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Inside the Paint - Thursday
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March Madness will continue to take catch most of the headlines over the next few weeks but the NBA doesn’t stop the daily grind. Favorites kept their momentum going last nigh with a 4-2 record both straight up and against the spread. Since Monday, the ‘chalk’ has gone 15-4 SU and 13-6 versus the number. The ‘under’ posted a 5-1 record last night and is 12-7 in the last three days.

We’ve got another six games on tap tonight and below is my quick handicap.

East meets West

Two tough games to handicap here as a pair of Pacific Division clubs likely to miss the postseason are catching points against two Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference contenders.

Sacramento (33-33 SU, 38-36-2 ATS) at Boston (41-27 SU, 33-33-2 ATS): The Celtics (-8) are laying a healthy number to the Kings and the pair just met on Mar. 6 and Boston captured a 111-109 win as a two-point home favorite without the services of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. The first game back from a long road trip is never easy and Boston faces that spot after going 3-1 on the West Coast, which ended with a 140-115 loss to the Clippers on Monday. The Kings have been a great surprise this season but you can see that they’re clearly out of gas and key injuries have hurt the team down the stretch. In the second half, Sacramento has gone 3-6 SU and 4-4-1 ATS and two of the wins came against the lowly New York Knicks. The total (228 ½) seems a little high knowing Sacramento is on a 7-2 ‘under’ run and Boston’s first three games at home since the All-Star break have all gone ‘under’ and the offense only averaged 101 points per game in those contests.

L.A. Lakers (31-36 SU, 36-39-2 ATS) at Toronto (48-20 SU, 28-39-1 ATS): The Lakers snapped their five-game losing skid on Tuesday with a 123-107 win over the Bulls as two-point road favorites. Expecting Los Angeles to win two straight would certainly be a reach, knowing it hasn’t done so since Jan. 17. Making a case to back Toronto after it just dropped a 126-101 loss at Cleveland on Monday as an 8 ½-point doesn’t seem like a sound decision either.  The Raptors have won eight straight against the Lakers and they’ve covered seven of those wins. The pair met at the Staples Center on Nov. 4 and Toronto blasted Los Angeles 121-107 when the Lakers were at full strength. TNT will provide national coverage of this game at 8:05 p.m. ET.

Back-to-Back Spots

Three teams will be playing on no rest tonight and two of them are coming off road wins. Along with looking at their production when facing back-to-back spots, I provide some angles and trends to watch as well plus VI expert Tony Mejia jumps in on the non-conference matchup between OKC and Indiana.

(Straight Up, Against the Spread, Over-Under)

Orlando (4-8 SU, 5-6-1 ATS, 9-3 O/U) vs. Cleveland: The Magic have alternated losses and wins in their last four games on no rest, and the most recent setback came in a 107-93 decision at Cleveland on Mar. 3 as a six-point road favorite. They’ve been better at home in back-to-back situations, going 3-2 SU and 2-2-1 ATS. Orlando is losing its grip on the playoff chase, losers in four of its last five and that includes a 100-90 loss at Washington last night. I thought the line was short (Magic -7 ½) and certainly would back the squad that’s spiraling out of control plus the Cavaliers have gone 7-3 ATS in the second-half.

Oklahoma City (6-4 SU, 4-6 ATS, 3-6-1 O/U) at Indiana: The Thunder have only played two road games on no rest and it’s gone 1-1 in those games, which includes a Mar. 8 loss at the L.A. Clippers, 118-110. Oklahoma City rallied past Brooklyn 108-96 last night as a seven-point home favorite and they trailed that game by 10 at halftime. Mejia weighed in on their quick trip to Indiana, and focuses on a former Pacers All-Star.

“Paul George returning to Indiana as a visiting player is still a big deal even though he’s now done it once before, but I’m more interested in how he shoots it rather than how much he’s booed. He got off to a slow start in Wednesday’s win over Brooklyn and was icing his left shoulder after feeling the effects of the right shoulder soreness that led to a 3-game absence, leading to a shooting slump that had seen him shoot less than 30 percent over his previous four games. George finally found a rhythm and hit a flurry of 3-pointers to help swing the game in the Thunder’s favor and finished 9-for-18 from the field, finishing with 25 points in a 108-96 over the Nets. George shot 3-for-14 in his return to Banker’s Life Fieldhouse last season but still contributed to OKC’s 100-95 with his defense and the attention he commands. He could be in a similar situation here on the second night of a back-to-back if soreness develops. The ‘under’ has prevailed in eight of the last 10 games involving the Thunder,” said Mejia.

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Utah (6-5 SU, 5-6 ATS, 7-4 O/U) vs. Minnesota: The Jazz have won two straight and four of their last five contests played on no rest and that includes a 2-1 record at Salt Lake City, both coming against non-playoff teams in the Bulls and Mavericks. Similar to OKC, the Jazz had a strong finish last night and defeated Phoenix 114-97 as an 8 ½-point road favorite. The Timberwolves have gone 2-6 ATS in their last eight games and the defense has been an absolute mess on the road recently. Minnesota is allowing 128 PPG in its last seven road and that’s led to a 1-6 record. Not surprisingly, the ‘over’ has gone 6-1 in those games. The Jazz are 2-1 both SU and ATS this season versus the T-Wolves and they scored 125 in both of their victories.

Late-Night in Denver

Dallas (27-40 SU, 37-29-1 ATS) and Denver (44-22 SU, 36-30 ATS) will wrap up Thursday’s action in a nationally televised game on TNT at 10:35 p.m. ET.

“Luka Doncic is trying to play through a knee sprain and has a number of other ailments affecting him, including a slight case of the yips at the free-throw line given his performance against the Spurs. Considering playing in Denver is never easy and the Slovenian rookie star shot just 5-for-15 in a 126-118 loss in his first performance there back on Dec. 18, the Mavericks may give the night off or limit his minutes since they don’t play again until Saturday. Not having Doncic around to play offensive catalyst would significantly impact Dallas’ ability to challenge a Nuggets team that is taking full advantage of finally being at full strength. Although they’ve lost at the Spurs and Warriors this month, the Northwest Division leaders have beaten the Lakers and Timberwolves by a combined 42 points in their last two wins,” said Mejia.

Denver has been a beast at home (28-6 SU, 23-11 ATS) this season and it’s laying a big price tonight as an 11-point favorite. While Dallas has been competitive at home, especially for bettors, they’ve been hit or miss on the road (6-27 SU, 16-17 ATS).

The Nuggets have won and covered both meetings against Dallas this season, which includes a 126-118 win on Dec. 18 as a 4 ½-point home favorite. Including that result, the Mavericks have dropped five straight games (2-3 ATS) at the Pepsi Center but only one of the losses came by more than 11 points. 

Denver snapped an 8-0 ‘under’ run on Tuesday in its 133-107 win over Minnesota as the ‘over’ connected (227) late. The Dallas offense (100.8 PPG) hasn’t been great lately and that production has led to a 5-2 ‘under’ run in its last seven games. Tonight’s total is hovering around 220 points.

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com



  
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