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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:59 PM

Inside the Paint - Friday

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The NCAA Tournament continues to receive the majority of attention but the NBA grind never stops. Friday’s card has six games on tap and below is my quick handicap.

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

Indiana (45-30 SU, 36-38-1 ATS) at Boston (44-31 SU, 35-38-2 ATS)

These two teams are likely to square off in the 4-5 first round matchup in the Eastern Conference and this outcome could determine homecourt for their series. The pair will also meet on Apr. 5 from Indiana.

For this matchup, Boston opened as a 6 ½-point favorite and it’s been a tough team to handicap in the second-half. Since the All-Star break, the Celtics have gone 7-9 SU and 6-9-1 ATS. They just snapped a four-game losing skid on Tuesday with a 116-106 road win over Cleveland.

Indiana has actually been worse than Boston, going 6-10 in the second-half and that includes a 3-7 mark in their last 10 games. They blasted Denver 124-99 at home on Sunday but collapsed on Wednesday in a 107-99 road loss at Oklahoma City. Losing as a visitor has become a common trend for Indiana, who has dropped nine straight on the road. The club has gone 1-8 ATS during that skid and the offense hasn’t traveled well (99.1 PG), which has produced a 7-2 ‘under’ record.

The two teams split the first two meetings this season and the home team has come out ahead in each game. At TD Garden on Jan. 9, Boston defeated Indiana 135-108 as a seven-point home favorite and I’m surprised we’re not looking at a higher line in this spot but it’s tough to trust either team right now.

Similar to picking a side, the total is just as much as a toss-up. Indiana owns the second-best ‘under’ (45-30) mark in the league and that includes an 18-10 mark since All-Star Victor Oladipo was lost for the season to an injury in late January. While the Pacers have leaned low, Boston has been a sneaky-good ‘over’ club over its last nine games (7-2), largely due to a defense that is allowing 118.2 points per game during this span.

Portland (47-27 SU, 41-33 ATS) at Atlanta (27-48 SU, 38-37 ATS)

Even though the Hawks won’t be participating in this year’s NBA Playoffs, they’ve captured the hearts of bettors this season, especially in the second-half. Atlanta has gone 12-4 ATS since the All-Star break while playing .500 basketball (8-8). The young core led by rookie point guard Trae Young comes to play every night and when the outside shots are falling, they can hang with anybody. They enter Friday’s matchup versus Portland with a three-game winning streak and the offense has averaged 125.3 PPG in those victories. The ‘over’ easily cashed in those games and the high side is 10-6 since the break.

Despite the hot run, the Trail Blazers are laying a short number (-3) and they’ve been in great form too. Portland has won five straight and eight of its last nine games, which includes a 3-1 road mark. On Wednesday, the club posted a 20-point road win (118-98) over Chicago and that was the first game since they lost big man Jusuf Nurkic to a gruesome leg injury. Portland has also been playing without CJ McCollum (knee) as well.

Backing Portland at home and fading them on the road was a common theme that bettors have followed annually but this Blazers squad is a respectable 18-18 away from home this season and they’ve been great lately. Since the All-Star break, the club is 8-3 away as a visitor. Plus, Portland has been a great bully team all season and an 11-3 record both SU and ATS as a road favorite is very impressive.

These teams met in late January and the Trail Blazers captured a 120-111 win over the Hawks as 8 ½-point home favorites while the ‘over’ (224) cashed. Prior to that result, the ‘under’ had cashed in five straight meetings between the pair.

Denver (50-24 SU, 38-36 ATS) at Oklahoma City (44-31 SU, 38-37 ATS)

The Nuggets are hoping they meet the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs because they’ve owned this series, winning five straight and seven of the last eight meetings while going 8-0 ATS for bettors. Denver has captured three of its last four trips to OKC and the lone loss came by one point. The Nuggets will be playing on no rest after getting humbled at Houston (112-85) on Thursday but that shouldn’t scare you away from the visitor. Denver has gone 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS this season when facing a back-to-back spot and that includes a run of six straight entering this matchup.

