The shortened NBA season is barely a week old and already the schedule is taking a toll.
No fewer than a third of the league’s 30 teams played at least five games over the first eight days of the new season with the Los Angeles Lakers playing six times from Christmas Sunday to New Year’s Sunday.
Only two teams made it unscathed through the first full week of play, and those teams happen to be the teams many expect to meet for the NBA Championship in June.
Both Miami and Oklahoma City have started a perfect 5-0 with each winning multiple games both at home and on the road. Interestingly, the Heat and the Thunder have covered only two of the five games.
It’s early but perhaps we are seeing an overcompensation in the line for the teams expected to be elite and thus supposedly holding some fundamental edges over less talented teams in their ability to play well enough to win on consecutive or back to back to back nights.
Only one team, Washington, remains winless as the Wizards have dropped each of its first four games. Washington is also 0-4 ATS and each of the four games has stayed UNDER the Total.
Defending champion Dallas has all sorts of concerns following a 1-4 start as the Mavericks have not looked good overall. After a pair of ugly losses hosting Miami and Denver to start the season Dallas did play well in a loss at Oklahoma City before winning at home against weak Toronto.
But in a winnable game in Minnesota the Mavs were badly outplayed in the decisive fourth quarter by the Timberwolves.
It likely will take another couple of weeks for more meaningful conclusions to be drawn about this season and what may occur over the next four plus months of the regular season.
It cannot be overstressed that scheduling and travel will have more of an impact on results this season than will traditional forms of statistical or even matchup analysis.
Thus far in the 65 games played through Sunday home teams are 37-28 ATS (57 percent) and UNDERS hold a solid 40-25 edge versus OVERS.
Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend.
Chicago at Orlando: Both teams have started 4-1 with Chicago 3-1 on the road and Orlando 3-0 at home. Both are rested after each last played on Wednesday. This is an isolated game for Orlando who will take to the road and next play in Sacramento on Sunday. The Bulls will be in Atlanta on Saturday.
Orlando remains a contender in the East as long as Dwight Howard remains with the team. Howard may be the most complete big man in the game today and has an unheralded yet competent supporting cast. Chicago has arguably as much talent as any team in the NBA, including Miami, and they did have the best record last season.
Chicago won 3 of 4 meetings last season, all by single digits after Orlando routed the Bulls in Chicago in their first encounter. This should be a well played game with both teams emphasizing defense. UNDER.
Miami at New Jersey: Miami has started this season unlike last year when it took a while for chemistry to develop among the Heat’s three superstars. At 5-0 the Heat have been able to win in blowout fashion as well in addition to have pulled out a pair of squeakers.
New Jersey clearly misses the presence of C Brook Lopez., expected out until February. The Nets have dropped 4 in a row with 3 of the losses by more than 15 points. They will not be rested after playing in Toronto on Friday night.
Miami last played in Atlanta on Thursday and will have the next two days off before beginning a west coast trip on Tuesday. That should mean a fully focused effort from the Heat who will be fresh and have too much firepower for the Nets to keep pace. MIAMI
San Antonio at Okla City: San Antonio has won 6 straight games against the Thunder dating back to the 2009-10 season. But the balance of power is shifting and Oklahoma City is now considered the better of the two teams.
San Antonio had the best record in the West last season but was ousted in the first round of the playoffs by eighth seeded Memphis. The Spurs have started 3-1 but the lone loss came at Houston in what was the second night of their lone back to back scheduling spots thus far. This will be the Spurs third such spot after it occurs again midweek and this will also be their fourth game in five nights and fifth in seven.
This is Oklahoma City’s third straight game and we might see some shading in the line because of the negative spot. But the Friday and Saturday games were home and home against Houston so the Thunder may not have been overly taxed. A statement game for the Thunder who need to get over that psychological hurdle of that long losing streak to the Spurs. As Rod Stewart sang, “Tonight’s the night.” OKC