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NBA • Tuesday Service Plays • 3/29/16

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    NBA Odds: Tuesday, March 29 2016 Opening Line Report and Handicapping
    by Alan Matthews

    The Los Angeles Clippers now know when they will get Blake Griffin back from his broken hand and quad injury: April 3. Griffin has been cleared medically but first must serve a four-game suspension because he broke that hand while punching out a member of the team’s equipment staff outside a Toronto restaurant earlier this season. The Clippers have played well without Griffin, but anyone who says they are better without him doesn’t know basketball. Could the Clips perhaps trade him this offseason if they flame out in the playoffs again? It’s possible. The Clips really have nothing to play for the rest of the regular season other than to get Griffin re-integrated. They are going to finish No. 4 in the West and probably host the Grizzlies in the first round. That’s a great matchup for the Clippers since the Grizz are without Marc Gasol and might not have Mike Conley back for the postseason. Griffin will have seven regular-season games to get back into game shape. That should be enough time.

    Bulls at Pacers (TBA)

    Chicago hosted Atlanta on Monday; the team aired out some grievances among the players and coaches following a really bad loss in Orlando on Saturday. Something is not right in that locker room. Indiana beat Houston 104-101 on Sunday behind 25 points from Paul George and 23 from Monta Ellis. Chicago leads the season series with Indiana 2-1. Those two wins are by a combined three points. The Bulls lost by 12 in Indianapolis on Nov. 27.

    ‘Key trends’
    The Bulls are 1-6 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The “over/under” has gone under in five of the past six meetings.

    ‘Early lean’
    TBA because the Bulls have a few banged-up players, but they were all expected to play Monday. Might not do both. Like Indiana by double digits here.

    Nets at Magic (TBA)

    Brooklyn was in Miami on Monday. Orlando beat Chicago 111-89 on Saturday to end a six-game losing streak. Dewayne Dedmon had a career-high 18 points and season-high 13 rebounds. The Magic were without leading scorers Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo; both practiced on Monday and Oladipo is at least likely to play here. Orlando looks for the four-game sweep. Brooklyn hasn’t topped 93 points in any of the first meetings. And it still had Joe Johnson for all those.

    ‘Key trends’
    The Nets are 2-6 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 4-1 in Orlando’s past five overall.

    ‘Early lean’
    Wait on that Magic duo.

    Hornets at 76ers (+10, 210.5)

    Charlotte won in Milwaukee 115-91 on Saturday. Nic Batum had 25 points, 23 of those in the first half. That was a career high for any half. Marvin Williams, who has been hampered by an ankle injury, had 21 points. Philly was a 21.5-point dog Sunday at Golden State but covered in a 117-105 defeat, the team’s ninth straight loss. It was the second-largest spread in an NBA game in the past 20 seasons, trailing only a 2008 Celtics-matchup in which Boston was -22. Philly big man Nerlens Noel missed his third straight game with a contusion on his right knee. Forward Jerami Grant suffered a right knee injury early and didn’t return. Charlotte is 2-0 against Philly this season, winning them by a combined 45 points.

    ‘Key trends’
    The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-2 in those seven.

    ‘Early lean’
    Hornets and over.

    Thunder at Pistons (+4, 213)

    Oklahoma City was in Toronto on Monday. Wouldn’t totally shock me if Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook got this game off with OKC pretty much locked into the No. 3 seed in the West. Detroit’s five-game winning streak ended in a 112-95 home defeat to Atlanta on Saturday. Andre Drummond had 19 points and 17 rebounds in the loss. The Pistons missed their first seven shots from the field and never recovered. Oklahoma City beat visiting Detroit 103-87 on Nov. 27. Durant had 34 points and 13 rebounds. Westbrook had one of his worst games with 14 points and 11 turnovers while fouling out.

    ‘Key trends’
    OKC is 2-5 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 7-2 in Detroit’s past nine at home.

    ‘Early lean’
    Pistons and over.

