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Inside the Paint – Thursday
By Chris David

Wednesday’s 11-game card in the Association watched favorites go 6-5 straight up record but the underdogs prevailed to a 6-5 mark against the spread, largely due to the Wizards pulling off the backdoor cover against the Cavaliers. I’m guessing some folks were cheering or cussing Washington point guard John Wall, who padded his stats with a meaningless layup.

That’s gambling and if you bet on the NBA, expect to see that scene play out again. The Wizards and Cavs went ‘over’ last night but the ‘under’ posted a 6-5 overall mark. Since Monday, bettors have seen favorites go 19-13 SU and 15-17 ATS while the ‘over’ is 17-15.

Thursday’s card offers up four conference games and the double-header on TNT and below is my quick handicap.

Atlanta (21-15 SU, 16-18-2 ATS) at Philadelphia (4-33 SU, 15-21-1 ATS)

After watching the Hawks win six straight games, they’ve dropped three of their last four and two of the setbacks came to the Knicks. Atlanta is listed as a nine-point road favorite in this spot and while Philadelphia isn’t a world-beater, it has played better of late. Make a note that the Hawks are 5-4 SU and 4-4-1 ATS as road favorites this season but none of those spreads were higher than five.

The 76ers are 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS in their last six and coming off a 109-99 win against Minnesota on Monday as 6 ½-point home underdogs. Philadelphia has actual pros on its roster now but the lack of depth is still noticeable and it hasn’t beaten a team with a winning record. If the 76ers do win tonight, you should be aware that in the last 2 ½ seasons, the 76ers have only put together winning streaks of three or more on two occasions.

The Hawks have won eight of their last 10 meetings against the 76ers, which includes a 127-106 win on Dec. 16 as 13 ½-point home favorites earlier this season. However, Philadelphia did knock off Atlanta 92-84 as a 7 ½-point home underdog last season.

Despite playing a shootout in mid-December, total bettors should note that the ‘under’ had cashed in the five previous meetings. Thursday’s total opened 207 ½ and has dropped to 205 ½ at most shops.

Boston (19-16 SU, 19-15-1 ATS) at Chicago (21-12 SU, 14-19 ATS)

This game will be the opener for the TNT double-header and this could easily be a first round playoff matchup. The Bulls have played much better of late, going 6-1 both SU and ATS in their last seven games and those results have coincidentally occurred since veteran Joakim Noah went down with a shoulder injury. The offense has been on fire lately too, posting 100-plus in every game during this span which has helped the ‘over’ 6-2.

Boston did knock off Chicago 105-100 as a 3 ½-point home favorite on Dec. 9 which was a tad surprising, considering the Bulls had won eight of the previous nine encounters against the Celtics.

The Celtics ran out of gas last night and lost at home to the Pistons 99-94 as three-point favorites. It was Boston’s third loss in its last four games and two of the setbacks came to the lowly Lakers and Nets, teams that it usually bullies around.

While some bettors might hop off Boston right now due to its current form, head coach Brad Stevens has found a way to thrive when they face adversity. The Celtics have been a great bet in back-to-back spots as road underdogs, going 3-1 both SU and ATS, with the lone loss coming by three points.

The total on this game is sitting at 204 and the ‘over’ has cashed in the last five games between the pair. Chicago started the season 13-3 to the ‘under’ but the ‘over’ has gone 12-4 in the last 16 and it appears that Fred Hoiberg’s offensive scheme is coming together. Meanwhile, Boston was known to run ‘n gun but it enters this game on a 6-1 run to the ‘under.’

Utah (15-19 SU, 18-15-1 ATS) at Houston (17-19 SU, 13-23 ATS)

Quick rematch game here as the Rockets defeated the Jazz 93-91 on Monday but failed to cover as 3 ½-point road favorites. If there was a game to pass tonight, this matchup should be on your radar.

It’s hard to ignore the fact that Houston has won five straight and seven of its last eight home meetings against Utah, which includes a pair of double-digit victories last season. However, the Rockets have been the worst ATS team (13-23) in the NBA and that includes a dreadful 7-12 mark at the Toyota Center.

The Jazz has hopes of making the playoffs this season but the injury bug is starting to take a toll and they have no depth whatsoever. Utah was embarrassed 123-98 at San Antonio last night and the Spurs easily covered (-13.5) with its backups. The Jazz have been a sound investment in back-to-back spots, going 4-2 both SU and ATS this season and they’re catching 8 ½-points at most shops for tonight’s game.

Still, it’s hard to back a team that’s missing Derrick Favors (back), Alec Burks (ankle) and Rudy Gobert (knee) from the lineup.

Tonight’s total is hovering between 196 and 198 at most shops and it’s rare to see a total under 200 for the Rockets but this is based on the opponent. The Jazz are ranked 26th in scoring (96.7 PPG) and fourth defensively (97.6 PPG), plus they have the second slowest pace in the NBA. Utah has watched the ‘under’ go 21-13 this season and Houston has been a great ‘under’ bet (12-5) at home.

L.A. Lakers (8-28 SU, 15-21 ATS) at Sacramento (14-21 SU, 17-18 ATS)

No overnight line was posted on this matchup due to a couple key injuries for both squads, in particular Kobe Bryant for the Lakers and Rajon Rondo for the Kings. Both are listed as ‘questionable’ and most are expecting Kobe to give it a shot in what will be his last road trip to Sac-Town.

Sacramento has gone 9-9 SU and 8-10 ATS at home this season but if you delve into the numbers further, George Karl’s team has posted a 7-3 record as a favorite at home. They’ve only gone 5-5 ATS in those games but it has stepped up in the ‘chalk’ role.

The Lakers have won three of their last four albeit two of the wins came against the 76ers and Suns. Still, L.A. has covered four of five and six of its last nine games. While the current form is good for the club, the road tendencies for Los Angeles (4-18 SU, 9-13 ATS) are very ugly.

The Kings have owned the Lakers recently, winning four straight and five of the last six meetings. In the first encounter this season, Sacramento blasted Los Angeles 132-114 as a seven-point home favorite.

Neither L.A. (105.8 PPG) or Sacramento (107.9 PPG) focus on defense and that’s why you have a total hovering in the 200s for this matchup.