Inside the Paint – Thursday

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

Thursday’s NBA card starts off with an afternoon matchup at The O2 from London as the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards square off at 3:00 p.m. ET. The NBA isn’t really doing itself justice with this pair but I guess the fans in the United Kingdom would welcome any escape from reality these days. New York has played in London twice (1-1) while Washington is making its London debut. The last three regular season games played at this venue have seen the ‘over’ connect.

Outside of this early matchup, we have five other games slated on Thursday and below is my quick handicap on each contest.

Philadelphia (29-16 SU, 21-24 ATS) at Indiana (29-14 SU, 22-20-1 ATS)

This is easily the best matchup on the night and it will be the third meeting between the Eastern Conference contenders this season. The 76ers captured a 100-94 road win on Nov. 7 before the Pacers avenged that setback with a 113-101 win on Dec. 4 at Philadelphia.

The oddsmakers opened Indiana as a short favorite (-3) for the third installment and this game is a toss-up due to the similarities for both clubs. The Pacers (20-3) and 76ers (22-8) have both beaten up on teams below .500 this season and they’ve taken advantage of playing in the weaker of the two conferences. For instance, the Southeast Division is by far the worst group in the NBA and Indiana (8-1) and Philadelphia (8-3) have thrived against those five clubs.

Also, Philadelphia has racked up its win total with an 10-3 mark versus the Western Conference and it hasn’t played any of the division leaders (Nuggets, Warriors, Rockets).

One of those wins against a weaker squad from the West came on Tuesday as the 76ers snapped a three-game ATS losing skid with a 149-107 blowout win over Minnesota as a six-point home favorite.

At the same time, Indiana captured its second straight rout with a 131-97 win over Phoenix as a 10 ½-point home favorite on Tuesday. Last Friday, the Pacers diced up the Knicks 121-106 on the road and that victory snapped a 0-5 ATS drought.

Based on what we’ve seen in the first-half of the season, I would expect most bettors to lean to Indiana at home tonight. The Pacers (15-5 SU, 11-9 ATS) have been a tough out and they enter this game with a 9-1 record over their last 10 games from Bakers Life Fieldhouse. Plus, Philadelphia hasn’t been as sharp on the road (10-12 SU, 8-14 ATS) so far. Make a note that the 76ers have been better since they acquired Jimmy Butler from the Timberwolves, going 9-6 as a visitor.

At first glance I thought the opening total (224 ½) on this game was too high based on Indiana’s scoring defense (103 PPG), ranked second in the league. However, you can’t ignore the fact that the Pacers have seen the ‘over’ cash in nine straight and 10 of their last 11 games. The offense is averaging 117.8 PPG during this span and they’ll be facing a Philadelphia defense (112.4 PPG) that has been suspect.

TNT will provide national coverage of this game at 8:05 p.m. ET.

Sacramento (23-21 SU, 26-17-1 ATS) at Charlotte (20-23 SU, 21-22 ATS)

These teams just played last Saturday in California and Sacramento captured a 104-97 win as a 5 ½-point home favorite. On the East Coast, the Hornets are listed as three-point favorites for the rematch and that could be a tough sell. Even though Charlotte defeated San Antonio 108-93 on Monday, the first game back from a long road trip (6 games) is never easy. Plus, Sacramento has won four of its last five and is 5-1 ATS in its last six. Make a note that the one loss came on the road, and the Kings have surrendered four consecutive away defeats. Even though last Saturday’s result between the pair went ‘under’ (233 ½), the ‘over’ (230) could be a look tonight knowing Sacramento is 16-4 to the high side on the road.

Phoenix (11-34 SU, 20-25 ATS) at Toronto (33-13 SU, 19-26-1 ATS)

No overnight line was posted on this matchup with the speculation that Toronto will rest Kawhi Leonard after the club lost at Boston 117-108 last night. The Raptors opened as 10 ½-point home favorites this morning and the number was quickly pushed up to 11 ½. However, it was recently announced that Leonard and Kyle Lowry will be 'out' and the Raptors are now nine-point favorites. While you could be hesitant to lay the points, make a note that Toronto has gone 7-1 both SU and ATS on no rest this season. Plus, it’s cleaned up at home (18-4 SU, 10-12 ATS) and it owns a solid record (17-3) against losing teams. Phoenix is headed to the NBA Lottery again and backing them on the road (4-17 SU, 9-12 ATS) hasn’t been profitable. However, the four road wins all came against teams versus the Eastern Conference and their non-conference road mark (4-6 SU, 7-3 ATS) could give you reason to grab the points. Just hope they shoot a high percentage because it’s hard to back a team that’s allowing 117.6 points per game on the road. If you want another angle that could have you backing the ‘dog, then be aware that Toronto is 11-0 SU this season as a double-digit favorite but only 4-7 ATS in those games.

Chicago (10-34 SU, 20-23-1 ATS) at Denver (29-14 SU, 23-20 ATS)

The Nuggets were humbled 142-111 on Tuesday at home by Golden State in wire-to-wire fashion. The club will look to bounce back on Thursday as a heavy favorite (-12 ½) against Chicago, who has dropped eight straight games (3-4-1 ATS). Despite the loss to the Warriors, Denver owns an impressive 18-4 SU and 14-8 ATS mark at the Pepsi Center. Going back to last season, the Nuggets have won nine straight as double-digit home favorites and they’ve gone 6-3 ATS during this span. The Bulls have been catching big points all season and expecting an upset could be foolish. Chicago is 0-13 SU and just 4-9 ATS this season when catching 10-plus points. The pair did play to a close call on Oct. 31 as the Nuggets nipped the Bulls 108-107 on the road, but failed to cover (-8) as road favorites.

L.A. Lakers (24-21 SU, 18-25-2 ATS) at Oklahoma City (26-17 SU, 23-20 ATS)

The late-night TNT (9:35 p.m. ET) matchup has the Thunder listed as a 10-point home favorite over the Lakers and this is certainly a headscratcher. Oklahoma City is 1-4 both SU and ATS in its last five games, which includes an embarrassing 142-126 loss at Atlanta on Tuesday as a 10-point road favorite. Do you lay the same price at home against the Lakers? Los Angeles (-7) is coming off a 107-100 home win over Chicago on Monday, which improved its record to 4-7 since LeBron James went down with an injury. The Lakers offense remains inconsistent (105.3 PPG) without James and that’s helped the ‘under’ go 8-3 during his absence. One of those setbacks came to Oklahoma City, a 107-100 decision at the Staples Center on Jan. 2. The game went ‘under’ (229 ½) and the low side has now cashed in four straight encounters between the pair and seven of the last nine meetings.

Chris David can be reached at