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Inside the Paint - Friday
FREE Picks | ATS Rankings | Totals Report | Injuries

The “Favorite Express” kept chugging along last night with a perfect 6-0 straight up record but a few underdogs saved face and earned a 3-3 mark against the spread. Since Monday, the ‘chalk’ has gone 21-4 SU and 16-9 ATS (64%). During this span, total bettors have watched the ‘under’ go 17-8 (68%) and that includes a 10-2 (83%) mark the past two days.

Friday’s card has eight games on tap and with the help from NBA expert and contributor Tony Mejia, let’s handicap the slate.

(Straight Up – SU, Against the Spread – ATS)

Game of the Night (NBATV, 8:05 p.m. ET)

Milwaukee (51-17 SU, 40-26-2 ATS) at Miami (32-35 SU, 36-31 ATS)

If the NBA Playoffs began today, this matchup would be the 1-8 series in the Eastern Conference and the Bucks would be very heavy favorites even though the Heat are often given respect for their pedigree.

For this game, Milwaukee opened as a six-point favorite and the number is sitting at -5 as of this morning. Mejia weighed in on the early nationally televised game on Friday.

“We’ll see if taking in the local delicacies has any effect on the East’s top team since they’ve had some time to be exposed to the “South Beach flu,” but Mike Budenholzer is expected to have a full roster in place since George Hill is coming back after missing a few games with a groin strain. Considering this is a playoff preview of the East’s most likely 1-8 matchup, the Bucks could show off how locked in they are here, especially since the Heat have really struggled at home, coming into this one 16-19 at American Airlines Arena. Milwaukee will host Miami on March 22, so they can really dig in and get to know their potential first-round matchup over the next week since both teams are back at relatively full strength,” said Mejia.

“The Bucks lost in South Florida 94-87 when these teams played on Dec. 22 and Giannis Antetokounmpo has really struggled the Heat defense. “Greek Freak” has missed 14 of his 21 field-goal attempts (33 percent) while averaging just 10.5 points through two games against the Heat, by far his lowest-scoring output against any team. With Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo now in the starting lineup together in a mix that has really worked well for Miami, Antetokounmpo will see a number of capable defenders who can make him work. Even with Dwyane Wade questionable with elbow soreness, this is a great chance for the Heat to prove to themselves that they can hang with the top seed if they’re to square off in a series in a month’s time.”

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As Mejia mentioned, Milwaukee lost its last trip to South Florida and that’s been a common them for the club. Including that setback, it has dropped five straight games at American Airlines Arena with the last win coming in the 2016 regular season. The Bucks have been held under 100 points in all of those defeats and that’s led to an easy 4-1 ‘under’ mark. However, the Bucks showed their muscle in this series recently by blasting the Heat 124-86 on Jan. 15 as 8 ½-point home favorites. Prior to that victory, Miami had captured six straight between the pair.

As a home underdog this season, Miami has gone 6-4 SU and 7-3 ATS. The ‘under’ started 5-1 in those games but the last four have gone ‘over’ the number. The total on this game opened 221 and the early money pushed it down to 219 ½. Mejia explained his handicap on the move, “With both teams likely to supply an honest effort on defense in order to send a message and keep negative plays off film that’s likely to be exhaustively reviewed, the ‘under’ is an interesting potential play. At 220, the total opened at a larger number than oddsmakers placed on the first two meetings, which were in the 215-218 range. Both easily remained below the posted number."

Out of Gas?

Detroit (34-33 SU, 33-32-2 ATS) came out of the All-Star break clicking on all cylinders, going 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS. After that hot start, the Pistons have come back to earth with back-to-back losses and the offense was held to 74 and 75 points. The Los Angeles Lakers (31-37 SU, 26-40-2 ATS) visit Detroit tonight as heavy ‘dogs (+11) with a short-handed squad and they’re playing on no rest, which seems like a ‘get right’ game for the Pistons.

