Inside the Paint – Saturday

Odds per [...]

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

Game of the Night - Boston (44-19 SU, 37-24-2 ATS) at Houston (48-13 SU, 32-28-1 ATS)
Opening Odds: Rockets -7 ½, Total 217

It’s been just over two months since Boston pulled off an improbable comeback and defeated Houston 99-98 on Dec. 28 from TD Garden. The Celtics trailed by as many as 26 points and wound up winning as two-point home underdogs on a hook shot from All-Star Al Horford. Prior to his game-winner, Marcus Smart of the Celtics drew not one but two offensive fouls on James Harden of the Rockets as they were trying to close out the game.

Houston and Harden felt like they got jobbed by the refs and they certainly had a fair argument. One official missed the game with a sore back which left two guys to officiate the game on their own.

"You can't have two officials in a professional game," Harden said. "There was a lot of no-calls that needed to be called because it changed the dynamic of the game. You got fast-break points, no calls, turnovers or whatever the case may be. This is a professional game on national TV. It can't happen."

Along with one less official, bettors should note that the Rockets were also without Chris Paul and Clint Capela due to injuries. Those guys have been a huge part of Houston’s success this season and the club has produced an eye-opening 32-1 record when the aforementioned duo is in the lineup with Harden.

The Rockets enter this game with a 14-game winning streak and they’ve covered all four of their wins since the All-Star break.

Boston has also gone 4-0 (3-1 ATS) since the break and that’s a good sign considering Brad Stevens and company closed the first-half with a 1-4 record. The defense (103.5 PPG) has looked a tad better during the winning streak and closer to their season average, 99.9 points per game, which is ranked 2nd best in the NBA.

The unit will be tested against Houston’s second-ranked scoring offense (113.8 PPG) on Saturday but Boston will have plenty of confidence to counter the juggernaut. In three games against the top two-scoring attacks this season, they held the Warriors to 88 and 109 points and mentioned above, Houston was kept in check as well.

That defensive effort in late December wasn’t an anomaly for the Celtics and they appear to have Houston’s number. Since Stevens started coaching the Celtics in 2013, the club has held Houston to 102.3 PPG. Make a note that while Houston is known for its offense, the scoring defense has improved vastly this season (104.9 PPG) compared to last year’s campaign (109.2 PPG).

Total bettors should note that the ‘under’ has gone 10-0-1 in the last 11 encounters in this series and Saturday’s number is low for Houston’s standards.

Some bettors might believe the point-spread on Houston is too high, especially when you look at its weak production for bettors at home (24-6 SU, 12-17-1 ATS) plus Boston has been a great on the road (21-8 SU, 20-9 ATS).

You certainly shouldn’t overlook those results but a lot of Houston’s struggles versus the spread have come from large numbers. Get this…the Rockets are 28-8 SU and 24-12 ATS (67%) this year when favored by nine points or less.

ABC will provide national coverage of this game at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Zero Days Rest

Six teams will be playing on no rest Saturday and listed below are their records when facing back-to-back spots this season and notable trends as well. Five of the six will be on the road with the exception of the Magic, who are playing the Grizzlies and they’re also facing two games in two days.

Memphis (3-9 SU, 7-5 ATS, 8-3-1 O/U) at Orlando: Two of the three wins for Memphis came on the road and they enter this game on a 5-1 ATS and ‘over’ run in their last six on no rest.

Orlando (4-6 SU, 5-5 ATS, 5-5 O/U) vs. Memphis: Only two of the Magic’s 10 back-to-back games were played at the Amway Center and they won and covered both contests by double digits.

Denver (3-8 SU, 5-5-1 ATS, 7-4 O/U) at Cleveland: The Nuggets are 1-5 in their last six on no rest, allowing an average of 112.3 PPG. The lone win (123-113) came at the Suns on Feb. 10.

Detroit (5-5 SU, 4-5-1 ATS, 4-5-1 O/U) at Miami: Pistons have allowed 121, 118 and 123 in their last three games on zero days rest and not surprisingly they’ve gone 0-3 both SU and ATS.

Utah (9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS) at Sacramento: The Jazz have been one of the top clubs on no rest and they enter this game with a 4-0 run but make a note that all four of their losses in these situations came on the road.

Oklahoma City (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS, 6-5 O/U) at Portland: The point-spread has not mattered in any of the 11 games for the Thunder, which could have you taking OKC on the money-line (+150) or having less hesitation to lay the short number with Portland (-4).

Fearless Predictions

Since I started this section, it’s safe to say that it’s treated us well lately even though Minnesota ran out of gas on Thursday at Portland. For new followers to the “Inside the Paint” installments, my handicapping technique always starts with the opening number before weighing heavily on current form, seasonal trends and situational spots. I believe if something looks too easy, it usually never is. As always, Press, Pass or Fade but in the end – Good Luck!

Over 227 ½ Denver-Cleveland

Even though the Cavs have watched the ‘under’ go 4-1 since the All-Star break, this matchup sets up perfect for their offense. Denver faces a back-to-back spot and its defense has been much worse on the road this season. The last three meetings in this series have gone ‘over’ and Cleveland has posted 124 and 125 in its last two home encounters against the Nuggets. If you don’t believe Denver will have the gas to keep up, the Cavs team total (116) seems more than doable.

Boston +8 over Houston

The Rockets have gone 18-5 SU and 9-13-1 ATS versus the East this season and that includes an 8-2 record at home. However, they’ve gone 1-8-1 against the spread in those 10 games and two of the losses came to Atlantic Division foes – the Raptors and 76ers. The Celtics are a respectable 5-3 SU and 6-2 ATS on the road against the West and the three losses were by a combined eight points. Houston certainly has the firepower to run anybody out of the gym but I’ll fade the public and back the better defense over the better offense in this spot. Grab the points and if you’re interested, get a small taste of the money-line as well (+280).

San Antonio (-4) over L.A. Lakers

No overnight line on this game due to the ‘doubtful’ status of LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) but San Antonio opened -4 this morning. With or without him, I’d still lean to the home squad. The Lakers have once again managed to put together four straight wins but they’ve never won five in a row this season. Does that happen tonight? I’m saying “No” and even though the Spurs aren’t in great form (2-7 L9), there has to be a sense of urgency for this matchup and I can’t see them dropping four in a row at home. The Lakers have been shooting lights out and that’s been covering up their inferior defense. If those outside shots don’t fall, they could easily get run here.

Chris David can be reached at