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    NBA Odds: Thursday, April 7 2016 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
    by Alan Matthews

    OK, Gregg Popovich. You are clearly one of the best coaches in NBA history and a future Hall of Famer. You obviously know much better than I do when to rest your players or not. But, please, please, don’t do it Thursday night when the Spurs visit the Warriors, who are looking for regular-season win No. 70, two shy of the Bulls’ league record. But knowing Popovich, he’s not going to play the likes of Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. He already has hinted as much and it frankly does the Spurs franchise no good to stop the Warriors’ quest for 73 wins. I wish the NBA could step in here and do something, but clearly the league’s hands are tied. Do you think Michael Jordan would have taken a game like that off? No chance. I have no problem with Pop resting his guys Friday in Denver. San Antonio is then off until the Warriors visit on Sunday. Pop I think will play his guys there to try for the perfect home record this season. Let’s hope he does Thursday too.

    Raptors at Hawks (-3.5, 201)

    Toronto beat Charlotte 96-90 on Tuesday. DeMar DeRozan had 26 points and Kyle Lowry 21. Lowry showed no ill effects from attending Villanova’s national title game win in Houston the night before and getting back home around 5 a.m. Lowry of course starred at Nova. Atlanta beat Phoenix 103-90 on Tuesday, rallying from a 13-point third quarter-hole. Paul Millsap had 17 rebounds, 13 points and a game-high eight assists. Toronto is 3-0 vs. Atlanta this season and just won by eight at home on March 30. The Raptors also have won three in a row in Georgia.

    Key trends:
    The favorite is 6-2 against the spread in the past eight meetings. The “over/under” has gone under in eight of Atlanta’s past 11 at home.

    Early lean:
    Hawks as they still have the No. 3 seed to play for, while Raptors have no reason to play everyone.

    Bulls at Heat (-5, 205.5)

    First game of a TNT doubleheader and will have live betting at sportsbooks. Chicago is on the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention after a terrible 108-92 loss at injury-ravaged Memphis on Tuesday. Derrick Rose returned from a two-game absence and had 12 points and eight assists. Jimmy Butler was scoreless through three quarters and finished with five points. Taj Gibson sat again and you won’t see him here. Miami beat Detroit 107-89 on Tuesday, doing the Bulls a temporary favor. Goran Dragic had 22 points and Dwyane Wade, who was a game-time call, had 16 points. Miami leads the season series 3-0. The Heat have swept the Bulls just once before, in 2003-04.

    Key trends:
    The Bulls are 1-4 ATS in the past five meetings. The under is 6-2 in the past eight.

    Early lean:
    Heat — as long as Wade goes; ditto Hassan Whiteside, who didn’t practice on Wednesday due to a thigh injury — and under.

    Suns at Rockets (-13, 217)

    Phoenix dropped a seventh straight Tuesday, 103-90 in Atlanta. One bright spot this season has been the play of rookie Devin Booker and he had 34 points in the loss. Phoenix will have a nice backcourt with Booker, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe when those latter two return from injury next season. Perhaps Booker makes one expendable, however. Houston was in Dallas on Wednesday in a huge game. Houston leads Phoenix 2-0 this season and has won seven of the past eight. Both teams have scored at least 100 points in seven of the past eight meetings.

    Key trends:
    The Rockets are 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 4-1 in the previous five.

    Early lean:
    Houston will expend a lot of energy on Wednesday, win or loss. Take the points here. Go over.

    Timberwolves at Kings (-5, 223.5)

    Minnesota pulled an absolute shocker in Oakland on Tuesday night, 124-117 in overtime, to end a three-game losing streak. Shabazz Muhammad scored a career-high 35 points, Andrew Wiggins had 32 and Karl-Anthony Towns added 20 points, 12 rebounds. Minnesota never led after the first quarter until overtime. Sacramento lost 115-107 at home to Portland on Tuesday. DeMarcus Cousins had 30 points and nine rebounds for the Kings. Rajon Rondo had his sixth triple-double with a season-high 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. George Karl rested Darren Collison, Kosta Koufos and Rudy Gay. Minnesota leads the series 3-0 and is looking for its first season sweep ever vs. Sacramento.

    Key trends:
    The Wolves are 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings. The over is 11-4 in Minnesota’s past 15 after a win.

    Early lean:
    Really like Sacramento if all the Kings regulars play, but I’m not sure they will. How are the Wolves not going to suffer a massive letdown?

