The NBA season is only three weeks old and yet there are a pair of surprise teams leading each conference.
New York leads the Eastern Conference with a 7-1 record. The Knicks started 6-0 before falling at Memphis last Friday but rebounded with a solid win over Indiana on Sunday. They continue to play without injured Amare Stoudemire and have bought into Coach Mike Woodson’s philosophy. They are allowing an average of just 84.5 points per game at home and have already defeated the last two NBA Champions, Miami and Dallas, and have a road win at San Antonio.
Memphis leads the Western Conference at 8-1. They dealt the Knicks their only loss of the season. Their only loss came in the opener at the Los Angeles Clippers. That was the only game in which the Grizzlies allowed more than 97 points. Memphis has road wins at both Oklahoma City and Milwaukee.
Why mention Milwaukee? Well, the Bucks are second in the Eastern Conference with a 6-2 record. Actually, they are tied with Brooklyn for the second best record in the East. What’s interesting about Milwaukee’s start is that although they are just 3-2 at home compared to 3-0 on the road. Winning on the road is always tough and being able to do so is a tangible sign of improvement.
It is worth noting that the Nets have the league’s best record in the first half of games, 7-1, outscoring their foes by an average of 10.8 points in the opening 24 minutes. With the wide availability of first half wagering this otherwise irrelevant piece of trivia does takes on some significance.
Defending champion Miami is off to a solid 8-3 start as is the team they defeated to win the title, Oklahoma City. The Thunder have also started 8-3 but sit fourth in the west behind the 7-2 Clippers and 8-2 San Antonio. The Spurs are up to their usual tricks and figure to contend for the top seed in the West, an honor they failed to take advantage of in last season’s Playoffs.
And what about LA’s “other” team, the Lakers? After axing coach Mike Brown after a 4-1 start, “Showtime II” has won 4 of 5 for interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff to get back to .500. New coach Mike D’Antoni is expected to be behind the bench for Tuesday’s game against Brooklyn after a couple of delays for his debut.
It promises to be a very interesting and entertaining season with a full 82 game schedule to be played. While we’ll see many of the same teams contend for the title as in recent seasons it will be the new faces that will add intrigue as the season unfolds.
Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend when play resumes after the entire league takes Thanksgiving Day off.
Thunder at Celtics (Fri): Despite last season’s shortened schedule, these teams did meet twice. Oklahoma City won and covered both games, winning by 9 on this court and 15 at home. Boston is an aging team and has started just 6-5. Their most recent effort was Sunday’s 20 point loss at Detroit when the Pistons were 1-9.
Oklahoma City has adjusted to having traded sixth man James Harden. This game should be competitively priced. The Thunder is the better team, thus the gap between them and the Celtics continues to widen. OKLAHOMA CITY.
Lakers at Mavericks (Sat): After firing coach Mike Brown the Lakers have won 4 of 5 games, scoring over 100 points in each of those wins. The lone loss was a 2 pointer to powerful San Antonio. Dallas is just 6-5 after 3 weeks as they’ve been without injured star Dirk Nowitzki. OJ Mayo has carried the scoring burden, averaging 21.3 points per game, more than 7 more than the next best scorer.
The Mavs are rested after having last played on Wednesday whereas the Lakers are off of Friday night’s game in Memphis. Los Angeles is also playing a fourth game in five nights. DALLAS.
Blazers at Nets (Sun): Brooklyn is playing well with the balanced roster that has 8 players averaging more than 7 points per game, led by the trio of Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson. They started the week on a 5 game winning streak but will have been challenged on Friday night with a home game against the Clippers.
Portland is in the first game of a 7 game road trip after having last played Friday night at home against Minnesota. The situation greatly favors the hosts who have been able to get off to fast starts and force opponents to play from behind in the second half. BROOKLYN.
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]