In recent seasons, you would often see only two NBA games on Thursdays -- both televised by TNT. And while Thursdays aren't going to become ultra-busy nights like Wednesdays, Fridays or Saturdays, you likely will notice more games in 2015-16. The NBA went to TNT and basically said it needed to cut down on teams playing back-to-backs or four games in five nights. To help with that, it means more games on Thursday instead of TNT having sole possession of the schedule sometimes. Back-to-backs have been reduced to 17.8 per team for 2015-16, down from 19.3 last season, and no team has more than 20 back-to-backs this season. Four games in five days have been reduced to .9 per team for 2015-16, down from 2.3 per team last season.
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Grizzlies at Pacers (+2.5, 187)
This is the second of a back-to-back for both these clubs as the Grizzlies had a very tough home game vs. Cleveland on Wednesday and Indiana was in Toronto. Two Grizzlies have deep ties to the state of Indiana. Forward Zach Randolph is from Marion, Ind., while guard Mike Conley was raised in Indianapolis and played at state powerhouse Lawrence North High School alongside 2007 No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden. Randolph (Michigan State) and Conley (Ohio State with Oden) both passed on attending Indiana or Purdue, however. Memphis swept the Pacers last season, winning 97-89 very early in the year at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and then 95-83 to close the regular season. That clinched the No. 5 seed for the Grizz. Pacers star Paul George only played in the April 15 game off his broken leg and then just 15 minutes.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 4-9 against the spread in their past 13 games. Indiana is 0-5 ATS in its past five in the second of a back-to-back. The "over/under" has gone under in four straight in the second of a back-to-back for Memphis. The under is 5-1 in the past six meetings. The home team is 6-2 ATS in the past eight.
Early lean: Pacers and under.
Hawks at Knicks (+2, 197.5)
This is your first game on TNT. New York was in Milwaukee on Wednesday night and likely without one of its big free-agent additions in guard Arron Afflalo. He's dealing with a strained left hamstring. Afflalo was to start at shooting guard. The Hawks on Tuesday were surprised at home 106-94 by Detroit. The Hawks fell behind by as many as 19 and couldn't rally even when the Pistons missed 20 of their final 22 shots from the field. New Atlanta starting forward Kent Bazemore, taking the spot of the departed DeMarre Carroll, had as many points as I did. I expected a fair amount of regression for Atlanta, but that result surprised me. The Hawks and Knicks made a trade during the 2015 draft. New York sent guard Tim Hardaway Jr. to Atlanta for the draft rights to Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant, who was picked 19th overall. Most believe that the Knicks won that deal, and Grant has shown signs in the Summer League and preseason of being a good player. Hardaway Jr. was shockingly on the inactive list for the season opener. The Hawks won two of three vs. the Knicks last year. It was New York's first season series loss to Atlanta since 2007-08.
Key trends: The Hawks are 1-5 ATS in their past six Thursday games. The Knicks are 1-4 ATS in their past five in the second of a back-to-back. The favorite is 4-1 ATS in the past five. The over is 4-1 in the past five.
Early lean: Hawks and under.
Mavericks at Clippers (-8, 210.5)
Both teams opened the season on Wednesday, with Dallas in Phoenix and the Clippers in Sacramento. The Mavs are without starting forward Chandler Parsons as he recovers from right knee surgery. Easily the big story line here, other than it being L.A.'s home opener, is DeAndre Jordan against the Mavericks. Of course, Jordan verbally agreed to a four-year, $80 million deal with Dallas in early July but couldn't sign the contact until the NBA's week-or-so long moratorium was over. And during that time, Jordan had second thoughts and a group of Clippers players and Coach Doc Rivers were able to get him to re-sign while essentially holding him hostage so Dallas officials couldn't reach him. I'll be curious if Mavs owner Mark Cuban attends this game because he was understandably furious with Jordan. The real fun is Nov. 11 when the Clippers visit Dallas. The Clips won two of three vs. the Mavs last year, including the lone game in L.A. The Clippers have won five of the last six regular-season meetings in Los Angeles.
Key trends: The Mavs are 0-4 ATS in their past four in the second of a back-to-back. The Clippers are 3-9 ATS in their past 12 at home. The over is 8-0 in the past eight meetings. The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven.
Early lean: Clippers and over.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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