    Spurs at Warriors (TBA)

    Second TNT game and will have live betting at sportsbooks. San Antonio played everyone but Boris Diaw (out two more games) on Tuesday in Utah and won 88-86 for its fourth straight victory. Leonard made the go-ahead jumper with 4.9 seconds and gave Duncan his 1,000th career regular-season win. The only other players with 1,000 are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish but they did it with multiple teams. I have no explanation for Golden State’s 124-117 overtime home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday. That was more stunning in some ways than the loss at the Lakers a few weeks ago. The Warriors had won 114 consecutive games (including playoffs) in which they had at least a 15-point lead at any time in a game. Draymond Green admitted after the team is tired and bored at this point and wants the regular season over. Now the Warriors have to win all four remaining to pass the Bulls’ record. This will be the best matchup in NBA history at this stage of a season as measured by winning percentage. The previous highest combined winning percentage for opponents at least 65 games into a season was .816 (120-27) when the Bulls and Magic played on April 7, 1996. San Antonio and Golden State have split two games this season, each winning impressively at home. The Warriors won theirs at home by 30 on Jan. 25.

    Key trends:
    The home team is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings. The under is 4-0 in the previous four.

    Early lean:
    Warriors, who are trying to become the first team to not have back-to-back losses in a season.


    NEWSLETTER NBA Basketball Prediction From Strike Point Sports

    Take Atlanta (-2.5) over Toronto (8 p.m., Thursday, April 7)
    The Hawks need this game more than the Raptors do, and they are a strong home team. Look for Atlanta to control this game from the outset. The Hawks have the size in the paint, and the athletes to play the up-tempo game with the Raptors if need be, but also can pick and pop and get guard penetration to control the half court as well. Atlanta is just plain better on the offensive end of the floor as they score more points, shoot better from the field, shoot better from the line, and have a better assist-to-turnover ratio. The Raptors are nearly locked into the two seed (Cavs would need to fall apart), while the Hawks are in a battle for third. They want the third seed, and they want to prove that they are better than Toronto, whom they would meet up with if they play in the 2 vs. 3 matchup in the semifinals. Take the home team here as they win and cover.


    NEWSLETTER NBA Basketball Prediction From Vernon Croy

    Take ‘Over’ Minnesota at Sacramento (10 p.m., Thursday, April 7)
    Take Minnesota/Sacramento to go ‘over’ the posted total for Thursday, April 7. This pick falls into one of my top NBA systems, and I have this game flying over the posted total here Thursday night. The Kings are the 3rd-highest-scoring team in the NBA, averaging 107 PPG, and they are also the worst defensive team in the NBA with opponents averaging 109 PPG against them this season. The Timberwolves are the 24th-worst defensive team in the NBA with opponents averaging 105.6 PPG against them, and the style of play between these two teams favors the over greatly Thursday night. Play the Timberwolves/Kings OVER with confidence.


    Preview: Toronto At Atlanta

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, April 7, 2016
    Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia

    The Toronto Raptors look to complete a season sweep of Atlanta for the first time in 14 years when they visit the Hawks on Thursday. Toronto won the first three meetings by an average of 8.7 points, including a 105-97 home win on March 30.

    The Raptors have clinched the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and are close to being locked into the spot as the Cleveland Cavaliers are on pace to sew up the top seed. “The only thing we do is focus on us, just us, and finishing out these last five games,” forward Patrick Patterson told reporters. “Treating them like playoff games and staying focused.” Atlanta is in a three-way tussle with the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat for the third seed with the Charlotte Hornets also in close proximity. “Most of our motivation was having something to fight for going into the playoffs,” All-Star power forward Paul Millsap said after Tuesday’s 103-90 comeback victory over the Phoenix Suns. “That’s where our motivation comes from, just taking pride in who we are and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, TSN4 (Toronto), FSN Southeast (Atlanta)

    ABOUT THE RAPTORS (52-25): All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan scored 26 in Tuesday’s 96-90 win over the Charlotte Hornets, his third straight outing of 26 or more points. DeRozan (9,383) is just 37 points away from catching second-place Vince Carter on the franchise’s all-time scoring list and he will likely catch first-place Chris Bosh (10,275) sometime next season. All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry has posted back-to-back 20-point outings after suffering through a five-game slump in which he made just 20-of-80 field-goal attempts.

    ABOUT THE HAWKS (46-32): Atlanta lost back-to-back games and trailed struggling Phoenix by 13 in the third quarter before recovering for the victory. The defensive effort saved the day for the Hawks as they forced 24 turnovers and limited the Suns to 18 or fewer points in each of the final three quarters. “Our defense has been who we are through the whole season,” Millsap told reporters, “so that’s what we’ve got to lean on when times get tough.”


