Free NBA Picks: Our Best Bets for December 22

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Darius Garland #10 celebrates with Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jason Miller/Getty Images/AFP

Today’s NBA card is large and attractive. Here are my two best bets. Top sportsbooks have released their NBA odds for tonight’s NBA action. Two games, in particular, interest me as worth investing in Cleveland vs. Boston and Denver vs. Oklahoma City. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for both games. Both favorites will be on upset alert.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics

Wednesday, December 22, 2021- 7:30 PM EST at TD Garden 

Unlikable Boston

One reason why I want to go against Boston tonight is its problematic offense. In order to bet the favorite, one should be sufficiently comfortable with the idea that its offense can put up points with ease, so that the team may win by enough points to cover the spread.

But the exact opposite is the case with Boston, which ranks 21st in offensive rating. The Celtics run a relatively high frequency of isolation plays because they lean heavily on two single players. By wide margins, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown lead the team in points per game.

Of the two, Tatum is arguably the most important. He averages 25.9 points per game, which is 4.1 more than Brown and 9.1 more than the team's third-leading scorer. Of course, Tatum also averages more minutes and attempts more field goals per game.

Cleveland, however, has been one of his most difficult opponents. In two games against the Cavs this season, he averages 22 points per game on a very inefficient 35.7-percent shooting. So, not only is Boston's entire offense unreliable because of its heavy reliance on two players. But the player Boston relies on the most is himself less trustworthy tonight given his repeated failures against tonight's opponent.

Cleveland's Defense

A big part of Cleveland's ongoing 14-game -- no, this isn't a typo -- ATS win streak is its defense.
Despite some early-season troubles, the Cavs rank third in defensive rating behind last year's runner-up Phoenix and Golden State.

They are superb at limiting opposing three-point attempts -- they allow the sixth-fewest per game. So what they do is run opponents off the three-point line in order to force them to deal with their rim protectors.

Their unit of rim protectors is deep and stacked with quality. This depth of quality explains why I like Cleveland despite the absences of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. In the two games that they missed so far, Cleveland actually allowed an even lower field goal percentage within five feet of the basket than their season average.

On the season, they already rank number one in defending the basket as measured by this opposing shooting statistic. Keep this stat in mind for your sports betting. What is so impressive about their defensive success in the two games without Allen and Mobley is the quality of their opponents. They played Golden State and Brooklyn, two teams that are far removed from the struggles that plague lackluster Boston.

NBA Pick: Cavaliers +5.5 (-110) with Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Cavaliers +5.5 (-110)
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Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Wednesday, December 22, 2021- 8:00 PM EST at Paycom Center


Thunder Offense vs. Nugget Defense

Oklahoma City's offense is very ball-screen-oriented. The Thunder runs the pick-and-roll for the ball-handler play-type with the fourth-most frequency. They are intricate in this respect, often staggering their screens to force defenses to try to guard multiple ball-screens in quick succession.

In a similar vein, they'll execute a dribble hand-off and then a ball-screen in consecutive actions.
They'll flourish with their offensive focus on ball-screens against a Nugget defense that is one of the worst at defending them. Denver ranks eighth-to-last in limiting opposing PPP (points per possession) on this play type.

Lack of Support

Denver scored a lot in its last game largely because rookie Nah'Shon Hyland had the game of his life offensively. Normally, he is only good for a few points in a game. Will Barton is the team's second-leading scorer, a guy Denver normally counts on for scoring support.

Know for your best bets that Barton, however, is in one of his shooting slumps again. His inefficiency on the floor contributes to the fact that he's scored a combined total of 13 points in his past two games.

The Nuggets' third-leading scorer, Aaron Gordon, is listed as 'questionable' for tonight's game.
Without these players, a Nugget team already dealing with long-term injuries to key scorers lacks the weaponry to make up for its defensive problems against a Thunder squad uniquely designed to exploit those problems. For the above reasons, take Oklahoma City with your NBA picks.

NBA Pick: Thunder +6.5 (+100) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Thunder +6.5 (+100)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.