Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:06 AM

Inside the Paint - Thursday

ATS Rankings | Totals Report | Injuries

Orlando (13-31 SU, 18-26 ATS) at Cleveland (26-17 SU, 12-30-1 ATS)

Despite losing four straight and eight of its last 10 games, Cleveland opened as a 10 ½-point home favorite for Thursday’s matchup against Orlando. Coincidentally, the Cavaliers haven’t won a game since they defeated Orlando 131-127 on Jan. 6 as a nine-point road favorite.

Winning has been a big issue lately, but covering numbers has been an absolute disaster for the Cavaliers this season and that’s what matters to the users.

So will Cleveland snap the skid and rebound tonight at home against one of the worst teams in the league?

It’s hard to make a reasonable case for the Cavaliers, knowing they’ve gone 0-11 ATS as double-digit home favorites this season. They have managed to win seven of those games but one of the losses came to the Magic.

However, backing Frank Vogel’s team requires serious thinking.

Orlando did just snap a seven-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 108-102 win over Minnesota as an 8 ½-point home underdog. Still, the club is 4-27 in their last 31 games after starting the season 9-4. Despite having a horrible season, the Magic have had a knack of earning back-door covers and they enter this game on a 4-1 ATS run. Also, while Orlando has gone 1-4 SU as a double-digit road underdog, they’ve managed to produce a 4-1 ATS record for bettors. 

These teams split the first two meetings this season and the visitor won both games, which includes Orlando’s 114-93 win at Cleveland on Oct. 21 as an 11 ½-point underdog. That outcome was definitely surprising when you realize the Magic had dropped its previous nine games at Quicken Loans Arena and they were 1-8 ATS in those contests plus six of the losses came by double digits.

The total on this game has been inflated to 226 but it’s hard to argue for the low side when you look at the defensive numbers. Cleveland’s defense is ranked 25th in both scoring at 108.7 points per game and field goal percentage (47.2%). Orlando’s defensive scoring (110.9, No. 28) and field goal percentage (47.3 % No. 27) are ranked near the bottom on the league as well.

Cleveland is certainly ‘due’ to run somebody out of the building and this matchup sets up as a ‘get right’ game. Knowing the Cavs will "step up" in class again on Saturday when Oklahoma City visits, I would expect a sense of urgency. Lastly, the Magic haven’t won back-to-back games since early November and it has gone 0-5 in the last five games off a win while losing by an average of 13.2 PPG.

Philadelphia (20-20 SU, 22-18 ATS) at Boston (34-11 SU, 27-16-2 ATS)

No overnight line was posted at most betting shops on this game due to the status of Boston point guard Kyrie Irving, who injured his shoulder in Tuesday’s 116-113 home loss in overtime to New Orleans. The setback for the Celtics snapped a seven-game winning streak and dropped the club’s record at TD Garden to 18-6 SU and 13-9-2 ATS. Head coach Brad Stevens and company has been very solid off a loss this season, going 8-2 SU and 7-2-1 ATS.

This particular series has been very one-sided with the Celtics winning 16 of the past 20 matchups and that includes all three encounters this season versus the 76ers, which were decided by double digits.

The most recent tussle took place last Thursday at the O2 Arena from London on Jan. 11 and Boston earned a 114-103 win as a two-point favorite. Philadelphia looked like it was on its way to finally solving the Celtics as they led 57-48 at halftime. However, Boston shot lights out in the third quarter (39) and ended up outscoring the 76ers by 20 points (66-46) in the second-half for the comfortable win.

Now that Philadelphia is stateside, my lean for this matchup is with the visitor. Prior to the trip overseas, the club had won and covered four straight and five of six. After that run, they had a six-day layoff before the London game and the momentum was obviously halted.

Circle back to this past Monday and the 76ers faced a similar situation against Toronto, who was looking to pull off the four-game regular season sweep. Sure enough, Philly responded with a solid 117-111 win as a two-point home ‘dog over the Raptors.This was the first game back for the team from the UK.

Including that win, Philadelphia is just 2-6 both SU and ATS in eight divisional games while Boston has gone 8-1 SU and 6-3 ATS versus Atlantic Division opponents.

Make a note that the 76ers won’t have J.J. Redick (leg) for this matchup and along with Irving, the C’s Marcus Smart (illness) is ‘questionable’ for Thursday.

