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NBA Computer Picks for January 3: Let’s Make Tonight Magical

Cole Anthony Orlando Magic v Milwaukee Bucks
Cole Anthony #50 of the Orlando Magic handles the ball during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP

The sportsbooks have released their betting odds for tonight’s NBA action. Three games interest me: Wizards vs. Cavaliers, Bucks vs. Pacers, and Magic vs. Kings.

For your best bets, I will recommend investing in the Cavaliers, Pacers, and Magic. My recommendations are backed by OddsTrader’s computer AI and by my handicapping.

Picks Summary

  • Cavaliers -9.5 (-110)
  • Pacers +3.5 (-110)
  • Magic +5.5 (-110)

*All odds from Bet365 (check our Bet365 Review)


Washington Wizards vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Wednesday, January 03, 2023 – 07:00 PM ET at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse


Our computers project a strong double-digit win from Cleveland, and I agree. You should bet on the Cavaliers to cover the spread.

Cleveland’s Offense

On offense, the Cavaliers primarily want to score at the basket. To this end, they rely especially on the driving prowess of point guard Donovan Mitchell, as well as the threat that Jarrett Allen poses in front of the hoop.

While guys like Sam Merrill, who has made at least half of his three-point attempts in six of his last eight games, will give Cleveland’s offense a boost from behind the arc, scoring inside remains the primary endeavor of the Cavaliers’ offense.

Whether the Cavs succeed on offense will primarily be determined by their success at the basket.

Washington’s Lack of Rim Protection

I like Cleveland’s offense to thrive tonight because it will be comfortable on offense against a Washington defense that lacks quality rim protection.

The Wizards want to rely especially on center Daniel Gafford, but opponents can be efficient at the basket when guarded by Gafford. His big shot-blocking performances are also too rare. Typically, Gafford poses a negligible threat to opposing scorers. He’ll be especially vulnerable to a team like Cleveland that is characteristically inclined to score at the basket.

Washington’s Offense

The Wizards are similar to Cleveland in that they, too, want to score at the basket. They cannot shoot the three well – they own the ninth-worst three-point shooting percentage.

While they do have guys who have shot well from deep in the past, those guys are currently underperforming.

The best example is Jordan Poole, who created a strong reputation for himself at Golden State but is now barely making over 30% of his three-point attempts. Poole is especially cold, lately: he has made three of his last 18 three-point attempts.

Cleveland’s Rim Protection

Especially while guys like Poole struggle to make outside shots, Washington is going to have to score effectively at the basket.

But offenses regularly struggle to score at the basket against a Cleveland team that owns quality rim protection. The Cavs allow the fifth-lowest field goal percentage within five feet of the basket.

NBA Pick: Cavaliers -9.5 (-110) at Bet365


Milwaukee Bucks vs. Indiana Pacers

Wednesday, January 03, 2023 – 07:00 PM ET at Gainbridge Fieldhouse


Our computers project this to be an immensely tight game. Taking the points with Indiana therefore makes the most sense. You should bet on the Pacers.

Indiana’s Strong Form

The Pacers enter tonight’s game in strong form, having won four games in a row. Their offense is clicking, as it is consistently strong.

During this four-game win streak, they’ve scored 120 or more points every time.

Indiana’s Offense

The Pacers’ modernized offense revolves heavily around three-point shooting. They acquired guards like Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield in order to be efficient from behind the arc, and it’s working out for them.

Indiana attempts the seventh-most threes per game and ranks sixth in three-point percentage. With this volume and efficiency, the Pacers make the fifth-most threes per game.

Milwaukee’s Offense

Milwaukee’s offense is similar in that the Bucks want to make threes.

Given Milwaukee’s reliance on making threes, tonight’s game is going to be a three-point shooting contest. The team that has the most success from deep is the team that’s going to win.

Indiana’s Advantages

Despite being dogged by NBA oddsmakers, the Pacers have two key advantages that oddsmakers do not respect.

One, the Pacers are at home. They make over 41% of their three-point shot attempts at home, which makes sense because teams are most comfortable shooting in their own arena.

Two, Indiana owns the stronger perimeter defense. By a wide margin, the Pacers allow the fewest wide-open three-point attempts per game. They do not make it easy for opponents to attempt favorable three-point attempts.

With an excellent rim protector in Myles Turner, Pacers defenders can afford to guard the perimeter more aggressively, because if opposing ball-handlers blow by them as a result of their aggressiveness, Turner will be there to defend the basket.

Thanks largely to Turner, the Pacers will make scoring especially difficult for the Bucks, who anyhow do not share Indiana’s potent offensive form.

NBA Pick: Pacers +3.5 (-110) at Bet365


Orlando Magic vs. Sacramento Kings

Wednesday, January 03, 2023 – 10:00 PM ET at Golden 1 Center


Our computers project Orlando to hang tight on the road tonight, and I agree. You should bet on Orlando to cover the spread.

Sacramento’s Offense

The Kings want to shoot threes more than almost every other team. They rank third in three-point attempts.

This is largely not a team that will score in the paint. So, their outlook on offense will be determined primarily by their ability to make threes. This is true despite the fact that their efficiency from deep has been mediocre.

Orlando’s Perimeter Defense

Orlando boasts a host of defenders who, as evident in video footage, possess strong lateral mobility. They help each other well. As a team, they make it hard for opponents to perform well from deep.

Overall, they allow the fourth-fewest wide-open three-point attempts per game. They also allow the seventh-fewest three-point attempts.

These stats show that Orlando effectively contests opposing three-point attempts and likewise excels at running teams off the three-point line. With their strong perimeter defense, they’ll make it hard for Sacramento to be comfortable on offense.

Orlando Will Live Inside

More than any other team, the Magic want to score at the basket.

Aggressively getting inside the paint, they attempt the most field goals within five feet of the hoop. Fortunately for them, Sacramento lacks rim protectors.

Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento’s center, used to play power forward when he was a Pacer. As a Pacer, he could rely on Myles Turner to protect the basket. Sabonis lacks the physical ability to assume this sort of responsibility.

The efficiency with which players score on him at the basket helps explain why the Kings allow the seventh-highest field goal percentage within five feet of the basket.

NBA Pick: Magic +5.5 (-110) at Bet365

*The line and/or odds referenced in this article might have changed since the content was published. For the latest information on line movements, visit OddsTrader’s free betting odds tool.

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