Fantasy basketball tips and NBA betting picks for Thursday

ESPN's fantasy basketball and basketball betting tips cheat sheet is your pregame destination for basketball betting predictions and our best intel and data, featuring ESPN's proprietary Basketball Power Index (BPI) to help you make smart fantasy and wagering decisions. NBA game odds for Thursday, March 30 are provided by Caesars Sportsbook, and fantasy advice is based on ESPN 10-team leagues.

What you need to know for Thursday's games

A two-game Thursday slate features a pair of critical conference showdowns. Daily fantasy gamers will need to figure out who to roster between Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, and Nikola Jokic as building blocks, but thankfully there are several standout "glue" guys active tonight to help flesh out lineups.

If you are trying to navigate this limited player pool for DFS tournaments or need some solid streaming options to gain extra games in the fantasy playoffs in redraft, turn to Bruce Brown and Trey Murphy III. Both remain widely available in free agency in ESPN leagues and project for at least five fantasy points per $1,000 of salary on DraftKings (a strong measure of value).

Brown has exceeded value based on DraftKings pricing in five of his past six games and is the type of player who can deliver fun fantasy results even without scoring much. Jones Murphy is emerging as the embodiment of the 3-and-D archetype, having made 19 3-pointers over his past four games to go with 11 combined blocks and steals.

Enjoy the marquee matchups tonight and don't forget about the connective role players capable of carrying you during a shallow schedule.

-- Jim McCormick

Games of the night

Boston Celtics at Milwaukee Bucks
7:30 p.m. ET, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Records (Against the Spread)
Celtics: 52-24 (40-35-1)
Bucks: 55-21 (40-30-6)

Line: Bucks (-2.5)
BPI Projection: Celtics (131.3-129.7)
Money Line: Celtics (+118), Bucks (-140)
BPI Projected winner: Celtics (55.5%)
Total: 237.5 points BPI Projected Total: 261 points

Injury Report:
Celtics: Grant Williams, (GTD - Illness); Payton Pritchard, (GTD - Heel); Robert Williams III, (GTD - Knee); Danilo Gallinari, (OUT - Knee)
Bucks: Jae Crowder, (GTD - Calf); Khris Middleton, (GTD - Knee); Meyers Leonard, (GTD - Calf)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Best bet: Giannis Antetokounmpo over 43.5 points + rebounds. Antetokounmpo should deliver for bettors as the Bucks battle the Celtics for the No. 1 seed. The last 12 games Antetokounmpo has faced the Celtics in the regular-season and playoffs he's averaged 32.1 points and 13.0 rebounds. -- Moody

Best bet: Jrue Holiday over 17.5 points. Holiday erupted for 51 points against woeful Indiana on Wednesday, but it was actually his first 20-point game since March 4. The reason to like the over here is that in two prior games this season against the Celtics, Holiday scored 63 points. It's a big game, one that can cement the top East seed, and look for Holiday to play aggressively. -- Eric Karabell

Trend: Milwaukee laying points on the second night of a back-to-back against an elite opponent after giving up 136 points to the Pacers (the Tyrese Haliburton-less Pacers nonetheless) may not feel like the right side, but there are a few trends working in favor of the home team. The Bucks are nearly perfect on zero days rest this season (9-1-1 ATS) and are a strong 13-7-3 ATS when the projected total pushes over 231 points, a spot in which the C's struggle (9-12-1 ATS). Boston is a sub-.500 ATS team on the road this season and has failed to cover four of their past five games against teams currently in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets
10 p.m. ET, Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado

Records (Against the Spread)
Pelicans: 38-38 (36-39-1)
Nuggets: 51-24 (40-34-1)

Line: Nuggets (-6.5)
BPI Projection: Nuggets (131.3-124)
Money Line: Pelicans (+210), Nuggets (-260)
BPI Projected winner: Nuggets (69.6%)
Total: 227 points BPI Projected Total: 253.5 points

Injury Report:
Pelicans: Jose Alvarado, (OUT - Leg); Zion Williamson, (OUT - Hamstring); E.J. Liddell, (OUT - Knee)
Nuggets: Nikola Jokic, (GTD - Calf); Peyton Watson, (GTD - Illness); Vlatko Cancar, (GTD - Ankle); Jack White, (OUT - General Soreness)
Note: BPI numbers factor players who are ruled out but assumes GTD players will play

Fantasy streamer: Trey Murphy III (rostered in 41.8% of ESPN leagues) has scored 39 or more fantasy points in three of his four games. He's a reliable source of points and triples and even provides some steals and blocks. Murphy III is well positioned to have another productive game against the Nuggets on Thursday. -- Eric Moody

Fantasy streamer: Herbert Jones (rostered in 32.3% of ESPN leagues) tallied 37 fantasy points in Tuesday's loss to the Warriors, and while he can be a bit hit-or-miss in fantasy, he had a huge game the last time he faced the Nuggets, scoring 21 points and adding 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals. He may not get many shots, but he will play minutes and get steals. -- Eric Karabell

Best bet: Brandon Ingram over 37.5 points + assists + rebounds. Ingram has surpassed 37.5 PAR in four consecutive games. With the Pelicans in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture, Ingram should deliver for bettors on Thursday night. -- Moody

Trend: I could tell you that the Nuggets are 7-4-1 ATS in their past 12 at home or that the Pelicans are 2-6 ATS in their past eight as a road underdog or that the they are 4-7 ATS on the road since Valentine's Day. All of those would work and be fine trends to follow. But how about the fact that New Orleans has covered three of 20 games when getting more than three points. Three. Of twenty. Yikes.