    Rockets at Cavaliers (TBA)

    First of a TNT doubleheader and will have live betting at sportsbooks. Houston lost 104-101 in Indiana on Sunday. James Harden had 34 points. The Rockets were just 7-for-33 from long range. Cleveland won in New York 107-93 on Saturday playing without Kyrie Irving, who was simply resting. LeBron James had his third triple-double of the season with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He’s about to pass Dominique Wilkins for 12th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Tristan Thompson will presumably play in his 362nd straight game here, which would set the franchise record. Houston lost at home to Cleveland 91-77 on Jan. 15. Irving had 23 points and LeBron 19. The Cavs held the Rockets to a season low in points with just 11 points from Harden on 2-for-10 shooting. Houston had won the previous six meetings.

    ‘Key trends’
    Houston is 2-5 ATS in its past seven in Cleveland. The over is 4-1 in the Cavs’ past five overall.

    ‘Early lean’
    Reportedly James will get the night off. Might some other Cavs too? Houston pulls the upset.

    Wizards at Warriors (-13.5, 228.5)

    Second TNT game with live betting. Washington started a five-game West Coast trip with a 101-88 victory at the Lakers on Sunday. John Wall had 22 points and 13 assists. Monitor Bradley Beal’s status here as he took a fall in the first half and had just four points. Markieff Morris missed the game with a strained right calf and is questionable. Golden State won its fourth in a row Sunday, 117-105 against Philadelphia. Klay Thompson had 40 points, his second straight with that many, and Draymond Green his 12th triple-double of the season. It was the Warriors’ 53rd straight home win. They joined the 1995-96 and 1996-97 Bulls as the only teams to win at least 66 games in consecutive seasons. The Warriors need to go only 7-2 the rest of the way to set the single-season wins record. These two played a fun game on Feb. 3 in D.C., a 134-121 Warriors win. I remember thinking the Wizards had a chance for the upset then, but Curry went off for 51 points, tying Gilbert Arenas and Michael Jordan for the Verizon Center record. Wall was no slouch, hitting 17-for-25 for 41 points while adding 10 assists.

    ‘Key trends’
    The Wizards are 1-5 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 5-1 in Washington’s past six road games vs. teams with a winning home record.

    ‘Early lean’
    Wizards and over.


    Is Blake Griffin’s return good news or bad news for Clippers’ backers?

    With 17 days left in the NBA’s regular season, it appears that we will have six teams in the playoffs that were left out last season.

    In the Eastern Conference: Miami, Charlotte, Indiana and Detroit are poised to replace Chicago, Washington, Milwaukee and Brooklyn. And out West: Oklahoma City and Utah will, likely, take spots filled by Houston and Dallas last season.

    Some new blood in the playoffs is good for any sports league, though I will certainly miss the presence of Dirk Nowitzki, should the Mavericks fail to make it for just the 2nd time of the last 16 seasons. With much playoff jockeying still going on let’s take a look at the upcoming week.

    Spread Watch

    The Chicago Bulls are currently on the outside of the Eastern Conference post-season picture. After losing back-to-back games to the Knicks Wednesday and Thursday, power forward Taj Gibson proclaimed that he was “embarrassed” by his team’s play, and that the Bulls were “just laying down” and needed to “man up.”

    Following those comments, the team traveled to Orlando to play the Magic on Saturday. Gibson, himself, lived up to his words and went 8-for-9 from the floor, but his teammates combined to go just 28-for-79. Orlando, already eliminated from the playoffs, crushed Chicago, 111-89, as a seven-point underdog and the Bulls suffered their fourth straight pointspread defeat.

    It certainly won’t get any easier this week, as the Bulls will be saddled with five games in seven days – and the first four are all against teams fighting for playoff positioning (Hawks, Pacers, Rockets, Pistons). Perhaps the game to circle involving the Bulls will be its fifth game this week – Sunday at Milwaukee.

    This season, teams playing their fifth game in seven days are a solid 50-32-1 ATS and the Bulls have dominated the Bucks (27-11 SU and 25-13 ATS) in the last 38 meetings.

    Total Watch

    The Utah Jazz are in a desperate push to make the playoffs after missing out entirely the past three seasons, and coach Quin Snyder has his troops playing solid defense. The Jazz rank among the Top 10 in defensive efficiency, and have held 11 of their last 13 opponents to less than 100 points (92.38 ppg, on average). Only the Warriors and Thunder – the NBA’s top two offensive teams – have cracked the century mark against Utah since March 4.

    Not surprisingly, the Jazz are 9-3-1 ‘Under’ the total during this span.

