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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:59 PM

Inside the Paint - Wednesday

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All things usually balance out in the long run and daily followers of the NBA are starting to see that trend take place at the betting counter recently. After watching the underdogs own the first three weeks after the All-Star break, favorites have started to flex this week. Since Monday, the ‘chalk’ has gone 11-2 straight up and 9-4 against the spread and that includes last night’s results (7-0 SU, 5-2 ATS). For total players, the ‘under’ still holds a slight edge (79-68) in the second-half but I would expect a big night of ‘over’ tickets to dominate the slate in the near future.

Game of the Night (ESPN, 9:35 p.m. ET)
Golden State (45-21 SU, 26-39-1 ATS) at Houston (42-25 SU, 31-34-2 ATS)

A possible preview of the Western Conference Finals will take place on Wednesday as the Warriors will meet the Rockets from the Toyota Center. Houston will be seeking an improbable sweep of the four-game season series and by doing so, the Rockets would only be three games behind the Warriors in the latest race for the top seed in the West.

Houston has been installed as a 3 ½-point home favorite and NBA expert Tony Mejia weighed in on the fourth showdown between the pair.

He said, “Steph Curry is calling this an opportunity to send a statement, but the fact Kevin Durant is coming off an ankle contusion means it doesn’t really mean all that much from that standpoint. The exception to that would be if Golden State were to win without him, but considering they fell apart against the lowly Suns without the reigning two-time MVP, it’s the Rockets that who are more likely to send a message in putting a little doubt in the Warriors on the heels of a stretch where they’ve gone 4-6.”

“Getting DeMarcus Cousins was always going to be taxing and he could be exposed as a liability due to his pick-and-roll defense against a team that boasts James Harden and Chris Paul, but injuries have further compounded things. Klay Thompson missed a couple of games, Draymond Green seems stuck in a place with no confidence to shoot the ball and key reserves Shaun Livingston and Kevon Looney have had their knocks. All that in addition to Durant’s unfortunate ankle tweak at home against Phoenix makes this a tough game for the Warriors and a prime opportunity for the Rockets to finish off a season sweep of the defending champs.”

As Mejia mentioned, the Warriors have gone 4-6 in their last 10 games and more importantly they’re 2-8 ATS during this span and that includes the embarrassing 115-11 loss at home to Phoenix on Sunday as 17-point home favorites. If you go back 20 games, Golden State is 6-14 ATS and its been favored in all of those games.

Catching points this season has been a rarity for Golden State but it has happened five teams and Steve Kerr’s team has gone 1-4 SU and 2-3 ATS. Kevin Durant (ankle) is ‘out’ Wednesday and the Warriors are 0-1 this season without him, a 103-96 decision at Orlando on Feb. 28.

While Golden State has struggled, Houston has been on fire with a 9-1 record in its last 10 games. The Rockets have gone 5-4-1 ATS during this run and the team is finally healthy. After starting the season with an 11-14 record, Mike D’Antoni and company have gone 31-11. A lot of that success has come at home with Houston going 24-9 SU and 18-14-1 ATS. That record also comes after the team started 0-4 at the Toyota Center.

From a head-to-head perspective, Mejia argues that a fully-active Rockets squad could have an edge over the Warriors.

He explained, “Paul has missed one of this year’s victories, but it’s worth noting that the Rockets have defeated Golden State five of the last six times he’s taken the court for them and are 7-3 overall with him in the lineup since he came on board last season. With Kenneth Faried back, the Rockets are the healthiest they’ve been all season and have really dominated games on the defensive end during their nine-game winning streak, giving up 106 or fewer points in five consecutive contests.”

The total on this game is hovering between 230 and 231 points. Despite the offensive firepower on both sides, this series has been a great ‘under’ bet with the low side cashing in eight of the last 10 meetings. They did play to a 135-134 shootout on Jan. 3 from the Bay Area and the ‘over’ (232) in the recent meeting at Oracle Arena on Feb. 23 had a chance to go high but the Warriors were stifled late in a 118-112 loss to the Rockets.

Including four games from last year’s Western Conference Finals, the ‘under’ has gone 4-1 in the last five games between the pair from Houston. The Warriors have been a better ‘over’ (19-13) team on the road but they’re only averaging 101 points per game in their last five visits to Houston.

Eastern Test

Two teams fighting for playoff spots in the Eastern Conference will meet on Wednesday when Detroit (34-32 SU, 33-31-2 ATS) and Miami (31-35 SU, 35-31) square off at the American Airlines Arena. This will be the final meeting between the two teams and the Pistons have gone 2-1 both SU and ATS versus the Heat and that includes a 119-96 blowout win on Feb. 23 as 3 ½-point road underdogs. For the fairly quick rematch, Miami opened as a 1 ½-point favorite and some of the adjustment can be based on form.

Even though the Pistons were embarrassed 103-75 this past Monday as two-point road underdogs, the club still owns an 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS mark in the second-half of the season. Miami was also lit up in its last game, a 125-104 decision to Toronto as a two-point home favorite. Prior to that win, the Heat had won five of their last six games both SU and ATS with four of the victories coming at home.

The Pistons hold a three-game lead over the Heat for the seventh spot in the East so the sense or urgency should be much higher for Miami. Especially with the Bucks and Hornets visiting American Airlines Arena later this week.

Roll the Ball Out

Meaningless matchups late in the NBA regular season happen often and I usually lean to the ‘over’ in those games knowing that the defense tends to be a tad looser. Wednesday’s game between Memphis and Atlanta fits perfectly and bettors are looking at a total of 221, which doesn’t seem high for Atlanta but it out of the norm for Memphis.

The Grizzlies have only had five totals listed in the 220s this season and not surprisingly, the ‘under’ has gone 5-0 in those games. The Memphis team we’ve seen lately has been running more and even though lack offensive consistency, point guard Mike Conley has been on a roll. Plus, the Hawks defense (118.7 PPG) is ranked last in scoring and they give up plenty of extra possessions due to turnovers, also ranked last in the league with 17.7 per game.

The pair met early in the season on Oct. 19 from Memphis and the Grizzlies notched a 131-117 win over the Hawks and the ‘over’ (216) was never in doubt. All signs point to another back-and-forth game in the second meeting.

Desert Heat

The Suns (16-52 SU, 31-37 ATS) have been on fire recently, going 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS in their last seven games and that includes the largest upset of the NBA season on Sunday when the club stunned Golden State 115-111 as 17-point road underdogs. During this hot run, Phoenix has gone 3-1 at home and it’s been listed as an underdog in three of those games.

Fast forward to Wednesday and Phoenix (+7) is receiving points again to Utah (37-29 SU, 33-31-2 ATS) at home. Knowing the Jazz have dropped two straight and three of their last four games, the obvious lean would be to the underdog in this spot if you’re handicapping on current form.

This will be the second encounter between the pair this season and this series has been very lopsided. The Jazz have won four straight and 11 of the last 12 meetings against the Suns and they’ve gone 8-4 versus the number in those games. Also, Utah hasn’t lost three straight games since late November and it’s gone 4-2 both SU and ATS in its last six games as a road favorite.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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