LeBron returns

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The NBA season is starting to take shape with nearly 20 percent of the schedule having been played.

The big story last week was the return to Cleveland of prodigal son LeBron James and his new team, the Miami Heat. Despite continued razzing by the crowd, James had a fine game and the Heat routed the Cavs, winning by 28.

The Heat have started to play as many expected they would right from the start and enter the week having won four straight to improve overall to 13-8. That has them tied with Atlanta in the Southeast division, 2½ games behind very steady Orlando.

The Magic are 15-5, second only to Boston’s 16-4 for best record in the Eastern Conference. But they are hardly winning in impressive style as their ATS mark is just 7-11-2.

Though dominant at home (9-2 and winning by a league high 12.8 points per game), Orlando is 6-3 straight up on the road but the three losses have been one sided while the wins have been close.

At 17-3, the San Antonio Spurs have the best record in the NBA, but are just one of seven Western Conference teams winning at least 65 percent of their games. Dallas trails the Spurs by just a game in the Southwest with New Orleans having cooled from their hot early start, now at 13-7.

Utah, Denver and Oklahoma City are within a game of one another in the Northwest while the Los Angeles Lakers are 14-6 in the Pacific and holding a three game edge over Phoenix.

Once again the early signs are that the power of the NBA remains clearly in the Western Conference. But there appear to be more good teams in the East than in recent seasons which, if so, will make for a much more interesting and competitive late regular season and playoffs.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Lakers (NL) at Chicago (Fri): Lakers coach Phil Jackson again returns to the site of his former glories, this time with a chance to repeat his double three peat if the Lakers can capture the NBA Title next June. His team had surprisingly lost four in a row before routing Sacramento on Friday, largely due to an injury to the often unheralded Pau Gasol. The Bulls finally got newly signed free agent Carlos Boozer in the lineup last week after missing the start of the season due to injury.

It’s been an early struggle as Chicago adjusts to his presence and vice versa but his addition makes the Bulls another team to watch in a conference generally being conceded to Miami, Boston or Orlando. The Bulls should be highly motivated to play their best against the two time defending champs and should come a small underdog here. BULLS.

Jazz NL at Mavericks (Sat): These are two of the best teams in the West and they’re playing excellently. Dallas has won 9 of 10 and Utah 8 of 10. Dallas won 93-81 at Utah last Friday. There’s little to suggest this game will be played any differently as Dallas continues to emphasize improved defense as being the key to their having a chance to make the NBA finals.

The Total will likely come lower, so the preference here will be to play the revenge aspect on a more than capable underdog that starts the week having won 7 of 9 straight up on the road. JAZZ.

Nuggets NL at Knicks (Sun): This should be one of the more entertaining games of the early season with both teams not shy about playing at a high tempo. Interestingly, however, both teams have combined to play more UNDERS (22) than OVERS (17) this season.

With Denver’s Carmelo Anthony perhaps headed to the Knicks in a mid-season trade, we may see him showing the Knicks what he can do to electrify the Madison Square Garden crowd. The Knicks are a much improved team this season, with an outstanding 9-4 record but are just 3-5 at home. Still, even at what is likely a total in the 210’s, the preferred way to look is… OVER.

last week                  season                     PCT

2-1                             6-7-1                       46.2

 

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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