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The second half of the NBA season is underway. The All-Star game will be played on Feb. 15 but teams are already looking toward the trading deadline four days later.

The big story of last offseason was the return of LeBron James to Cleveland. With a new coach and several new players it was expected that it would take some time for the Cavaliers to gel. That time may finally be here.

After losing on Christmas Day to his former team, Miami, James and the Cavaliers were a modest 17-11. But things started to fall apart and the Cavs proceeded to lose 9 of their next 11 games to slip to 19-20 with James sitting out a couple of weeks with an injury.

The Cavs start this week riding a 6 game winning streak, covering in each win. Five of the 6 wins have come when the Cavs were favored. The sixth win came on the road at the LA Clippers. Their last four wins, all at home, have been by double digits.

While it may be a bit premature to expect the Cavs to go on a run and challenge for the top seed in the East (Cleveland is currently seeded fifth) there should be some value in betting on the Cavs over the second half of the season.

Cleveland is still a high visibility team and will be a popular betting choice. But they are only five games out of the second seed in the East. Kevin Love has started to play better during the current streak and some of the players added in a recent trade, most notably JR Smith, have blended in well and are making significant contributions.

Atlanta and Golden State continue to be the biggest surprises of the season and it would be interesting to see if any sports books will put up a prop on whether the Hawks and Warriors will meet in the NBA Finals. Historically the NBA has been on form with the teams having the best regular season records making deep Playoff runs.

It might be a very interesting, and attractive line, to play the “yes they will meet” in the NBA Finals since neither team has much recent successful Playoff experience.

Atlanta currently has a 7 game lead over Washington for the top seed in the East and starts the week 37-8.

Golden State’s 36-6 record is good enough to lead both Memphis and Portland by 5.5 games.

Not surprisingly the Hawks (32-12-1) and Warriors (28-12-2) have also been the most profitable teams at the betting windows.

There has been a long held axiom that suggests the linesmaker will make adjustments such that the vast majority of teams will hover around 50/50 ATS with very few teams having extremely good or poor betting records. This theory is being tested by both Atlanta and Golden State.

Despite their success that dates back to the start of the season both teams are currently cashing tickets at a furious pace. Starting this week the Warriors have won 5 straight and 13 of 14, going 10-3-1 ATS in the process. The Hawks start the week having won 16 in a row, going 14-1-1 ATS.

It’s truly remarkable that two teams have combined to go 24-4-2 ATS over virtually a full calendar month.

Ironically, both teams lost ATS this past Sunday despite winning their games straight up. Golden State eked out a 3 point home win over Boston (another team that seems poised for pointspread profits in coming weeks) despite being favored by 18.5. The Hawks, favored by 16.5, defeated Minnesota 112-100.

History suggests it should be profitable in betting against both Atlanta and Golden State over the balance of the season. But the betting environment has evolved in recent years and the techniques both in setting lines and attacking them have changed. So be careful in relying too much on past history. Be aware of history but keep it in perspective.

The team with the third best ATS record is Milwaukee, at 29-15. With a SU record of just 22-22 the Bucks do not receive much attention from the national media. And that may be a plus insofar as continuing to play on them is concerned.

Here’s a look at three games over Super Bowl weekend.

Portland at Atlanta (Fri): Atlanta remains the best team in the East and by a whopping 7 games over second-seeded Washington. Portland sits third in the highly competitive west where just 2 games separate second from sixth. Atlanta won the earlier meeting this month 115-107 at Portland as 6-point underdogs. Portland star LaMarcus Aldridge has opted to postpone thumb surgery and played well in his return last Saturday.

Both teams play again on Saturday and while that will be Portland’s fourth game in six nights, all on the road, this game is Atlanta’s sixth game of a seven game homestand that ends on Saturday. Although Atlanta will be favored perhaps by a couple of buckets no team is playing better than the Hawks. Atlanta starts the week having won 16 in a row (14-1-1 ATS) with the last 4 covering and 8 of 9 by double digits. ATLANTA

Houston at Detroit (Sat): The intriguing aspect of this game involves the return to Detroit of Josh Smith who was released by the Pistons at Christmas time. Since his release the Pistons have played inspired basketball, going 12-5 including a 7 game winning streak that began with his departure. Houston signed Smith shortly later and although Rockets have not dropped off precipitously their overall level of play has declined.

Detroit’s Brandon Jennings was injured over the weekend and could be out for the season. Smith has started to fit in more with his new Rocket teammates and Houston could play with the proverbial chip on its shoulder against the short handed Pistons. And at its essence this is a matchup of a very good team from the west versus a lower tier team from the east. HOUSTON

LA Lakers at NY Knicks (Sun): What would have been considered an attractive matchup from a limited Super Sunday menu is anything but as both storied franchises are struggling and could each be missing their star players, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony. But this game will attract interest as there are some tie-ins to some Super Bowl props.

Neither team has played anything resembling solid defense all season and often we see matchups of this type played at an uptempo pace with players padding their stats. This is the start of a 4 game road trip for the Lakers who start this week having lost 8 games in a row (0-7-1 ATS). The Knicks have played better over the past week or so, winning 3 straight to snap their 16 game losing streak before losing at Charlotte last Saturday, going 4-0 ATS in this stretch. NEW YORK

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]

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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