Oklahoma City just snapped a three-game losing skid at home on Wednesday as it defeated Indiana 107-99 as a 6 ½-point home favorite. Similar to the Pacers and Celtics, the Thunder have struggled since the break with a 6-11 record and that includes a 4-5 mark at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Despite getting dominated recently in this series, Oklahoma City opened as a five-point home favorite and that’s a little surprising since Houston was -6 last night versus Denver and I believe the Rockets are clearly better than OKC and in much better form too. The line was taken ‘off the board’ on Thursday night because Thunder forward Paul George (shoulder) has been listed as ‘questionable’ for Friday.

Golden State (51-23 SU, 31-42-1 ATS) at Minnesota (33-41 SU, 35-39 ATS)

The Warriors will be looking to complete a 4-0 sweep of the Timberwolves on Friday at the Target Center. Golden State has defeated Minnesota by 17, 8 and 10 points this season – the most recent result coming on Mar. 19 (117-107) from Minneapolis.

For the final encounter of the season, the Warriors opened as 9 ½-point road favorites. While that number seems a little high, Golden State has won five of its last six games on the road and it’s gone 4-2 ATS during that span. The T-Wolves have gone 5-11 in the second-half of the season and only one of those wins came against a playoff team.

Minnesota has gone 7-4 both SU and ATS as a home ‘dog this season but is 0-2 in its last two games in this role. Make a note that the point-spread hasn’t mattered in any of those games so a Golden State win could very well be a cover too. Total bettors should note that the ‘under’ has gone 8-2 in the last 10 meetings between these teams and that includes a perfect 3-0 lean to the low side this season. Also, Minnesota enters on a 5-1 run to the low side and Golden State is 13-4 to the ‘under’ since the All-Star break.

Washington (31-45 SU, 36-40 ATS) at Utah (45-30 SU, 40-33-2 ATS)

This has been a one-sided series recently with the Jazz winning and covering six straight games against the Wizards. The pair just met in D.C. on Mar. 18 and Utah captured a 116-95 win as a 5 ½-point road favorite. The line (-12) has more than doubled for the rematch but make a note that the Wizards have lost their last three games at Salt Lake City by an average of 25 PPG. Also, the Jazz have won 13 straight games as a double-digit favorite and they’ve gone 8-4-1 ATS in those games.

The Wizards just snapped a five-game losing skid on Wednesday by beating the Suns 124-121 but the defense is still a mess and they need to shoot a high percentage just to stay in games. Since the All-Star break, Washington have seven wins and it’s scored 120-plus in six of those victories. If you’re leaning to the ‘dog, a lean to the ‘over’ would be suited as well. However, Utah’s defense is allowing 99.6 PPG in its last 10 games and that’s led to a 7-3 ‘under’ run.

Charlotte (35-39 SU, 34-38-2 ATS) at L.A. Lakers (33-42 SU, 29-44-2 ATS)

When the Los Angeles Lakers were healthy and looking like contenders in mid-December, they blasted the Hornets 128-100 as one-point road underdogs. A lot has changed in four months and Charlotte is now listed as a road favorite at Los Angeles. Despite owning a losing record, the Hornets remain in the playoff hunt and they enter this game with a four-game winning streak both SU and ATS. They’ve knocked off some quality opponents during this stretch, including the Celtics, Raptors and Spurs.

Stepping down in class certainly spells trouble for Charlotte, especially when it plays on the road. The Hornets have struggled to an 11-24 SU and 15-20 ATS mark away from home an that includes a 3-4 record when laying points. With games at Golden State and Utah on deck, the sense of urgency should be high for Charlotte on Friday. The Lakers have gone 4-5 at the Staples Center in the second-half of the season. LeBron James is expected to suit up for Los Angeles but he’ll likely be limited and a late scratch wouldn’t be surprising either.

Chris David can be reached at [email protected]

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