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Thursday's NBA Action

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DALLAS MAVERICKS (30-33) at SAN ANTONIO SPURS (49-16)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: San Antonio -7.5 & 206
 
The red-hot Mavericks try to avoid a season sweep from a Tony Parker-less Spurs team on Thursday night when they make the short trip to AT&T Center.
 
Dallas has won four straight games (3-1 ATS), including the first three contests of its road trip that concludes on Thursday. The Mavs have scored 100+ points in all four victories, averaging 107.3 PPG on 50.4% FG (42% threes) during the win surge. San Antonio has been wildly inconsistent since its star point guard Parker suffered a knee injury on March 1. After winning three in a row, the Spurs lost by 30 at home to Portland, beat Oklahoma City by 12 and then got crushed by 24 points in Minnesota in their most recent game on Tuesday. San Antonio has dominated this series in the past three seasons with a 9-2 ATS mark (8-3 SU) including 4-1 (SU and ATS) against the Mavs at home. This includes a 3-0 (SU and ATS) record this season with the Spurs winning 129-91 in the lone meeting in San Antonio on Dec. 23, and then prevailing in Dallas by 25 points on Dec. 30 and by six points on Jan. 25. But the last time the Mavs were swept in this season series was 15 years ago, way back in 1997-98.
 
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Dallas continues to produce big offensive numbers with 101.4 PPG (7th in NBA) on 45.7% FG (10th in league) and 37.1% threes (8th in NBA). But its defense ranks 4th-worst in the league with 102.3 PPG allowed despite respectable numbers of giving up just 44.4% FG and 36.1% threes. Much of this has to do with a soft interior that ranks 3rd-worst in the NBA with a minus-3.3 RPG margin. However, the team has made a bigger commitment on the boards recently, outrebounding its past two opponents by +9.0 RPG. PF Dirk Nowitzki (16.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG) has been red-hot during the team's season-high-tying win streak with 17.3 PPG (52% FG) and 8.0 RPG in the four games. However, Nowitzki has been subpar in the season series with a mere 10.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG in the three meetings with the Spurs. SG Vince Carter (13.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG) has also played outstanding recently with six straight double-figure scoring games in March (17.2 PPG on 57% FG), which includes 22.5 PPG (8-of-11 threes) in his past two contests. Carter has 14.3 PPG on 53% FG in three meetings with San Antonio this season. SG O.J. Mayo (17.2 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.7 RPG) has been quiet in the season series (9.7 PPG on 38% FG), but has a well-rounded 15.3 PPG, 5.3 APG and 4.0 RPG in March. PG Darren Collison (12.2 PPG, 5.3 APG) has shot lights-out against the Spurs this season (15.3 PPG on 63% FG), but has struggled to score during the four-game win streak with a mere 8.8 PPG on 10-of-32 shooting (31%). The Mavs could be without SF Shawn Marion (11.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG), who has missed three straight games with a contusion in his left calf. Marion has been dreadful against the Spurs though, making just 3-of-16 shots in the season series.
 
The Spurs offense continues to roll with 104.4 PPG (4th in NBA) on 48.7% FG (2nd in league) and 38.0% threes (4th in NBA). Defensively, San Antonio is also better than most, allowing 96.3 PPG (11th in league) on 44.0% FG (8th in NBA) and 33.7% threes (4th in league). The Spurs have been nearly impossible to beat at AT&T Center this season, where they are 26-4 SU (17-11-2 ATS), including a 22-2 SU mark in the past 24 home tilts. Their poor showing in Minnesota on Tuesday had a lot to do with the absence of big men PF Tim Duncan (16.6 PPG, 9.6 RPG) and SF Kawhi Leonard (11.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG), who were left home as they deal with sore knees. Both players are listed as questionable for Thursday. Without the two starting forwards against the Wolves, the Spurs shot 35.4% FG and turned the ball over 17 times. SG Manu Ginobili (12.4 PPG, 4.5 APG) must play better for the Spurs to win, as he has shot a paltry 33% FG (3-for-15 threes) in his past three games. Ginobili has also been off the mark against Dallas this season with just 8.7 PPG on 44% FG, but has added 5.0 APG in the season series. SG Danny Green (10.7 PPG) has been outstanding versus the Mavs though, with 14.7 PPG on 62% FG. He's also shot 52% FG and 52% threes in the month of March. C Tiago Splitter (10.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG) had a huge night in Monday's win over Oklahoma City with 21 points (9-of-11 FG) and 10 rebounds, but was held to four points on 1-of-10 shooting in Tuesday's defeat. He's been solid versus Dallas this season though, with 10.3 PPG (53% FG) and 8.3 RPG in the three meetings.
 
