NBA underway

Nov 2, 2010 7:02 AM

The NBA season is barely a week old and already the Miami Heat are starting to show they may indeed be the team to beat.

After a not so surprising opening night loss at defending conference champion Boston, Miami won their next three games, all by double digits, including a 26-point home win over another team considered a major challenger in the East, Orlando.

The other two wins came on the road, at non-threatening Philadelphia and New Jersey.

The much ballyhooed trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh will garner the headlines for the exploits at the offensive end of the court; let’s not overlook their combined defensive prowess.

The linesmaker will certainly catch up but all four of Miami’s games have stayed nicely UNDER the closing total, each by at least 8.

Even with such a small schedule having been played in just six days, only four of the NBA’s 30 teams are unbeaten as we go to press. Atlanta, the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans and Portland have each started 3-0. Two of the wins by both Atlanta and Portland have come on the road.

Half a dozen teams remain winless with Charlotte, Detroit, Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia each dropping their first three contests and Washington starting 0-2.

Of this group, Houston’s poor start is the biggest surprise with Charlotte’s poor start also a bit perplexing. Both the Rockets and Bobcats had winning records last season and each seems poised to show at least modest improvement this season.

Through Sunday, 43 games have been played and the split between favorites and underdogs as well as home and road teams has been fairly even. Home favorites posted a point spread record of 18-13, while underdogs were just 5-5-1 in the opening week.

Scoring has been lower than expected with just 18 OVERS compared to 25 UNDERS.

We’ll monitor these key statistics throughout the season and report on them with regularity as we try to gain any possible edges that may unfold in our virtually daily battles with the NBA odds makers.

Here’s a look at a trio of attractive games to be played over the weekend.

Chicago at Boston (Friday): New Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau takes his Bulls back to where he earned his new job as an assistant under Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Thibodeau’s defensive genius transformed Boston into one of the NBA’s top teams at that end of the court, and he brings that wisdom to his young but talented team.

His knowledge of Boston’s personnel should pay off nicely in this contest as Chicago seeks to improve upon the Bulls’ .500 records of each of the past two seasons. Chicago should be decently priced underdogs here, especially after playing the night before in New York while Boston is rested.

A play on the underdog Bulls might be attractive but it is more reasonable to expect the Bulls to try and keep this game low scoring, again, especially after they may have been forced to run the court Thursday night against the Knicks. UNDER.

Denver at Dallas (Saturday): Both teams are considered potential challengers to the Lakers’ supremacy in the West but each has to close a significant gap to make a successful challenge. Dallas took two of three meetings last season.

This is a quick turnaround from Wednesday’s meeting in Denver. Dallas will have been rested since that game whereas Denver played at the Clippers Friday night so the situation would favor Dallas. Normally these teams are considered as being stronger on the offensive end of the court than at the defensive end.

Yet in the season’s first week these teams have combined for five UNDERS and just a single OVER. The quick turnaround should allow for more adjustments to be made defensively rather than offensively, suggestive of the greater value being in a play on the low. UNDER.

Portland at L.A. Lakers (Sunday): Both teams won their first three games as they meet for the first time this season. The Blazers took two of three from the Lakers last season. Both teams are off of what should have been easier contests against Toronto with the Lakers having hosted the Raptors on Friday night and the Blazers playing host on Saturday.

Thus the Lakers have the extra day of rest in addition to Portland having to travel. There is much to like about Portland but when the Lakers are focused for a game, they are difficult to beat and such should be the case here. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge give Portland a very solid 1-2 punch but the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are better and have better supporting talent.

This is an early season "message" game for the Lakers and with still fresh legs on the roster, we can expect that message to be sent. L.A. LAKERS.