TNT will provide national coverage of this game at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Minnesota (29-17 SU, 22-22-2 ATS) at Houston (30-12 SU, 20-21-1 ATS)

This contest didn’t have an opening number sent out on Wednesday because Houston All-Star guard James Harden (hamstring) may make a return after missing the last seven games with the Rockets. The team has gone a pedestrian 4-3 in his absence and are coming off a 113-102 road loss to the Clippers on Monday, where a ton of drama ensued at the end of the game and repercussions were dealt out.

Houston’s Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green were both suspended two games for entering the Los Angeles locker room to confront another player. Ariza is averaging 12.4 PPG and has started 40 games this season and while Green just joined the team (10 games), he’s averaging 15.6 PPG albeit in erratic fashion.

With or without Harden, the Rockets haven’t been the same team that started the season 25-4 and ripped off 14 consecutive victories during that run. Since then, Houston is 5-8 in its last 13 and it has burned bettors with a 4-9 ATS mark.  At home, the club has gone 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS during this span.

Fast forward to Thursday and Minnesota invades the Toyota Center. The Timberwolves got caught in a trap on Tuesday as it dropped a 108-102 decision to Orlando as 8 ½-point road favorites. That loss was preceded by a 5-0 home stand both SU and ATS for Minnesota.

The Rockets will be favored but this has been a tough series to handicap because Houston has gone 10-2 in the last 12 versus Minnesota but the Timberwolves have gone 9-3 ATS during this span. Last season, Minnesota was 4-0 ATS versus Houston despite going 1-3 SU. Along with backing the Wolves recently in this series, the ‘over’ has been golden too with an 11-1 record during their last 12 encounters.

Minnesota has gone 11-11 away from the Target Center this season but outside of a buzzer beater win at Oklahoma City, it doesn’t have a signature road triumph. Against opponents similar in stature to the Rockets, the Wolves came up short on two occasions to the Celtics (91-84) and Warriors (125-101).

The total on this game is high but along with the ‘over’ trend in this series, you can make a case for the high side based on Houston’s tendencies at home. The Rockets have seen the ‘over’ go 14-7 at the Toyota Center and that includes a run of eight straight headed into this game. The Rockets lead the league in scoring at home (117.8 PPG) and they’re averaging 122 PPG during this ‘over’ streak.

Tip-off is slated for 9:35 p.m. ET with TNT providing national coverage.

Indiana (24-20 SU, 25-19 ATS) at Portland (23-21 SU, 19-23-2 ATS)

Thursday’s finale is arguably the toughest one to handicap since both teams have many similarities. Along with their overall record and great guard play, I would label both teams as bullies who have put themselves into playoff position by dominating teams with losing records. I won’t discredit them for doing so but both Portland (9-16) and Indiana (10-17) have been humbled when stepping up in class against teams above .500.

The Trail Blazers opened as 3 ½-point home favorites while the total is sitting at 213 ½ and normally I would think that number was a tad short but playing at the Moda Center hasn’t been as tough this season.

Portland has gone 11-10 SU at home and it’s been a disappointing 6-14-1 ATS for bettors. They have won their last four at home and that includes a 118-111 win over Phoenix on Tuesday as an 11-point favorite.

Winning five straight won’t be easy against the Pacers, who have started to streak up again. Indiana has won and covered three straight and five of its last six. On Monday, the club posted an impressive 109-94 win over the Jazz at Salt Lake City and that decision came on no rest after they avoided a trap in the desert and ran past the Suns, 120-97.

The win at Utah was a tad surprising knowing Indiana is only 3-6 on no rest this season. However, the Pacers are 6-3 on the front end of back-to-back spots and they’ll be playing at the L.A. Lakers on Friday.

These teams met in the first week of the season and the Trail Blazers captured a 114-96 win over Indiana on Oct. 20 as 5 ½-point road underdogs. Including this win, Portland has won six of the past seven meetings against Indiana. The last time Indiana won at Portland came in 2007 when Danny Granger was the first option for the Pacers.

Total bettors could be scratching their heads for this one. Indiana has watched the ‘under’ cash in five of their last six. While Portland still owns a solid ‘under’ record (26-18) mark on the season, the pendulum has swung the other way lately. The Blazers have seen the ‘over’ cash in six straight and nine of the last 11.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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