The NBA resumed play following a weeklong All Star break with the most surprising takeaway from the 31 games played from Thursday through Sunday the number of high scoring games.
Despite the unprecedented lengthy layoff 20 of the 31 games went OVER the total with 11 staying UNDER. An average of 213.5 points per game were scored in the 31 which compares to the 203.6 ppg prior to the All Star break.
It’s a very small sample to be sure but the fact that teams were able to score in bunches seems to support the theory that the extra rest did not result in rust. Perhaps a week or so away from competition gave the players a chance to nurse nagging injuries and clear their minds of the day to day grind that the NBA has been since late October.
The consensus of opinion is that Golden State is likely to represent the West in the NBA Finals with San Antonio the Warriors’ most likely foe in the Conference title series.
In the East the consensus is that Cleveland will represent the East with any number of teams capable of being vanquished in the East Finals. Through Sunday the top seeded Cavaliers had a 4 game lead over Toronto with Boston 4.5 games further back in third.
One way to assess the teams likely to contend for the title is to examine how they fare against one another. For many years I have considered such teams to be those that win at least 65 percent of its games, a pace that would result in a record of 54-28 or better at the end of the regular season. Through Sunday just 6 were currently meeting this definition – Cleveland, Golden State, the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Toronto.
Looking at how this six pack has fared when facing other members of this group reveals some interesting results thus far.
A total of 24 games have involved two of these six with each team having played between 6 and 9. Golden State has the best record against its fellow ‘elite’ teams but it may surprise many to learn that despite losing 5 games none of the Warriors’ setbacks has been within this group.
The Warriors have won all 9 of their games versus the other five teams. Next best is Toronto (5-3) with Cleveland the only other member of the group with a winning SU record (5-4). The other three teams – including San Antonio – each have losing SU records within this group. Oklahoma City is 2-4 SU with the Spurs 2-5. The worst team in the group is the LA Clippers, an anemic 1-8 SU in games against the NBA’s top teams.
Of course there are still a number of games that will be played among this group over the final third of the season and the composition can change as the result of a slump or a surge by a current non-member.
Yet whereas the straight up results might be of assistance in making futures plays either to win the NBA Title or to play individual series during the Playoffs the pointspread results of these teams might provide some value in playing individual games over the balance of the regular season when teams in this group meet.
The pointspread results can be considered surprising given that the ones with the best ATS records in games against the other top teams are the two Eastern Conference members whose results reflect mostly games against the four in the West. The Cavs and Raptors have only met twice and split those meetings both SU and ATS.
Toronto, as noted above, is 5-3 SU in its games against the NBA’s best teams but 7-1 ATS in those matchups. Cleveland, just 5-4 SU, is a solid 7-2 ATS.
The 4 Western teams each have losing ATS records in these games with the Spurs having the worst of the four – 1-6 ATS. Oklahoma City is barely better at 1-5 ATS. Despite their 1-8 SU record the Clippers are just below .500 ATS at 4-5, the same as Golden State.
Again, these represent a very small sample of games but can give an indication of which teams have exceeded expectations against the league’s best and those that have fallen short. The pointspread is the great equalizer at the betting windows.
Based on the results thus far although the NBA Champion is likely to come from the West, the runner up team may have the better pointspread record in the NBA Finals.
This analysis will be revisited as the regular season winds down with the final games to be played on Wednesday, April 13.
Here is a look at three games to be played this weekend.
Cleveland at Toronto (Friday): The top two teams in the East meet for the third time this season. The home team won the prior two meetings with Toronto winning by 4 points in late November and Cleveland exacting revenge with a 22 point home in early January. Both games went OVER the Total although the first meeting barely did so while the rematch went OVER by nearly 30 points.
Both teams have fared well in the underdog role. Though just 3-4 SU, Cleveland is 6-1 ATS when getting points. Toronto is 8-7 SU and 10-4-1 ATS as an underdog including a perfect 3-0 ATS as a home dog. In their earlier home win over the Cavs, the Raptors were plus 3.
Toronto has won 8 straight home games, 11 of 12 and 15 of 17. The play will depend upon the closing line. TORONTO as Pick ’em or underdog. CLEVELAND as a dog.
Golden State at OKC (Saturday): Both teams last played on Thursday and neither plays Monday. The teams’ only prior meeting this season was recently, on February 6. At home, Golden State won an entertaining and competitive game, 116-108, covering by a half point. The game stayed UNDER what has been the highest Total of the season to date (232.5).
OKC started slowly following the All Star break, losing their first two games – both at home – to Indiana and Cleveland and being held under 100 points in both games. Golden State came out of the break being blown out by 32 points at Portland and then nearly blew a 16 point lead the next night at home versus the Clippers, outscored 13-0 over the final 2.5 minutes in a 115-112 win.
The total is likely to be in the 225 to 230 range but the pace should favor a high scoring game and with a few more games under their belts, both teams should resume their sharp shooting ways. OVER.
Portland at Indiana (Sunday): This is the second of back to back game for Portland which played in Chicago on Saturday night. It is the first of two such games for the Pacers who play at Cleveland on Monday. That makes this a much better spot for the hosts as Indiana is more likely to defeat the Blazers at home than to win at Cleveland.
It is also a revenge spot for the Pacers who lost at Portland 123-111 on Dec. 3. Both teams won and covered their first two games out of the All Star break. Indiana won on the road at both Oklahoma City and Orlando. Portland won a pair of home games, blowing out Golden State 137-105 on Friday and after perhaps a first half letdown two nights later, rallied to defeat Utah to cover by a half point.
Portland’s game at Chicago was its first in nearly three weeks so the back to back situation may be even more of a challenge than usual as it is their first set of back to back games since the middle of January. INDIANA.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]