Monday, March 20, 2023

NBA picks: Best bets for Wednesday’s play-in games, including Hornets’ chances at slowing Trae Young-led Hawks

With the 2021-22 NBA regular season now in the books, the basketball betting market is hotter than ever. CBS Sports will be providing daily picks for the duration of the postseason. Sam Quinn will make at least one pick for every game between now and the NBA Finals. All lines courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

Charlotte Hornets (10) at Atlanta Hawks (9)

Featured Game | Atlanta Hawks vs. Charlotte Hornets

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This is a scary under for one key reason. When Trae Young is in the game, Atlanta’s offense plays at an elite level, and when he isn’t, the Hawks tend to falter. Well, this is an elimination game, so odds are, Young is going to play quite a few minutes. Not only will that supercharge Atlanta’s offense, but it also gives the Hornets a poor defender to pick on for a few extra minutes. 

But both of these defenses have actually improved a bit lately, with Atlanta jumping up from No. 25 in defense before March 1 to No. 18 afterward. The absence of John Collins also suggests a defensive-minded game, as backup Onyeka Okongwu is a superior defender.

If there’s one reason to lean on the under here, though, it’s Charlotte’s inexplicable ability to limit Young where almost every other team in the NBA fails. Through his career, Young is averaging just 20 points on 38.5 percent shooting against the Hornets. They don’t have a single lockdown defender responsible for this. In fact, Young’s stellar series against Ben Simmons and Matisse Thybulle suggests that no one defender can really contain him. But Charlotte is deep and creative. The Hornets are going to throw a variety of looks at Young, and if he can’t adjust on the fly, this is going to be a bit of a slugfest. The pick: Under 235.5

San Antonio Spurs (10) at New Orleans Pelicans (9)

Featured Game | New Orleans Pelicans vs. San Antonio Spurs

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The Pelicans and Spurs have played twice in the past month, and while Brandon Ingram missed both matchups, neither came close to this point total. On paper, the matchups explain that. The Pelicans have three primary generators of offense in CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas and Ingram. Well, the Spurs can throw Dejounte Murray on McCollum and Jakob Poeltl on Valanciunas in the post. That’s going to put an enormous scoring burden on Ingram. He’s up for it, but this isn’t an insignificant total. Asking him to carry the Pelicans into the 120s is a bit much.

The Spurs are heavily reliant on Murray … who shot 11 of 37 in those two March matchups against New Orleans. On the season, Murray is shooting 4 of 14 when defended by Herb Jones. The Spurs face the same matchup issues that the Pelicans do: Their best players are going to have a hard time against this specific opponent, and that’s going to force role players to generate offense. They might be able to do so, but it’s just safer to rely on nerves and defense to carry the day in an elimination game. The pick: Under 224

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