Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

Inside the Paint - Thursday

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

Milwaukee (36-13 SU, 27-20-2 ATS) at Toronto (37-15 SU, 22-29-1 ATS)

The TNT double-header (8:05 p.m. ET) begins Thursday with a possible preview of this year’s Eastern Conference Finals as the Bucks and Raptors meet for the fourth and final time in the regular season. The latest futures market has Toronto (2/1) and Milwaukee (3/1) as the top contenders to win the East along with Boston (2/1) and Philadelphia (6/1).

Toronto holds a one-game over Milwaukee for the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the sense of urgency should be with the home squad. The Bucks won and covered their first two encounters against the Raptors this season, a 124-109 decision at home on Oct. 29 before a 104-99 road win on Dec. 9.

Toronto avenged those losses with a 123-116 win over Milwaukee as a 5 ½-point road underdog on Jan. 5 and it will need to claim Thursday’s win to salvage a season split.

The Raptors didn’t have Kawhi Leonard available for the loss in Milwaukee at the end of October but he did post 30 points on the Bucks in early January. Make a note that Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo also missed the first meeting of the regular season between the two teams but the Greek product posted 43 points in the recent setback to the Raptors. Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s supporting cast couldn’t buy a shot and that’s been an issue on the road.

The Bucks are ranked first in scoring offense at home with 120 points per game but that number drops to 114.1 on the road. Expecting a high-scoring game could be wishful thinking knowing the Toronto is holding opponents to 106.7 PPG at home.

That defensive effort has helped Toronto go 21-4 at home but it hasn’t been profitable (12-13 ATS) for bettors. Keep in mind that 11 of the 13 non-covers occurred in straight up wins when the team was laying 8 ½ points or more.

Books sent out Toronto as a 2 ½-point home favorite for this installment, which is a drop-off from the spread (Raptors -5) in their first encounter from Scotiabank Arena in December. Since Milwaukee won that game at Toronto, the Raptors have ripped off 10 straight wins at home.

The adjustment from +5 to +2 ½ on the Bucks certainly shows how much respect Milwaukee has earned from the oddsmakers this season. Head coach Mike Budenholzer has been able to pull the right strings and he also has one of the deepest teams in the league. He’s surrounded Antetokounmpo with a ton of shooters and they’re not afraid to hoist from distance. The Bucks are ranked second in the league with 37.7 attempts from 3-point land, only behind Houston. When those bombs are connecting, 40-point quarters become the norm for Milwaukee.

The Bucks have only been listed as underdogs five times this season and they’ve gone 4-1 both SU and ATS in those games while the ‘over’ has gone 4-1 as well. The lone loss was a four-point setback (117-113) at Boston on Nov. 1, which was a highly competitive game.

Only four teams in the East owning winning records on the road and Milwaukee (14-9 SU, 11-10-2 ATS) is one of them. The Bucks enter this game with a 4-1 record in their last five away games, which includes Tuesday’s 115-105 win at Detroit as a seven-point favorite. 

Toronto hasn’t played since Sunday when it snapped a two-game losing skid at Dallas with a 123-120 win as a 4 ½-point road favorite. The Raptors have gone 2-0 (0-2 ATS) this season when playing on three days or rest or more and the ‘over’ has cashed in both those games.

The total on this game opened 230 ½ and the early money has pushed the number to 232 as of Thursday morning. The ‘over’ is on a 5-1 run in this series and that includes a 2-1 mark in the last three games play in Canada.

Philadelphia (33-18 SU, 24-27 ATS) at Golden State (36-14 SU, 23-26-1 ATS)

The Warriors and 76ers will wrap up the TNT double-header at 10:35 p.m. ET in a quality non-conference matchup. Oddsmakers sent out Golden State as an 8 ½-point home favorite and the number has been nudged up to -9 ½ as of Thursday morning.

The Warriors have been on a roll, winners in 11 straight games and they’ve produced a 6-4-1 ATS mark during the streak. The team is 5-0 since DeMarcus Cousins suited up on Jan. 18 and the defense (106.8 PPG) has actually dropped from their season average (111.8 PPG).