    1. The Raptors have won seven of the past eight meetings.

    2. Atlanta PG Jeff Teague has scored 20 or more points in three of the past four games and is averaging 23 during the stretch.

    3. Toronto C Jonas Valanciunas has four double-doubles over the past seven games and has 21 for the season.

    PREDICTION: Hawks 102, Raptors 100


    Preview: Chicago At Miami

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, April 7, 2016
    Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida

    The Chicago Bulls are running out of chances to close the gap on the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference while the Miami Heat are closing in on homecourt advantage in the first round. The Bulls will try to make up some of the two-game gap on the Detroit Pistons at the expense of the Heat when they visit Miami on Thursday.

    Chicago appeared to be making its way back into the race with wins in three of four games following a four-game slide but could not find its way around the depleted Memphis Grizzlies in a 108-92 road setback on Tuesday. The Grizzlies had dropped six straight before forcing the fading Bulls into 20 turnovers. The Heat tried to offer Chicago some help on Tuesday and rolled past the Pistons 107-89 after getting Dwyane Wade (back, neck) back from a two-game absence. Wade delivered 16 points in 25 minutes and Miami moved within a half-game of the third-place Atlanta Hawks.

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, WGN (Chicago)

    ABOUT THE BULLS (39-39): All-Star Jimmy Butler managed only five points and Derrick Rose (elbow) went 5-of-15 from the field in his return from a two-game absence on Tuesday. “(Memphis) was the absolute aggressors in that game,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters following the loss. “It’s very disappointing. Very disappointing. To throw away an opportunity like this, especially with Detroit losing tonight. I told the guys, ‘I’ve never quit in my life, I ain’t quitting on you now.’ We’re going to keep going out and fighting, try and get these guys right and go with a good effort in Miami.” Forward Taj Gibson (ribs) missed his fourth straight game on Tuesday and is not expected to play on Thursday.

    ABOUT THE HEAT (45-32): Miami lost at the lowly Los Angeles Lakers and at Portland in a 1-2 West Coast trip but looked like a different team in rolling past Detroit upon its return home on Tuesday. “It was good to be home and good to see us play with a lot more energy on both ends,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters. “I thought we were more aggressive (Tuesday), had a better disposition. So we’ll take it.” Miami will play three of its final five games on the road, including stops in Detroit and Boston next week to close the regular season.


    1. Bulls F Nikola Mirotic is averaging 20.2 points in the last five games and is 23-of-45 from 3-point range in that span.

    2. Heat G Josh Richardson is 6-of-8 from beyond the arc in the last three contests.

    3. Miami took each of the previous three meetings this season by an average of 15 points.

    PREDICTION: Heat 109, Bulls 99


    Preview: Phoenix At Houston

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, April 7, 2016
    Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

    The Houston Rockets are spiraling downward at the worst time and will attempt to turn things around when they host the Phoenix Suns on Thursday. Houston has dropped six of its last nine games and fell to ninth place in the Western Conference when it suffered a devastating 88-86 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

    The Rockets are one game behind the eighth-place Utah Jazz and two games behind the seventh-place Mavericks with just four games remaining. Standout guard James Harden had 26 points against Dallas but committed his sixth and most costly turnover in the final seconds of the setback. “We all know how difficult it is, how important this game was,” Harden said afterward. “It’s not rocket science.” The lowly Suns have lost seven games in a row after Tuesday’s 103-90 loss to the Atlanta Hawks and need to win three of their final four games to avoid the second 60-loss campaign in team annals.

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona-Plus (Phoenix), ROOT (Houston)

    ABOUT THE SUNS (20-58): Rookie Devin Booker scored 34 points in the loss to Atlanta, falling one point shy of a season high as he continues to display that he’s the club’s shooting guard of the future. Booker has scored 30 or more points in five of the past 19 games and has scored in double digits in 20 of the last 21 games. Point guard Brandon Knight (sports hernia) is done for the season and journeyman Ronnie Price had 14 points against the Hawks as the fill-in starter after making just 2-of-13 shots during the previous two games.

    ABOUT THE ROCKETS (38-40): Houston’s position may be dire but the schedule certainly rates as a positive as all four remaining games are against teams with losing records. After the contest with the Suns, the Rockets host the Los Angeles Lakers, visit the Minnesota Timberwolves and host Sacramento with the Kings already having announced that All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins won’t play in any more road games this season. The loss to Dallas continued a season-long trend when Houston fails to reach 100 points as it fell to 2-17 in such games.


    1. The Rockets are 3-0 against the Suns this season and have won seven of the past eight meetings.

    2. Phoenix C Tyson Chandler has posted four straight double-doubles and is averaging 13.8 points and 14.8 rebounds during the stretch.

