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Smart scheduling aids NBA fans, bettors

The early returns from the NBA’s restart in Orlando last week are enthusiastically positive on several fronts.

The action has been exciting with last Thursday’s doubleheader producing a pair of last-second thrillers, each decided by two points. Of the 25 games played through Monday, 16 have been decided by single digits, including 11 decided by four points or less or in overtime.

Totals results have been mixed with 13 Overs and 12 Unders but after a pair of Unders on Thursday the Overs were 6-0 on Friday.

Additionally, there have not been significant cases of positive coronavirus tests in the bubble which allows for cautious optimism that the NBA’s plan to crown a champion will succeed even amid the most unusual of circumstances.

The NBA has done a great job of scheduling games that begin late morning in Las Vegas and are staggered with the final game of the day tipping off around 6 p.m. And that’s both on weekdays as well as weekends so the betting action is practically nonstop.

Favorites are 16-8 SU through Monday, 13-10-1 ATS with one game closing pick ‘em.

Entering play Tuesday each team had played either two or three games. Two teams have started 0-3. Washington, which needs to finish within four games of the eighth seed in the East for a chance to knock out that seed, is one of those teams and with five games left is 7.5 games behind. It’s an almost impossible task and the Wizards might not be motivated when they play their final three or four games. They’ve lost their first three games by 13, 8 and 11 points.

Memphis is the other 0-3 team. The Grizzlies are still seeded eighth in the West but their lead is just two games and the five teams trailing them are each within 3.5 games.

Despite an 0-2 start Dallas has clinched the seventh seed leaving the remaining six teams battling for the eighth and ninth seeds.

I’ll be looking at playing Underdogs and Unders in matchups of games between two of those teams – Memphis, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio – if the ‘dog is getting three or more points. With just a 3 1/2-game separation between top and bottom there’s not a huge difference and getting points in games with significant meaning for both teams is the preferred way to look.

Of course we must factor in injuries and COVID-19 related absences. But until eliminated, those teams should give their best efforts.

Here are selections for three games later this week.

Friday

Celtics vs. Raptors: Toronto entered play Tuesday with a four- game lead over Boston for the second seed in the East with the Celtics 2 1/2 games ahead of fourth-seeded Miami. Thus this could be a preview of a second-round playoffs series which, if things go to form, means neither team would face top-seeded Milwaukee until the conference finals.

Toronto started bubble play with solid wins and covers against the Lakers and Miami. Boston lost a tight contest to the Bucks before nearly squandering a 24-point lead against Portland to win by four. The Raptors have gotten excellent backcourt play from Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet who combined for 96 points, 32 boards and 30 assists in their two wins. RAPTORS

Magic vs. 76ers: Philadelphia has not looked sharp in its first two bubble games, losing outright to Indiana as a 6-point favorite and barely holding on to defeat San Antonio as a -7.5 choice. Orlando has started with double-digit wins over Brooklyn and Sacramento.

The Magic cannot catch the 76ers for the six seed but are intent on holding off the Nets for the No. 7 spot. Entering Tuesday’s play, the Magic had a half-game edge over Brooklyn and that seventh seed is important. By avoiding the eighth seed the Magic would not be in position of having to face the ninth seed but, more importantly, would not have to face Milwaukee in the first round. MAGIC

Saturday

Lakers vs. Pacers: With Monday’s win over Utah, the Lakers clinched the top seed in the West. They are likely to ease through their remaining five seeding games with perhaps using the final game or two to tune up for the playoffs.

Indiana has won and covered its first two games and is in a three team battle for eastern seeds four through six. T.J. Warren exploded for 53 and 34 points in those wins with solid support from Aaron Holiday, Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon. The Pacers’ depth could make them a factor once the playoffs start.

Given the situation, it would not be a surprise to see the Pacers come as favorites in this spot. PACERS

Last week: 1-2

Season: 33-26-1