Fading an ice-cold NBA team and heading Down Under for some tennis: Best Bets for Jan. 20

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Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during his second round match against Enzo Couacaud of France at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.

Here are our best bets for Friday, Jan. 20:

TOP PLAY

The play: NBA, Jazz -7.5 vs. Nets

The odds: -112

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: 9 p.m. (NBA League Pass)

Our take: There’s no doubt we’ve been on a bad streak with our best bets this week, so what better way to snap out of it than to pick another team in a cold spell, the Brooklyn Nets! (Insert hand-shaking meme here.)

Kevin Durant injured his knee in the Nets’ 102-101 win over the Miami Heat on Jan. 8. Since then, Brooklyn has lost four straight, the last three against teams with losing records, including a 106-98 loss to the 14-31 San Antonio Spurs. The truth is, this is not at all a deep team, and without their star in Durant, they don’t have the firepower to make up for it.

To wit: In last night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns (a team also without its stars), the Nets started two players who average less than 10 points per game for their careers and gave significant minutes to two others who are between 10 and 11. The result was that Kyrie Irving felt obligated to take 27 shots, made only 11 of them and Brooklyn fell behind early before failing to complete a late rally.

Now the Nets must travel and suit up right away against Utah, a team that’s 15-8 at home and isn’t the opponent you want in the second half of a back-to-back. The Jazz are much deeper than Brooklyn and play at 4,200 feet elevation. In fact, if Utah gets out to a lead here, there’s a decent chance Brooklyn waves the white flag and gets Irving, Nic Claxton and other key players some rest.

PARLAY DOWN UNDER

The play: Australian Open tennis money-line parlay, Tommy Paul over Jenson Brooksby/Novak Djokovic over Grigor Dimitrov

The odds: -109

The book: FanDuel Sportsbook

Time/TV: Paul vs. Brooksby approx. 10:30 p.m.; Djokovic-Dimitrov approx. 3 a.m. Saturday (whip-around coverage on ESPN2 begins at 9 p.m.)

Our take: Don’t look now (and you probably haven’t, considering most matches are in the middle of the night), but American men’s tennis is making a comeback Down Under in the first week of this year’s Australian Open. Eight American men reached the final 32 of the tournament, with one already advancing to the round of 16 and two others guaranteed because of USA vs. USA matchups.

One of those pits is Tommy Paul against Jenson Brooksby, who pulled off a stunner in the second round by beating No. 2 seed Casper Ruud of Norway. The temptation is to think Brooksby had a career breakthrough in that match — after which Ruud memorably called him “annoyingly good” — but it’s much more likely that he’ll suffer a letdown first. That’s what happened to another American, MacKenzie McDonald, who stunned Rafael Nadal in the second round only to lose his next match in straight sets to No. 31 Yoshihito Nishioka.

In this case, Paul lacks the high-profile upset (at least this year; he beat Nadal himself last season) but is the higher-ranked player and beat Brooksby in straight sets in their only previous meeting. We’ll back Paul to reach the round of 16 here. You can find him as low as -135 on the money line, but we’ll throw in Novak Djokovic — always a sure bet at the Australian Open — to top Grigor Dimitrov in a parlay that pays just better than even money.

HOW WE’VE FARED

Thursday’s best bets

NBA: Blazers money line over 76ers (LOST)

NBA: Damian Lillard OVER 31.5 points (LOST)

Thursday’s record: 0-2

Total for the week: 0-7

Total for January: 17-19

Total for 2023: 17-19

NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)

Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, a $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).

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