    This week, Utah will host games against the Lakers, Warriors and T-Wolves, before traveling to Phoenix to play the Suns. Utah’s game vs. the Lakers on Tuesday is a good candidate to be low-scoring as the Jazz have held Los Angeles to 74 and 82 points in their two meetings this season.

    This series has gone 19-10-2 ‘Under’ the total since April 23, 2009.

    Injury Watch

    Blake Griffin has been cleared to play by the Clippers’ medical staff but he still must serve a four-game suspension, so he’ll finally see the court Sunday against the Wizards. Certainly, this is welcome news for Doc Rivers’ troops – notwithstanding the fact the team actually played better without him.

    The Clippers were 17-13 SU and 10-16-4 ATS with Griffin healthy, but are 28-14 SU and 23-19 ATS with him sidelined.

    The recent trend, however, has been bad. Since March 9, the Clips are a dismal 4-6 SU and 2-8 ATS. Besides getting their star player back, Los Angeles will have a nice advantage against the Wizards conferred by the schedule. Los Angeles will play that game with 2 days’ of rest and NBA teams are 55-23-1 ATS their last 79 with at least 2 days off – provided their opponent isn’t also well-rested.

    Schedule Watch

    At 66-7, the Golden State Warriors are very likely to set the record for most wins in a season. Though some may point to the two games in April against San Antonio as potential roadblocks, it’s hard for me to see that happening.

    First, Gregg Popovich officially raised the white flag this past Saturday when he rested his five best players against Oklahoma City – San Antonio has officially withdrawn from the race for home court advantage.

    Second, from a gamesmanship perspective, I would be very much surprised if the Spurs played either of those two games with a full contingent of players. San Antonio already defeated Golden State, 87-79, a couple of weeks ago. That game provided his team with the confidence necessary for a possible playoff series down the road. The last thing Popovich will want to do is have his team’s confidence eroded in any way.

    When the Warriors and Spurs meet in April, I expect to see a lot of Kyle Anderson, Jonathon Simmons, Boban Marjanovic and Andre Miller. The one team, however, which I like to defeat Golden State (and snap the Warriors’ 53-game, regular season home win streak) is Washington. The two teams will hook up this Tuesday, at Oracle Arena, and the Wizards will be a double-digit road underdog.

    Golden State did win at Washington, 134-121, last month but John Wall scored 41 points in defeat for the Wizards, who outscored the Warriors 93-91 in the last three quarters. Don’t be surprised if Washington shocks the world, and wins Tuesday.

    Good luck, as always.


    Game of the Day

    Washington Wizards at Golden State Warriors (-13, 226.5)

    The Golden State Warriors are trying to pull off the balancing act of fine tuning for the postseason, keeping players fresh and going after the record for regular-season wins. The Warriors will try to push their NBA-record home winning streak to 54 straight and draw one win closer to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ regular-season mark when they host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

    Golden State coach Steve Kerr wants the team to clean up its turnovers and tighten up the defense in preparation for the playoffs, and allowing the NBA-worst Philadelphia 76ers to shoot 46.7 percent while committing 18 turnovers in a 117-105 win on Sunday was not a giant step in the right direction. Klay Thompson’s 40 points, Draymond Green’s triple-double and an offense that handed out 32 assists ensured the Warriors would avoid a letdown, but bigger challenges remain. The Wizards are desperate for wins as they cling to hope of catching the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington earned a 101-88 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday to draw within 2 1/2 games of the Pistons.

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

    The point spread opened with the Warriors as 13-point favorites and hasn’t moved. The total debuted at 225.5 and was quickly bumped up to 226.5 by Monday afternoon.


    Wizards – SG B. Beal (Probable Tuesday, leg), SG A. Anderson (Questionable Tuesday, ankle), PF M. Morris (Questionable Tuesday, calf).

    Warriors – SF B. Rush (Probable Tuesday, knee), SF K. Looney (Questionable Tuesday, hip), SF A. Iguodala (Out Tuesday, ankle).

    Wizards (-2) – Warriors (-15.2) + home court (-3) = Warriors -16.2

    ABOUT THE WIZARDS (36-37, 37-36 ATS, 37-34-2 O/U):
    Sunday’s performance marked a big step in the right direction for Washington, which held the Lakers to 37.9 percent shooting after allowing its previous two opponents to shoot better than 53 percent from the field in a pair of losses. The win marked the opener of a five-game road trip for the Wizards, who will see two more losing teams in Sacramento and Phoenix later in the trip. All-Star point guard John Wall is doing his part to keep the team in the race and recorded 22 points and 13 assists on Sunday for his ninth straight double-double.

