Daily underdog picks: Thunder will cover against struggling Bucks
The underdogs were barking last week.
We went three-for-three with our picks, including taking the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Oklahoma City Thunder to cover as double-digit underdogs, and taking the moneyline favorite Boston Bruins to win against the New York Rangers. The latter contest was ultimately decided in overtime, with Boston prevailing and the underdog Rangers providing bettors with a solid sweat entering the weekend.
We’re back this week, and are targeting the three most compelling underdogs for Friday night's slate of games.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Sat, February 20 2021, 1:10 AM
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been among the best teams against the spread in the NBA this season, and that includes going 11-4 ATS on the road.
The Thunder are back on the road tonight, as 10-point underdogs against the Milwaukee Bucks, who have hit the skids with five straight losses. One of those defeats came on Valentine’s Day to the Thunder.
According to @EliasSports the Bucks are the first team in NBA history to lose 5 straight games after 5 straight double-digit wins within a season. pic.twitter.com/kt4OBf1ACS— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 19, 2021
The Bucks are playing for the second straight night and their third game in four nights. Who knows which version of the Bucks will show up tonight? Will we see the team that was expected to be a championship contender, or will we see the team that most recently failed to break 100 points against the Toronto Raptors, resulting in that fifth straight loss?
There shouldn’t be much confidence in the Bucks covering as double-digit favorites right now. Not after five straight losses, including three in a row to teams below them in the standings.
Jrue Holiday was out of the Bucks' lineup Thursday due to COVID-19 protocols. Meanwhile, the Thunder have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back in their lineup after he recently missed time with a knee injury.
Pick: Thunder (+10)
Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Sat, February 20 2021, 12:40 AM
The Bulls have done well covering the spread on the road this season, going 8-2 ATS in their last 10 away games.
The Bulls enter this game against the 76ers on a two-game win streak, after outlasting Indiana in overtime at the beginning of the week, and sliding past Detroit on Wednesday.
The 76ers certainly pose a tougher test, as the top team in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia had lost three in a row to close out a road trip through the Western Conference, but rebounded with a five-point win over Houston at home on Wednesday. That still wasn’t enough to cover. The 76ers are 0-4 against the spread in their last four games, and 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games against teams with a losing record.
The 76ers have been led by Joel Embiid, who has scored 30 or more points in eight of his last 10 games, but he has been dealing with some tightness in his back.
Joel Embiid showing up every night and getting 30+ points pic.twitter.com/PfMSNqIWoy— Life of a Philly Fan (@PhillyFanLife) February 18, 2021
Ben Simmons (illness) is listed as probable to play for Philadelphia on Friday.
Still, the Bulls have been better on the road and could keep this one close enough to at least cover.
Pick: Bulls (+8)
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Sat, February 20 2021, 12:00 AM
Who knew what to expect during this pandemic-shortened 2021 NHL season? But seeing the Chicago Blackhawks in contention for the re-formatted Central Division likely wasn’t something many thought we would see.
The Blackhawks are 9-5-4 through 18 games, tied for the division lead with the Florida Panthers, and one point ahead of the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, although both Florida teams each have four games in hand.
The surprising Blackhawks – who haven’t had captain Jonathan Toews in their lineup all season due to health reasons – visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.
NHL standings:— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) February 18, 2021
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. Chicago Blackhawks
Just like we all predicted. pic.twitter.com/3NZTSW3gXQ
The Blackhawks have moneyline odds of +155, and while their record might suggest a reasonable shot at the upset, the underlying numbers show Carolina as one of the best five-on-five clubs in the NHL.
The Hurricanes control the play at five-on-five with a Corsi-For rating of 54.7% -- the second highest rating in the NHL and an indicator of puck possession. They are fifth in the league in expected goals-for at five-on-five, according to naturalstattrick.com. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have the second worst Corsi-For rating at five-on-five and the third worst expected goals-against.
Chicago has been boosted by the league’s third best power play. If Carolina can stay out of the penalty box and keep this game at five-on-five, they should take this one.
Pick: Hurricanes (-195)