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NBA doubleheader: Clippers at Thunder, Bulls at Nuggets

L.A. Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder (-5.5, 210)

Chris Paul is setting NBA records as he drags the Los Angeles Clippers to the top half of the Western Conference. Paul will look to notch his 13th straight points-assists double-double to begin the season when the Clippers visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. Paul scored 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and handed out 11 assists on Wednesday to guide Los Angeles past the Minnesota Timberwolves in the opener of a two-game trip.

The Thunder will be looking for some revenge after suffering a 111-103 defeat to the Clippers in Los Angeles on Nov. 13. Oklahoma City fell again the next night but took its last two, including a 115-113 victory over Denver on Monday that kicked off a six-game homestand. That win left coach Scott Brooks and star Kevin Durant upset about the defensive effort. “We’ve got to do a better job of being a defensive team,” Brooks said. “We have to play better defense.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT.

LINE: The Thunder opened as -5 home faves and have been bet to -5.5. The total opened at 211.5 and have move down to 210.

COVERS POWER RANKINGS:
L.A. Clippers (-12.6) - Oklahoma City (-12.4) + home court (-3) = -3.2 Oklahoma City

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (8-4, 7-5 ATS): Paul was the best player on the floor in the final minutes at Minnesota, scoring 13 in a row for Los Angeles at one
point in the last four minutes to spark the team to a 102-98 victory. Paul went for 14 points and 16 assists in the first meeting with the Thunder but was overshadowed by teammate Matt Barnes, who got into a shoving match with Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka that left both ejected and was followed by some profane tweets from Barnes in the locker room. Barnes will not be a concern on Thursday, as he did not travel with the team on the road trip after suffering an eye contusion on Monday.

ABOUT THE THUNDER (7-3, 4-6 ATS): That skirmish between Barnes and Ibaka ended up being much worse for Oklahoma City, which squandered a nine-point halftime lead. Ibaka had been 6-for-6 from the floor in that first half before being tossed with six seconds left in the second quarter, and the team is increasing his role in the offense as it works in a smaller lineup. Ibaka is shooting 60.3 percent from the floor over his last five games but was held to six points on 3-of-7 shooting against the Nuggets on Wednesday.

TRENDS:

* Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings in Oklahoma City.
* Over is 4-0 in the last four meetings.
* Clippers are 12-4 ATS in the last 16 meetings in Oklahoma City.
* Thunder are 1-8 ATS in their its last nine home games.

BUZZER BEATERS:

1. Oklahoma City had a three-game winning streak in the series before falling last week.

2. Durant has scored 33 or more points in four of the last six games.

3. Paul’s 12 straight double-doubles to start the season surpasses Magic Johnson’s 11 from the 1990-91 campaign.

Chicago Bulls at Denver Nuggets (+1, 107)

The Chicago Bulls typically have trouble in Denver but bring a five-game winning streak into Thursday’s matchup against the Nuggets. Denver has won each of its last six home games against Chicago dating back to the 2005-06 season and is averaging 112.3 points during a three-game home winning streak. The Bulls, who are beginning a six-game road trip, are playing terrific defense and allowing an average of 81.8 points during their winning streak.

Derrick Rose continues to search for his MVP form in his comeback season and he will need to be on top of his game to deal with Denver point guard Ty Lawson, who is averaging 22 points and 8.6 assists. “Obviously, that’s a matchup that a lot of people want to see,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Ty’s playing at a high level. Derrick Rose, we know what he’s capable of as well as a former MVP.” Rose is averaging just 15 points and 4.5 assists while shooting 34.4 percent from the field.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, WGN (Chicago)

LINE: The Nuggets have held steady as +1 home dogs. The total opened at 196 and has been bet up to 197.

COVERS POWER RANKINGS:
Chicago (-10.0) - Denver (-5.5) + home court (-3.0) = Chicago -1.5

ABOUT THE BULLS (6-3, 4-5 ATS): Versatile Jimmy Butler will miss the road excursion after an MRI exam revealed he suffered a sprained right big toe in
Monday’s victory over Charlotte. Butler is averaging 11.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals and either Mike Dunleavy or Kirk Hinrich will move into a starting role. “It’s part of the game,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said prior to Wednesday’s practice. “But we have more than enough. I’ve been pleased with our bench play. So the guys that are called upon, they have to be ready.”

ABOUT THE NUGGETS (4-6, 5-5 ATS): Guard Nate Robinson is ailing with a wrist injury at the worst possible time – with a game against Chicago arriving.
Robinson was a playoff standout for the Bulls last season while Rose was sidelined and he desperately wants to play against his former teammates. “I play through all injuries if I can,” Robinson said. “I love the game too much.” Robinson scored 24 points in his Denver debut but has reached double digits just twice since and has scored only 25 total points in the Nuggets’ last six games.

TRENDS:

* Home team is 8-2-1 ATS in the last 11 meetings.
* Over is 8-3 in the last 11 meetings in Denver.
* Over is 10-4 in the last 14 meetings.
* Bulls are 1-5 ATS in the last six meetings in Denver.

BUZZER BEATERS:

 
1. Denver has won 12 of its last 13 home meetings with Chicago.
 
2. Chicago ranks second in the NBA in scoring defense at 89 per game.

3. The Nuggets missed 18 free throws in Monday’s 115-113 loss to Oklahoma City.

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