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Inside the Paint - Sunday
Sunday’s pro basketball slate features nine games and seven of those contests will be played this evening. ESPN will offer up a primetime double-header, with Memphis visiting Brooklyn in the opener before the Bulls and Thunder tangle from Oklahoma City in the night cap.

With the help from a handful of handicappers, let’s take a closer look at some of the key games on tap.

Sacramento at New Orleans: This matchup isn’t exactly intriguing but it does fit into a solid total trend that I’ve been playing for years. Anytime you have non-playoff teams squaring off in the second-half of the season, the style tends to be looser and the defense is horrible. Since the All-Star break, we’ve had a handful of these matchups and the ‘over’ has produced profits. For example, the Cavaliers and Magic rolled the ball out Saturday and they combined for 212 points on a closing total of 200. On Friday, the Mavs and Hornets went ‘over’ and New Orleans also went ‘over’ on Wednesday versus the Cavaliers. Tonight’s number opened at 202 ½ and it’s already up to 204. It’s not going to be 100 percent but if you like the ‘over’ already then this should give you more confidence with your wager.

Cleveland at Miami:
Another system that we’ve mentioned in our “Inside the Paint” columns is fading a team at home in their first game back from a road trip of three or more games. Tonight’s play would be on the Cavaliers, who face the Heat after a three-game road trip. VI handicapper Bruce Marshall is leaning Cleveland as well. He explains, “At American Airlines Arena on Nov. 24, the Cavaliers nearly pulled a major upset in narrow 110-108 loss to Miami. Full-strength Heat needed almost all of King James’ 30 points to survive that night vs. an aroused Cleveland side that was minus then-hurting All-Star PG Kyrie Irving, in the midst of his finger-injury absence.  Miami’s win streak has reached 10, and Heat scoring 107.6 PPG and shooting 51.4% from floor in latest win streak, but Cavs playing better lately, too, winners in seven of their last 12.

Philadelphia at New York: It’s hard to imagine the Knicks laying double digits to anybody right now, considering they’ve lost four straight. However, the line could be too small when you realize the opponents is Philadelphia, who has also dropped four games in a row. Do you lay the wood? Take the points? Or perhaps pass all together? VI expert Dave Cokin has an opinion. “New York is playing lousy ball right now, but this is the most likely spot for them to get the wheels back in motion. The play here is against the 76ers. Philly is awful playing the second of back-to-back games, standing a woeful 2-10 both outright and against the line. The 76ers are also below par when playing away from home off a loss. So there are some substantially strong current trends that indicate a Philly fade is the right move,” said Cokin.

Boston at Portland: Since All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo (knee) was ruled ‘out’ for the season, the Celtics have gone 9-3 both SU and ATS. Keep in mind that six of those wins came at TD Garden and playing outside of Massachusetts hasn’t been kind to Boston according to VI handicapper Stephen Nover. He explained his analysis, “Boston has failed to cover 13 of its last 19 road games and is 1-7 straight up when playing Western Conference foes on the road. That lone win came against Phoenix this past Friday, the worst team in the West. Also, the Celtics have multiple injuries and their key players are old and this marks their fourth road game in six days.”

All those facts definitely make you lean Portland but can you really back a team that has lost seven straight (1-6 ATS) games? Nover still believes in the Trail Blazers at home. “Portland doesn't have a strong bench, but Wesley Matthews has returned from an injury and the Trail Blazers are playing for just the third time in 11 days. Portland has one of the toughest venues to play at, the Rose Garden. The Trail Blazers have won four of their last five home games, including defeating the Pacers, Clippers, Mavericks and Jazz during this span. The Trail Blazers did lose in their last home game, a surprising 102-98 loss to the Suns this past Tuesday.”

Chicago at Oklahoma City: If you follow the Association daily and bet totals like myself, then you’re probably aware that the ‘over’ has gone 14-5 (74%) the past two nights. Will the shootouts continue? I’ve said it before that all things balance out in the long run and this nationally televised game sets for an ‘under’ look and VI expert Jimmy Boyd has great trends to back that thought. He said, “You should play the under on a game where one team, Chicago, has allowed 90 points or less in three straight games is playing against an opponent, Oklahoma City, scoring 100 points or more in three straight games. This trend is 28-8 (77.8%) over the last five seasons. Chicago is also 23-11 to the under versus good teams that are outscoring their opponents by 3 or more points per game over the last 2 seasons.”

Chris David can be reached at

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