    3. Houston F Corey Brewer was 1-of-9 shooting against Dallas and is 8-of-40 during the past five games.

    PREDICTION: Rockets 118, Suns 99


    Preview: Minnesota At Sacramento

    When: 10:00 PM ET, Thursday, April 7, 2016
    Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, California

    The Minnesota Timberwolves were down on themselves following a series of lackluster performances but are riding high now after knocking off the Golden State Warriors in overtime on Tuesday. The Timberwolves will try to ride that momentum to back-to-back victories when they continue the road trip by visiting the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

    Minnesota overcame a 17-point deficit and got 32 points and six steals from Andrew Wiggins in Tuesday’s 124-117 triumph. Zach LaVine added four steals and 16 points while Rookie of the Year favorite Karl-Anthony Towns completed a huge game for the Timberwolves’ trio of young stars with 20 points, 12 rebounds and solid defense against Golden State star Stephen Curry when he was forced to switch. The Kings are playing out the string with an eye to the future as well and have only two games left in their arena before moving into a new state-of-the-art building in time for next season. The roster that christens that new building could have several new pieces, though enigmatic star center DeMarcus Cousins figures to be in the middle as Sacramento tries to find a way to build around the Kentucky product.

    TV: 10 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), CSN California (Sacramento)

    ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (26-52): Shabazz Muhammad was Minnesota’s prized first-round pick in 2013 but fell behind Towns, Wiggins and LaVine in the pecking order as he struggled to adjust to the pro game at both ends of the floor. The UCLA product looked like he found his way in the NBA on Tuesday, when he kept the Timberwolves within shouting distance with his scoring off the bench in the first half and finished with a career-high 35 points in a career-high 39 minutes. Muhammad totaled one point in an 88-78 loss to Dallas on Sunday but was 9-of-12 from the floor against the Warriors and relentlessly attacked the rim en route to a 15-of-17 effort from the line.

    ABOUT THE KINGS (31-47): Cousins scored 30 points on Tuesday to match Mitch Richmond’s franchise record of 26 30-point outings in a season and Rajon Rondo set a franchise single-season mark with his sixth triple-double, but Sacramento still lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 115-107. The Kings don’t plan on playing Cousins on the road the rest of the way and are liberally resting players in a transparent effort to hang onto a top-10 protected draft pick. Forward Rudy Gay, who had 25 points and nine rebounds in a 115-106 win at Denver on Saturday, took his turn on the bench Tuesday.


    1. Kings G Seth Curry is averaging 15.3 points in the last seven games and is 17-of-33 from 3-point range in that span.

    2. Towns has recorded 13 consecutive double-doubles.

    3. Minnesota has taken each of the first three meetings this season, including a 101-91 win in Sacramento on Nov. 27.

    PREDICTION: Timberwolves 116, Kings 112


    Preview: San Antonio At Golden State

    When: 10:30 PM ET, Thursday, April 7, 2016
    Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California

    The Golden State Warriors are looking very vulnerable lately and now need to win each of their four remaining games in order to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 regular-season wins. The path to 73 will have to include two wins over the San Antonio Spurs, who visit the Warriors on Thursday.

    Golden State lost to Boston on Friday to end an NBA-record 54-game home winning streak and fell again at home on Tuesday in overtime after blowing a 17-point lead against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “You have so much media attention and everybody talking about breaking the record and you lose focus a little bit,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who was a member of the 95-96 Bulls, told reporters. “The same thing happened 20 years ago. (The Bulls) didn’t play well down the stretch. This doesn’t surprise me. It’s easy to get lost in all this stuff. We haven’t been very dialed in of late.” The Spurs are only 3 1/2 games behind Golden State in the standings and still have a shot at 70 victories if they win out. San Antonio scratched its way past Utah 88-86 to earn a fourth straight win on Tuesday and may have all of its starters available on Thursday.

    TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, CSN Bay Area (Golden State)

    ABOUT THE SPURS (65-12): The assumption has been that San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich would rest starters in the two remaining games against the Warriors, but point guard Tony Parker refuted that notion in a postgame TV interview on Tuesday. “I think we’ll play,” Parker said in the interview. “Utah, I thought (Popovich) was going to rest everybody. But we played Utah, so I don’t see any reason we’re not playing Golden State.” That win over the Jazz marked the 1,000th career regular-season victory for Spurs center Tim Duncan, making him the third player in history (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 1,074, and Robert Parish, 1,014) to reach the mark.

