Although the NBA West remains the much stronger conference, the best record in the league resides in the East with 27-6 Indiana.
The Pacers have one less loss than Oklahoma City, the team with the best record in the West. It continues to look as though Indiana and Miami will battle all season for the East’s top seed.
Miami is two games behind the Pacers and no other Eastern team is less than eight games behind the Heat. It would be a major upset if Miami and Indiana do not meet in the East finals.
The big news over the past week is there are now two other teams in the East that do not have losing records and the Atlantic Division now has a leader with a non-losing record. The comment is made somewhat sarcastically as it is lamentable that such poor play can be so prevalent in so many major Eastern markets.
Atlanta has the East’s third best record (18-16) and Toronto now sits atop the Atlantic Division at 16-16, supplanting Boston, which had been the Division leader for the past month or so with a losing mark. The Raptors have a four game lead over the rest of the Division, which is tightly packed and within two games of one another.
Golden State starts the week as the hottest team in the NBA, winners of nine in a row. The Warriors were a fashionable pick to challenge Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the LA Clippers for the top seed in the West. Their current run has them tied atop the Pacific Division with the Clippers who will be without star Chris Paul (shoulder injury) for at least a month.
Key injuries have a greater impact in the NBA probably more than in any other sport because only five players are on the court at any time. It can be argued an injury to an NFL QB has as much or even more of an impact, but football teams are often better able to overcome such injuries, especially if they are strong defensively.
Oklahoma City has adapted well, at least initially, to the injury that has sidelined Russell Westbrook until at least the All Star break in all likelihood.
Our weekly review of point spread results shows road teams continue to cover at nearly a 56 percent clip in games that have not resulted in pushes. As far as totals, 52.5 percent of the games have gone OVER the posted total.
Phoenix and Indiana are the biggest moneymakers as the halfway point of the season approaches within the next two weeks. The Suns are 23-8-1 ATS and the Pacers are close behind at 23-10 ATS.
For the Suns it appears to be more of a case of disbelief that this team continues to win. Forecast to finish with the worst record in the West with a projected total wins of 21.5 the Suns start the week 20-12 and might just be the earliest team ever – in any of the major sports – to exceed preseason figures.
For Indiana it’s more a case of just a very good team that comes to play virtually every time out. The Pacers are 18-8 ATS as favorites, 3-2 ATS as underdogs and 2-0 ATS in pick ‘em games.
At the bottom of the ATS standings are five teams, bunched fairly close together, each of which is down at least 5 net units through Sunday. This group consists of Milwaukee, Sacramento, Memphis, New York and Chicago.
The biggest money burner has been Milwaukee with its 12-21 ATS record. At 7-26 the Bucks have the worst record in the league and are the only team to start this week with fewer than 10 wins.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Boston at Golden St. (Fri.): This was expected to be a season of transition, with many growing pains for Boston and first year coach Brad Stevens, and the Celtics have, perhaps, performed better than expected. At 13-21 the Celtics are slightly ahead of pace toward their projected win total of 28. Golden State is emerging as a serious challenger in the strong Western Conference. The difference between the conferences is well represented by the Celtics and Warriors.
Boston is 3-9 SU against the West with all three wins coming at home and against three losing teams (Denver, Minnesota, Utah). Golden State is 8-1 vs. the East, including 6-1 on the road with three of those road wins by double digits. The Warriors starting lineup and bench are better than Boston’s and the Celtics play on Saturday night in Portland while Golden State is off until next Wednesday. GOLDEN ST.
Brooklyn at Toronto (Sat.): This is the second meeting this season between the Raptors and Nets. Brooklyn won their first just before Thanksgiving, 102-100, covering as 7 point underdogs. But that was before Toronto shipped Rudy Gay off to Sacramento, a move that seemed to spark the Raptors who have gone 10-4 since that trade. The Nets continue to struggle and are 3-6 since mid-December, although they start this week off of back-to-back wins at Oklahoma City and over Cleveland.
Brooklyn is dealing with a nagging injury to Deron Williams and Brook Lopez is out for the season. Toronto is playing well and, despite last Sunday’s close loss at Miami that snapped a five-game winning streak, are playing to avenge that earlier home loss to the Nets and maintain their perch atop the Division. TORONTO.
Minnesota at San Antonio (Sun.): The Spurs won the only prior meeting this season, 117-100, at home in mid-December but barely failed to cover as 8 point favorites. The Spurs are still a formidable team but there are signs the long run of success is starting to wind down. San Antonio has struggled vs. the league’s elite teams this season and are just 7-7 SU this season against teams with winning records through Sunday.
Minnesota has been disappointing with a 16-17 record. They’ve been very healthy with their top four scores, playing a combined 129 of a possible 132 games. The Timberwolves should be motivated for a big effort against a quality foe and should be getting close to the 8 points they got in that first meeting. And although the Spurs have extra rest after last playing on Wednesday, they do have a road game at New Orleans on Monday night, which could lead to resting players in the fourth quarter if well behind or with a comfortable lead that allows Minnesota to narrow the deficit. MINNESOTA.
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]