Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM

Inside the Paint - Saturday

Saturday’s NBA slate only has six games on tap and since a lot of the contests have looked like “G-League” matchups lately, I’m focusing on the meaningful matchups.  Make a note that if the first round of the NBA playoffs started today, this would be the current bracket.

1 Toronto vs. 8 Washington
2 Boston vs. 7 Milwaukee
3 Philadelphia vs. 6 Miami
4 Cleveland vs. 5 Indiana

1 Houston vs. 8 Minnesota
2 Golden State vs. 7 Oklahoma City
3 Portland vs. 6 San Antonio
4 Utah vs. 5 New Orleans

All eight seeds in the Eastern Conference are locked up and Toronto (1) and Boston (2) have sealed their spots. The top two spots in the West are also set with Houston (1) and Golden State (2) but Portland is the only other team to clinch in that conference. We have five days left, five spots available and six seeds to be handed out in the West.

Odds per [...]

Straight Up – SU, Against the Spread - ATS

Denver (44-35 SU, 35-41-3 ATS) at L.A. Clippers (42-37 SU, 42-37 ATS)

The action starts early with the Nuggets and Clippers clashing from the Staples Center in an afternoon matinee at 3:35 p.m. ET. Oddsmakers sent the game out as a pick ‘em but most shops are holding Denver as a two-point road favorite while the total is hovering between 222 and 223 as of Saturday morning.

Both clubs are currently on the outside of the Western Conference playoff race and a loss for either club would seriously hinder their chances. Los Angeles would be eliminated with a setback and Denver would lose its advantage over Minnesota, who sits a game above them in the eighth and final seed.

The Nuggets enter this matchup with a four-game winning streak but those victories have come by a combined 11 points and they’ve burned bettors with a 1-3 mark against the spread during this span.

Despite dealing with a ton of injuries and trading away their best player in Blake Griffin, the Clippers have been a pleasant surprise this season. However, Thursday’s 117-95 loss at Utah was telling and it seemed like head coach Doc Rivers was waving the white flag.

"It was the first game I thought we let go of the rope," Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Like, you could see it early. It was disappointing. It happens. It's life. We have to get over it. I have to watch the film. That was disappointing tonight."

Including that loss, Los Angeles has dropped three of four and the defense (110.8 PPG) hasn’t been sharp down the stretch, which has led to a 3-1 ‘over’ mark.

L.A. should be confident for this game knowing its gone 2-0 both SU and ATS versus Denver this season.

If the Nuggets do make the playoffs, they’ll have the worst road record among the 16 teams. Headed into this game, Denver is 14-25 SU and 16-21-2 ATS as a visitor this season. As a road favorite, the Nuggets have gone 7-8 SU and 5-10 ATS this season.

Win or lose, it’s hard to imagine the Nuggets, Clippers or Timberwolves taking the series yet alone a game against the top-seeded Houston Rockets in the playoffs.

New Orleans (45-34 SU, 43-35-1 ATS) at Golden State (57-22 SU, 33-45-1 ATS)

When you see the Warriors open as seven-point home favorites, you’re expecting them to play a contender and that’s not the case with the Pelicans. That low number alone would keep me away from the game when you consider that Golden State is usually laying double digits against New Orleans. The Warriors are 19-1 in their last 20 encounters (6-13-1 ATS) against the Pelicans and that includes three wins this season, two coming by double digits and the other by eight points.

Golden State was just embarrassed on Thursday in a 126-106 loss at Indiana and while I want to believe the club should bounce back at home, the line still seems too short. After losing four in a row to playoff teams, the Pelicans have rebounded with back-to-back wins albeit versus the Grizzlies and Suns. The 122-103 victory over Phoenix last night was never in doubt and bettors should note that New Orleans has won and covered six straight on no rest.

The total (225) is the highest number posted on Saturday and deservingly so. The Pelicans are ranked third in field goals attempted per game (88.2) and the pace has picked up even more when big man DeMarcus Cousins went down for the season to injury. The ‘over’ is 7-3 in the last 10 games in this series and Golden State has posted 120-plus points in six of those games.

Oklahoma City (45-34 SU, 30-46-3 ATS) at Houston (64-15 SU, 41-36-2 ATS)

This is another tricky game where the Rockets (-6) would normally be laying a higher price but perhaps the oddsmakers believe Houston may rest players in this spot. Plus, the Rockets appear to be going through the motions the last week. Houston has gone 3-1 SU but 1-3 ATS and the most telling factor is the offense, which was held under 100 points not once but twice.

This game is much more important for Oklahoma City and it hasn’t been able to close lately. The Thunder have dropped four of their last five games and the four losses have were by a combined 12 points.

Houston and Oklahoma City split their first two meetings this season, both taking place at Chesapeake Energy Arena. In games played at the Toyota Center, the Thunder have dropped six straight to the Rockets but four of the losses were by five points or less.

The total on this game opened 220 ½ and has been pushed down to 218 ½ quickly. OKC has been involved in a ton of meaningful games lately and it has seen the ‘under’ go 6-1 in the last seven. Plus, Houston enters this game on a 6-2 run to the ‘under’ as well.

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

Portland (48-31 SU, 43-31-5 ATS) at San Antonio (45-34 SU, 41-36-2 ATS)

No overnight line was sent out on this matchup due to the status of Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (ankle) but most reports have him listed as ‘probable’ for Saturday. The first number was San Antonio -3 ½ but that was pushed up to 4 quickly while the total dropped from 202 ½ to 201 ½.

This series has been treated to tight games recently with the last four outcomes decided by four points or less. The first two games this season were played at the Moda Center and San Antonio earned a 93-91 decision in mid-December before Portland captured a 111-110 victory in early January.

The Spurs enter this game as the more desperate team and after losing back-to-back games at the Staples Center earlier this week to the Clippers (113-110) and Lakers (122-112), this matchup is definitely a must-win spot. The good news for San Antonio is that it’s won nine straight at the AT&T Cener and bettors have watched them produce an eye-opening 8-1 record during this span. The defense (92.3 PPG) has been much better in those games and that’s helped the ‘under’ go 7-2.

After Portland ripped off 13 straight wins and pushed itself up the Western Conference standings, the club has come back to life with a 4-5 record over its last nine games.  They’ve dropped three in a row on the road and two of the setbacks were to the Grizzlies and Mavericks while the other came on a buzzer beater to Houston (96-94) this past Thursday. Lillard didn’t play in that setback and he also sat out the loss to Memphis.

The Trail Blazers head to Denver on Monday before closing the season at home Wednesday versus Utah and that game versus the Jazz could decide who could be the third seed in the West. The Spurs host the Kings on Monday before visiting New Orleans in the regular season finale.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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