The first week of the NBA season was filled with surprising results but none more surprising than the play of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Projected to win just 17 of 82 games this season, the 76ers have not just started the season 3-0 but two of the wins were over Eastern Conference powers Miami and Chicago. In between was a potential letdown spot against Washington. Yet as 9.5 point road underdogs the Sixers won outright 109-102.
Only three other teams have started the season perfectly with similar 3-0 records. It’s no surprise that Indiana is one of those teams but the other teams might be surprising to some. Dwight Howard has led his new team, Houston, to a perfect start. And Minnesota has also started the season 3-0.
Both Houston and Minnesota are expected to make the playoffs but neither is considered as a team likely to make even the Western Conference Finals although the Rockets would seem to be closer to that level than are the Timberwolves.
Four teams have started winless. Denver has dropped its first two games of the season. Denver, Utah and Washington have started 0-3.
Chicago’s 1-2 start is also a mild surprise although both losses have come on the road, including an opening night loss at two time defending champion Miami.
It’s a long season and most teams will have both winning and losing streaks that can be profitable to bettors.
And as noted in the past the NBA, more than the other major sports, is a sport that lends itself to situational rather than statistical or power ratings driven handicapping. The physical demands of the sport, combined with the travel factor, results in teams putting much more emphasis on certain games than on others, especially when confronted with back to back situations or the playing of four games in six nights, for example.
Of course the lines makers have also taken note of this phenomenon and have made more adjustments in recent seasons to take scheduling factors in account.
If a line looks “suspicious” to you based upon the stats or other empirical data that you have traditionally used to handicap games, consider the scheduling dynamics from the perspective of BOTH teams in an effort to better understand what looks like – to you – a bad line before you make an investment.
Home teams do very well in the NBA, partially due to the closeness of the crowd to the playing area. Home teams have won 36 of the first 46 games Straight Up in the early going and are also 26-17-3 ATS.
Home Favorites opened the season just 13-14-3 ATS but Home Underdogs have shown strong early profits, going 12-3 ATS through the season’s first 6 days.
The lone Home Pick ‘em was a winner when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated Atlanta on Sunday night, making their many backers happy as they had opened as 2 point underdogs.
OVERs have outpaced UNDERs in the early going, 26 to 20.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Utah at Chicago (Friday): Utah’s roster is weaker than last season’s and it will take time for the Jazz to find an identity. Their 0-3 start is not a surprise although two of the losses were each by a trey. Chicago has also started slowly, with an opening night loss at Miami not a surprise but their loss on Saturday in Philadelphia very much so. Those were sandwiched around a much tougher than expected home win over New York. After missing all of last season the Bulls’ Derrick Rose has appeared more tentative now that the games count than he did in preseason. Still, he’s not that far from regaining the form that earned him league MVP honors a couple of seasons ago. The matchups favor the hosts and Utah might just relax if the game gets out of hand with a much more winnable game in Toronto on Saturday. CHICAGO.
Indiana at Brooklyn (Sat): A pair of Eastern Conference powers meet for the first time this season. Both are considered legitimate challengers to Miami and Chicago. With a first time head coach in Jason Kidd and a host of new faces, most notably aging veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, it would not be surprising if it takes a little time for the Nets to find the right chemistry and player combination. The Pacers return mostly intact from last season, with Danny Granger, who missed virtually all of last season, expected out for another week or two. That continuity is a big edge early in the season and as such the road team has even greater value than normal. INDIANA.
Washington at OKC (Sun): Oklahoma City is one of the favorites to win the West while Washington is an up and coming team in the East that many observers forecast will make the playoffs. The Wizards are off to a 0-3 start, covering only in Sunday’s loss at Miami. The Thunder have started 2-1 but did welcome Russell Westbrook back from injury a bit earlier than expected. With Kevin Durant the Thunder have one of the top duos in the NBA. Washington’s John Wall, now healthy, is developing into a better player and a team leader. Both teams can score the basketball and while the visitors will be sizeable underdogs, the better play for this this gameshould be on the total. OVER.
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]