    ABOUT THE WARRIORS (66-7, 40-31-2 ATS, 41-31-1 O/U):
    Thompson scored 40 points in back-to-back games for the first time in his career and Green extended his franchise single-season record with his 12th triple-double on Sunday, and Kerr came away pleased with the effort despite some mistakes. “I know how much of a grind this is at this point, especially down several guys,” Kerr told reporters. “I’m proud of them. They continue to put forth the effort and grind out these wins.” Kerr rested reserves Shaun Livingston and Anderson Varejao on Sunday but does not expect to rest any starters as Golden State gears up for back-to-back games on Tuesday and at Utah on Wednesday.


    * Wizards are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
    * Favorite is 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings.
    * Over is 5-1 in Wizards last 6 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
    * Under is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings in Golden State.

    The public is evenly split on the -13 point spread but the over 226.5 is getting pounded at a 67 percent clip.


    Preview: Chicago At Indiana

    When: 7:00 PM ET, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
    Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

    The Chicago Bulls continue to spiral downward and attempt to break a four-game losing streak when they visit the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Chicago fell below .500 for the first time this season when it lost 102-100 to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday and stands 2 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Detroit Pistons for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.

    The Bulls have lost 11 of their past 17 games and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. “We are still fighting, still trying to find our rhythm,” point guard Derrick Rose said afterward. “Be mentally strong, even though we are going through a rough time. Stay together and make sure everyone is on the same page.” Indiana is in seventh place in the East — a half-game ahead of the Pistons — and it can move close toward to wrapping up a berth by handing Chicago another loss. The Pacers have won three of their past four games after delivering a 104-101 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday.

    TV: 7 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, FSN Indiana

    ABOUT THE BULLS (36-37): Chicago, which is tied for ninth place in the East with rising Washington, is having trouble on the defensive side and is allowing an average of 108.5 points during the four-game skid. The contest against Indiana begins a stretch in which five of the next six games are on the road with the lone home game being a pivotal outing against the Pistons. Shooting guard Jimmy Butler continues to struggle, scoring 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting in Monday’s loss, and he has failed to reach 20 points in each of the past six straight games.

    ABOUT THE PACERS (39-34): Forward Paul George scored 25 points and guard Monta Ellis added 23 in Sunday’s win over the Rockets but the most pivotal player was center Ian Mahinmi. The 29-year-old journeyman matched his career high of 19 points and collected 11 rebounds one night after scoring 18 points against the Brooklyn Nets. Mahinmi has posted nine double-doubles this season after having just three during his previous seven NBA campaigns.


    1. The Bulls are 2-1 against the Pacers this season — Indiana won 104-92 on Nov. 27 on its homecourt.

    2. Chicago SF Mike Dunleavy is 15-of-51 shooting during the last eight contests.

    3. Indiana rookie PF Myles Turner is averaging just three points on 2-of-12 shooting in the past two games.

    PREDICTION: Pacers 105, Bulls 99


    Preview: Brooklyn At Orlando

    When: 7:00 PM ET, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
    Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida

    The Brooklyn Nets failed to post their first three-game winning streak of the season and look to start a new stretch of victories when they visit the Orlando Magic on Tuesday. Brooklyn produced back-to-back victories over Cleveland and Indiana but was unable to notch another upset, falling 110-99 to the Miami Heat on Monday for its sixth consecutive road defeat.

    The Nets also had a stretch of seven straight 100-point outings snapped when they fell one point shy of the century mark against Miami. Center Brook Lopez continues to be the sole bright spot for Brooklyn as he scored 26 points against the Heat and is averaging 25 over the past four games. Orlando has reached the 30-win mark for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign but is limping to the finish. The Magic lost six straight games before rolling to a 111-89 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.

    TV: 7 p.m. ET, YES (Brooklyn), FSN Florida (Orlando)

    ABOUT THE NETS (21-52): Power forward Thaddeus Young scored 10 or fewer points in three consecutive games before breaking out for 20 against the Heat. Young made his first 10 field-goal attempts before missing his last two shots and also contributed nine rebounds and three steals. Backup shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick has been a solid contributor and scored 14 points against Miami for his ninth straight double-digit effort.

