January 22, 2013
By Kevin Rogers
The top four teams in the Western Conference playoffs will likely be the Clippers, Thunder, Spurs, and Grizzlies (although the order can change). The final four spots are up for grabs as the Warriors, Rockets, Nuggets, and Jazz look to be the clubs in control of those positions at the moment. Two of those teams meet up in Houston as the Rockets try to bust out of their ATS funk.
Nuggets at Rockets - 8:05 PM EST
Houston is currently the coldest team against the number recently, failing to cover eight straight games as it returns home from a four-game road trip. The Rockets snapped a seven-game skid after rallying past the Bobcats on Monday, 100-94, but couldn't cash as seven-point away 'chalk.' The Nuggets travel to the Toyota Center seeking their eighth victory in 10 games, while picking up revenge in their last trip to the court.
Denver held off Oklahoma City on Sunday night in overtime, 121-118 to snap a mini two-game skid. George Karl's club was blown out by the Thunder four days earlier, but the Nuggets saw seven players score in double-figures on Sunday, including 26 points off the bench from Corey Brewer. The Nuggets have allowed at least 105 points in seven of the last eight contests, while cashing the 'over' seven times in this stretch.
The Rockets are playing just their second home game since January 9, as Houston has failed to find its groove following a five-game winning streak in early January. Houston trailed by as many as 12 points at Charlotte, but the Rockets found a way to come back thanks to 41 trips to the free throw line. In the first meeting of the season in November, the Nuggets held off the Rockets as 2 ½-point road underdogs, 93-87.
Lakers at Grizzlies - 8:05 PM EST
It doesn't seem like Los Angeles will make the top eight in the Western Conference at this rate, owning a 17-24 record. To put that mark in perspective, the Lakers need to win 28 of their final 41 games to finish 45-37, which is likely the benchmark to qualify for the playoffs in the West. Right now, the Lakers have put together a dreadful 0-9 SU and 2-7 ATS record as a road underdog, which is the role they will play on Wednesday.
The Grizzlies were squeezed by the Pacers for the second time this season in Monday's 82-81 home defeat as six-point favorites. Memphis' offense has been downright offensive recently, scoring 85 points or less in six consecutive contests, as the 'under' is 5-0-1 in this stretch. Lionel Hollins' team owns an 8-3 ATS record as a favorite of 4 ½ points or less, while going 13-4 to the 'under' in the last 17 home games (two 'overs' went to overtime).
The Lakers trailed by 16 after the first quarter in the last meeting at FedEx Forum in late November. The Grizzlies held on for a 106-98 triumph as 4 ½-point favorites, while shooting 50% from the floor. Los Angeles has hit the 'under' in six of the last seven games, but five of those 'unders' were on totals of 206 or higher.
Pacers at Blazers - 10:05 PM EST
Portland is stumbling at home lately, dropping all three games on their homestand to Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Washington. The Blazers battle another Eastern Conference foe on Wednesday, as the Pacers continue a four-game road swing after getting past the Grizzlies on Monday afternoon.
Indiana grabbed the first meeting with Portland at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 99-92 as five-point favorites in early December. The Blazers outscored the Pacers in three of the four quarters, but Indiana put together a 31-14 surge in the third quarter for its third straight win in the series. Frank Vogel's squad is just 4-10 ATS as a road underdog this season, while scoring 94 points or less 13 times in this role.
The Blazers have dropped six straight games, while losing four in a row at the Rose Garden since upsetting the Heat on January 10. Portland has alternated the 'over' and 'under' in each of the last eight games, coming off an 'under' in a buzzer-beating loss to Washington on Monday. Terry Stotts' team has played well against better competition at home this season, beating the Spurs, Nuggets, Bulls, and Heat.
Thunder at Warriors - 10:35 PM EST
Oklahoma City plays with no rest following Tuesday's victory over the Clippers, as the Thunder heads up I-5 to the Bay Area. The Warriors beat the Clippers on Monday afternoon as home 'dogs, 106-99, the second straight win for Golden State following a 1-5 cold stretch. Mark Jackson's team hits the highway after Wednesday's game for a four-game road trip through the Midwest.
Golden State has lost five straight meetings with Oklahoma City, including each of the last two at Oracle Arena. The Thunder hasn't visited Oakland this season, but OKC knocked off Golden State, 119-109 in November as 9 ½-point 'chalk.' The Warriors rallied from a 21-point deficit to cut the margin to single-digits in the final quarter, but the Thunder drilled 13-of-20 shots from three-point range.
The Thunder had a six-game winning streak snapped at Denver on Sunday, while topping the 117-point mark in three of the last four contests. Oklahoma City has won six of eight games with no rest, but Scott Brooks' club has compiled just a 4-4 ATS record on the second end of a back-to-back.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.
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