The next James Harden era begins in earnest on tonight as the Los Angeles Clippers head to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks. What version of Harden turns up, and how will he fit into an already overstuffed Clippers starting lineup, are just two of the many questions facing Ty Lue as he draws up battle plans to take on a slumping Knicks team.
In theory, the Knicks’ strength this season was their continuity, but their style of play so far has little in common with the team that managed the second-best offense in the NBA last season. NBA odds have this one as a virtual pick ‘em, and with both teams rested and largely healthy, this should be a competitive game.
Our NBA picks for Clippers vs. Knicks zeroes in on Julius Randle and his abysmal start to the 2023-24 campaign.
Clippers vs Knicks odds
Clippers vs Knicks predictions
The New York Knicks came into this season with more warranted optimism than in any season since Patrick Ewing wore orange and blue. The team had not only made the playoffs, but they dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers in a five-game series last season before succumbing in six games to a Miami Heat team that ultimately went to the Finals.
They had a budding All-NBA caliber guard in Jalen Brunson, who proved he’s a big-game player when the chips were down. Immanuel Quickley emerged as a perennial Sixth Man of the Year odds candidate. And their bruising, low turnover style had seen them put together one of the league's best offenses despite a serious lack of shooting.
But that optimism was always tempered by one nagging thought. Julius Randle has been a rollercoaster player for the Knicks since his arrival in the Big Apple. He’s been All-NBA in two of his last three seasons, but each selection was preceded by some of the most abjectly poor basketball any Knicks fan has ever been subjected to.
It seemed that with Brunson’s arrival, those ocean-floor lows were a thing of the past. Brunson’s ability to be the team's mental, emotional, and vocal leader took the pressure off Randle and allowed him to just play his game. The Knicks hoped last year was the new normal.
So far, instead, it’s been the nightmare scenario. Randle is not just off to a poor start this season, he’s off to the worst shooting start by any high-volume player in nearly 40 years. He’s currently shooting 30.4% from two, 22.5% from three, and 61.8% from the free-throw line.
He is scoring 72.6 points per 100 shot attempts per Cleaning the Glass, by far the worst mark of any player in the NBA so far this season. As a 6-foot-8 power forward with the muscle to match, he is somehow shooting just 17% at the rim.
There are possible explanations. Randle wasn’t able to do his normal offseason routine as he recovered from a serious ankle surgery. But on the court, his mental game is once again coming unraveled, just as it did in years past when Knicks seasons went sideways.
Monday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers does Randle no favors. The Clippers are rested and fully stocked, and barring any funny business, Randle’s primary defender will be Kawhi Leonard.
Leonard has lost a step since his Defensive Player of the Year days, but he is the perfect combination of strength, length, and smarts to frustrate Randle. And when Randle gets frustrated early in a game, he almost never recovers.
Randle is averaging just 13.7 points this season, and it’s not just because he’s missing. His process is broken. He’s taking more long twos and fewer threes and shots at the rim than last year. Until Randle looks right for a few games in a row, I’ll be backing the Under.
My best bet: Julius Randle Under 18.5 points (-106 at FanDuel)
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Clippers vs Knicks same-game parlay
Julius Randle Under 18.5 points
Jalen Brunson Over 24.5 points
Russell Westbrook Under 13.5 points
For Monday’s same-game parlay, I’ve gone with all scoring props. I believe Russell Westbrook will join Randle in going Under his scoring total, and I believe Brunson will continue to pick up the slack as Randle searches for rhythm.
Westbrook was having quite a nice season this year, a continuation of his strong play down the stretch for the Clippers last season. He was largely playing within himself. His 24% usage so far this season would be the lowest of his career. And as a result, he’s been much more efficient.
It almost feels like a cruel joke, then, that after Westbrook has finally made the necessary sacrifices to be a positive player at this stage of his career he’s now going to cede the starting point guard role to James Harden.
Harden and Westbrook are like matter and anti-matter as far as a backcourt pairing — their skills are duplicative and they do nothing for each other as off-ball players. With Harden eager to reestablish his value and reputation after a long offseason of drama, Westbrook’s role on the team is sure to diminish.
Brunson, for his part, finally broke out last game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite shooting just 2-for-8 from three, he totaled 45 points on 56.7% from the field. The weird difficulties he had with his floater to open the season appear to be gone. With a few days of rest under his belt and a favorable defensive matchup with either Westbrook or Harden, I’m expecting Jalen to produce.
Learn how to bet a same-Game parlay with these helpful tips and strategies.
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Clippers vs Knicks spread and Over/Under analysis
Perhaps because of the confirmation that Harden would officially be making his Clippers debut, tonight's line has moved from Clippers +1.5 to -1.5.
While both teams are coming off rest, the Clippers stand to benefit significantly more. The Knicks haven’t played since Friday, but L.A. has been off since Wednesday. That means the Clippers come into the game with a full four days off. For a team of older veterans like L.A., that rest and recovery time is massive.
That has also allowed them some practice reps to get Harden integrated into the mix. This collection of Clippers players is the ultimate test of the “there’s only one ball” theory of team building, particularly as Westbrook is going to start alongside Harden in the backcourt.
The fit and spacing there could be ugly, but they’re also going to have oodles of playmaking and four guys who can make stuff happen when the ball is in their hands.
The Knicks are more difficult to figure out. The bones of a quality team are clearly in there, but they’ve yet to show any consistency to this point. Their against-the-spread record being 2-2-2 illustrates this almost too perfectly. The Clippers, for their part, are 3-2 ATS, though they did actually cover against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, depending on the Sportsbook.
Tonight's total has held steady between 226 and 226.5. The Knicks have flipped the script from a season ago so far, going from elite offense and middling defense to just the opposite. They’re fifth-best defense per Cleaning the Glass and a ghastly 28th on offense.
They simply cannot hit shots even when they generate good ones, and Randle's poor play has seen their foul drawing plummet and turnovers skyrocket. Those were how the Knicks routinely won the possession Game last season, and without them, they’re going to play in many more low-scoring Games. So far, the Under is 5-1 in Knicks Games this season.
With Harden in the fold, the Clippers' No.3 defense likely takes a hit. But perhaps not as big of one as expected. Yes, Harden is a sieve everywhere outside of the post, but the Knicks love to post up smaller players.
Harden is fine with those situations. I’m also expecting him to be on his best behavior during this honeymoon period and I believe he’ll put his best foot forward on the defensive end of the ball as well. I’d lean Under at 226.5.
Clippers vs Knicks betting trend to know
The Under has cashed in five of the Knicks' last six games. Find more NBA betting trends for Clippers vs Knicks.
Clippers vs Knicks game info
|Location:||Madison Square Garden, New York, NY|
|Date:||Monday, November 6, 2023|
|Tip-off:||7:30 p.m. ET|
|TV:||Bally Sports SoCal, MSG|
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