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Inside the Paint – Thursday
By Chris David

After watching underdogs go 14-5-1 against the spread since Sunday, bettors watched the favorites bounce back last night with a 6-3 straight up record and all of those winners covered the number too, which included wire-to-wire victories by the Cavaliers and Warriors. The underdogs that did win weren’t surprising and none of them were catching more than 3 ½-points. Total bettors saw the ‘over’ produce a 7-1-1 mark and all of those results were clear-cut.

Thursday’s slate only has four games on tap and due to injuries and matchups, it’s safe to say that only one of them is worth watching. You can certainly bet on them and hopefully I can assist in that fashion.

Let’s break down the card.

Atlanta (36-28 SU, 32-30-2 ATS) at Toronto (42-20 SU, 32-29-1 ATS)

This is easily the best game of the night and the Raptors have opened as four-point home favorites. These teams have only played once this season and Toronto captured a 96-86 win on Dec. 2 as a four-point road underdog. Including that win, the Raptors have won and covered five of the last six matchups between the pair.

Atlanta is a very streaky team and lately they’ve been up, going 5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS in its last six and that comes after the team dropped three in a row after the All-Star break. The club has been playing better defense during this span and they’ve held every opponent under 100 in the recent five victories, four of them under 90.

Toronto has gone 7-3 since the All-Star break but a 4-6 ATS mark suggests that the team is just waiting for the playoffs and that showed on Tuesday as they nearly lost to the Nets at home. They rallied for a 104-99 win but failed to cover (-12 ½) and that effort came two days after they collapsed to Houston (113-107) at home with a horrendous fourth quarter (36-22).

This will be the last game of a five-game road trip for the Hawks and these aren’t easy games to handicap. Atlanta has gone 6-6 SU and 7-5 ATS as a road ‘dog this season and when they lose, they get run more often than not. With that being said, if you’re leaning Hawks then I’d look at the money-line.

The Hawks haven’t seen many totals listed under 200 recently, only five in 2016 and the ‘under’ has gone 3-2 in those games.

Chicago (32-30 SU, 25-37 ATS) at San Antonio (54-10 SU, 38-25-1 ATS)

The first game of the TNT double-header takes place in San Antonio where the club will be looking to win its 40th straight home game and I’d be surprised if the short-handed Bulls could win in this spot.

The Spurs will be looking for revenge in this spot as the Bulls won 92-89 on Nov. 30 as 4 ½-point home underdogs in the first meeting this season. San Antonio has padded its home record this season with a 12-0 mark versus the East (7-5 ATS) and nine of those games were decided by nine-plus points.

The Bulls have gone 1-4 both SU and ATS in their last five road games against the Western Conference and the defense has been a mess during this span, allowing 110.8 PPG and the lone win came against Sacramento.

For what it’s worth, the Bulls have beat the Spurs in four straight games when point guard Derrick Rose has played. He’s expected to go but Jimmy Butler (knee) is out again and bench players Aaron Brooks and Bobby Portis are also expected to miss Thursday’s game.

Phoenix (17-47 SU, 25-39 ATS) at Denver (26-38 SU, 34-27-3 ATS)

This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two teams and the Nuggets will be looking to even up the season series. Phoenix won and covered the first two matchups albeit those victories came in mid-November when it was healthy. Denver avenged those losses with a 104-96 win over the Suns on Dec. 23 as a nine-point road underdog.

The Nuggets are listed as 7 ½-point home favorites and they’ve won and covered three of their last four home games. Denver has struggled to a 4-5 SU and 3-6 ATS mark as a home favorite this season while the ‘over’ has gone 8-1 in those games.

After winning two straight games, Phoenix was blasted 127-98 by New York last night as a two-point home favorite. The Suns have been awful on zero days rest this season, going 3-8 SU and 4-7 ATS while the ‘under’ has gone 7-4. To be fair to Phoenix, all 11 of those games have taken place on the road.

Back-to-back games are never easy in Denver and it’s certainly hard to make a case for a Suns team that is just 3-15 SU and 6-12 ATS on the road versus teams from the West.

Cleveland (45-18 SU, 28-33-2 ATS) at L.A. Lakers (14-51 SU, 31-33-1 ATS)

The late-night TNT clash will feature the Cavaliers against the Lakers and this game doesn’t present a lean for either club. Cleveland ran past Sacramento 120-111 last night as a seven-point road favorite and the club is now 15-7 since they dismissed head coach David Blatt for Tyronn Lue.

The Cavaliers have gone 9-4 SU and 6-6-1 ATS in back-to-back spots this season and that includes a 3-3 record on the road. In those games, Cleveland has struggled offensively (92.5 PPG) and that’s led to a 5-1 ‘under’ mark.

While Cleveland is heading to the playoffs, the Lakers are playing out the “Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour” on a nightly basis. Los Angeles will actually be looking to match its season-high winning streak on Thursday after beating the Warriors (112-95) and Magic (107-98) earlier this week.

Cleveland has won three straight and four of five against the Lakers but has only managed to cover two of those games. Los Angeles earned a backdoor cover against the Cavs on Feb. 10 when they lost 120-111 but cashed tickets as a heavy 16-point road underdog. The ‘over’ has cashed in five straight in this series.

Cleveland has gone 7-4 SU and 6-4-1 ATS on the road versus the West this season and the ‘under’ has gone 8-3 in those games.

As a home ‘dog, the Lakers have gone 7-19 SU and 13-14 ATS this season. The ‘under’ has gone 18-8 and all signs point to an ugly game in this spot.