Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Inside the Paint - Tuesday

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

Game of the Night - Golden State (29-14 SU, 18-25 ATS) at Denver (29-13 SU, 23-19 ATS)

All eyes will be on the Pepsi Center this Tuesday as two-time defending champion Golden State pays a visit to Denver. The Nuggets currently owns the best record in the Western Conference and most of their success has come at home, where head coach Mike Malone’s team has gone 18-3 SU and 14-7 ATS.

Entering this matchup, the Nuggets have won 12 straight at home and they’ve helped bettors with a solid 9-3 record versus the spread over that span. Despite the hot run, oddsmakers at opened Golden State as a 1 ½-point road favorite. NBA expert and writer Tony Mejia weighed in on the heavyweight matchup in the West.  He said, “The Nuggets continue to impose their will, coming off an impressive Sunday night victory over Portland that kept them ahead of the Warriors entering this showdown. It’s definitely not lost on Golden State that it doesn’t typically have to look up at anyone in this league, so seeing Denver ahead in the standings will drive the Dubs in this one. We’ll see if the Nuggets reach the level of respected adversary that Houston achieved last season, having already defeated the Warriors early in the season. Houston served notice in the 2017-18 season opener and actually won the season series last year, eventually falling a win short of eliminating Golden State in the Western Conference finals.”

In the first regular season encounter on Oct. 21, Denver nipped Golden State 100-98 as a 4 ½-point home underdog. Just based on the point-spread, you can see the adjustment in the power ratings from the oddsmakers. This decision wasn’t easy on the eyes as neither Golden State (24%) or Denver (19%) could make any shots from 3-point land, plus the Nuggets missed 18 free throws (24-of-42) as well.

Mejia added, “The Nuggets will play through Nikola Jokic, so being home puts some pressure on them to pick up a win since the Warriors will add DeMarcus Cousins to the mix this weekend and will defend Denver differently in their meetings to come in March, April and beyond. With Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton back, the Nuggets are deep and in a good rhythm. Golden State has been shaky and needed Stephen Curry’s heroics to get past Dallas on Sunday. I’d say the wrong team is favored in this matchup.”

The Warriors held off the Mavericks 119-114 for their fourth straight win but failed to cover as six-point road underdogs and that’s been a common theme this season for the champs. On the road, Steve Kerr’s squad has gone 12-8 SU and 8-12 ATS but they enter Tuesday on an 8-1 run in their last nine away games. The win over Dallas pushed Golden State to 20-2 against teams below .500, which is expected. However, the Warriors don’t have many quality wins and they own a losing record (9-12) against winning teams.

Meanwhile, Denver is 16-7 versus teams above .500 and that’s the best record in the NBA. Versus losing teams, the club has had letdowns (13-6) and we just witnessed one last Saturday at Phoenix (102-93). Including the aforementioned win over Golden State, the Nuggets are 2-0 both SU and ATS this season as home underdogs and the ‘under’ cashed in both those games as well.

The total on this game opened 228. The ‘over’ is 13-7 for Golden State on the road while Denver has seen the ‘under’ go 11-10 at home.

Brotherly Love?

Jimmy Butler will meet his former team for the first time on Tuesday as Philadelphia (28-16 SU, 20-24 ATS) clashes with Minnesota (21-22 SU, 23-20 ATS) at home. Since Butler was traded, the Timberwolves have gone 17-13 and are less than two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. For the 76ers, they’ve gone 20-10 and sit in fourth place of the Eastern Conference.

Mejia offered up his thoughts on the intrigue for Tuesday. “Jimmy Butler hasn’t been thrilled with how he’s been used in Philadelphia, but Joel Embiid balked at how much he was required to roam out to the perimeter to accommodate him and quickly won that power struggle. Butler views his role in the offense as a work in progress but often says he’s capable of impacting the game with his defense and hustle, which is why you can expect him to play a huge role against his former team,” said Mejia.

“While Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have been much better since his departure, both are vulnerable to the fact he knows their tendencies and often got the better of them in practices, so the 76ers will be well-equipped to try and make this an unpleasant night for the Timberwolves. Although Minnesota won its first road test under Ryan Saunders, pulling an upset at Oklahoma City, this will be a far different test. It doesn’t help matters that Robert Covington won’t play since he quickly emerged as an emotional leader for his new team and would’ve been fired up since he wasn’t pleased Philly GM Elton Brand moved him or that he found out on social media five minutes before being notified by Brand. This game will require fire, and I don’t believe the Wolves can rely on Dario Saric to supply it.”

Philadelphia is listed as a six-point favorite for this game and the club hasn’t been in great form recently, going 1-2 SU and 0-3 ATS to a trio of weaker foes (Wizards, Hawks, Knicks). The 76ers have been much better at home (18-4 SU, 12-10) but this line seems a little short, especially against a T-Wolves team that has struggled on the road (6-15 SU, 9-12 ATS).

Along with missing Covington, guards Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose are both 'questionable' for tonight.

Best of the Rest

Along with those matchups, Tuesday’s card has four other games as well.

Miami (21-20 SU, 23-18 ATS) at Milwaukee (30-12 SU, 24-17-1 ATS): The Bucks opened -8 ½ at a few  on Tuesday and similar to the Nuggets and 76ers, they’ve owned teams at home this season (19-4 SU, 15-8 ATS). However, the Heat will be looking to win and cover its seventh straight encounter against Milwaukee. The pair met on Dec. 22 from South Florida and Miami captured a 94-87 win as a two-point home underdog. The Heat have played better on the road (10-8) this season and they’ve been one of the best teams to back at the betting counter (12-6).

Phoenix (11-33 SU, 20-24 ATS) at Indiana (28-14 SU, 21-20-1 ATS): No overnight line was posted due to the status of Suns guard Devin Booker but he’s expected to go. Phoenix (4-16 SU, 9-11 ATS) hasn’t been much of a test on the road but it’s playing with confidence lately, going 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS in its last three and that includes a 102-93 upset over Denver last Saturday. Indiana snapped out of a 0-5 ATS slump last Friday with a 121-106 win at New York last Friday and it will be rested for this game. The Pacers have won and covered four straight games in this series, which includes a 109-104 win at Phoenix on Nov. 27.

Oklahoma City (26-16 SU, 23-19 ATS) at Atlanta (13-30 SU, 19-24 ATS): The Thunder ran past the Hawks 124-109 on Nov. 30 as a 13-point home favorite and many would expect a repeat performance. What’s strange about the Hawks is that they’ve been more competitive for bettors on the road (13-12 ATS) than at home (6-12 ATS). OKC has gone 8-7 SU and 7-8 ATS as a road favorite this season.

Chicago (10-33 SU, 20-23 ATS) at L.A. Lakers (23-21 SU, 18-25-1 ATS): After watching the LeBron-less Lakers fall to the Cavaliers 101-95 as 10 ½-point home favorites on Sunday, the oddsmakers quickly made sure not to list them that high (-6 ½) against the Bulls. Since James went down with an injury, Los Angeles is 3-7. Making a case won’t be easy for Chicago, who has dropped seven straight games (3-4 ATS). The Bulls haven’t played much defense recently, allowing 123.2 PPG in their last five games and that’s produced a 5-0 ‘over’ run.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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