That’s Amar’e

Dec 21, 2010 7:05 AM

The NBA season is nearly one third complete and things are starting to take shape in terms of the pecking order of teams in each conference.

The Mecca of Basketball – New York’s Madison Square Garden – has finally come alive after more than a decade of irrelevance. The Knicks entered last week having won 12 of 13 and on a 7-game run with free agent signee Amar’e Stoudemire scoring 30 points or more in nine straight.

Top of the world one week, back to earth the next. Losses to Boston, Miami and Cleveland took care of that along with the big news over the weekend.

The Orlando Magic made a pair of trades to strengthen its roster in an attempt to challenge Boston and Miami for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. The Magic acquired Gilbert Arenas from Washington and both Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson from Phoenix, giving up Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter and a pair of role players in the process.

Orlando is off to a 16-10 start that is currently fourth in the East, a half game behind Chicago. Boston leads the East at a stellar 22-4 with Miami closing in at 21-8. The Heat have overcome their lethargic start to enter this week riding a 12-game winning streak.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have finally gelled on a consistent basis and 10 of their dozen wins in the current streak have been by double digits.

San Antonio continues to receive little attention in the press but the Spurs have the NBA’s best record, 23-3. And it’s not the Los Angeles Lakers, currently second in the West despite their solid 21-7 record. Rather it’s the Spurs’ divisional rival Dallas, with a 21-5 mark, that sits second.

All told, five Western Conference teams have yet to lose 10 games compared to just three teams in the East.

Home teams are winning more than 60 percent of all games (249 to 155) as travel remains the single most significant impediment to consistent play.

From a point spread perspective, road teams have a slight edge over home teams (202-186) with a rather high total of 16 pushes using the closing lines at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Through nearly a third of the season, UNDER continue to outpace OVER by a fairly significant margin (216-183).

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season, here’s a look at three games over the holiday weekend.

Bulls at Knicks: The N.Y. steamroller finally stalled last week when stepping up in class after feasting largely on lower echelon teams. A close home loss to Boston was followed by a 22-point loss to Miami in which the game was tied at the half. New York then lost again the next night at Cleveland in OT.

Chicago had its 7-game win streak snapped by the L.A. Clippers, of all teams, at home Saturday. But the Bulls have played well with a strong defensive presence. The loss of Joakim Noah to injury will hurt and the Knicks have enough options on offense to exploit his absence. KNICKS.

Heat at Lakers: This has been one of the most eagerly awaited games since the NBA schedule was announced and is considered by many to be a preview of next June’s NBA finals. The Lakers have cooled a bit following a torrid 8-0 and 13-2 start. Miami has done the reverse, winning 12 in a row after starting 9-8. Miami may have the better cast in support of James although Pau Gasol and mates have also given Lakers star Kobe Bryant excellent support.

The Lakers have been bolstered by the return to action of C Andrew Bynum, whose presence may be the key. Both teams shall want to send a statement. The Lakers have a couple of extra days to prepare, the home court and are the two-time defending champs. All of this adds up to an edge to support laying the short price. LAKERS.

Sunday, Dec. 26

Suns at L.A. Clippers: Phoenix has a bit of a new look following the weekend trade with Orlando. The Clippers have started to play well, even winning back-to-back road games at Detroit and Chicago this past weekend. The Suns are a disappointing 13-13 nearly a third of the way through the season. They are still a high scoring team, with the second highest scoring average on the road.

The Clippers have been a fairly decent defensive team at home though vulnerable at that end of the court. Blake Griffin has exceeded expectations in his first season in L.A. after missing all of last season with injury. The Clippers are a team starting to show improvement while the Suns appear to be retooling. Phoenix won the earlier meeting at home by 8 a month ago. The Clippers are playing well enough now to support backing, even as a small favorite. CLIPPERS.

last week             season                     PCT

1-2                         9-10-1                     45.0