    ABOUT THE MAGIC (30-43): Leading scorer Nikola Vucevic (groin) remains sidelined and center Dewayne Dedmon took advantage of increased playing time to score a career-best 18 points and grab a season-high 13 rebounds in Saturday’s trouncing of the Bulls. The 7-footer is still trying to establish himself as an NBA player and he has reached double digits in consecutive games with the Chicago contest easily representing his best outing of the season. “It’s a great feeling anytime somebody is finding you and the ball is moving well,” Dedmon told reporters. “I put in a lot of work this summer and it’s helped me a lot. To be able to come out and show it off a little bit, it’s definitely good for me.”


    1. The Magic are 3-0 against the Nets this season, including a 23-point road win on Dec. 14.

    2. Brooklyn SG Bojan Bogdanovic had just one 3-point basket against the Heat after having multiple 3-pointers in each of his previous eight contests.

    3. Orlando G Victor Oladipo (wrist) is expected back after a two-game absence.

    PREDICTION: Magic 106, Nets 103


    Preview: Charlotte At Philadelphia

    When: 7:00 PM ET, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
    Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    The race for the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference figures to come down to the final games of the regular season, and the Charlotte Hornets are trying to remain in the scrum. The Hornets will try to string together back-to-back wins when they close out a four-game road trip at the NBA-worst Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

    The Hornets lost at Detroit on Friday but bounced back the next night with a convincing win at Milwaukee, which began a 10-game closing stretch that includes only three opponents with current winning records. Charlotte gets the 76ers not once but twice and will host the second end of the home-and-home set on Friday as it tries to keep pace with the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks in the race for No. 3. Philadelphia is still trying to reach double digits in victories and finished out a four-game road trip with a 117-105 loss at Golden State in a game that featured the biggest disparity in winning percentage in the NBA this late in the season. The 76ers hung with the Warriors through at least one quarter and refused to go away completely down the stretch before falling.

    TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Charlotte), CSN Philadelphia

    ABOUT THE HORNETS (42-31): Charlotte will get a better picture of where it stands after the Celtics, Heat and Hawks all play on Monday but should be just fine moving forward if it continues to play like it did on Saturday in Milwaukee. The Hornets shot 55.4 percent from the field while holding the Bucks to 44 percent in the 115-91 triumph, and Nicolas Batum led the way with 25 points. The Frenchman has gone for 20 or more points in five of the last eight games and is averaging 18.5 points in 15 games this month after slumping to 8.8 in January and 12.7 in February.

    ABOUT THE 76ERS (9-65): Philadelphia is trying to develop its young talent but is getting strong play of late from veteran forward Carl Landry. The 32-year-old went for 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting on Sunday and has scored in double figures in three straight and four of the last five games. Landry is getting some extra time while the team deals with injuries to fellow big men Nerlens Noel (knee), Jahlil Okafor (knee), Jerami Grant (knee, quad) and Richaun Holmes (Achilles).


    1. 76ers SF Robert Covington is averaging 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in three games since returning from a concussion.

    2. Hornets F Marvin Williams scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting on Saturday after totaling 18 points on 6-of-22 in his previous three games.

    3. Charlotte took the first two meetings this season by an average of 22.5 points.

    PREDICTION: Hornets 113, 76ers 99


    Preview: Oklahoma City At Detroit

    When: 7:30 PM ET, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
    Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan

    The Oklahoma City Thunder possess the NBA’s longest current winning streak and look to stretch it to nine when they visit the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday. The Thunder rolled to a 119-100 road win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday and have an average winning margin of 17.1 points during the streak.

    Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook has been sensational in March and posted his seventh triple-double of the month with 26 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in Monday’s victory. Westbrook’s triple-double count is the most in a single month since former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan had seven in April, 1989. Detroit is 5-2 on a pivotal nine-game homestand – with both losses against the Atlanta Hawks – and is trying to cement its hold on the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pistons hold a 2 1/2-game lead over the Washington Wizards and the slumping Chicago Bulls with eight games left to play.

    TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Oklahoma, FSN Detroit Plus

    ABOUT THE THUNDER (52-22): Westbrook’s latest triple-double is his 16th of the season, the most by an NBA player since former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson had 17 during the 1988-89 campaign. “I think it’s something I never take for granted but I like winning,” Westbrook told reporters, “so regardless of what the numbers say I like to win the game and make sure my teammates feel good about themselves and figure it out from there.” Small forward Kevin Durant is on a superb run of his own as he scored 34 points against the Raptors for his 59th consecutive game of 20 or more points, the best streak since Lakers great Kobe Bryant had a 63-game streak during the 2005-06 season.

    ABOUT THE PISTONS (39-35): Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope struggled to nine points on 3-of-13 shooting in Saturday’s 112-95 loss to the Atlanta Hawks — one night after scoring 21 points in a victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Caldwell-Pope has topped 20 points on five occasions in March while continuing to be one of the league’s better defensive guards. “He’s now seen all the situations, so he can react to things better at both ends of the floor,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters. “He’s not surprised by something the offense is doing against him or something that the defense does against him. He’s not surprised as much, which allows him to be more solid and he’s a very consistent energy guy.”


    1. The Thunder have won in each of their past five visits to Detroit.

    2. Detroit PG Reggie Jackson – a former member of the Thunder – was just 4-of-16 shooting while scoring 15 points in the November matchup.

    3. Oklahoma City is averaging 117.3 points during its eight-game winning streak with a low output of 111.

    PREDICTION: Thunder 122, Pistons 115


    Preview: Houston At Cleveland

    When: 8:00 PM ET, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
    Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio

    The Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back from an embarrassing loss with an easy win and hope to finish strong as they try to lock up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers will try to avoid a letdown on Tuesday when they host the Houston Rockets, who are desperate for wins after dropping into the No. 8 spot in the West with a loss on Sunday.

    Cleveland suffered a 104-95 loss at Brooklyn on Thursday but made some changes between games and looked like a different team in a 107-93 drubbing of the New York Knicks on Saturday. “(Saturday) before the game we talked about the last 10 games … focusing on better defensively, physicality and transition,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. “I think (the Knicks) only had two points in transition tonight. We have to keep taking steps forward defensively and tonight we did that.” The Rockets dropped a 104-101 decision at Indiana on Sunday and sit a half-game ahead of the ninth-place Dallas Mavericks in the West. The loss was the fourth in five games overall and the fourth straight on the road for Houston, which will play five of its final seven games at home after finishing up the two-game trip in Cleveland.

    TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, ROOT (Houston), FSN Ohio (Cleveland)

    ABOUT THE ROCKETS (36-38): Houston has a favorable closing schedule with five straight against sub-.500 teams ending the regular season but has to get through Cleveland, Chicago and Oklahoma City before reaching that stretch. All-Star James Harden is doing his part and finished with 34 points, eight rebounds and eight assists on Sunday, but the Rockets went 7-of-33 from 3-point range in the loss. A strong finish could get Houston as high as sixth in the West but the focus is more on a three-team scrum for the seventh and eighth spots that includes Dallas and Utah.

    ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (52-21): The win in New York was keyed by LeBron James and his 42nd career triple-double, and the star is taking his role as a distributor seriously. “I went with the mindset to play my game and getting guys involved is a part of the game,” James told reporters. “I had some good looks but I had some great-look passes for my guys. I am glad I was able to help my team.” James is bringing up his level of play as the regular season draws to a close and is averaging 31.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the last four games.


    1. Cavaliers F Channing Frye is 1-of-14 from 3-point range in the last three games.

    2. Rockets F Michael Beasley scored nine points in 22 minutes on Sunday, snapping a string of nine straight games in double figures.

    3. Harden was held to 11 points on 2-of-10 shooting and committed eight turnovers when Houston suffered a 91-77 home loss to Cleveland on Jan. 15.

    PREDICTION: Cavaliers 101, Rockets 95


    Hot teams
    — Indiana won three of its last four games (5-7 last 12HF).
    — Charlotte won five of its last seven games (5-1 last 6AF).
    — Oklahoma City won its last seven games (5-1 last 6AF). Detroit won five of its last six games (1-5 last 6HU).
    — Cleveland won eight of its last 11 games (3-6 last 9HF).
    — Golden State won 11 of its last 12 games (5-3 last 8HF). Washington won six of its last eight games (1-4 last 5AU).

