Most teams will have completed the mathematical midpoint of their 82 game regular season schedule within the next week or so.
Through Sunday every team except Toronto had played at least 38 games with the Raptors at 37. Two teams have already played more than 41 games as Boston has played 43 and Phoenix 42.
Thus this is a good time to review how teams are faring compared to their expectations prior to the season. One objective way of doing this is to look at their actual records versus their projected Season Wins Total.
At the extremes two teams are on a pace to exceed their Wins Total by more than 10 games and two are expected to fall short by at least 10 games. Playing at a pace to greatly exceed their Wins Totals are Toronto and Indiana.
Expected to be a contender in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors were projected to win 48 games. Yet at 27-10 Toronto is on a pace to win 60 games, a full dozen games above their projection. Indiana was thought to have no chance to make the Playoffs after losing Paul George and having a Wins Total of 31.5. But the Pacers are just above .500 at 20-19, a pace that would result in 42 wins for an excess of 10.5 wins.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are Memphis and Charlotte. The Grizzlies were expected to be just short of Playoff contention with a Wins Total of 37.5. But a 12-27 start that includes a coaching change has the Grizzlies on a pace to win just 25 games, a shortfall of 12.5 wins. Charlotte was expected to challenge for a Playoffs berth in the East with a Wins Total of 42.5. But at 15-23 the Hornets are on a pace toward just 32 wins, a shortfall of 10.5 wins.
Two other teams are on a pace to exceed their projections by at least eight wins – Boston and New York. There are five teams on pace to fall short of their projections by at least eight games – Orlando, the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Utah.
Golden State is on pace to have the most wins of any team, currently projecting between 65 and 66. Their original projection was 67.5. Boston is next with a pace to win 63 games with their first projection at 54.5.
Atlanta is on pace to finish with the fewest wins of any team, 21, with the LA Lakers, Memphis and Orlando each at 25 wins.
Here are three games to consider this weekend.
Golden State at Milwaukee (Fri.): At times Milwaukee has played like a team on the rise, capable of giving one of the top Eastern seeds at least a competitive Playoffs series. At other times they’ve played like a team that still has far to go to just make the Playoffs. At 21-17 the Bucks currently are tied for the sixth spot in the East.
Golden State now has a four-game lead over Houston for the top spot in the West and is the team all foes circle on their calendar for a maximum effort, especially at home. This is the start of a four-game road trip for the Warriors, who hosted the Clippers on Wednesday and will play at Toronto on Saturday. They should come as modest road favorites here.
The Warriors won both meetings last season but the one played in Milwaukee was a 3-point win in a high scoring game. It would be tempting to take at least 6 points with the hosts but the preferred play would be on the Total. The Bucks are 9-1-1 to the OVER in their last 11 home games dating back to Dec. 2, with none of those games going into overtime. OVER
Denver at San Antonio (Sat.): The Spurs are again dealing with an injury to Kawhi Leonard that could have him miss additional time, although the reports have been optimistic about a shorter rather than lengthy time off the court. The Spurs are currently third in the West, just a game and a half behind second seeded Houston. Denver is sixth with its 21-18 record as these teams meet for the first time this season.
The Nuggets have been competitive on the road. Even though they are just 3-4 SU on the road since mid-December they are 5-1-1 ATS in that stretch with the four losses by 6, 3, 1 and 8 points. Included in this stretch is a 15-point road win at Golden State. They are likely to become solid underdogs in this game after hosting beatable Memphis on Friday night while San Antonio is off a Thursday night TNT game at the Lakers. DENVER
Portland at Minnesota (Sun.): Through Sunday Minnesota was 25-16 and seeded fourth in the West while Portland was 21-17 and seeded seventh. The Timberwolves are beginning to play with more consistency with Jimmy Butler providing the leadership anticipated from him after coming over from Chicago in the offseason, which has allowed the surrounding young talent to develop, especially Karl-Anthony Towns who is emerging as one of the NBA’s elite big men.
Portland’s season has been disappointing thus far and star Damian Lillard continues to battle nagging injuries. Minnesota won their previous meeting this season, also played here, by a single point in mid-December. Scheduling dynamics favor the hosts who are in the last game of a five-game homestand while the Blazers are in the final game of a four-game road trip. Both teams are rested after having last played on Friday. MINNESOTA