Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Inside the Paint - Thursday

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Favorites finally came to play in the NBA last night as the ‘chalk’ went 8-2 straight up and 6-3-1 against the spread. The Heat and Bulls were the two underdogs to win outright and both of those teams were receiving attention from pro bettors. Including Wednesday’s results, the underdogs still hold an impressive 64-42-2 (60%) mark versus the number since the All-Star break.

Total bettors have watched the ‘under’ go 59-49 during this span and the low side has gone 18-5 (78%) since Monday.

Tonight’s TNT double-header features a pair of divisional matchups and three of the four teams in action are coming off losses.

Let’s break down the card.

Indiana (42-23 SU, 33-31-1 ATS) at Milwaukee (48-16 SU, 37-25-2 ATS)

May pundits wrote off the Pacers after they lost Victor Oladipo to a leg injury on Jan. 23 but the club weathered the blow and has turned things around. After dropping their first four games without the All-Star, Indiana has gone 9-5 and that includes a 105-96 win over Chicago on Tuesday as a 6 ½-point home favorite. At the end of the day the Pacers are a .500 team without Oladipo and while they have enough experience and talent to surprise you a nightly basis, it’s hard to imagine them winning a best-of-seven series against in this year’s playoffs.

The Bucks started the second-half of their season with five straight wins but they enter this game off back-to-back losses. Milwaukee dropped a 115-11 decision at Utah last Saturday before collapsing two days later as a heavy road favorite (-13 ½) at Phoenix, 114-105. Mike Budenholzer’s team was outscored 38-23 in the final 12 minutes and the Suns cashed ridiculous money-line tickets that had odds listed as high as +750 (Bet $100 to win $750).

It was the first time this season that Milwaukee had dropped back-to-back games and one of the main reasons why the Bucks will go over their season Win Total (48 ½) with a win at home tonight.

These teams have played three times already this season and the Bucks have captured two of the first three encounters, which includes a 118-108 win on Oct. 19 as a four-point home favorite.

Fast forward to this matchup and the spread has more than doubled with Milwaukee opening as a 10-point favorite over Indiana. NBA expert Tony Mejia weighs in on the high number for Thursday’s game.

He said, “With sixth man Domantas Sabonis out the past few games and starting center Myles Turner having been out before that, the Pacers have had their typical frontcourt rotation in place only once since the All-Star break ended. Kyle O’Quinn has picked up more minutes and performed reasonably well, but considering the Bucks bring the most stacked rotation of big men to the table with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez, Nikola Mirotic and Ersan Ilyasova all available, it’s no surprise Indiana opened as a double-digit underdog for the first time this season. The question becomes, is it too much?”

“The Pacers had their full frontcourt rotation in place at home and didn’t have to deal with Mirotic but still ran out of gas at home on Feb. 13, losing 106-97. The Bucks have already seen Wes Matthews in Victor Oladipo’s spot and will be back at Fiserv Forum for the first time since Feb. 23, adding to their advantages. Still, laying so many points against a division rival may be a case of Milwaukee being overvalued considering it has failed to cover its past two double-digit spreads.”

At home, the Bucks have gone 25-5 straight up and 17-13 against the spread which includes two wins since the All-Star break. Milwaukee failed to cover in both of those games and they are 1-5 ATS in their last six played at the Fiserv Forum. As double-digit home favorites this season, the Bucks have gone 12-1 SU and 8-5-1 ATS but as Mejia noted, they’ve burned bettors in their last two spots in this role.

Indiana has been decent on the road (17-14 SU, 13-17-1 ATS) this season but the club is just 1-4 both SU and ATS in their last five trips to Milwaukee.

The ‘under’ is on a 7-2 run in the last nine home games for the Bucks, plus Indiana has watched the ‘under’ go 5-2 in its last seven away games. This series is on a 7-2 ‘under’ run and these teams have never seen a total listed in the 220s during this span.  

Oklahoma City (39-25 SU, 33-31 ATS) at Portland (39-25 SU, 37-25-1 ATS)

The Thunder and Trail Blazers square off tonight from the Great Northwest and this would be the 4-5 matchup in the Western Conference playoffs if the season ended today. This isn’t an easy game to handicap because Portland is returning from a long successful road trip while the Thunder are in terrible form. However, OKC has won and covered all three meetings against Portland this season and will be going for the 4-0 sweep tonight.

Mejia breaks down the fourth and final encounter. “Oklahoma City has failed to cover in its last eight games, losing six outright. The Thunder got Paul George back from a three-game absence on Tuesday due to a shoulder issue but failed to beat Minnesota and saw him shoot 8-for-25, which is disappointing since he took a break after shooting a combined 11-for-43 in losses Sacramento and Denver. He’s not right, which combined with the prolonged shooting slump Dennis Schroder (33-for-105) is on since the All-Star break ended, leaves Russell Westbrook back in the place where he’s having to do too much, which is how come he’s shot the ball 20 or more times in six of eight games during this stretch,” said Mejia.  

He added, “Westbrook is shooting 40 percent in OKC’s three wins over the Trail Blazers, averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10.7 assists. Portland hasn’t been in a favorite’s role against Oklahoma City much over the last three seasons – the 3.5 points it opened laying is the second-biggest number in that span – but you can understand why given the Thunder’s current form and the fact the Blazers had won eight of their last nine at home in the series entering this season.”

The Thunder have dropped their last two games as an underdog but they were 8-2 in their previous 10 when catching points.

Portland went 5-2 on the seven-game road trip after the break and could’ve easily been 7-0 if it wasn’t for a close call in Toronto (119-117) and a collapse at Memphis (120-111) this past Tuesday. Winning on the road hasn’t been the staple of success for Portland, rather its dominant mark (24-8 SU, 21-11 ATS) at the Moda Center.

Since the New Year, the club has gone 10-2 both SU and ATS at home. One of the losses did come to OKC, a 111-109 decision on Jan. 4 while the other setback was a bit of a stunner in early February to the Heat (118-108).

Portland started out the season as a solid ‘under’ look at home but those results have balanced out and the ‘over’ is 8-0-1 in its last nine home games. OKC is 19-14 to the ‘under’ on the road and it comes into this game on a 5-1 run to the low side but Paul George sat out three of those contests. Defensively, the Thunder have allowed 121, 116 and 131 points in three road games since the break and that’s another reason why tonight’s total is hovering between 233 and 234 points.

After this game, the Thunder will meet the Clippers at the Staples Center for a back-to-back spot on Friday while Portland entertains Phoenix on Saturday.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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