As much of the sporting world is focused on the winding down of the college and pro football season the NBA plods merrily along to the mathematical midpoint of its regular season later this month and the All Star game next month.
After getting off to a better-than-expected start the Chicago Bulls have had a rough last month, going just 5-11 since knocking off Cleveland at home on December 2. The Bulls were fourth in the Central Division as 2017 dawned with a 16-18 record. Rumors have started to pick up steam that coach Fred Hoiberg’s job security is getting more tenuous by the game.
Off-season acquisition Rajon Rondo has not fit in well and is reportedly causing some internal friction. Once you get beyond Cleveland, Toronto and Boston the East is wide open for the remaining Playoff spots. In Jimmy Butler the Bulls have an elite player capable of carrying a team for stretches, but if there is little to no team chemistry, talent alone cannot get things done. Chemistry issues have torn teams apart in the past and have often cost coaches their jobs if they’ve been unable to unite the lockerroom.
As the midpoint of the season approaches the rigor of the tough travel regimen becomes even more of a factor in handicapping. In recent seasons more and more coaches have rested players on the first, or second, game in back-to-back night scenarios.
As handicappers and bettors it is imperative we monitor schedules and are as up to date as possible on coaches’ plans.
That’s where social media has become an even greater tool in efforts to stay ahead of the game. Twitter is the best known and most widely used of the social media platforms and those who bet on a daily basis will follow most of the teams’ beat writers who often have access to late breaking information on game day as to lineup changes, resting players, etc.
Pay attention to streaks and look for teams in good current form facing teams in poor current form. Using ATS records as opposed to SU records will provide a better indicator of current form.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Memphis at Golden State (Fri.): Golden State continues to have the NBA’s best record (29-5 through Sunday) and Memphis has been playing steady basketball even through key injuries. Although the Grizzlies have cooled since a 13-3 run from mid-November through mid-December, the defensively stout team finds itself right in the thick of the Playoff mix in the very tough Western Conference. In their lone prior meeting this season Memphis blew out the Warriors, 110-89, easily winning and covering as 13-point home underdogs. It was Golden State’s third game in four nights, all on the road, and their sixth game in ten nights.
Revenge is often overrated in professional sports but there are time when teams will use prior losses as motivation when it involves elite teams accustomed to winning easily. That applies here, and with both teams rested and neither playing on Saturday we should expect a huge effort from the hosts who have decisive edges in most areas. GOLDEN STATE
Charlotte at San Antonio (Sat.): Only Golden State started the week with a better record than San Antonio’s 27-7, although the Spurs did lose their first game of 2017, in overtime at Atlanta. Charlotte has played well thus far and although they started 2017 at just 19-15, that record is good enough to lead the weak Southeast Division. The Hornets ended 2016 winning 5 of 7 and they are seeking to avenge an earlier competitive home loss to the Spurs, having fallen 119-114 as 5.5 home dogs just prior to Thanksgiving.
That game flew OVER the Total by 32 points and we might see a similar style in the rematch. The Spurs have been a solid OVER play for the past three weeks with 8 of their last 11 going OVER the Total, including their final four games of 2017. Charlotte has been a slightly OVER team for the season and three of its final games of 2016 also went OVER, each by more than 15 points. Entering this week the Spurs had played sevenstraight OVERs at home. OVER
Houston at Toronto (Sun.): This should be a very entertaining game between a pair of teams with potent, balanced offenses. It is also a revenge game for Houston, which lost at home to the Raptor,s 115-102, just before Thanksgiving. Toronto’s 23-10 record through Sunday was second only to Cleveland in the East. At 26-9 Houston is third best in the West with perhaps the leading candidate for MVP, James Harden, providing on court leadership in addition to his exploits.
The Rockets entered 2017 having won four straight and 15 of 17 dating back to the start of December. Toronto has been almost as hot, winning 15 of 19 since just before Thanksgiving. In what should be an uptempo game that is very competitively priced, the preference is for the tougher tested Rockets to gain that revenge. HOUSTON