Inside the Paint – Thursday

Opening Odds per [...]

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

L.A. Lakers (26-34 SU, 33-27 ATS) at Miami (32-29 SU, 30-27-4 ATS)
Opening Odds: Miami -3 ½, Total 215 ½

This will be the first meeting between the pair this season and bettors should note that home team has won and covered the last five games in this series. However, this opening number looks a little light and could have you staying away from the Heat tonight. After closing the first-half on a 1-7 run, Miami has come back to life with a 2-1 record after the All-Star break and that includes Tuesday’s 102-101 home win over Philadelphia. Dwyane Wade sealed the win with a game-winning jump shot and the club is now 3-3 since he was traded back to Miami from the Cavaliers.

Los Angeles are a long shot to make the playoffs but they have been playing better lately, winning three straight and seven of their previous 10 games overall.  Despite owning an overall losing record, the Lakers have gone 13-10 against the Eastern Conference record this season. They enter this game with a 7-2 record both SU and ATS in their last nine non-conference matchups. On the other side of the court, Miami has been less than stellar versus the West (10-12) and that includes a 4-7 record at home.

The Lakers (5-0-1) have been a solid ‘over’ bet since they acquired Isaiah Thomas from the Cavaliers and the Heat have also leaned to the high side (7-2) lately as well.

Miami’s backcourt could be short-handed for this contest with Tyler Johnson (quad) listed as ‘questionable’ and the club’s best outside threat in Wayne Ellington (quad) is ‘doubtful’ for Thursday. Los Angeles won’t have Josh Hart (finger) available after he was injured in practice on Tuesday.

Philadelphia (32-27 SU, 32-26-1 ATS) at Cleveland (36-24 SU, 19-40-1 ATS)
Opening Odds:  Cavs -3, Total 222 ½

The opening matchup on TNT (8:05 p.m. ET) tonight is a good one and if the playoffs started tonight, these teams would meet in the first round. The Cavaliers have won 11 straight against the 76ers and 14 of the last 15 in this series which includes a 2-0 mark this season. Cleveland captured a 113-91 win at Philadelphia on Nov. 27 before taking a 105-98 home victory on Dec. 9. Make a note that the 76ers didn’t have Joel Embiid for the game played in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers still remain the worst team for bettors this season and since they traded more than half their roster at the deadline, the team has gone 5-2. On Tuesday, they defeated Brooklyn 129-123 but failed to cover again as a healthy double-digit favorite. The home ATS numbers (6-23-1) for the Cavaliers this season are terrible despite the club going 21-9 SU.

Philadelphia is poised to snap its playoff drought but winning in the postseason will be an issue if it can’t improve its road record (13-17 SU, 13-16-1 ATS). The 76ers have gone 1-6 SU and 0-6-1 ATS in its last seven games on the road and the lone victory during this span took place last Thursday at Chicago and they were fortunate to grab that game.

Brooklyn (20-42 SU, 35-26-1 ATS) at Sacramento (18-43 SU, 26-32-3 ATS)
Opening Odds: Pick ‘em, Total 214

This game between the cellar dwellers opened at a pick ‘em and the early money leaned to the Nets, who are the more talented of the two teams – at least offensively. The visitor has won and covered three straight in this series, which includes a 104-99 victory by the Kings over the Nets on Dec. 20 from the Barclays Center. Brooklyn has covered its last three visits (2-1 SU) to Sacramento.

If the Nets close as favorites, it would be just the second time this season that they’ve given points on the road. They won the first situation on Nov. 6 when it defeated Phoenix 98-92 as a one-point ‘chalk.’ Overall as a favorite, Brooklyn is 6-6 both SU and ATS.

Sacramento closed the first-half of the season with four straight covers despite going 1-3 SU. Unfortunately for the Kings, they came out of the break with three consecutive losses and they failed to cover in any of the games. Sacramento has the second worst offense (99 PPG) in the NBA but it could improve on that number against the Nets defense (109.6 PPG), which is ranked 24th in the league.

The Nets have gone 7-18 versus the West this season, which includes a 4-8 mark on the road. Against the East, the Kings have gone 8-14 and they’ve only played seven of those games (3-4) at the Golden 1 Center.

Minnesota (38-26 SU, 30-32-2 ATS) at Portland (35-26 SU, 30-28-3 ATS)
Opening Odds: Portland -4, Total 217 ½

Huge divisional game will close Thursday’s card on TNT (10:35 p.m. ET) as the Timberwolves meet the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. Minnesota defeated Portland twice already this season at home (108-107, 120-103) and the Trail Blazers returned the favor with 123-114 victory from the Moda Center on Jan. 24. This matchup is definitely a ‘swing game’ and could have a lot of playoff implications.

Minnesota is currently the third seed in the West but the postseason race in the conference between 3 and 10 is one of the tightest we’ve ever seen. Portland is currently in the sixth slot and is only 1 ½ games behind the T-Wolves.

Portland enters this game with four straight wins (3-1 ATS) and it’s really turned up the heat at home lately. The Trail Blazers have won 11 of their last 12 games and they’ve produced a 9-2-1 ATS mark during this span while the offense has averaged 113.4 PPG during this span.

The Timberwolves were dealt a blow last week as All-Star Jimmy Butler went down with a knee injury. Minnesota has won two straight without him albeit against the Bulls and Kings. Even with Butler the Wolves haven’t been great on the road (13-19 SU, 14-17-1 ATS) this season, especially lately.  In 2018, Minnesota has gone 2-11 SU and 3-10 ATS away from home and they haven’t won back-to-back away games since Christmas.

It’s fair to say that the Northwest Division is the best in the NBA from top to bottom and you could see all five teams make the playoffs. With that being said, you can’t ignore the fact that Minnesota has gone 9-2 in the division this season and only Golden State (8-2) has as many divisional losses this season. Portland has gone 5-6 in the division.

Fearless Predictions

I’ve decided pushing out some “Fearless Predictions” in my weekly pieces for the remainder of the season after a few users inquired. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!

L.A. Lakers +5 over Miami

Even though Los Angeles will be stepping up in class tonight, I’m still not sold on Miami and it hasn’t exactly been a great wager at home this season. The injury to Josh Hart concerns me but Lonzo Ball is expected to receive more minutes and he’s been sharp since returning. The Lakers are 3-0 this season after winning three straight games and I believe they have a good shot to get this one tonight.

Under 223 Cleveland-Philadelphia

Last week I mentioned the ‘over’ angle on the 76ers when listed as road favorites. When catching points on the road, the ‘under’ has gone 13-7 and that includes an 8-1 run in the last nine. Philadelphia has had 11 games this season with a total listed in the 220s and the ‘under’ has gone 7-4. The Cavaliers enter this game on a 3-1 ‘under’ run and I could see a playoff-like atmosphere for this matchup tonight.

Minnesota +5 ½ over Portland

I’m going against the public in this spot and while it’s not always smart to back a team that’s been awful on the road lately, six of Minnesota’s away losses have come by five points or less. Plus I can’t get past the fact that the Trail Blazers are nothing more than bullies, who have gone 21-5 this season against teams below .500. Versus winning teams, they’re 14-21.

Chris David can be reached at