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Inside the Paint - Thursday
Thursday’s NBA slate has four games on tap, which includes a TNT double-header. Last night’s action watched favorites go 8-2 straight up and 5-4-1 against the spread. Bettors riding the ‘over’ had a rough night took it on the chin as the ‘under’ posted an eye-opening 9-1 mark on Wednesday.

Let’s break down the card!

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

Houston (4-5 SU, 4-5 ATS) at Oklahoma City (6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS)

Not an easy game to handicap as both teams have finally found their form after terrible starts. Oddsmakers opened Houston as a 4 ½-point road favorite over Oklahoma City and I feel like the guys behind the counter are still giving the Rockets respect for what they’ve accomplished last season. Most books have dropped the number to 4 and BookMaker.eu is holding 3 ½ as of Thursday morning.

After opening the season 1-5, the Rockets have rebounded with three straight wins (2-1 ATS). Two things that have stood out during this streak is that all of victories have come on the road and the last two wins were slugfests over the Bulls (96-88) and Pacers (98-94).

It’s surprising to see the Rockets holding anybody under 100 points, but what’s more alarming with this year’s Houston team is its offense which is ranked dead last in shooting percentage (42.4%). They’re only averaging 105.3 PPG and they’re only getting to the free throw line 22.1 times per game, which is ranked 21st. Last season, they attempted 24.6 shots from the charity stripe and that was the third best mark. They still lead the league in 3-point shots attempted (41.9) and while James Harden (27.8 PPG) has been connecting above his average (43.1%), the same can’t be said for Chris Paul (29.5%) or Eric Gordon (23.6%).

Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has quietly ripped off six straight wins after beginning with an 0-4 record. All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook sat out two of those losses but he also skipped last night’s 95-86 lackluster win over Cleveland as a 6 ½-point road favorite. Six wins are six wins in the NBA but four of them came against teams below .500.

Westbrook remains ‘questionable’ with an ankle injury for Thursday but I would expect him to go. The Thunder have played on no rest once this season and it had its best effort with a wire-to-wire 134-111 road win over Washington last Friday.  If OKC can somehow win this game, it won’t be a stretch to see the club pushing this win streak to double-digits with its upcoming slate (Mavs, Suns (2), Knicks, Kings).

The total (214 ½) isn’t exactly high and even though Houston’s offensive form could scare you from an ‘over’ wager, the Thunder have seen the high side go 4-1 at home due to strong offensive (116.4 PG) and weak defensive (113.6 PPG) numbers.

The pair met three times last season and Oklahoma City went 2-1 both SU and ATS. Houston’s lone win did come on the road, a 122-112 decision as a 5 ½-point favorite.

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

Boston (6-4 SU, 4-6 ATS) at Phoenix (2-8 SU, 4-6 ATS)

Oddsmakers sent out Boston as an 8 ½-point road favorite and the number has moved to 9 ½. While laying a large number away from home doesn’t seem like a sound investment, I have no issues doing it with a great defensive team. Boston is ranked first in defensive efficiency (98.3) while Phoenix (112.6) is near the bottom.

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The Suns have two wins on the season and they gave up exactly 100 points in each of those victories. Boston’s offense hasn’t clicked yet and the rotation seems off right now but this seems like a ‘get-right’ game for them. Especially after allowing a season-high 115 points in a loss to Denver on Monday.

The Celtics have won five of the last six encounters between the pair over the last three seasons but the Suns have been a better investment in these matchups with a 5-1 ATS mark. Make a note that Boston was laying nine-plus points in five of the matchups, which is in the same range as tonight’s spread.

L.A. Clippers (6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS) at Portland (8-3 SU, 8-3 ATS)

Portland won and covered three of the four meetings against Los Angeles last season and the lone win by the Clippers came at the Moda Center, which was a tight game (104-103). The ‘under’ went 3-1.

While you shouldn’t ignore those games, this Clippers team has been overhauled and the last soldier standing is head coach Doc Rivers. Los Angeles has had a nice start to the season but its record has been padded with a 5-1 mark versus sub .500 teams. They have beaten the Rockets twice but Houston was without Harden for one game and CP3 for another. Los Angeles comes into this game with two straight wins and it hasn’t won three in a row yet, going 0-2 in its first two attempts.

The Trail Blazers have also won two in a row and Tuesday’s 118-103 win over Milwaukee as a two-point home underdog was impressive. Is this a letdown spot? You can argue that but knowing the Clippers won’t have Avery Bradley (ankle) and Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) available certainly helps Portland’s cause. I believe the tougher test for Portland will come on Sunday when it wraps up its six-game homestand versus Boston.

Make a note that the point-spread hasn’t mattered for either team this season. Meaning, Portland has covered in all of its wins as a favorite (5-0) and the Clippers haven’t kept it close enough for bettors as they are 0-4 ATS in their four losses as underdogs.

Milwaukee (8-2 SU, 6-4 ATS) at Golden State (10-1 SU, 7-4 ATS)

It’s rare to see the Warriors laying a short price (-6) to anybody at home these days but the line is based on a key injury and VI Expert Tony Mejia weighed in on how that we’ll affect the matchup versus the Bucks.

He explained, “Not having Draymond Green to help defend Giannis Antetokounmpo puts the Warriors in a huge bind since Andre Iguodala can only do so much since he’s been banged up himself. Steve Kerr has already addressed what a disadvantage this puts his team in since asking Kevin Durant to play Greek Freak outside of switches would compromise his offensive flow. The Warriors also lose the lynchpin of their defense, their best communicator, against a team that ranks third in offensive efficiency. That’s not ideal.”

He added, “Look for Kevon Looney and Alfonzo McKinnie to play much larger roles in addition Iguodala, so the Bucks are certainly a live ‘dog in Oakland. In a case of numbers sometimes not being reliable to tell the entire story, Golden State won its first 10 games without Green last season before losing its last two. Antetokounmpo shot 24-for-37 (64.9 percent) against the Warriors last season with Green in the mix, but he went 14-for-18 in the most recent meeting when Green was just coming back from an injury. With him gone altogether, he could have a huge night at Oracle."

The road team went 2-0 in this series last season and that included a 116-107 win by the Bucks at Oracle Arena on Mar. 29. Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 32 points but the Warriors didn’t have Curry available and Kevin Durant was ejected late in the first-half. Prior to that win, Milwaukee was just 3-6 in its previous nine trips to Golden State but it did post a solid 7-2 ATS mark in those contests.

The Warriors have gone 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS at home this season and while the Bucks are also perfect at home (6-0), their road mark (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) is pedestrian and the losses came to quality opponents in the Celtics and Trail Blazers.

The total on this game opened 238 and is up to 240. The Bucks (7-3) and Warriors (6-5) have both leaned to the ‘over’ this season but Golden State has watched the ‘under’ go 4-2 in its six home games.

Make a note that the Warriors have gone 4-0 versus teams (3-1 ATS) from the Eastern Conference this season and they averaged 135.3 PPG in those games, which helped the ‘over’ cash in all four.

TNT will provide national coverage at 10:35 p.m. ET.

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com

  
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