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Thursday Tips
Things slow down a bit on the Thursday NBA card with a TNT doubleheader as four playoff clubs from last season hit the court. The late game showcases the hottest team in basketball as the Clippers go for 15 consecutive victories as the Celtics head out to the West Coast. We'll start in Oklahoma City with two of the league's most dynamic scorers meeting for the first time this season.

Mavericks at Thunder - 8:00 PM EST

Oklahoma City is going through its first losing streak of the season after falling at Minnesota and Miami over the last week. The Thunder returns home to battle the Mavs for the first time since sweeping Dallas in the opening round of last season's playoffs. Despite Dallas' below .500 start at 12-16, the Mavs will have Dirk Nowitzki at their disposal.

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The former league MVP missed the first 27 games of the season following knee surgery, as he made his season debut in Sunday's blowout loss at San Antonio. Nowitzki came off the bench to score eight points in 20 minutes of action as the Mavs were trounced by the Spurs, 129-91 as 11-point road underdogs. Dallas has dropped six of its past seven games, including each of the last three by double-digits. Rick Carlisle's club is riding a five-game skid away from the American Airlines Center, as Dallas lost two of those games in overtime at Boston and Minnesota.

The Thunder ran off 12 straight victories before this recent two-game losing streak, as OKC couldn't avenge an NBA Finals loss to Miami on Christmas. Scott Brooks' team dropped a 103-97 decision to the Heat in a physical, back-and-forth affair as 2 ½-point underdogs. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 54 points, but the Thunder shot just 42% from the floor in their fifth straight loss to Miami dating back to June.

In the first round sweep last season, the Thunder edged the Mavs by a combined four points in the opening two contests, as Dallas covered as a road 'dog each time. When the series shifted to the Lone Star State, OKC cashed in two away victories, including as road 'chalk' in the series clincher, 103-97. The Thunder claimed seven of eight meetings last season, but Dallas put together a perfect 4-0 ATS record at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Celtics at Clippers - 10:30 PM EST

The Lakers had their five-game winning streak snapped at Denver on Wednesday, as the Clippers hope to not suffer the same fate on Thursday. The Clips have won a franchise-best 14 straight contests, while owning the top record in the Western Conference at 22-6. Boston travels west for the second of a four-game road trip, as the C's play three of the next four contests in California.

Vinny Del Negro's squad dropped a 42-point spot in the second quarter of Tuesday's 112-100 home triumph over the Nuggets, as six Clippers scored in double-figures. L.A. improved to 13-3 SU and 11-5 ATS at Staples Center, while posting a 5-2 SU/ATS record as a single-digit home favorite. The Christmas night 'over' snapped a four-game 'under' streak, as Denver ended L.A.'s streak of 10 straight contests of holding opponents to less than 100 points.

The Celtics picked up a solid Christmas Day victory at Brooklyn, 93-76 as 2 ½-point 'dogs, while beating the Nets for the first time in three tries this season. The win ended a five-game skid away from TD Garden, while the C's are just 1-4 ATS the last five attempts in the underdog situation. Doc Rivers' team owns a 1-6 ATS record the previous seven games off a cover, as three of those losses came on the highway.

In their lone meeting last season at Staples Center, the Celtics grabbed a 94-85 victory as 5 ½-point underdogs over the Clippers. Boston overcame a nine-point halftime deficit by outscoring Los Angeles, 55-37 in the second half. The 'dog has cashed in each of the last four matchups in L.A., but the Clips were listed in that role three times in this stretch.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
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