    Cold teams
    — Nets lost four of their last six games (1-4 last 5AU). Orlando lost six of its last seven games (8-5 last 13HF).
    — Chicago lost its last four games (2-4 last 6AU).
    — 76ers lost their last nine games, covered five of last seven.
    — Rockets lost four of their last five games (1-3 last 4AU).

    Series records
    — Nets lost their last three games with Orlando.
    — Bulls won three of last four games with Indiana.
    — 76ers lost six of last seven games with Charlotte.
    — Thunder won nine of last ten games with Detroit.
    — Rockets won six of last seven games with Cleveland.
    — Warriors won nine of last ten games (7-3 vs spread) vs Washington.

    — Four of last five Orlando games stayed under the total.
    — Five of last six Chicago games stayed under the total.
    — Five of 76ers’ last seven games stayed under the total.
    — Eight of last ten Detroit games went over the total.
    — Four of last five Houston games stayed under total.
    — Four of last five Golden State games stayed under.

    — Nets covered one of last six games if they played night before.
    — Bulls are 3-10 in last 13 games if they played night before.
    — Oklahoma State is 5-7-1 if it played the night before.


    StatFox Super Situations™ – FoxSheets

    Play On – Underdogs of 10 or more points (WASHINGTON) after being beaten by the spread by 18 or more points total in their last three games, with a winning percentage of between 40-49% on the season
    29-8 over the last 5 seasons. ( 78.4% | 20.2 units )
    4-3 this year. ( 57.1% | 0.7 units )

    Play Against – Underdogs vs the money line (PHILADELPHIA) revenging a loss vs opponent of 10 points or more, off a cover where the team lost the game straight up as an underdog
    669-180 since 1997. ( 78.8% | 175.9 units )
    25-7 this year. ( 78.1% | 8.3 units )

    Play Over – Home teams where the first half total is greater than 105 off an upset win as an underdog, in March games
    54-23 since 1997. ( 70.1% | 28.7 units )
    3-2 this year. ( 60.0% | 0.8 units )


    Inside the Paint – Tuesday
    By Chris David

    Favorites opened up the week with a 5-0 straight up mark on Sunday and the ‘chalk’ covered four of those games. That trend continued Monday with favorites posting an 8-2 SU record but the underdogs saved face at the betting counter with a 5-5 record against the spread. The ‘under’ went 7-3 last night and is 11-5 the past two days.

    Tuesday’s card offers up six games on tap, which includes a nationally televised double-header on TNT that unfortunately is lacking any punch but that’s what happens late in the season with players resting and meaningless games.

    Let’s handicap the card.

    Brooklyn (21-52 SU, 37-35-1 ATS) at Orlando (30-43 SU, 40-32-1 ATS)

    Speaking of meaningless, this matchup between the Magic (-6 ½) and Nets certainly fits that billing. After notching solid wins over Cleveland and Indiana last week, Brooklyn was humbled 110-99 last night in Miami as an 8 ½-point underdog. Orlando hasn’t played since Saturday when it snapped a six-game slide with a 111-89 win over Chicago as a seven-point home underdog. The Magic have gone 12-7 SU and 9-10 ATS as home favorites this season and that includes a 4-1 mark in their last five. Orlando has won all three (2-1 ATS) encounters against Brooklyn this season and the ‘under’ is 3-0 in those games. The Magic haven’t been healthy all season and the status of Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo remains up in the air tonight. Make a note that Brooklyn is 2-10 SU and 6-6 ATS on zero days rest this season.

    Charlotte (42-31 SU, 38-34-1 ATS) at Philadelphia (9-65 SU, 34-39-1 ATS)

    The Hornets and 76ers wrap up their season series this week with a home-and-home set that starts tonight before the second meeting on Friday in Charlotte. The 76ers are double-digit underdogs (+11 ½) for this game and could be jetlagged after finishing up a four-game road trip that saw them go winless. The club did manage to go 3-1 ATS and the ‘under’ cashed in all four games. It’s hard to make a case for Philadelphia here based on a number of factoris, including talent, travel and form, plus Charlotte has been one of the hottest teams in the league since the All-Star break (15-5 SU, 12-8 ATS). The Hornets have beaten the 76ers by 20 and 25 already this season and I’d expect that number to be in this neighborhood on Tuesday. However, I might come back with Philly on Friday knowing Charlotte has key games versus the Cavs and Raptors on deck.

