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Ja Morant scored 34 points and hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in his return, while Steph Curry’s late moon shot helped the Golden State Warriors beat the Boston Celtics in overtime.
Embiid is playing outstanding basketball, but he’s also done a great job stat-padding against terrible teams (40 points per game in December). All of his last seven games were played against bottom-five teams in the Eastern Conference, but on Wednesday, he’ll face a Minnesota Timberwolves team that has the best defensive rating and overall record in the NBA.
Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns anchor the Wolves’ D. Gobert allows the worst field goal percentage amongst starting centers, while the Wolves as a team allow the lowest field goal percentage period. They’re also only 11th in fouls per game and will limit Embiid’s trips to the free-throw line, even if he played well against them last year.
Young is on a complete tear, averaging 31.4 points and 11.9 assists on 43.2% three-point shooting in December. But despite that, the Hawks find themselves at 11-15 and on the outside looking in at the postseason based on the current standings.
Young is facing a Houston Rockets team that is 11-1 at home and second in defensive rating but is willing to play straight-up on everyone without sending much help or heavily rotating. They also allow the fewest points in transition (regular and per 100 possessions), which means Young won’t find many opportunities for throw-aheads and will have to handle the scoring load mostly by himself.
Poeltl has a distinct advantage going against Nikola Jokic. As amazing as The Joker is on offense, he’s only 24th amongst centers with at least 10 starts in defensive field goal percentage allowed. Meanwhile, Poeltl leads the league in field goal percentage (73.4%), which puts him in a favorable position heading into Wednesday’s encounter.
Poeltl only managed four points in 15 minutes against the Hornets in his last outing—however, the Nuggets are 19th in points in the paint allowed per 100 possessions, which is exactly where Poeltl does his scoring. He also went over in three straight games before Monday and should start a new streak of overs before it's all said and done on Wednesday.
The Brooklyn Nets have not done a good job defending point guards recently. In their last five games, they allowed Collin Sexton to score 27, Steph Curry to score 37, Jamal Murray to score 16, Devin Booker to score 34, and De’Aaron Fox to score 29. That’s a combined average of 28.6 points per game allowed to opposing point guards over their last five.
Brunson scored 29 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday and put up 50 against the Suns two games before that. He had a streak of unders just before that but should take advantage of a Nets team that isn’t defending well, especially with his improved three-point shooting (46%).
Turner only made two threes once in his last five games, yet we think he’ll have a strong day against the Charlotte Hornets. Because of injuries, Charlotte has been forced to downsize, which means that the 7-footer should have smaller defenders closing out to him on his pick-and-pops.
Tyrese Haliburton is also struggling from long range (31.6% over his last six games) and hasn’t been taking as many threes as he was earlier in the year, which means more scoring opportunities for his teammates. Haliburton's assists have also stayed steady (12.2 per game in December) and shouldn’t be negatively affected by a Hornets’ D that is 28th in defensive rating.
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