Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Inside the Paint - Thursday

FREE Picks | ATS Rankings | Totals Report | Injuries

Game of the Night (TNT, 10:35 p.m. ET)
Houston (21-15 SU, 18-17-1 ATS) at Golden State (25-13 SU, 16-22 ATS)

All eyes will be on Oracle Arena this Thursday as the Rockets will meet the Warriors in the Bay Area for the first time this season. opened Golden State as a healthy eight-point favorite and some bettors could be scratching their heads based on the current form of both teams.

Houston has quietly won five straight and 10 of its last 11 games. More importantly, the club has gone 9-1-1 against the spread during this run and the last five victories came without the services of point guard Chris Paul, who is still nursing a hamstring injury. While the Rockets have been hot, the Warriors are near the bottom of the league for bettors (16-22 ATS) this season and they’ve gone 8-12 ATS at home despite owning one of the best straight up home records (15-5).

The Warriors have won and covered their last two games, both decisions came by double digits and they were on the road. At home, Golden State has dropped its last two games from Oracle and its just 2-8 ATS in the last 10 contests from Oakland. Make a note that head coach Steve Kerr and company haven’t put together three straight wins since it ripped off four victories in a row in early December. NBA handicapper and contributor Tony Mejia weighed in on the marquee matchup for Thursday.

He said, “Over James Harden’s last 10 games, he’s averaging 40.8 points per game and is the first player who has scored 30 or more in 10 consecutive contests since 2014. He’s averaged 8.9 assists in putting the Rockets on his back for wins in 10 of 11 and knows exactly what he’ll be facing here with Klay Thompson as a primary defender who will help try and steer him into other defenders. He shot just 8-for-23 in the only meeting against Golden State thus far, which included a 4-for-14 showing from 3-point range. Houston took advantage of Steph Curry’s absence and rolled 107-86, pulling away in the second half, but Chris Paul, Eric Gordon and James Ennis III all participated. It remains to be seen whether Mike D’Antoni will have any of the three available since Gordon and Ennis are close to a return. If the Rockets remain depleted, it will be easier for the Warriors to make Harden a distributor.”

There’s definitely a valid reason to stay away from the Rockets tonight and its directly attributed to its road mark. Houston has struggled away from the Toyota Center (10-8 SU, 8-10 ATS) this season and it’s just 3-7 in last 10 as a visitor.

Still, Harden has been on fire and nobody can dismiss Houston’s league-best record against winning teams (14-5) this season and eight of its last 10 came against clubs with .500 or better records.

Last season, Houston won two games at Oracle as a live underdog. It stunned the Warriors 122-121 on opening night with a late rally and it also captured Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals with a 95-92 win. The ‘under’ connected easily in that postseason game and the low side is on a 7-1 run in this series, which includes a 6-1 result in last year’s conference finals.

Toronto (28-11 SU, 16-22-1 ATS) at San Antonio (21-17 SU, 22-15 ATS)

The first game of the TNT double-header on Thursday also offers a lot of intrigue as Raptors small forward Kawhi Leonard will make his first trip back to San Antonio. Mejia offered up his thoughts on the possible drama from the AT&T Center. “Kawhi Leonard shot 17 free-throws in scoring a career-high 45 points in Toronto’s 122-116 over Utah on Tuesday, attacking the paint relentlessly despite the presence of elite defensive center Rudy Gobert,” said Mejia.

“He’s really been aggressive over the past few games and looks all the way back after missing most of last season, so Spurs fans will be able to boo an effort that helped carry them to another title in ’14. The manner in which he forced his way out of San Antonio ensures he isn’t going to get a fond welcome in his return, but you can expect him to handle the scorn like any other basketball-playing robot would. The Raptors have lost four of the last five road games that Leonard has participated in, but he’s averaged 28 points and 7.4 rebounds in those contests.”

San Antonio opened as a 1 ½-point home favorite for the matchup and it should receive plenty of support perhaps more for new Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, who was traded from Toronto for Leonard in the blockbuster deal last summer. The former USC standout has posted similar numbers in his first season with San Antonio but he still can’t buy a shot from 3-point land (17.5%) and surprisingly the Spurs lead the league from shooting percentage from distance (39.7%).

Support at home hasn’t been an issue recently for the Spurs, who have won and covered nine of their last 10 home games. The offense (118.1 PPG) and defense (101.4 PPG) have both been amazing during this stretch and two of their recent victories came against another pair of Eastern Conference contenders in the Celtics (120-111) and 76ers (123-96). Will the trend continue?

As Mejia noted, the Raptors have been in a funk on the road (1-4 SU, 0-5 ATS) and their only win was a two-point decision at Miami. Even though the club won’t have point guard Kyle Lowry (back) available, the confidence should still be high knowing they’ve gone 11-4 versus the West this season and that includes an impressive 7-2 mark on the road. The Spurs have gone 5-5 versus the East. At home versus the East, with the two aforementioned wins coming versus Boston and Philadelphia.

The home team has won the past three games in this series but all of the games were decided by four points or less.

Denver (24-11 SU, 19-16 ATS) at Sacramento (19-18 SU, 21-15-1 ATS)

The other game on tap for Thursday takes place from the Golden 1 Center in Northern California as Sacramento (+2 ½) will look to cool off Denver as a home underdog. The Nuggets have won seven of their last nine games and they currently own the best winning percentage in the West. However, Denver has been mired in a funk at the betting counter, dropping its last five games versus the number.

It’s also lost its last two games on the road and its record as a visitor (9-8) is much different than playing at the Pepsi Center (15-3) and that’s been a common theme for this club. A better barometer for me is what team’s doing against winning clubs and Denver (12-8) has answered the bell this season. The same can’t be said for Sacramento, who is 7-14 against teams above .500 while going 12-4 versus losing clubs.

The Kings have been better at home (10-8 SU, 11-6-1 ATS) this season but it enters this game with a pedestrian 5-5 record over the last 10 and the last three wins came by a combined seven points.

The Nuggets have won and covered six of the past seven encounters between the pair, which includes a 126-112 over Sacramento on Oct. 23 as an 11 ½-point favorite. The ‘over’ connected (228 ½) in that game and the number for this matchup opened a tad lower (227 ½). The Kings own the best ‘over’ mark (25-12) in the NBA but their total numbers have been a stalemate (9-9) at home. Denver has leaned to the ‘under’ (20-14-1) and that includes a 10-6-1 record away from home.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

We may be compensated by the company links provided on this page. Read more