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NBA Thursday Night Hoops Preview

Basketball Thursdays Are Back on TNT

Charles Barkley won’t be there. But you can bet he’ll be watching Thursday’s NBA on TNT doubleheader along with the rest of the basketball world.

Barkley has taken a leave of absence in the wake of his recent arrest on suspicion of drunk driving. That’ll reduce (or increase dramatically, depending on your point of view) the entertainment value of TNT’s flagship basketball program. But this remains the best NBA show on television, and hoops is about to take over the sports betting scene as football season winds down.  

Thursday’s opening TNT game (8:00 p.m. Eastern) presents arguably the best team in the NBA right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers at 29-6 SU and a league-high 25-10 ATS. Their opposition is the frustratingly mediocre Chicago Bulls at 16-21 SU and ATS. These are two teams moving through the food chain in opposite directions. Cleveland has put the right combination of role players around LeBron James, while Chicago’s young, immature talent is refusing to dance to first-year coach Vinny Del Negro’s tune. The Cavaliers have won nine of 11 at 6-5 ATS; the Bulls have lost seven of 10 both SU and ATS.

That span includes the Jan. 2 meeting between the Cavs and Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland rolled to a 117-92 victory as 12.5-point home faves; James had a triple-double (16 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) against Chicago, while his supporting cast shot 5-for-12 from behind the arc. This dynamic is the key to Cleveland’s success on offense – even with the Bulls holding opponents to 32.5 percent from downtown, the lowest success rate in the NBA.

NBA basketball lines are in the Bodog online sportsbook.

Thursday’s nightcap at 10:30 p.m. ET features the Denver Nuggets (25-13 SU, 21-16-1 ATS) taking on the Phoenix Suns (21-13 SU, 13-20 ATS) at the Pepsi Center. Last year, this would have been a high-octane matchup between two of the fastest teams in the league. Denver has slowed things down a bit with Chauncey Billups at point guard, but the Nuggets are still No. 6 in the NBA in pace at 96.6 possessions per game. Phoenix is also fairly quick at No. 9 with 95.6 possessions per game, but that’s nothing compared to the offense the Suns used to run with Mike D’Antoni as coach.

Like the Cavaliers, the Suns are a much different team since the start of last year. The Shawn Marion-Shaquille O’Neal trade is the main reason, compounded by the arrival of Terry Porter as head coach. Unlike Cleveland, the moves in Phoenix haven’t paid instant dividends. GM Steve Kerr has reinvigorated his team’s offense somewhat with last month’s addition of Jason Richardson from Charlotte; he has 16.7 points per game in 11 appearances (nine starts) in a Phoenix uniform, and the Suns are a sizzling 8-3 in those games. Yet they’re only 3-7 ATS during that span.Sports Betting at the Sportsbook

The Nuggets, on the other hand, have blown away the dim preseason expectations they had after sending Marcus Camby to the L.A. Clippers in a salary dump. The trade sending Allen Iverson to Detroit in exchange for Billups (18.7 points, 6.8 assists per game) has transformed Denver’s offense, while getting Nene (14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) back and healthy at center has largely covered for Camby’s departure. The matchup with O’Neal, Steve Nash and the Suns figures to be close, even with Carmelo Anthony (broken hand) out of commission for the next few weeks.

If you’re looking for an overall trend to help you make the transition from NFL to NBA betting, the underdogs are doing quite well right now at 295-251-7 ATS (54.0 percent), and away dogs are even better at 210-173-5 ATS (54.8 percent). That’s a better deal than any of the college hoops trends (away faves are 51.5 percent), but with so many games being played in Division I, it doesn’t take long for the common betting splits to gravitate toward .500.

Your best bet for college hoops right now is with a pair of Pacific-10 teams: California (15-2 SU, 11-3 ATS) and Stanford (11-3 SU, 10-3 ATS). Mid-majors are usually at the top of the college hoops money standings, but the Pac-10 enjoys a high level of anonymity compared to the other major conferences. These two teams meet Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern – without TV coverage, sadly. But Arizona State-UCLA will be shown at 3:45 p.m. ET on CBS; the Sun Devils are quietly raking in the Left Coast cash at 14-2 SU and a mouthwatering 8-4 ATS.

Upcoming TNT Thursday doubleheaders

Jan. 22: Boston at Orlando, Washington at L.A. Lakers
Jan. 29: Cleveland at Orlando, San Antonio at Phoenix
Feb. 5: L.A. Lakers at Boston, Dallas at Utah
Feb. 12: Miami at Chicago, Boston at Dallas

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