Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton
Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton (2) makes a move to the basket as Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Allen (31) sets a screen on Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Nikki Boertman)


Patrick Werkmeister

It is finally the dawn of another NBA season. While this league can be extremely volatile in the regular season, in these 82 games there will be a lot of hot matchups that are more transparent to bet on than others. With strong competition in both the Eastern and Western conference, there isn’t a clear favorite for the title, so it’s pretty much anyone’s shot. However, there are only a select amount of teams that can consistently earn you money throughout the year. With all of this in mind, here is what I like in this opening weekend of basketball action.

Hawks (-8) @ Cavaliers
From Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers host Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks. The difference in skill between these two squads is reflected by this relatively large 8-point spread. Last season, the Cavs finished near the bottom of the NBA with a 22-50 record, whereas the Hawks made a deep Cinderella run to the Eastern Conference Finals.  Although they were unable to get past the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks, they illustrated outstanding team chemistry, which is hard to come by in this league. Their floor general running the show, Trae Young, had a brilliant campaign last year where he averaged 25 points and 9 assists. If they want a similar result for this year, he will have to be as steady as ever. Last game out, Trae dropped a 14-assist double-double in Atlanta’s 113-87 rout of the Mavericks. With virtually the same roster as last year plus some added depth, Atlanta should have a fruitful regular season. On the other hand, Cleveland basketball fans have little to look forward to with this rag-tag team of outcasts. While they have good young pieces on their roster, the Cavs organization has just not been able to successfully rebuild after the departure of LeBron James. So far, they are 0-2 and that trend should carry on throughout the year. Take Atlanta to cover and easily handle the Cavaliers.  

Heat (-4.5) @ Pacers
For this contest, Domantas Sabonis and the Indiana Pacers take on Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. According to oddsmakers, this is somewhat of an evenly matched game, with Miami as four-point road favorites. With Indiana being 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games at home, it makes sense that the Heat are favored slightly less than normal against a team of this stature. Nonetheless, the Pacers have had a less than ideal start to the season with their record at 0-2. Although they are one of the top scoring teams in the NBA, they also have one of the worst defenses, which is why they are middle of the road in the Eastern Conference. However, they have only lost by a combined 2 points in their losses, but they were up against lousy competition. They will have their toughest test in their upcoming date with the Heat. Miami is coming off a 137-95 blowout win over the defending champions in Milwaukee. With the addition of All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, the Heat seem like the title contenders they were in the bubble. This will be the Pacers third game in four days, whereas the Heat didn’t overplay anyone’s minutes in their destruction of the Bucks. I like the Heat to cover in this one on the road.

Suns (+2.5) @ Blazers
in this Western Conference matchup, Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns travel to Portland to face off against Damian Lillard and the Trailblazers. Despite reaching the NBA Finals last year, Phoenix comes into the match as two and a half-point road underdog. Both of these squads are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games. Following their 10-point victory over the LA Lakers, the Suns look like they haven’t missed a beat from their championship run in 2021. The backcourt tandem of Booker and CP3 looked as a strong as ever, with Paul’s 14 assists and Booker putting up nearly 25 points in the W. Although they lost the first game of the season, losses should be few and far between since the Suns are extremely well coached by their third-year man, Monty Williams. Contrarily, last off-season, Portland parted ways with their longtime coach Terry Stotts in a questionable front office move. While Damian Lillard is one of the best players in the NBA, this team has hit a wall and have seemingly already reached their peak, given their stagnant postseason performances. Take the Suns plus the points against Portland.  

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