Just 10 or fewer games remain for the teams battling to make the playoffs or improve their seedings.
Actually, barring a total collapse by Milwaukee combined with an almost unbeaten run by Philadelphia, the Eastern Conference playoff field is set with only the seedings to be determined for the second through eighth teams.
Miami has already clinched No. 1 in the East and is in position to earn the top overall seed with its three game lead over San Antonio following Sunday’s win at San Antonio that occurred even with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sitting out.
The one playoff chase that still exists is in the West. Houston is currently the seventh seed with a 2½ game lead at the start of the week over a pair of teams battling for the final spot – the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz.
Those teams were tied with identical 38-36 records with just eight games remaining as of last Monday. Utah holds the tie breaker after winning two of three meetings with the Lakers.
Injuries continue to be a major factor influencing team performances both straight up and ATS. The latest news involving a key player is San Antonio’s Manu Ginóbili, expected to miss four to six weeks with a banged up hammy. That injury could enable Oklahoma City to overtake the Spurs for the top Western seed.
The Spurs currently lead the Thunder by 1½. Based on the current standings the top seed would face either Utah or the Lakers while the No. 2 seed would meet Houston.
Nearly 1,100 games have been played through Sunday and the point spread breakdown is remarkably close. Home teams are 542-538-19 ATS, for an edge of just four! The totals are even closer with OVERS holding slim 541-539 edge. There have been 19 pushes.
The lines makers have done an excellent job in balancing the overall results. With 2½ weeks remaining before the playoffs we will likely see some odd lines that result from teams resting players in games that have no bearing on the playoff seedings.
One of the more extreme examples occurred this past Sunday when San Antonio opened as a 1½ point favorite over the visiting Heat. About two hours before game time it was announced that Miami would be resting both James and Wade. The line was immediately adjusted to favoring the Spurs by nine, a move of 7½ points.
The significance in this is that we have learned precisely what kind of adjustment is made for a pair of key players. Often “line adjustments” are just speculative and in the nature of “what if” scenarios.
The speculation is that Miami’s decision to rest its top two players was a response to San Antonio having held out its top stars when the Spurs visited Miami back in November – a move that drew much criticism.
In that game on Nov. 29 shorthanded San Antonio led for a good part of the contest before Miami rallied late for a five point win. That game also had a similar seven point adjustment from Miami -6 to -13.
Who says gamesmanship is a thing of the past in the NBA?
Here are previews of three games this weekend.
OKC at Indiana (Fri.): This is an extremely favorable spot for Indiana as the Thunder are off of a home game Thursday night against San Antonio, who they trailed by 1½ through Sunday for the top seed in the West. Indiana is playing its first home game following a four game road trip. Whereas the first game back is often a negative, that is offset by the Pacers last playing on Monday and having had extra rest.
In their only meeting this season back on Dec. 9, Oklahoma City defeated the Pacers 104-93, barely covering as 10 point home favorites. That line suggests we could see OKC as the slightest of road chalk. Both teams are playing well, having started the week winning seven of 10. Indiana is a solid 29-8 SU at home and 3-1 ATS as home underdogs, including a pair of outright wins over Miami. INDIANA.
Houston at Denver (Sat.): Denver has won all three meetings this season against the Rockets, by six, 10 and eight points including a pair of road wins. Houston was without James Harden at the start of the week so he remains questionable for this series.
Both teams are playing a third game in four nights but Denver did have Friday off. Houston played in Portland on Friday and this game is the end of a three game road trip. The Nuggets may be laying an extra point or two because of the extreme scheduling dynamics in their favor and a league leading 33-3 home record. That may too much for Houston to overcome even with the “line value” on their side. DENVER.
LA Lakers at Clippers (Sun.): The Clippers have won all three prior meetings with their co-tenants, winning by margins of 10, five and 24 points. And although the Lakers are battling just to make the playoffs the Clippers are in a tight battle with Denver for the three seed. The scheduling spot favors the Clippers who have been idle since hosting Phoenix on Wednesday.
The Lakers are off of a tough home game against Memphis on Friday. The Lakers have struggled against the league’s elite teams all season. Against teams that currently have won at least 65 percent of their games the Lakers are just 2-15 SU and a just as weak 4-13 ATS. CLIPPERS.
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]