NBA Three at 3: Best Bets for Friday, January 7

By Zachary Cohen
Nets star James Harden
Nets star James Harden should have a big game against the Bucks.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA's Friday slate for January 7 is one of the best ones of the season, with ESPN televising a doubleheader that features the Brooklyn Nets hosting the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks heading to California for a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers. Keep reading for our three best bets of the night: 

1. Bucks at Nets - The Nets will be without Kyrie Irving in home games for the foreseeable future, but the Bucks are going to be missing Jrue Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo, Pat Connaughton, Brook Lopez, George Hill and Grayson Allen tonight. That's six legitimate rotation players for a Milwaukee team that just doesn't have the depth to account for those losses right now. Meanwhile, with Irving out, the Nets can give James Harden the freedom to play the type of basketball that helped him win MVP awards in Houston. Harden is at his best when he has that type of usage, and the Bucks aren't going to have some of their top perimeter defenders out there to stop him. With that in mind, the star should turn in a ridiculous offensive effort in this game. And while he does so, Kevin Durant will also be looking to out-duel Giannis Antetokounmpo. Durant has always taken this matchup a little more seriously than others, and tonight should be no different. For good measure, the Bucks happen to be 0-4 against the spread in their last four games as road underdogs. 

THE PICK: Nets -4.5

2. Kings at Nuggets - Over the last two seasons, the Kings are 15-26 against the spread when coming off a non-conference game. The team has also lost three of its last four games coming into this one, and the Kings failed to cover in all three of those losses. The Nuggets, meanwhile, played well in a loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday and will now be looking to cruise to a win over an inferior opponent in this one. With Richaun Holmes out for Sacramento, look for Nikola Jokic to absolutely dominate this game in the paint. The Kings would normally have something of an answer for him, but that won't be the case in this one. And Denver's rotation is also starting to get a bit better, with players recovering from illnesses and injuries. Since Mike Malone became the head coach of the Nuggets, his team is 13-3 against the spread when coming off a home loss against a division rival. Malone has been out with COVID-19 recently, but that doesn't change the way his team prepares for games. 

THE PICK: Nuggets -7.5 

3. Hawks at Lakers - The Lakers have been playing some good basketball as of late, as they are winners of four of their last five. LeBron James has been on a tear for Los Angeles heading into this meeting with Atlanta and he should be able to lead his squad to a victory here. LeBron has scored 31 or more points in eight of his last nine games, and he has also gotten help from former Kentucky star Malik Monk. Monk has been a revelation for the Lakers this season and he comes into this game after having scored at least 20 points in four of his last six games. Don't be surprised if that duo gets hot in a meeting with one of the league's worst defenses. It also doesn't hurt that Russell Westbrook's competitive drive will have him eager to hold his own in a matchup with Trae Young. The Lakers are 8-2 straight-up and 6-4 against the spread in their last 10 games against the Hawks. They're also facing an Atlanta team that is 0-6 against the spread in its last six games following a straight-up win.  

THE PICK: Lakers -2.5

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