In terms of a basketball game the season is entering the fourth quarter. Slightly more than 20 games remain to the NBA regular season, which ends Wednesday, April 16.
For some it means a stretch run to make it into the Playoffs. For other teams it means seeking to improve their seeding. The outsiders can evaluate the talent at the end of the bench with the intention of preparing for next season and what holes need to be filled in the upcoming college draft and free agency.
About one third of the league, or about five teams in each conference, fall into this latter group with virtually no chance at making the Playoffs.
New York is currently seeded 11 in the East, 2½ games behind No. 10 Detroit. But more importantly, the Knicks are six games behind the current number 8 seed, Atlanta. Too much ground to make up and too few games in which to leapfrog Detroit, Cleveland and Atlanta.
Joining New York in the “all but mathematically eliminated category” are Boston, Orlando, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
As this week began the final three Eastern seeds – Brooklyn, Charlotte and Atlanta – each had losing records.
The situation is considerably different in the West. Eleventh seeded Denver is four games behind No. 10 Minnesota and a full seven games behind the 8 seed. The Nuggets are all but out of the Playoffs chase as are the teams behind them in the standings – New Orleans, Utah, Sacramento and the LA Lakers.
Unlike the East, the top nine teams in the West each have winning records and the Timberwolves started this week at .500 (29-29). Minnesota is four games behind No. 9 Memphis, which in turn is 1½ behind the two teams tied for 7 and 8 seeds, Phoenix and Dallas.
I see 20 of the NBA’s 30 teams having reason to play hard with making the Playoffs, improving one’s seed or maintaining one’s seed at stake.
Road teams continue to fare better than home against the spread (ATS) going 469-402-16 (53.9 percent, plus 26.8 net units) starting the week.
Both road favorites and underdogs have been profitable. The away favorites are 301-267-13 ATS (53.0% +7.3 net units) and dogs are 159-129-3 ATS (55.2%, +17.1). Road teams in pick ‘em games are 9-6 ATS.
In totals, OVER holds a 452-425-10 edge. One of the most extreme totals performances in many seasons is being displayed by Detroit who has seen 71 percent of its games (41-17-1) exceed the posted total. Atlanta is the only other team over 60% at 37-21 OVER. San Antonio and Portland are at 59%.
At the other extreme no team has seen at least 60 percent of its games stay UNDER. Chicago and Golden State are closest at 59%.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Pacers at Rockets (Fri.): Back on Dec. 20 Indiana, which was playing its basketball of the season at the time, routed the Rockets 114-81. Indiana started this week on a five-game winning streak but is 1-4 ATS in those five wins. Dating back to February 7, the Pacers are on a 2-8-1 run.
Houston has gone 3-2 since its eight-game winning streak was snapped and is 8-5 ATS over those 13 games. They will be highly motivated given the 33 point loss 2½ months ago. ROCKETS.
Hawks at Clippers (Sat.): The Hawks are a dismal 1-10-1 ATS in their last 12 games. In contrast the Clippers started this week on a four-game winning streak (4-0 ATS) and have gone 12-5 SU (10-7 ATS) since the latter part of January. Atlanta won the teams’ first meeting, which was back in early December, 107-97, covering as 2½ point home favorites.
Atlanta is off of a game at Golden State on Friday night while the Clips played a “road” game on this court Thursday night against their co-tenants, the Lakers. The Clippers, led by Chris Paul, are looking very much like a team that can represent the West in the NBA Finals. LA CLIPPERS.
Heat at Bulls (Sun.): Chicago has gone 9-1 both SU and ATS over its last 10 games with a defense that has held nine of those 10 foes to 94 points or less. In fact, entering this week the Bulls had held 19 of its prior 22 foes to under 100 points dating back to January 17. Miami has turned up its own level of play recently, going 7-0 SU (5-0-2 ATS) through Sunday and has won 15 of 18 games since a three-game losing streak in mid-January.
The home team has won all three meetings this season. Although the first two meetings went OVER the total the most recent meeting, played on Feb 23, stayed well UNDER 185.5 as Miami won 93-79. This meeting should be more like their last encounter. UNDER.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]