    Chicago (36-37 SU, 30-43 ATS) at Indiana (39-34 SU, 37-36 ATS)

    The Pacers opened as seven-point home favorites over the Bulls and I thought this line was a tad inflated. I know Chicago is in horrible form right now, four straight losses, but it still has the talent to win in this spot and I’m not exactly sold on Indiana. The Pacers are 3-3 SU and 2-4 ATS in their last six games and two of those wins came against the 76ers and Pelicans. Indiana has dropped two of three to Chicago this season, both losses on the road and by a combined three points. In the home win, Indiana pulled away for a 104-92 victory and have won six of the last seven home encounters against Chicago. It’s hard to argue for the Bulls, who have dropped 11 of 12 on the road but backing Indiana as a home favorite (20-8 SU, 14-14 ATS) doesn’t jump off the page either. The ‘under’ (203) could be a good look knowing both clubs could shorten this game late since it has playoff implications and none of the first three outcomes between the pair this season eclipsed tonight’s number.

    Oklahoma City (52-22 SU, 33-39-2 ATS) at Detroit (39-35 SU, 37-34-3 ATS)

    I’m not a big fan of Oklahoma City and I’ve knocked them around for being a bully and they are. However, the Thunder made me take a second look at them last night when they hammered a good Toronto team 119-110 as three-point road favorites. OKC has won eight straight games and more importantly, they’ve covered six of them for bettors.

    The club heads to Detroit on Tuesday and the Thunder are currently listed as a 2 ½-point road favorite. That number right there tells you that the Pistons are worth a look, especially when you know that OKC has gone 6-6 both SU and ATS on no rest this season. Detroit saw its five-game winning streak snapped on Saturday as it was humbled 112-95 at home to Atlanta. The Pistons are in the middle of a playoff hunt and if Stan Van Gundy’s team ever needed a big win, it starts tonight at the Palace. Detroit has gone 8-5 SU and 7-4-1 ATS at home this season versus foes from the West, which includes a win over Golden State to boot.

    Houston (36-38 SU, 32-42 ATS) at Cleveland (52-21 SU, 32-39-2 ATS)

    The Cavaliers are listed as 1 ½-point home favorites over the Rockets and the short price is due to LeBron James sitting out for Cleveland. As much heat as he takes, he’s only missed three games this season and the clubs is 1-2 but the lone victory came by one point. Cleveland dropped Houston 91-77 on Jan. 5 as a two-point road underdog, which snapped a six-game losing streak to the Rockets. With Toronto losing on Monday, the Cavaliers are now three games ahead of them for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Rockets are barely holding onto the eighth seed in the West and have struggled recently, losing four of five games. The offense has been inconsistent (100.8 PPG) during this skid, which has led to a 4-1 ‘under’ mark. Knowing the Cavs have averaged 94 PPG without James in the lineup, a lean to the low side (214) could be warranted tonight.

    Washington (36-37 SU, 37-36 ATS) at Golden State (66-7 SU, 38-32-2 ATS)

    The Wizards began their five-game West Coast trip Sunday with a wire-to-wire 101-88 victory over the Lakers. Winning on Tuesday certainly won’t be easy as Washington meets Golden State as a 13 ½-point road underdog. As most know, Golden State is gunning for historical records and they’ve already busted one earlier this season by winning 53 straight games at home. Washington is listed as an 8/1 underdog (Bet $100 to win $800) on the money-line and that’s not a sound investment, especially for a team that has gone 4-7 SU and 5-8 ATS versus non-conference foes on the road. All but two of those opponents racked 107 points or more and that weak defensive effort helped the ‘over’ go 9-2 in those games. Should we expect less from Golden State? The team total for the Warriors (119 ½) might be a better play considering the Warriors are just 1-4 ATS in their last five games despite a 4-1 record. Plus, they’ve averaged 112 PPG in 13 home games versus teams from the East this season.



    Brooklyn Nets +6 over Orlando Magic

    Houston Rockets +1.5 over Cleveland Cavaliers


    Johnny Goodtimes

    Golden State Warriors -13

    ‘Grand Slam’
    Indiana vs Chicago – Under 201.5
    Houston Rockets +2



    4* (763) Bulls +7

    0-2 yesterday.

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