NBA Predictions and Best Bets – January 1, 2021

| December 31, 2020 2:24 pm PDT

The 2020-21 NBA season has been one of the blowouts and underwhelming performances and has featured some teams that are, quite frankly, playing over their heads.

Will those hot starts fizzle out? Will struggling teams with big expectations start to round into form? Bettors need to keep that in mind as 2021 rolls in.

Before you decide how to bet, take a quick look at all the matchups for New Year’s Day.

  • Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks
  • Boston Celtics vs. Detroit Pistons
  • Memphis Grizzlies vs. Charlotte Hornets
  • Atlanta Hawks vs. Brooklyn Nets
  • Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks
  • Washington Wizards vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs
  • Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets
  • Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz
  • Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors

There are some pretty big games on the docket to kick-off 2021. Luka Doncic and the Mavs host the Heat and will try to avoid an ugly 1-4 start.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and Stephen Curry are all also slated to hit the hardwood as the NBA welcomes in the New Year.

There are a lot of games and a lot to keep tabs on, so dive into the madness with me for Friday’s NBA predictions and top betting picks.

Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks Predictions

  • Mavericks to beat Heat
  • Predicted total: 220-225

Jimmy Butler has been missing games, and when he’s out, the Heat are a total toss-up. Dallas, meanwhile, is impossible to peg, as they beat the Clippers by 50 and then lost every other game.

Their most recent gaffe was a blowout loss to the Hornets of all teams.

Miami might be the better team, but the Mavs still have Luka Doncic and are at home. I think they get things back on track with a much-needed win here.

Boston Celtics vs. Detroit Pistons Predictions

  • Celtics to beat Pistons
  • Predicted total: 215-220

Boston is the far better team, so it shouldn’t be going out on a limb to assume they go into Detroit and beat the Pistons.

Detroit could be in even bigger trouble than you’d first think, too, as big man Blake Griffin is in the concussion protocol after taking an elbow to the face.

Concussions aren’t one of the top 5 injuries that sideline NBA players, but they’re still not fun.

Even if Griffin is back in the saddle, the Celtics are a much more complete team and look like the easy pick here.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Charlotte Hornets Predictions

  • Hornets to beat Grizzlies
  • Predicted total: 225-230

Memphis heads to Charlotte on Friday for a game that may be tougher than advertised. Gordon Hayward has been playing very well, and the 2-2 Hornets are seemingly better than they’re supposed to be.

LaMelo Ball is starting to demand more minutes, too.

Normally the Grizzlies would have the edge, but they’re on the road and continue to be without Ja Morant (ankle). I like Charlotte and the Over here in a fun, up-tempo showdown.

Atlanta Hawks vs. Brooklyn Nets Predictions

  • Nets to beat Hawks
  • Predicted total: 230-235

Speaking of fun and up-tempo, we should have another barn burner on our hands when the Hawks visit the Nets at the Barclays Center.

Brooklyn won the first meeting in a wild 145-141 shootout, and something similar should follow.

I would still take the Nets and the Over here, but Atlanta ATS would obviously be tempting. Just check the final lineups before placing a bet, as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant remain at risk to rest.

Chicago Bulls vs. Milwaukee Bucks Predictions

  • Bucks to beat Bulls
  • Predicted total: 225-230

Giannis Antetokounmpo followed up a total demolition of the Heat with a loss to the same Miami team, and they’re now just 2-3 through five games.

I think part of that is the scheduling, as well as some new pieces coming together.

Even if those growing pains continue for a bit longer, I struggle to see how they’ll blow this home game against a young Bulls team.

Washington Wizards vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Predictions

  • Wizards to beat Timberwolves
  • Predicted total: 225-230

Washington has really had it bad early, but Russell Westbrook and co. at least push the pace and are fun to watch. 

I’m tentatively backing the Wiz here, but keep in mind Westbrook could always get a rest day after playing on Thursday.

Even if he’s out, I still like the Wizards. Minnesota will miss Karl-Anthony Towns for as long as he’s out, and this is just going to be a fast-paced affair with no defense. Bet on the Wiz and the Over.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. San Antonio Spurs Predictions

  • Lakers to beat Spurs
  • Predicted total: 220-225

The Spurs will try again as they host the Lakers for the second time in three days. They lost on Wednesday, but at least they made some nice history in the process.

LaMarcus Aldridge could be back for this second meeting, but I doubt his presence would change much. Beyond the Lakers resting their big guys, this one feels like a Lake Show win.

Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets Predictions

  • Nuggets to beat Suns
  • Predicted total: 215-220

This may be the most interesting game of the night. Chris Paul and co. could be a bit tired after facing Utah in Thursday’s nightcap, and instantly going to Denver won’t be easy.

Nikola Jokic is just playing at a phenomenal level right now, and I don’t think Phoenix can slow him down.

That and the Nuggets are still trying to dig themselves out of an early 0-3 hole. I think they continue doing that with a big home win here.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz Predictions

  • Clippers to beat Jazz
  • Predicted total: 215-220

The Clippers should be at full strength for this tilt in Utah, and I don’t see why Paul George or Kawhi Leonard would rest after not playing on Thursday.

L.A. could afford to take a break after a nice 4-1 start, but I think they just keep it going with the Pacific Division being so tight.

Playing in Utah won’t be easy, but they should be able to take advantage of a tired Jazz team that played on Thursday.

Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors Predictions

  • Warriors to beat Blazers
  • Predicted total: 230-235

Lastly, this could be one of the more entertaining NBA games on the slate, just because there should be next to no defense involved.

It features a very talented Portland team that will want to prove they’re among the elite, while Stephen Curry and co. share the same plight.

Neither probably are at this point, as both teams are giving up over 120 points per contest defensively. I love the Over, and with the Dubs being at home, I think they can squeak it out to get over .500.

Best NBA Bets for Friday, January 1st

  • Charlotte Hornets (-2) -110
  • Hawks (+5.5) -110
  • Warriors (+5) -110
  • Blazers vs. Warriors Over 231 (-110)

There isn’t a full string of NBA odds out as I write this, so go ahead and just work off of my NBA predictions and game breakdowns the best you can.

I still like a few bets that are out there, with the four listed above being my best NBA bets for Friday.

There’s a good chance you can welcome in the New Year with some winning wagers here. I broke down why I like the Hornets, while I think the Hawks and Dubs are strong ATS plays given the current lines.

My favorite bet of the slate is the Over in that Warriors game, though. Golden State and Portland are allowing over 240 points together, and they’re also putting up 222+ games together.

I don’t see much trouble in hammering that Over, especially when it feels like an easier task than the Hawks/Nets total (247.5!!).

Hopefully, these NBA picks serve you well. If you plan on betting on the NBA on New Year’s Day, just make sure you’re using the safest sports betting websites out there.

Noah Davis

Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.

When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.

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