NBA Thursday best bets: Hawks, Heat undervalued in season openers

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The first full day of NBA action delivered the goods with a 23-point comeback, a double-overtime thriller, and three outright upsets. What will a smaller Thursday slate have in store? Here are our best bets on the night:

Mavericks at Hawks (-2.5, 225), 7:30 p.m. ET

At what point will the Atlanta Hawks get the respect they deserve? A year after finishing 27-11 down the stretch and reaching the Eastern Conference finals, Atlanta opens the campaign as a slim favorite over the Dallas Mavericks, who are introducing a new coach to a roster that was ousted in the first round in 2020-21.

There's some optimism that Jason Kidd can get the most out of Luka Doncic and better utilize Kristaps Porzingis' unique skill set. I buy that idea long term, but are we sure we'll see the results on the first night? Well, we'll need to if the Mavericks have a shot, because they only marginally improved their roster in the offseason.

The Hawks bring back their top 11 rotation guys from last season's group and should roll into this campaign with the same confidence and continuity that took them to the conference finals a year ago.

Pick: Hawks -2.5

Bucks at Heat (-1.5, 224), 8 p.m.

The Milwaukee Bucks were my preseason title pick and looked fantastic in their season-opening win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. That said, this is a tough matchup against the Miami Heat, who have likely had this game circled as a revenge spot since the schedule was released.

This Miami squad is better than the one that fell to Milwaukee in the first round last year. That team was decimated by injuries all year and never found a rhythm after the shortest offseason in NBA history. But now, the Heat have added former Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry and former Bucks center P.J. Tucker, both of whom are expected to play important roles in this rotation.

A full-strength Miami team deserves the short price here after injuries to starters Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez, who will be among six Bucks players sidelined for Thursday's contest.

Pick: Heat -1.5

C Jackson Cowart is a sports betting writer at theScore. You can follow him on Twitter (@CJacksonCowart) or email him at

NBA Thursday best bets: Hawks, Heat undervalued in season openers
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