NBA Picks for Thursday TNT: Mavericks at Heat Odds and Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/19/2012
Much like last week, I am going to pass on what’s obviously the best game of Thursday night on TNT, Bulls vs. Heat, because it’s just too up in the air as to whether Chicago’s Derrick Rose (and this time also Luol Deng) will play. I think Rose will go as the Bulls need him to get in rhythm for the playoffs and the East’s No. 1 seed is essentially in the bag with a victory.
The late game on TNT features the L.A. Clippers at Phoenix and both still have plenty to play for. The Clips enter just a half-game behind their Staples Center co-tenant Lakers for the Pacific Division lead and the No. 3 seed in the West (Clips and Lakers tied in loss column). The Suns enter a half-game out of the No. 8 spot in the West and are in a three-way battle with Utah and Houston for that last slot. Phoenix could still rise as high as No. 6 (where Dallas is and 2.5 games ahead) in the West race or fall out entirely.
Clippers at Suns Betting Story Lines
The Suns were 14-20 at the All-Star Break. If they make the playoffs it would be something considering last time a team made the playoffs in the Western Conference after entering the All-Star Break six or more games below .500 was in 1996-97 (Phoenix was one of two teams to do it that year). The Suns are 7-3 in April (7-3 ATS), tied for the most wins of any Western team this month. And things do look good the rest of the way as the Suns, including Thursday’s game, have three of their final four at home, where they are 18-12.
It’s questionable whether Phoenix will have Grant Hill, the NBA’s oldest player, for this game. He has been dealing with a knee that has bothered him after late March surgery. Hill has played 33 minutes in two games since returning and has just eight total points on 4-for-11 shooting. Former Laker Shannon Brown got extra minutes when Hill was out after surgery and played very well. I expect Hill to come off the bench for the rest of the season.
The Clippers took off amid rumors that coach Vinny Del Negro was on the way out, winning 12 of their past 14 (tied with Spurs for best record in NBA during that stretch) after Del Negro got a vote of confidence. The Clippers are 15 games over .500 (38-23 entering Wednesday) this season. It's the third time the Clippers have been more than five games over .500 this many games into a season since moving to L.A. That 51-game start is the second-best in franchise history behind the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves.
Los Angeles also has a great shot at finishing with a winning road record this year. The Clips haven’t done that since the move out west. Phoenix might not want to jump out to a big lead in this game. The Clippers came back from an 11-point deficit on Monday night. It was the 12th victory for the Clippers this season when they have been trailing by double-figures, among the NBA’s best marks.
This will be the last of four regular-season meetings between the Clippers and Suns. Phoenix won the first two, holding L.A. to an average of just 82.5 points and rallying from double-digit deficits in each. But on March 28 in L.A., the Clippers (as 7-point favorites) blew out Phoenix 103-86. The Suns’ Hill missed that game.
Clippers at Suns Betting Odds and Key Trends
Phoenix opened as a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 196 on NBA odds (it’s the first time this year the Suns are favored over L.A.). The Clippers are 32-29 ATS overall and 15-14 on road (all trends entering Wednesday). The Suns are 33-28 ATS overall and 17-12 at home. Over/under records: LAC 29-31-1 (16-13 on road), PHO 24-37 (13-16 at home)
The Clips have covered seven of their past 10 road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The Suns are 13-3 ATS in past 16 at home. Phoenix is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 games in the second of a back-to-back. The over is 7-0 in L.A.’s past seven vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 4-0 in Phoenix’s past four vs. teams with a winning record. L.A. is 1-5 ATS in past six trips to the desert. The under is 5-0 in the past five meetings.
Clippers at Suns Betting Prediction
It will be a great matchup of point guards young and old in Chris Paul and Steve Nash. In the 18 games Paul and Nash have played head to head, their teams have each won nine times. Nash, by the way, likely will pass Oscar Robertson for fifth on the all-time assists list in this game – unless Nash got 14 of them on Wednesday.
Phoenix has owned this series, winning 13 of the past 15 meetings. But the vast majority of those were obviously pre-Blake Griffin and Paul. Perhaps the key number tonight for Phoenix is 96 points. The Clippers are one of the top five teams this season when allowing 95 or fewer points with a 26-5 record. This is a tough one to call because it’s pretty clear that the Clippers are the better team. But obviously Phoenix is at home and didn’t have to travel Wednesday night, while L.A. had to play in the altitude of Denver and then fly out. Take the Suns and the under as both clubs likely will have heavy legs.
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