train wreck. However, other things have been surprising - Knicks, anyone? - which leaves some windows of opportunity in the weekly betting market.

Here are a few of our favorite plays Friday.

Bulls at Hornets (-3, 228.5), 7 p.m. ET

Just as we all expected this season, the hottest team against the spread is ... the Bulls? They've jumped out to a 10-4 ATS record, and they know how to keep it close - Chicago has just four losses this year by more than three points and none since Jan. 6.

The Hornets have been on a hot streak of their own, covering six of their last seven games, but only one of those came with them as a favorite. They've also lost three consecutive contests outright and face a Bulls squad coming off five days of rest. Since 2019, teams coming off at least five days of rest are 8-5 ATS against less rested squads.

Two blowout losses to open the year have dragged down Chicago's net rating, but, since Dec. 27, it's only 0.7 points worse than Charlotte's. Does home court make up the difference on this line? I'll gladly take the points in a matchup of similar teams.

Pick: Bulls +3

Knicks at Kings (-4, 218.5), 10 p.m.

Are oddsmakers missing something here, or am I? The Knicks have been a laughingstock for years, but they're competent this season thanks to a defensive makeover from new coach Tom Thibodeau.

After years of ranking near the bottom in defensive efficiency, New York is holding its opponents to 106.1 points per possession - third-best in the NBA - and has allowed teams to shoot a league-low 43% from the floor. Compare that to the Kings, who have the worst defensive rating (119.9) by a long shot and are mediocre on offense.

That type of effort Friday won't be enough to win, let alone lay this price as chalk. Sacramento is 1-9 ATS in January and has dropped five of its last six games as a favorite dating back to last season.

Pick: Knicks +4

Thunder at Clippers (-13.5, 220), 10 p.m.

You have to exploit an inefficiency in the betting market at every turn. For the NBA, that inefficiency is backing double-digit favorites, which are a stellar 15-5-2 ATS this year and have covered 56.8% of the time since 2018.

The Clippers are 13-8 ATS in that spot since acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. They've both been stellar this year for Los Angeles, which ranks third in net rating (+7.4) behind the league's most efficient offense. George has been particularly impressive, posting 50/50/90 shooting splits ahead of this contest against his former team.

The Thunder's 6-7 record suggests mediocrity, but they've been worse than that. Their net rating (-7.2) is third-worst in the NBA, and their seven losses have come by an average of 18.6 points. Don't hesitate to lay the points in a lopsided matchup.

Pick: Clippers -13.5

(Odds source: theScore Bet)

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 Friday betting preview: Back Bulls, Knicks as live 'dogs
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