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Inside the Paint - Thursday
Favorites went 10-0 straight up in the NBA last night and that’s been the theme of this week’s action with the ‘chalk’ going 25-4 since Sunday.

Fortunately there’s a point-spread and that’s where the underdogs have remained somewhat competitive. The ‘dogs went 5-4-1 against the spread last night and they’re 13-15-1 ATS in the last 29 games. Total players have seen the ‘under’ go 19-9-1 since the start of the week.

Thursday’s card has four games and below is my quick handicap.

L.A. Lakers (8-15 SU, 10-13 ATS) at Philadelphia (13-10 SU, 15-8 ATS)

These teams squared off on Nov. 15 from the Staples Center and the 76ers captured a 115-109 win over the Lakers as four-point road favorites. Even though Los Angeles couldn’t buy a shot (38.5%) all night, this was a tight game and the 76ers outscored the Lakers 32-25 in the final 12 minutes to secure the win. Philadelphia center Joel Embiid had arguably his best game of his career, finishing with 46 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.

The oddsmakers are expecting Philadelphia to complete the season sweep on Thursday, opening the club as an eight-point favorite.  The 76ers have been installed as home favorites 10 times this season and they’ve been a profitable 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS. However, they did just surrender a 115-101 setback at home to the Suns on Monday as 10-point favorites. That loss dropped the team to 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS over its last five games, which has been the worst stretch this season for the club at the betting counter.

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Los Angeles enters this game with a five-game losing skid (1-4 ATS) and three of the setbacks came by double digits. Away from home, L.A. has been much worse (2-8 SU, 3-7 ATS) this season and the two wins came against the Phoenix Suns.

Since neither team has been in great form, my next look is at the statistics for both teams and the Lakers are at a clear-cut disadvantage to the 76ers in almost every category. From a situational standpoint, the 76ers have gone 6-1 off a loss since they started the season 0-3 and I would expect them to keep that trend rolling along. Sticking with that thought, I would probably lay the points too knowing Los Angeles has only been able to cover two of its 15 losses and 10 of the defeats were by eight-plus points.

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

Washington (13-11 SU, 13-11 ATS) at Phoenix (9-17 SU, 12-13-1 ATS)

This isn’t an easy game to handicap since both teams won’t have their best players on the court. Washington point guard John Wall (knee) is still nursing an injury and Phoenix just lost Devin Booker (groin) for a couple weeks.

Washington opened as a 7 ½-point road favorite and it’s coming off a solid 106-92 win at Portland on Tuesday. You could be hesitant to lay the points tonight when you realize the Wizards haven’t won back-to-back games since mid-November. They have been solid on the road (7-6 SU, 9-4 ATS) and will be facing a Suns team that has been worse in the desert (4-9 SU, 4-9 ATS) this season.

Also, Phoenix is playing its first game back from a six-game road trip and those situations are never easy plus the injury to Booker is a major factor. With healthy rosters, the Suns ran past the Wizards 122-116 on Nov. 1 as 11-point road underdogs. Prior to that setback, Phoenix had dropped four straight to Washington but it has managed to go 4-1 ATS over this span.

Total bettors could be scratching their heads for this matchup knowing the Wizards (16-8) have been a great ‘under’ lean this season but Phoenix owns the best ‘over’ (16-10) mark in the NBA. The total (215 ½) for the rematch is 13 points lower (228 ½) than the aforementioned meeting and that should put the injuries into perspective.

Oklahoma City (11-12 SU, 7-15-1 ATS) at Brooklyn (9-14 SU, 15-8 ATS) from Mexico City

The NBA heads ‘South of the Border’ for this matchup and the Thunder (-7 ½) are expected to leave Mexico City with the win. Oklahoma City swept the season series between the pair last season and both games were decided by double digits (18, 19).

Despite lacking talent and playing with a short-handed roster due to injuries, the Nets have been much more competitive this season. They’ve covered eight of their last nine games and the lone ATS loss came when they were favored. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has been a nightmare for bettors, especially on the road (2-9 SU, 2-9 ATS).

The Thunder do enter this game with a three-game winning streak but the wins came by four, three and six points. Another win would get the club back to .500 and it should be noted that OKC has gone 5-3 versus the Eastern Conference this season.

Brooklyn has seen its totals mark (11-11-1) produce back-and-forth results all season but Oklahoma City has clearly identified itself as a solid ‘under’ (15-8) bet and that includes a 7-1 record in games versus foes from the East.

Houston (18-4 SU, 13-9 ATS) at Utah (13-12 SU, 15-10 ATS)

TNT will provide cover of this late-night tip at 10:35 p.m. ET and it features a pair of hot teams on the hardwood and at the betting counter. Houston has won seven straight and 13 of its last 14 games after starting the season 5-3. They’ve been an impressive 10-4 ATS during the run and they’ve been laying some healthy prices during this stretch as well.

The offseason acquisition of PG Chris Paul from the Clippers didn’t seem like the right fit and he missed 14 straight game due to knee soreness. However, he returned on Nov. 16 and while his numbers haven’t been off the charts (12.4 PPG, 9.8 APG), you can’t dismiss the fact that Houston remains undefeated (8-0) this season when plays.

Keeping that record intact on Thursday won’t be easy against Utah. The Jazz just had their six-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday as they dropped a 100-94 decision at Oklahoma City. Utah managed to earn the cover (+8) and that pushed its ATS streak to 7-0.

The 94-point effort against the Thunder was the lowest offensive output for the Jazz during this span and what’s surprising is that Utah’s leading scorer Rodney Hood (ankle) has missed the last five games. He’s listed as ‘questionable’ on Thursday but they could certainly use him knowing they’ll be playing their third game over a four-day span.

The Rockets blasted the Jazz 137-110 on Nov. 5 as 6 ½-point home favorites as James Harden went off for a season-high 56 points. The ‘over’ easily cashed (204) and that’s been a solid wager in this series lately with the high side connecting in four straight and eight of the last 10. The Jazz have picked up their pace and scoring lately but still remain a solid defensive team (98.8 PPG) and the recent return of Rudy Gobert solidifies the unit more.

Houston owns the best road record (10-1 SU, 8-3 ATS) in the league and it opened as a five-point favorite for this contest. Even though the Rockets have been lights out this season, Utah should still have confidence considering it has won four of the last six meetings against Houston and the Rockets are just 2-4 in their last six trips to Salt Lake City.

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com



  
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