NBA Thursday betting preview: Magic in live underdog spot at Nets
Rocky Widner / National Basketball Association / Getty

Wednesday marked our third straight day with a 2-1 record against the spread on our NBA picks. Can we sweep the board in a lighter Thursday slate?

Magic @ Nets (-8, N/A)

The Nets excel in many areas, but interior defense isn't one of them. Since trading for James Harden on Jan. 14 - a deal that sent shot-blocker Jarrett Allen to the Cavaliers - Brooklyn ranks 27th in opposing second-chance points per game (15.0) and dead last in opposing points in the paint (52.9) and opposing effective field-goal percentage (60.0%).

The last time the Nets faced an elite scoring center was Feb. 6, when Joel Embiid scored 33 points in 31 minutes to spark a 16-point win for the 76ers. Brooklyn last played the Magic on Jan. 16, when Nikola Vucevic posted 34 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists on 63.6% shooting in an ATS win for Orlando.

Vucevic has been a catalyst for the Magic's 5-2 ATS run, which includes three outright wins as underdogs. The Nets have covered seven straight but haven't seen a number this high in that stretch, and they could struggle mightily to cover this one if Orlando's star big maintains his recent level of play.

Pick: Magic +8

Clippers (-7.5, 226.5) @ Grizzlies

The Clippers are among the more frustrating teams to bet this season, as the health of their superstars is seemingly always in doubt. Yet when both play, this team is as good as any.

Los Angeles is a combined 44-27 ATS (62%) when both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George play since the two joined forces in 2019. That includes a 14-7 ATS record this season and a 9-3 ATS mark since Jan. 15 - a stretch during which the Clippers have outscored opponents by nearly 16 points per game.

The Grizzlies have taken care of business against bad teams this year but have dropped seven straight ATS as underdogs with an average deficit of 17.7 points. If the Clippers stars suit up as expected, this shouldn't be close.

Pick: Clippers -7.5

Pelicans @ Bucks (-9, 241.5)

When was the last time that fading the Bucks was a viable strategy? Before last week, Mike Budenholzer hadn't lost three straight contests since taking over as head coach in 2018. That was before Milwaukee's five-game skid that ended with a recent run against three of the four worst teams in net rating.

The Bucks were at least 11-point favorites in all three games, but they're priced more conservatively against a Pelicans squad that boasts the NBA's most efficient offense in February. Since Jrue Holiday missed his first game due to COVID-19 protocols on Feb. 8, Milwaukee has posted average numbers defensively and struggled to create easy offense without its best facilitator.

Even with Holiday in the lineup, the Bucks lost outright to the Pelicans as 7-point favorites on Jan. 29. The gap between these two teams as currently constructed doesn't justify this type of price in the rematch.

Pick: Pelicans +9

(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 Thursday betting preview: Magic in live underdog spot at Nets
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