 
NEW YORK KNICKS (38-24) at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (29-34)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Portland -3.5 & 194.5
 
Both the injury-riddled Knicks and struggling Trail Blazers will be looking to avoid a three-game losing streak when the two square off in Portland on Thursday night. New York star SF Carmelo Anthony will not play in this game, as he flew back to Manhattan to undergo more tests on his sore knee.
 
The Knicks are coming off of two embarrassing performances to start their road trip, falling 92-63 at Golden State on Monday, and then losing 117-94 at Denver on Wednesday. The Blazers, on the other hand, have at least been competitive in their two most recent losses, losing by a total of seven points in defeats at New Orleans and home against Memphis. When the two teams met in New York on New Year's Day, the 9.5-point underdog Blazers shot 51% FG and won 105-100. The Knicks three best frontcourt players are all battling knee injuries with Anthony (45 points in last meeting with Portland) and PF Amar'e Stoudemire both out, and C Tyson Chandler questionable after leaving Wednesday's game with a knee contusion as a result of a collision with Denver's Corey Brewer. The Blazers also have some injury woes, but they expect that both SF Nicolas Batum (wrist) and PF LaMarcus Aldridge (migraines) will be starting on Thursday. Batum scored 26 points in the New Year's Day win at Madison Square Garden.
 
While it was horrible shooting (27.4% FG) that doomed the Knicks on Monday in Oakland, it was a lack of defense (117 points, 49% FG allowed) that sealed the team's fate in Wednesday's 23-point loss. It didn't help that the club's best interior defender, C Tyson Chandler, left the game for good in the first half. Not only does Chandler average 11.0 RPG and 1.1 BPG this season, but he also leads the NBA in FG Pct. with an impressive 64.5% clip. The Knicks were dreadful throughout the game, but they did get a promising performance from SG Iman Shumpert. In what was his best offensive performance since returning from a torn ACL, the shooting guard went 8-for-10 from the floor and 4-of-5 from three to tally 20 points in 33 minutes. SG J.R. Smith also had a solid game in Denver with 15 points (3-of-5 threes), eight assists and five rebounds. Considering he scored 28 points (10-of-22 FG) with 11 rebounds and five assists off the bench in the January loss to Portland, Smith will be counted on for the bulk of scoring on Thursday night. PG Raymond Felton didn't play in that game against his former team, but he has shot pretty well over his past five games (15.0 PPG on 52% FG) and will also need take more than the 13 shots he's attempted on this two-game road trip. He also needs to make better decisions running the point, as he has more turnovers (4.0 TOPG) than assists (3.8 APG) over these past five contests.
 
Like New York, Portland has also lost two straight games (SU and ATS). The first loss was by two in New Orleans on Sunday and the next was by five at home against the Grizzlies on Tuesday. Against Memphis, Portland did a good job hitting the glass as they outrebounded the Grizzlies by nine, and the club should also have a big advantage on the boards on Thursday with all the New York injuries. Despite the loss, PG Damian Lillard had one of his best games of his strong rookie campaign with 30 points (8-for-17 FG, 11-for-11 FT) and seven assists against Memphis. That marked his seventh straight game with 20+ points, where he's averaged 25.0 PPG over this stretch. Lillard also scored 21 points with six assists and five boards in the first game against the Knicks this season, and should be able to get to the basket with defensively-challenged Raymond Felton trying to guard him in this game. PF LaMarcus Aldridge was dominant inside against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on Tuesday, finishing the game with a nice stat line of 28 points (10-of-19 FG, 8-of-8 FT), 10 rebounds, four assists and four blocks. He pumped in 19 points and 14 rebounds in the New Year's Day win in New York. The problem in Tuesday's loss was that the Blazers got no help outside of Lillard and Aldridge. Nobody outside of those two was in double digits and they’ll need more production to continue improving as the season progresses. C J.J. Hickson just fell short of a fourth-straight double-double on Tuesday with eight points and nine rebounds, but he could have a big day inside with Chandler less than 100 percent. Even with Chandler on the court in the most recent meeting, Hickson was still able to post 18 points (9-of-11 FG) and nine rebounds in just 24 minutes of foul-plagued action.

  
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