- First place in the Western Conference is on the line tonight when the Warriors visit the Nuggets.
After a solid 2-1 night on Monday, Three at 3 has picks for some of Tuesday night's most interesting games.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves at Philadelphia 76ers (-6)
7:00 pm ET
When the 76ers host the Wolves on Tuesday, it will be Jimmy Butler's first game against Minnesota since the team traded him in November. Does Butler seem like the type of guy to hold a grudge against his previous team? Of course he does: In his lone game against Chicago last season, he took a season-high 26 shots and scored 38 points, one shy of his season high.
The Wolves, however, lost that game 114-113 as a 7.5-point favorite—with Butler giving himself the green light, star center Karl-Anthony Towns took only eight shots. When Minnesota played Chicago again two weeks later, Butler was out with an injury, and the Wolves ran away with a 122-104 win. So while Butler will undoubtedly come out with intensity tonight, bettors should recognize that such a mentality doesn't necessarily translate to a strong performance for his team as a whole.
Pick: Timberwolves +6
2. Oklahoma City Thunder at Atlanta Hawks (+8.5)
The Thunder snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday, getting an encouraging 122-112 home win over the Spurs (OKC -6) only two days after having lost a 154-147 overtime thriller in San Antonio (SAS +1.5) only two days earlier.
After twice doing battle with a Western Conference rival and potential first-round playoff opponent twice in three days, the Thunder will have had two days off—they're 6-2 ATS on two days rest this season—before playing in Atlanta tonight. The Hawks are only 6-12 against the spread at home this season (as opposed to 13-12 ATS on the road), and were deeply outclassed in their previous meeting with the Thunder this season, losing 124-109 in Oklahoma City on Nov. 30 (OKC -13). Atlanta rookie point guard Trae Young can struggle at times against larger backcourts, and that was certainly the case in November when he scored nine points on 4-of-15 shooting against the Thunder's lengthy guards. Expect Young, and the Hawks along with him, to be outplayed once again this evening.
Pick: Thunder -8.5
3. Golden State Warriors at Denver Nuggets (+1)
It's tempting to talk yourself into the Warriors "getting up" for high-profile games. Sometimes they do, like when they won by 10 in Milwaukee on Dec. 7. But since then, they've also lost to Toronto at home (Dec. 12), lost to Utah on the road (Dec. 19), lost to the Lakers by 20 at home on Christmas and lost in overtime in Houston (Jan. 3). This is admittedly an exercise in cherry picking, but it's not to say that the Warriors are less likely to show up in big games—just that assuming they'll always step up against great teams is misguided.
Denver is 18-3 at home this season (14-7 ATS), and 2-0 straight up as a home underdog, including a 100-98 win over Golden State back in October (DEN +4.5). The Nuggets also boast a home net rating of 11.4, the second-best such mark in the NBA. As good of an interior defender as Draymond Green is, neither he nor anyone else currently playing for the Warriors can match up with enormous Denver center Nikola Jokic, who should lead the way for the Nuggets tonight.
Pick: Nuggets +1
Overall Record: 102-81-4