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Inside the Paint - Thursday

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The NBA regular season ends next Wednesday and 15 of the 16 playoffs spots have been locked up, with the eighth seed in the Western Conference still up coming down the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah. The Lakers are up a game on the Jazz after they rallied past Portland 113-106 for a road win last night. Los Angeles was one of four late-night favorites on Wednesday’s that helped bettors chasing with the ‘chalk.’

Underdogs started the night with a 5-1 record both straight up and against the spread. Phoenix stole the show as the biggest pup when it humbled Dallas 102-91 as a 13 ½-point road underdogs. The number was inflated and the Mavericks got caught sleeping in their first game back from a three-game roadie.

While Dallas was getting pushed to the brink of elimination, a short-handed Miami squad knocked off Washington 103-98 and clinched home-court throughout the NBA playoffs. The Heat were listed as 3 ½-point road underdogs.

Total players watched the ‘over’ go 8-2 last night and with the playoffs near, you certainly saw a looser game being played on the hardwood last night.

Will it continue tonight? Let’s take a closer look.

New York (51-26 SU, 43-33 ATS) at Chicago (42-35 SU, 34-43 ATS): Based on current form, you shouldn’t bet against New York right now. The Knicks have won 13 straight and they’ve gone 12-1 ATS during that span, with the lone non-cover coming in a backdoor by Charlotte. New York led by 22 at the break and pulled off the gas as a 14-point home favorite and only won by nine (111-102).

New York is certainly playing with confidence lately. The team is shooting the ball well and All-Star Carmelo Anthony is playing at an all-time high. In Tuesday’s 120-99 blowout win over Washington, Anthony became the first Knick to score 35 in five straight games since Bernard King did so in during the 1984-85 season.

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While the Knicks have been scorching, the Bulls appear to be resting up for the playoffs. They’ve dropped two in a row, including a 101-98 home loss to Toronto on Tuesday. Chicago has been decimated by injuries all season and it will be short-handed again tonight. Joakim Noah (foot) and Taj Gibson (knee) will be sidelined for the Bulls, while Luol Deng was upgraded to 'probable.' The already thin New York frontcourt won’t have Kenyon Martin (ankle) and Tyson Chandler (neck) suited up tonight. With all of the above injuries, the Bulls’ Carlos Boozer might be the biggest player in the paint tonight.

New York opened as a three-point favorite and the number has jumped to as high as 4 ½ at some outfits. The total was also steamed from 189 to 191, which makes sense since both teams run more with the smaller lineups.

Chicago has won and covered all three meetings against New York this season. Keep in mind that the last encounter between the pair came in early January and the Bulls had a healthy squad.

The Bulls have gone 22-17 at home this season. New York owns a 22-16 mark on the road and six of them have come during the recent winning streak.

If you’re looking to back Chicago as a home ‘dog, you could go back a couple weeks and recall that it did snap Miami’s 27-game winning streak at the United Center. The venue is always tough but Gibson had a lot to do with the 101-97 win over the Heat, especially on defense.

New York’s franchise record for consecutive wins is 15. After tonight, the Knicks head to Cleveland for a game on zero days rest tomorrow. If the streak is still intact, they can break it Sunday afternoon at home against Indiana. A victory over the Pacers would also lock up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

TNT will provide coverage of this game at 8:05 p.m. ET.

Oklahoma City (57-21 SU, 47-29 ATS) at Golden State (45-33 SU, 39-38 ATS): Similar to the Knicks and Bulls, these two teams have already locked up playoffs spots but they’re both jockeying for seeds. Coincidentally, these two teams could meet next weekend in the first round.

After watching San Antonio lose to Denver (86-96) last night, the Thunder control their own destiny for the No. 1 seed in the West. If OKC wins out, it will capture the top spot. Looking at the schedule, this might be the most difficult game left. After tonight, the Thunder head to Portland tomorrow for a back-to-back spot and finish the season with a two-game homestand against Sacramento and Milwaukee. I would expect an all-out effort from Oklahoma City tonight and tomorrow.

The Warriors are currently the sixth seed in the West but it only leads Houston by a game and the Rockets own the tiebreaker. After the regular season ends next Wednesday, Golden State will likely meet the Thunder, Spurs or Nuggets in the first round. Along with the Warriors, the Lakers and Rockets are the likely opponents for Oklahoma City in the first round.

Tonight’s tip between Oklahoma City and Golden State will be the fourth and final encounter between the pair this season. The home team has won and covered all three meetings. In the last matchup from the Bay Area, Golden State nipped Oklahoma City 104-99 as a 6 ½-point underdog. The combined 203 points fell ‘under’ the closing number of 208. The two games played at Oklahoma City easily went ‘over’ the number.

To no surprise, the Thunder have been installed as road favorites (-4) against the Warriors again. After losing to the Knicks (120-125) at home on Sunday, OKC rebounded with a 90-80 road win against Utah on Tuesday. The Thunder have gone 24-15 SU and 20-17 ATS on the road this season, which includes an 8-5 record away from home since the All-Star break.

TNT will provide coverage of this game at 10:35 p.m. ET and the late-night televised matchup always gets ‘over’ action from bettors. Unfortunately for them, this has been an ‘under’ spot all season and VegasInsider.com handicapper believes you’ll see another low-scoring affair here.

He explains, “The Thunder has averaged less than 96 points per game over the last six road games even with an overtime game included in that mix, hitting triple digits just once. The ‘under’ is 8-3-1 in the last 12 Oklahoma City road games. Golden State has been an ‘over’ team for the season but the numbers have caught up to the Warriors. The ‘under’ is 8-3 in the last 11 Warriors games and 9-4 in the last 13 home games for Golden State. The Warriors are not the high scoring team that their reputation suggests as Golden State is barely averaging 100 points per game on the season. The ‘over’ will be the popular play tonight but the ‘under’ is 23-15 in Oklahoma City road games this season and both teams should be focused for this matchup which will mean more defensive intensity.”

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com

  
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