The Most Important Matchups and Best Bets for Friday’s NBA Slate

Thursday’s NBA slate was a bit thinner than usual, but we’re back in full swing on Friday. There are 10 games available, starting with the Pistons vs. the Suns at 7 p.m. ET and wrapping up with a trio of games at 10 p.m. ET.

The Magic will be one of the 20 teams in action, and they have been arguably the biggest surprise in the league this season. They’ve jumped out to a 6-2 record despite being considered a fringe playoff contender in the revamped Eastern Conference. Can they keep this production going?

Let’s dive in.

KEY MATCHUPS

The Magic have been impressive to start the year. In addition to their excellent record, they rank seventh in the league in Net Rating. That puts them only behind the real cream of the NBA crop: The Bucks, Nets, Suns, Lakers, Pacers, and 76ers.

That said, they’re going to have to figure out how to survive without Markelle Fultz. He tore his ACL in their last contest, which was a brutal blow for both him and the team. The Magic took a chance on Fultz while he was dealing with some issues in Philly, and he was off to the best start of his career this season. Now, he’ll have yet another obstacle to overcome in his young NBA career, and the Magic will have to play without their starting PG.

As bad as that sounds, it may not be a death blow for them. Fultz has been on the court for 213 minutes this season, and the Magic have actually decreased their Net Rating by -27.5 points per 100 possessions over that time frame (per Cleaning the Glass). That puts him in just the third percentile for all qualified players this season.

Michael Carter-Williams and Cole Anthony will be asked to pick up the slack in his stead, and the Magic have been significantly better with either player on the court this season. They’ve increased their Net Rating by +15.5 points per 100 possessions with Anthony on the court, and they’ve increased their Net Rating by +8.2 points per 100 possessions with MCW on the court.

If those players can keep up that level of productivity over a larger workload, this team will be fine in the long run. They’re still not legitimate contenders, but they should be able to make another trip to the playoffs.

LINE MOVEMENT

We’ve seen some notable line movement for tonight’s contests.

One of the biggest line moves involves the Celtics. They’re currently dealing with a COVID-19 situation, which will leave them pretty shorthanded in the frontcourt for the next week or so. Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams, and Grant Williams will all be forced to quarantine for the next seven days at a minimum, which leaves Daniel Theis as their lone remaining center.

None of those absences would be a huge deal on their own, but they do make an impact in combination. They’ve dropped from 5.5-point favorites to just 4.5-point favorites tonight vs. the Wizards.

The Nets are another team that has seen some line movement. They were originally listed as small favorites, but they’ve moved to 1.0-point underdogs on FanDuel Sportsbook. The Nets have had no problems without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the lineup recently, but they still figure to struggle without those players in the long run.

BETTING BREAKDOWNS

Utah Jazz vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. New York Knicks

BEST BETS FROM THE SPORTSGRID BETTING MODEL

Our betting model sees a significant edge in a few contests this evening, including the Phoenix Suns vs. the Detroit Pistons and the Orlando Magic vs. the Houston Rockets.