    ABOUT THE WARRIORS (69-9): Golden State bounced back from its last to the Celtics by cruising past the Portland Trail Blazers 136-111 on Sunday but had the same problems crop up against the Timberwolves on Tuesday that plagued it in other losses this season. “We’re trying to hit the home run, instead of just a bunch of singles,” Kerr told reporters after his team committed a season-high 24 turnovers. “…Bad coaching. Bad playing. Bad everything.” The letdown came despite the return of sixth man Andre Iguodala, who sat out the previous 13 games with a sprained ankle.


    1. Spurs F Kawhi Leonard is 3-of-14 from 3-point range in the last three games.

    2. Warriors PG Stephen Curry, who earlier this season became the first player to hit 300 3-pointers in a season, needs 18 in the final four games to reach 400.

    3. The teams have split two meetings this season, with Golden State blasting San Antonio 120-90 at home on Jan. 25.

    PREDICTION: Warriors 101, Spurs 99


    StatFox Super Situations™ – FoxSheets

    Play Under – All teams where the total is greater than or equal to 210 an excellent offensive team (>=102 PPG) against an average defensive team (92-98 PPG), after scoring 100 points or more 2 straight games
    46-18 over the last 5 seasons. ( 71.9% | 26.2 units )
    10-7 this year. ( 58.8% | 2.3 units )

    Play Against – Any team vs the money line (PHOENIX) revenging a loss vs opponent of 10 points or more, off a road cover where the team lost straight up as an underdog
    586-254 since 1997. ( 69.8% | 155.4 units )
    26-12 this year. ( 68.4% | 7.0 units )

    Play Under – Road teams where the first half total is greater than 100 very good shooting team – shooting >=48% on the season, good rebounding team – outrebounding opponents by 3+ per game
    79-39 since 1997. ( 66.9% | 36.1 units )
    11-10 this year. ( 52.4% | 0.0 units )


    Basketball Crusher

    Toronto Raptors +6.5 over Atlanta Hawks
    (System Record: 73-4, lost last game)
    Overall Record: 73-84-3

    Minnesota Timberwolves + Sacramento Kings – OVER 221.5



    100* Timberwolves +4.5



    Houston -11.5 (-110)
    8* 8:00 ET
    {Diamond Selection}

    Golden State -7 (-110)
    4* 10:30 ET


    Johnny Goodtimes

    Double: (NBA Season +4.3*, 4-10 last 14)

    Chicago Bulls +5.5
    2 Units


    NBA Basketball Betting Trends – Thurs – April, 7

    Phoenix at Houston, 8:05 ET
    Phoenix: 9-20 ATS after a non-conference game
    Houston: 34-21 ATS after failing to cover 2 of their last 3 against the spread

    Toronto at Atlanta, 8:05 ET
    Toronto: 11-23 ATS after covering 4 or 5 of their last 6 against the spread
    Atlanta: 32-17 ATS off a home win by 10 points or more

    Chicago at Miami, 8:05 ET
    Chicago: 2-8 ATS after playing a game as a road favorite
    Miami: 5-2 ATS as a home underdog

    Minnesota at Sacramento, 10:05 ET
    Minnesota: 10-2 ATS on road after 2 games with 10 or less offensive rebounds
    Sacramento: 3-12 ATS after scoring 105 points or more 3 straight games

    San Antonio at Golden State, 10:35 ET
    San Antonio: 28-15 ATS after 1 or more consecutive unders
    Golden State: 8-22 ATS after a combined score of 215 or more 2 straight games


    Hot teams
    — Toronto won three of its last four games (10-6AU). Hawks won five of their last seven games (5-8 last 13HF).
    — Miami won six of its last nine games (5-3 last 8HF).
    — Spurs won eight of their last ten games (0-3AU).

    Cold teams
    — Chicago lost six of its last nine games (5-1 last 6AU).
    — Suns lost their last seven games (6-4 last 10AU). Houston lost six of its last nine games.
    — Minnesota lost three of its last four games (5-2 last 7AU). Sacramento is 4-5 in its last nine games (6-4 last 10HF).
    — Warriors lost two of last three home games (1-5 last 6HF).

    Series records
    — Raptors won their last four games with Atlanta.
    — Miami won four of last five games with Chicago.
    — Rockets won seven of last eight games with Phoenix.
    — Minnesota won its last three games with Sacramento.
    — Spurs won eight of last ten games with Golden State.

    — Four of last five Toronto-Atlanta games stayed under.
    — Six of last eight Chicago-Miami games stayed under.
    — Six of last seven Phoenix games stayed under total.
    — Three of last four Sacramento games went over total.
    — Eight of last ten San Antonio-Golden State games stayed under.

    — Houston is 2-9 in its last 11 games if they played the night before.

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