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All but two teams have made their first appearances of the 2023-24 NBA season. On Thursday, the remaining two—the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers—will take the court in the early game before the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns close the night out.
The Bucks are co-championship favorites following their offseason acquisition of Damian Lillard, while the Sixers are dealing with the fallout from the ongoing James Harden saga. Then later, the Lakers and Suns will introduce another chapter of the legendary LeBron James-Kevin Durant rivalry.
Here are our favorite prop bets and betting picks from the two matchups on Thursday evening.
Lillard admitted that he’ll be playing with more space than he’s ever experienced because of the gravity of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s the second-best long-range shooter in the world behind only Steph Curry and often performs when the lights are the brightest, and we expect him to ingratiate himself with Bucks fans with a strong evening.
Lillard didn’t shoot the ball well in the preseason but got a good amount of minutes under his belt and will be ready to roll. There’s a chance he’s timid and defaults to his more established teammates, but all it takes is one early shot to go through for him to get hot.
Say what you want about Harden at this stage of his career, but he led the league in assists last year, and his absence will be noticeable in the Sixers offense. Expect them to look disjointed in parts without their best playmaker on the court, and also for more shots to end up off the mark simply because backup Patrick Beverley is not the same shooter Harden is.
All of these missed shots and wasted possessions will lead to rebounding opportunities, which benefits Giannis. He averaged 11.8 boards per game last year and will have more energy to expend on the glass thanks to Lillard sharing the scoring responsibilities.
Embiid averaged 6.4 assists per game in 15 regular-season games without Harden last year and will need to be a playmaker again on Thursday. He also has direct matchups with Brook Lopez and Giannis, two elite rim protectors, which will force him to turn down usual shot opportunities.
We don’t think the Sixers’ offense will score a ton of points, but Embiid will attract the majority of the Bucks’ defense’s attention, which should leave his teammates wide open. He had 8+ assists in two of four games against Milwaukee last year (and went over 4.5 in three of four), and we like him to continue the trend.
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While this line doesn’t have the best standalone value, it’s still one that has a strong chance to hit. The veteran wing made four of six triples in his Lakers debut on Tuesday, racking up 18 points in 30 minutes.
Prince is a career 37.3% three-point shooter and made more than 38% of his attempts with the Minnesota Timberwolves a year ago. He’s the only true knockdown, high-volume three-point shooter in the Lakers’ starting five, and he’s going against a Suns defense that does not have any true perimeter defenders.
LeBron was noticeably upset with his lack of minutes and the Lakers’ usage of him in the season opener. He still scored 21 points on an efficient 62.5% shooting and should have his fingerprints more on this game.
Despite being nearly 39 years old, LeBron was +7, while the Lakers were -19 when he was off the court on Tuesday. Josh Okogie can’t and Durant won’t want to guard him, and it feels like a night where he’ll voice his frustrations via the box score.
Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.
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