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  • The Suns are 14th in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency over the last eight games. So, if the Magic are expecting a performance from a team with only eight wins, they better think again.
By Zachary Cohen
December 26, 2018

Over the last eight days, the Three at 3 is 17-6-1. Here are our top three plays for Wednesday night’s NBA action:

1. Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic (-4.0)

7:00 pm ET

In case you haven’t noticed, the Suns are no longer looking like the laughingstock of the NBA. Coming into this game, Phoenix has won four of its last six games, and the team has covered in seven of its last eight. In those eight games, the Suns are 14th in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’ve made a real commitment to get better on both ends of the floor, and it is showing. Meanwhile, over the last three seasons, Orlando is just 23-38 against the spread at home against teams that shoot 24 or more free throws per game. Nikola Vucevic isn’t much of a defender at center, and the Magic have quite a few defensive liabilities at forward as well. Jonathan Isaac is an exception, but he doesn’t get as much playing time as he probably should. The Magic are also a miserable 3-14 against the spread when playing as a home favorite over the last two seasons. Don’t expect that to change tonight, as both Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton should be able to have their way with Orlando. And the Magic lack the firepower to score with the Suns at the moment. Over the same eight-game stretch that saw Phoenix find its way, Orlando is last in the league in offensive efficiency rating.

Pick: Suns (+4.0)

2. Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs (-3.0)

8:30 pm ET

Over the last two seasons, the Spurs are 20-9 against the spread in home games against teams with winning records. San Antonio is also 11-3 against the spread when facing teams that shoot at least 46.0% from the floor. Head coach Gregg Popovich knows how to get the best out of his team, especially against good competition. The Spurs have also found their rhythm in recent weeks. Coming into this contest, San Antonio is 7-2 both straight up and against the spread in its last nine games. DeMar DeRozan has played some smart basketball as of late. He is letting the game come to him, and that has resulted in his shooting at least 50.0% from the floor in four straight games. Meanwhile, Rudy Gay is playing arguably the most effective basketball of his career right now, and LaMarcus Aldridge has found his game after a poor start to the season. On the other side of the floor, Denver is definitely a bit vulnerable right now. Without Gary Harris and Paul Millsap, the team is good enough to win some big games at home. But asking them to go and win in San Antonio is a stretch. It would take a masterful performance from both Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic to pull off this upset, and it’s hard to imagine them both going off.

Pick: Spurs (-3.0)

3. New Orleans Pelicans at Dallas Mavericks (-2.0)

8:30 pm ET

Both the Pelicans and the Mavericks are struggling coming into this game. New Orleans enters having lost four games in a row, and Dallas has lost six straight. But the Mavericks actually played well in back-to-back losses to the Warriors and Blazers to end a four-game road trip, and they have to be feeling good about their chances here. Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis obviously present major problems for Dallas, but the Mavs are better at every other position. DeAndre Jordan’s ability to control the glass and protect the rim will make things a tougher on Davis. Jordan gets up for big games and will look forward to the opportunity to shut down a strong interior offense. Dallas's Luka Doncic will be the second-best player on the court, and his ability to do everything will make it hard for the Pelicans to prepare. It doesn’t hurt that the Pelicans are 0-7 against the spread when coming off back-to-back road losses this season, and the Mavericks are 7-0 against the spread in home games with a line of +3 to -3 on the year.

Pick: Mavericks (-2.0)