Mejia provided his thoughts on the non-conference matchup. “With LeBron James possibly sitting out, it will be interesting to see what the Lakers look like on the road after being completely overwhelmed with their best player on the floor for most of a 14-point fourth quarter. The Pistons come off an embarrassing loss in Miami and would normally be in bounce-back spot here but point guard Reggie Jackson turned his ankle late in the blowout loss and may require additional time before he can return. Blake Griffin struggled in Detroit’s 113-100 loss at Staples on Jan. 13, while Kyle Kuzma scored 41 points in one of the L.A.’s best performances without James. Before you get too excited about a potential trend, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball started and combined for 15 points, 14 boards and 17 assists in that game prior to their season-ending injuries and Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley combined for 30 points off the bench. Zubac is now with the Clippers. Beasley now plays in China. Griffin is in a 5-for-19 slump over the Pistons’ current losing streak, so you may want to stay away from this rematch altogether given all the variables in play,” said Mejia.

Injuries aside, the home team has won four straight games in this series, which includes the 113-100 win by Los Angeles from the Staples Center on Jan. 9 as a 1 ½-point home favorite mentioned by Mejia. The Pistons have won and covered their last three home encounters against the Lakers and the ‘over’ is 3-0 in those games with Detroit averaging 114.6 PPG.

Also noted above, the Pistons may not have point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle) available for this game. He’s listed as ‘questionable’ and so is the Lakers’ Josh Hart (knee), Lance Stephenson (toe) and Tyson Chandler (neck).

The Lakers are 6-4 overall this season on no rest but they limp into this game with losses in three of their last four back-to-back spots. Total bettors should note that the ‘under’ is an eye-opening 8-1-1 in those contests for Los Angeles.

Heavy Home Chalk

Along with the Pistons, we have four other teams laying nine points or more tonight and it could be hard to make a case for any underdogs pulling off the outright upsets.

Philadelphia (-9) vs. Sacramento: Of the heavy ‘dogs listed on Friday, the Kings will likely get the most attention. Sacramento has won three straight and five of its last six encounters against Philadelphia, which includes a 115-108 win on Feb. 2 as a three-point home ‘dog. The Kings are coming off a tough 126-120 loss at Boston last night in a game they led most of the way. The reason you might stay away from Sacramento comes to down to situations and the club is 1-7 SU and 0-8 ATS in its last eight games on no rest. Philadelphia has won two straight since All-Star Joel Embiid returned after missing the first eight gmes of the second-half and another win seems likely here. Total bettors should note that the 76ers are on an 8-0 ‘under’ run coming into this game.

Houston (-13) vs. Phoenix:  The Suns have been decent for bettors (6-3 ATS) in the second-half but they finally had that clunker on Wednesday when they collapsed at home in a 114-97 loss. The Rockets have gone 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS when listed as double-digit favorites this season and they’re coming off a humbling loss to Golden State on Wednesday. A bounce back win seems fitting but the Rockets have failed to cover big numbers in their last three wins over the Suns.

San Antonio (-13 ½) vs. New York: This is a revenge game for the Spurs, who were embarrassed by the Knicks 130-118 as nine-point road favorites on Feb. 24 from Madison Square Garden. San Antonio has only been a double-digit home favorite three times this season and it’s gone 3-0 SU and 1-2 ATS. New York has gone 1-7 SU and 3-5 ATS since beating San Antonio and the offense has been held under 100 points in its last four games, which has led to a 4-0 ‘under’ mark.

L.A. Clippers (-9) vs. Chicago:  Seems like a high line for Los Angeles but it deserves the respect this season and it has had its way with Chicago, winning six straight games (4-2) in this series and that includes a 106-101 win at the Bulls on Jan. 25. Chicago enters this game in poor form too, going 1-5 both SU and ATS in its last six and that includes a run of three straight losses. L.A. was humbled at home by Portland on Tuesday and it hasn’t dropped back-to-back games since late January. The Clippers have gone 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS when listed as a home favorite of nine points or more this season.

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com

  
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