NBA Thursday first basket best bets: McCollum on call from the start

CJ McCollum of the New Orleans Pelicans
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports -- just about any and all you can think of! -- and coaching tennis in Atlanta, GA. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me. For Ricky Dimon media enquiries, please email
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The NCAA Tournament is in full swing and resumes on Thursday with Sweet 16 action, but don’t forget about the NBA. With the regular season coming down the home stretch, games are only increasing in importance. It’s a great time for sports bettors, and we will whet those appetites with first basket best bets on Thursday night.

Let’s take a look at 2 of the best plays for today’s 5-game schedule.

Pacers vs Grizzlies: Steven Adams +650

The Grizzlies can be expected to have the first possession in their home date with the Pacers on Thursday. In fact, Memphis is pretty much always favored to win the tip. Steven Adams is the best in the business when it comes to jump balls, having won 65 of 85 this season (76.5 percent). He will be going up against Indiana’s Goga Bitadze, for whom it has been a bit of a tougher go in the circle in 2021-22. Bitadze has jumped only 18 times, so the sample size is small – but also not encouraging, as 8 successes gives him a rate of 44.4 percent.

Needless to say, the tipoff is the most important factor that should be looked at when deciding on first-basket bets. Obviously, players on whichever team gains possession are going to have by far the best opportunities. At +650 (4th-favorite), Adams himself has good value to capitalize on his own dominance in the tipoff department. The Pacers are atrocious at defending down low; they have surrendered the 5th-most points in the paint in 2021-22 (50.8 ppg) and have been even worse over their last 3 contests (54.0 ppg). Adams scored 13 points when these 2 teams went head-to-head last Thursday, including… you guessed it… the first basket.

Be sure to check out our full game preview for Indiana Pacers vs Memphis Grizzlies

Bulls vs Pelicans: CJ McCollum +500

This Bulls-Pelicans matchup is another case of the tipoff being a key component. Jonas Valanciunas will be lining up for New Orleans and although he is no Adams (for whom he was traded in the offseason), he is at least better than Chicago’s Nikola Vucevic. Valanciunas comes in at 54.9 percent (45 won, 37 lost). Vucevic is a pedestrian 41.0 percent (32 won, 46 lost).

If the Pelicans gain possession, don’t be surprised if McCollum is the beneficiary. The newcomer to New Orleans has scored at least 20 points in 14 of 16 games with the Pels – including 8 in a row. During this 8-game streak, he has produced at least 24 points (more than his 22.3 ppg season average) on 6 occasions. The former Lehigh star is playing with a ton of confidence right now, and that could show up early against the Bulls.

Check out all of our NBA previews for Thursday

If you want to go really big, an Adams-McCollum parlay pays out at +4400!

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