This will be the first game back at Oracle Arena after winning five straight on the road and getting up for the first contest back at home is never easy. Plus, the 76ers are no slouch and they’re starting to click on all cylinders as well.

Philadelphia has gone 10-4 in 2019 and while a couple of the losses were embarrassing (Wizards, Hawks), they’ve posted some quality wins recently over the Pacers, Rockets and Spurs.

After losing at Denver 126-110 on Saturday with a short-handed squad, Philadelphia bounced back on Tuesday with a wire-to-wire 121-105 blowout over the L.A. Lakers from the Staples Center. The 76ers have won seven of their last nine games against the Western Conference and the offense is averaging 120.4 PPG in those games.

Philly is going to need hit that average and perhaps more on Thursday because Golden State’s offense has been lights out. During its 11-game winning streak, the Warriors are averaging 128.9 PPG and that’s helped the ‘over’ go 8-3.

Along with its current winning streak, Golden State has also won 10 in a row against Philadelphia. The 76ers have saved some face and turned profits for bettors during this run by going 6-1- ATS in the last seven meetings and they were catching some heavy digits.

Last season in the Bay Area, the Warriors ran the 76ers by 21 points (135-114) at home as 13 ½-point favorites.

Versus the East this season, Golden State has gone 15-4 SU and 12-7 ATS. Two of those non-conference losses did come at home to the clubs (Bucks, Raptors) playing in the first game on TNT tonight. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Philadelphia join the duo and the money-line (+380) does seem tempting, especially knowing that the 76ers have gone 13-5 against the West this season. Make a note that a lot of those wins came against the cellar dwellers in that conference and they’re just 4-4 away from home.

Anytime I see a total listed in the 230s, my initial instinct is to play the ‘over’ and Thursday’s opener was sent out at 240 ½.

Golden State (28-22) and Philadelphia (28-23) have both leaned to the ‘over’ this season but most of the high side tickets for the Warriors have come on the road (17-9) as opposed to home (11-13).

The Warriors have had six totals this season close in the 240s and the ‘over/under’ went 3-3 in those games. Philadelphia has never been in that totals neighborhood but it has had 10 numbers close in the 230s and the ‘under’ is 7-3.

If there is one flaw in the 76ers game this season, it’s their defense. The unit is ranked 22nd in scoring, surrendering 112.1 PPG and that’s a big jump from 105.3 PPG last season.

The pair will meet again on Mar. 2 from Philadelphia in a Saturday night showdown.

Along with the nationally televised games on TNT, we’ve got four other contests set for Thursday.

Indiana at Orlando: Since Victor Oladipo (quad) went down for the season, the Pacers have dropped three straight games and that includes last night’s 107-89 loss at Washington. Indiana has been solid on no rest (6-2 SU, 6-2 ATS) but it looks mentally shook right now. While I’m not sold on the Pacers, it’s hard to back the Magic as home favorites. They’ve gone 4-6 SAU and 3-7 ATS when laying points at home and none of those wins came against a team with a winning record.

Dallas at Detroit: Quick rematch game here as the Mavericks defeated the Pistons 106-101 last Friday as five-point favorites. The game pushed and the total pushed (207) as well. For the rematch, Detroit (-2) is listed as a short favorite and they’re catching Dallas on no rest. This has been an issue for the Mavericks, who have gone 1-7 SU and 4-4 ATS when facing back-to-back sets.

Brooklyn at San Antonio: DeMar DeRozan (knee) is expected to be back tonight but this line seems a little short with San Antonio only laying seven points. The Spurs have won six straight against the Nets and they’ve gone 4-0-2 ATS during this run while the ‘under’ is 5-1. San Antonio has been a solid investment at home recently, going 15-5 SU and 14-6 ATS. The spread only mattered in one of those games, which took place on Tuesday as the Spurs defeated the Suns 126-124 but failed to cover as 13 ½-point home favorites.

L.A. Lakers at L.A. Clippers: LeBron James (groin) has been ruled ‘out’ for this game and the Clippers opened as home favorites (-5 ½) over the Lakers. The pair recently played in late December and the Clippers captured a 118-107 over the Lakers as seven-point road favorites. The Clippers have been solid as home favorites, going 13-6 SU and 12-7 ATS.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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