NBA Thursday best bets, player props: Expect fireworks from Pacers, Suns
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We hit both NBA spread picks and the player prop on Wednesday but missed on a total, as it was the Raptors' offense, not defense, that got the job done against the Magic. We'll shoot for a perfect card in Thursday's action.

Indiana Pacers (-3, 229.5) vs. Phoenix Suns

Is Phoenix for real now? It was easy to dismiss the Suns' 2-0 start in the bubble as good fortune, but it might be time to take them seriously after Devin Booker downed the Clippers at the buzzer on Tuesday as 8.5-point underdogs.

The Suns are one of two teams (Heat) to improve their offensive and defensive ratings from before the bubble, and they've made the second-largest jump in net rating (plus-6.9) over that time. They're also just one of three teams with a perfect 3-0 record in the restart, covering by an average of eight points per game.

All that still isn't as impressive as what Indiana has done, winning its three games by an average of nearly 10 points and earning the NBA's third-best net rating (8.2) in seeding play. The Pacers netted 11-point victories against the Wizards and Magic this week behind the stellar play of former Suns forward T.J. Warren, who leads all players with 39.7 points per game in the bubble.

Warren's scoring punch alone is an excellent reason to take the over, which is 2-1 for both teams. The Suns and Pacers boast top-seven offenses and mediocre defenses in seeding play, so ride the over in a game that Phoenix could easily win.

Pick: Over 229.5

Los Angeles Clippers (-4, 231.5) at Dallas Mavericks

Both of these teams enter this game 1-2 in the restart, but those records weren't built equally. The Clippers dropped tight contests to the Lakers and Suns and are still 2-1 against the spread in seeding play, while the Mavericks are a lousy 0-3 ATS with little to play for.

Despite Dallas picking up an overtime win over Sacramento on Tuesday, Luka Doncic said the Mavericks "played one of the worst games ever." It's hard to expect a better effort on Thursday, given they're essentially locked into the No. 7 seed and would potentially face Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs.

The Clippers, meanwhile, are fending off the Nuggets for the No. 2 seed and need every win they can get. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have logged heavy minutes in the restart - a solid sign of their health - and L.A has the sixth-best net rating (plus-5.8) in seeding play despite the 1-2 record.

Lou Williams made his return Tuesday and played 21 minutes, his fourth-fewest this season. A bigger contribution from him should help tip the scales in favor of the Clippers, who are clearly the better team with more motivation.

Pick: Clippers -4

Player props

Zion Williamson over 20.5 points (-102)

The Pelicans finally unleashed Williamson on Monday after preserving their star in the opening two games of seeding play. The rookie scored 23 points in 25 minutes against the Grizzlies in his most recent performance. He should have a similar showing against a Sacramento defense ill-equipped to stop him.

This season, Williamson ranks second in points in the paint (16.5) and 16th in percentage of points in the paint (73.7%) among starters with at least 20 games played. That's a nightmare for the Kings, who have allowed teams to shoot 64.6% at the rim this year - second-worst in the NBA - and haven't shown any defensive intensity in the bubble.

Williamson has scored at least 21 points in 16 of his 22 games this year, so this number is more than fair for his output on Thursday. A friendly matchup makes it even easier to slam the over.

C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.

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NBA Thursday best bets, player props: Expect fireworks from Pacers, Suns
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