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Inside the Paint - Monday
After taking a mini-hiatus Sunday with just three games, the NBA picks up the tempo on Monday with seven games. If you haven’t invested much time handicapping the hardwood lately, you should be aware of some hot and cold teams in the Association.

Let’s start with the bad and that’s probably an understatement for a couple of these clubs.

Cold

Boston wasn’t expected to be competitive this season but it opened with a 4-4 record under rookie head coach Brad Stevens, who refuted reports that the franchise was going to tank. Since the .500 start, the team has gone 8-21, which includes a current skid of 1-11 in their last 12. The Celtics come home Monday after losing all five games on their trip to the West Coast. They did save some face but covering the last three but they’re still 4-8 against the spread in their last 12. On Monday, the Celtics will try to get over the jetlag and step up against Houston, who has gone 11-3 SU and 8-6 ATS versus the Eastern Conference this season.

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New Orleans
has dropped five straight games and it’s gone 1-6 ATS in its last seven games. It’s hard to beat up the Hornets because they have been hit with the injury bug lately – Jrue Holiday (ankle), Ryan Anderson (back) and Tyreke Evans (ankle). Evans is ‘questionable’ for Monday’s home game against San Antonio but the other two are ‘out.’ New Orleans didn’t have much depth to begin with and that’s part of the reason why it opened as 5 ½-point home underdog to the Spurs, who have won eight of the last 10 meetings in this series.

The Eastern Conference has been dreadful this season and helping that cause is Orlando, who enters Monday with seven straight losses both SU and ATS. Six of those setbacks were by double digits and the defense gave up 100-plus in each of the last five games. The Magic will try to right the ship when they conclude their five-game road trip at Dallas on Monday. The Mavericks opened as 11 ½-point favorites and the line has already started to rise. Orlando didn’t have veteran guard Aaron Afflalo (foot) in Saturday’s 120-94 blowout loss at Denver and he’s ‘doubtful’ against the Mavs. Make a note that the Magic are 2-14 SU and 5-10-1 ATS versus Western Conference opponents this season.  Dallas owns a 9-4 SU and 6-7 ATS mark against the East this season.

Hot

Toronto has been the hottest team at the betting counter recently, covering in eight straight games. The Raptors have gone 6-2 SU during this span and the losses came against superior opponents in the Heat (97-102) and Pacers (79-86) on the road. Bettors might want to tread lightly on Toronto come Monday because it’s laying double digits at home to Milwaukee and it hasn’t been in that situation all season. As a favorite, the Raptors have gone 10-6 SU and 8-8 ATS. The Bucks could be mentioned above in the “Cold” section but they’ve been playing poorly all season, evidenced by their record (7-29 SU, 12-24 ATS). Surprisingly, they’ve won more games (4-15) on the road than at home but that shouldn’t make you back a team that is 0-7 both SU and ATS when catching double digits this season.

Don’t look now but New York has won five of its last six and more importantly it’s produced a 6-0 record against the number during this run and that includes outright wins over contenders San Antonio and Miami. The Knicks will face another test on Monday when Phoenix visits Madison Square Garden. New York opened as a three-point favorite and it could be catching the Suns at the right time. Phoenix has been a great story this season but it’s dropped three of four. However, all four games were decided by five points or less during this span. Surprisingly, the Suns are 5-4 both SU and ATS versus the East this season and that includes two setbacks on their current road trip.  

After closing 2013 with seven straight losses, Denver has started the New Year with five straight wins. The Nuggets have gone 4-1 ATS during the winning streak and it appears they found their offensive groove. The team is averaging 119.6 PPG in its last five games, which has helped the ‘over’ go 4-1. Helping the Nuggets’ success has been their homecourt, which they won’t have on Monday when they travel to Utah. No overnight line was posted due to the status of Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, who is ‘questionable’ with a hip injury. These teams have met twice this season and the road team has captured victories in both games. The ‘under’ went 2-0.

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com

  
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