Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs (-9, 206)
The San Antonio Spurs are among the best teams in the NBA. Lately, they may be the most inconsistent. San Antonio will try to find its form Thursday when it hosts the Dallas Mavericks. After winning three straight by an average of 28.3 points, the Spurs lost at home to Portland by 30, posted a solid win over high-powered Oklahoma City and then suffered a 24-point loss at lowly Minnesota on Tuesday while forwards Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard stayed home.
While San Antonio struggles to regain its footing without All-Star guard Tony Parker in the lineup, the Mavericks continue their climb toward playoff contention. Dallas has won four straight after a 115-108 victory at Milwaukee on Tuesday and trail the Los Angeles Lakers by 2 1/2 games in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Vince Carter scored 13 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's victory, which gave the Mavs a 3-0 mark on their four-game road trip.TV:
8 p.m. ET, TNTABOUT THE MAVERICKS (30-33, 37-26-0 ATS):
While Carter was solid in the stretch run Tuesday and Dirk Nowitzki stood out at the start (17 of his 19 points came in the first half), Dallas also got a nice contribution from rookie swingman Jae Crowder. Starting in place of the injured Shawn Marion, Crowder had 14 points -- one shy of his season high -- and a person-best eight rebounds. Marion has missed three straight games due to a sore left calf. He remains day-to-day. The Mavericks are 7-3 without Marion in the lineup. They've won each of the last six without their top defender.ABOUT THE SPURS (49-16, 36-27-2 ATS):
Playing the second half of a back-to-back, coach Gregg Popovich elected to leave Duncan and Leonard behind when the team traveled from San Antonio to Minnesota late Monday night. The players were officially diagnosed with sore knees, but sitting players in situations such as this is nothing new to Popovich. Matt Bonner (two points in 19 minutes) made his second start, Stephen Jackson (14 points) made his fourth and Cory Joseph (15 points) his fifth. The Spurs shot 35.4 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 49-39 in falling to 5-4 since a 16-1 stretch.TRENDS:
* Favorite is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings.
* Under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings in San Antonio.
* Mavericks are 3-12-1 ATS in the last 16 meetings.
* Mavericks are 0-4 ATS in the last four meetings in San Antonio.
1. San Antonio has won the first three games of the four-game series by an average of 23 points.
2. After this one, Dallas plays eight of its next nine games at home.
3. In keeping with the Spurs' inconsistency, C Tiago Splitter went 9-for-11 from the field in the win over Oklahoma City but was 1-for-10 against Minnesota.
New York Knicks at Portland Trail Blazers (-6, 194)
The New York Knicks will limp into Portland for a matchup with the Trail Blazers on Thursday in what is quickly turning into a disastrous five-game road trip. New York was pummeled by 29 points at Golden State on Monday and absorbed a 26-point beating in Denver on Wednesday. The battered Knicks will be without star Carmelo Anthony, who left Thursday's game with knee soreness and is being sent back to New York for tests.
Knicks center Tyson Chandler also left the Denver game with a left knee contusion but has been listed as probable for Thursday's matchup. The Trail Blazers are 3 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Lakers for eighth place in the West and must take advantage of matchups against the depleted Knicks and Detroit on Saturday before heading out on a five-game road trip. Portland has dropped two straight since a stunning 30-point win at San Antonio.TV:
10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, MSG (New York)ABOUT THE KNICKS (38-24, 30-30-2 ATS):
Anthony missed three games last week with an ailing right knee and said he would only have it drained as a "last resort," but that appears to be the course of action. Meanwhile, the subplot for Thursday's game is the return of Knicks point guard Raymond Felton. He had a miserable season in Portland a year ago amid questions about his conditioning and was linked to a player mutiny that eventually led to the firing of Nate McMillan. Felton called his stint with the Blazers the "worst moment I had in basketball for sure."ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (29-34, 28-32-3 ATS):
Nicolas Batum scored a team-high 26 points in Portland's 105-100 win at New York on New Year's Day, but he continues to struggle while battling an injured right wrist. Batum missed all five shots while scoring four points in Tuesday's home loss to Memphis and had two points in the rout of the Spurs. He has managed only 17 points on 4-for-18 shooting over his past three games. His shooting percentage has dipped to 42.5, the lowest of his five-year career.TRENDS:
* Knicks are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings in Portland.
* Knicks are 5-2-1 ATS in the last eight meetings.
* Underdog is 8-3-1 ATS in the last 12 meetings.
1. New York fell a game behind Indiana for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
2. Portland is nine games above .500 at home at 20-11.
3. The teams have split the last six meetings.