A bettor needs to track rule changes that could impact the way to bet games in any sport. We’re seeing a terrific example of this in the NBA to start the 2021-22 season. Last week, I mentioned how the new rule changes on offensive players initiating contact to draw fouls had impacted James Harden. Well, while Harden is the poster boy of the problem the league is hoping to eradicate, he’s far from the only offender.
Many other players and teams saw what Harden was doing and how effective it was, so they started doing it themselves. So far, the result has been a lot of confounded looks on the faces of players wondering why they aren’t being rewarded with a trip to the free-throw line for lowering their shoulder into an opponent.
Last season, NBA teams averaged 112.1 points per game and 21.8 free throw attempts per game. The season before, they averaged 111.8 points and 23.1 free throws. So far this season, those numbers have dropped to 107.4 points and 20 free throws. That might not seem like a lot, but it’s had a significant impact on betting.
Through Sunday’s games, the under has gone 59-34 in NBA games. That means if you’ve been blindly betting unders on every NBA game this year, you’re up roughly 22 units. Of course, the books have caught on to this. When the season began, we saw most totals falling in the range of 220 to 235 points, which was in line with where the league had been the last few years. The average total for the nine NBA games scheduled tonight is currently 216.3.
Now let’s drop some picks like the NBA is dropping totals.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
The Pick: Over 52 (-110): A lot has been made this season of Patrick Mahomes‘ struggles, and rightfully so. The quarterback has been so spectacular during his career that he’s inspired teams to look for other quarterbacks with terrible mechanics who often attempt stupid throws. I mean, without Patrick Mahomes, there’s no way Zach Wilson is selected No. 2 in the draft by anybody. The problem, of course, is that the reason Mahomes is unique is that he’s able to make the plays nobody else can.
Unfortunately for Kansas City, he hasn’t done it this season. Mahomes is having the worst year of his career as a starter. While he has a career-high completion rate of 67.5%, he currently has career lows in passer rating, yards per attempt and yards per completion. His interception rate of 3.2% is the highest of his career, as is his sack rate of 4.8%. It’s enough to make you wonder if he’s less than 100%!
Tonight will offer Mahomes the opportunity to “get healthy” from a performance standpoint. He’ll be facing a Giants team that ranks 23rd in the NFL in points allowed per drive (2.34) and 19th in defensive red zone efficiency. The Giants have also allowed opponents to complete nearly 70% of their pass attempts, though the yards they’ve allowed per attempt is respectable. The Giants have faced only two teams that can compare to what the Chiefs have offensively (the Cowboys and Rams) and allowed 82 points in those two games.
Also, we can’t overlook that the Chiefs have a horrific defense! While the attention has been on Mahomes, Kansas City has allowed a league-worst 2.84 points per possession on defense. Opposing offenses have managed to score points on 49.3% of their drives against this Chiefs defense. There will be plenty of opportunities for the Giants to put points on the board as well, all of which makes this over look pretty enticing.
Key Trend: Kansas City games have had an average of 55.9 points per game this season, the most of any team in the league.
Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine expert Larry Hartstein is 18-5 in his last 23 ATS picks involving the Chiefs and he’s released his pick for Monday Night Football.
💰 The Picks
The Pick: Under 208.5 (-110) — As mentioned above, the under has been a profitable play in the NBA this season, but we’re also seeing the books adjust the lines. That means we need to adjust as well, but even at 208.5, I still think this total is too high. Much like when we took the under in last week’s game between the Knicks and the Bulls, I’m not worried about where the Knicks are ranked defensively. If Tom Thibodeau is coaching you, defense is still at the heart of what you do. Nor do I look at the Knicks’ torrid shooting start as something sustainable.
Instead, I’m more interested in the fact Toronto is one of the best defensive teams in the league so far, and both teams are among the slowest. The Knicks rank 27th in the NBA in pace, while the Raptors are 29th. The fewer possessions there are, the fewer shots are taken. The fewer shots, the fewer points scored. It’s science!
Key Trend: The under is 8-3 in New York’s last 11 games as a favorite at home.
The Pick: Spurs +3 (-110) — The Pacers are an absolute mess on the defensive end right now. Their net defensive rating of 109.1 ranks 24th in the league and is the biggest reason the Pacers are off to a 1-6 start to the season. Now, this is something I suspect will improve as the season goes on, but it’s a legitimate problem at the moment and one that makes it extremely difficult to trust the Pacers as a favorite.
Meanwhile, the Spurs might only be 2-4, but their net rating of 2.3 (offensive rating minus defensive rating) ranks 13th in the league, and they’ve been excellent defensively. There’s plenty of potential on the offensive end, but it’s also a lot of new faces learning new teammates and new roles within a system. Still, the results are encouraging, and I have more confidence in San Antonio right now, so I’m taking a shot on it here.
Key Trend: The Spurs are 20-8-1 in their last 29 games as underdogs on the road.
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine Projection Model’s favorite NBA play of the night is on one side of the spread between the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trailblazers.
🏀 Monday Night Parlay
Here’s a three-leg NBA moneyline parlay for tonight that pays +209.