History says NBA champ down to 4 teams

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The NBA resumes following its annual All Star celebration just held in Houston. Every team has played at least 50 games which means roughly 30 remain before the playoffs begin.

If history is a guide the NBA champion will come from the group of four currently winning more than 65 percent of their games. They are San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Miami and the Los Angeles Clippers.

With three of those in the contentious Western Conference, Miami becomes a very solid choice to make the NBA Finals from the considerably weaker East.

There are a dozen teams in that next class – those with winning records but winning at a rate of less than 65%. The East has seven with Chicago, Indiana and New York the most capable challengers to the Heat. Five are in the West with Denver and Memphis the most likely to mount a challenge to the top three.

The Los Angeles Lakers are not in that group. Rather, they are in the “C” class of teams, with a losing record and a tough uphill battle just to qualify for the playoffs as a seven or eight seed. At 25-29 the Lakers would likely have to go a minimum of 18-10 in their remaining 28 games to have any shot. Such a run would put the Lakers at 43-39, a record that computes as very iffy to qualify for the eighth and final spot.

Just prior to going to press the news came that longtime Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss had died. He was much beloved by the Lakers family, including current and past players. His death may well provide a short term motivational spark, but whether that can carry forward for the next two months is very questionable. On the court and perhaps in the locker room chemistry issues seem to have prevented this talented team from achieving its potential.

Interestingly in the East, a record such as the Lakers’ might be good enough to make the playoffs as a seven seed. Currently, Milwaukee holds the final seed in the East at 26-25, a full four games ahead of Philadelphia at 22-29.

The Lakers are currently priced in the -170 to -180 neighborhood NOT to make the playoffs, a price that rose following last Thursday’s ugly loss to the Clippers. After overcoming a poor start and falling behind early by double digits, the Lakers closed to within three points of their “down the hall” neighbors before a rally had the Clippers up by 12 at the half en route to a 24 point blowout in a game both teams made pretty clear statements.

The same was true earlier in the evening when Miami controlled from start to finish to win at Oklahoma City in completing a season sweep of their two game series that let everyone know the Heat remain the team to beat. It will be interesting to see if there is any carryover letdown for the Thunder coming out of the All Star break. OKC starts post All Star play in Houston on Wednesday.

Much is made of home court advantage in all sports and the NBA is no exception. There are dramatic differences in how teams perform at home versus the road. Home teams are winning by just over 3½ points per game, a figure in line with recent seasons.

Denver has the greatest disparity between home and road performance. The Nuggets have an average margin of +10 ppg at home but are -1.9 ppg on the road, a difference of 11.9 points. Four other teams have a home vs. road difference of more than 10 – Boston, Dallas, Indiana and Portland. Utah, falls just short at 9.9 ppg.

Only seven teams have a positive margin in road games, led by Oklahoma City’s +5 ppg road margin. Charlotte and Sacramento are being outscored on the road by more than 10 ppg. The Bobcats are outscored 12.2 ppg on the road, but just 5.6 ppg at home. The Kings stand at 11 and 2.6 respectively in those categories.

Every team has a positive home versus road differential with the smallest belonging to New Orleans at 3.3 on the road and 2½ at home making for a +0.8 differential away and home. Six other teams are being outscored in their home games. The other 15 exhibit what can best be described as the traditional home versus road profile of outscoring their foes at home while being outscored on the road.

Miami is the hottest team out of the break, winners of seven in a row. The coldest teams are Golden State and Portland, each losers of five straight. Houston is the hottest ATS team going 9-2 ATS since January 25. The Rockets had lost nine straight to the spread before starting this current run. And those 9 straight ATS losses followed a run of 11-1 ATS by the Rockets. That’s a remarkable two month ATS stretch of 11-1. 0-9 and 9-2 ATS runs. If not unprecedented, three such back to back to back extreme results are extremely rare.

Here’s a look at three games of interest this weekend.

Spurs at Warriors (Fri): San Antonio headed for the All Star break with the NBA’s best record, 42-12, good enough for a 2½ game lead over Oklahoma City for the top Western seed.

In these teams’ only prior meeting, San Antonio won at home, 95-88, but failed to cover as 12 point chalk. WARRIORS.

Jazz at Clippers (Sat): Utah is 0-3 against the Clippers, but has covered twice. The teams last met at the end of December and all three went OVER with two exceeding the total by double digits. When healthy, the Clippers may be the most talented team in the NBA as injuries have helped develop depth.

Utah is much better at home (20-6) than the road (10-18). The Clippers could have a bit of a letdown after hosting the Spurs on Thursday in the national TNT telecast. Often, letdowns are marked by a lack of intensity at the defensive end of the court. OVER.

Bulls at Thunder (Sun): Reports last week suggest that star PG Derrick Rose is further away from rejoining Chicago. Still, the Bulls appear in no danger of missing the playoffs. Oklahoma City has had time to recover following a disappointing wire to wire home loss to Miami just before the All Star break.

The Thunder should be in good form to continue their outstanding play at OKC where they were 23-4 prior to the break. There may be a point or two of value in playing the hosts considering Chicago has been so strong on the road (15-10). OKC won the earlier meeting, 97-91, as 2½ point road favorites. THUNDER.

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]

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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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