The list of early season surprise teams in the NBA continues just over a month into the season with the New York metropolitan area having two of them.
Although it’s no surprise that defending champion Miami has the best record in the Eastern Conference, 12-3, the Heat are just a half-game ahead of 12-4 New York with 11-5 Brooklyn just another game back.
The relocated Nets are in the third spot in the East rather than Central Division co-leaders Chicago and Milwaukee because the Bulls and Bucks are each a very mediocre 8-7 nearly a fifth of the way into the season.
The West also has a trio of teams with outstanding records as 12-3 Memphis is a half game better than both Oklahoma City and San Antonio, both 14-4. The highly touted Los Angeles Lakers are just 8-9, 2½ games behind both Golden State and the Los Angeles Clippers in the Pacific Division.
It’s still very early and it takes time for teams to gel, although fans of the Lakers are getting impatient after changing coaches. Of course the Lakers still await the return of Steve Nash from injury but even without him the Lakers look sluggish, old and out of synch.
The controversial move by San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich to rest his key starters for last week’s game at Miami has drawn much criticism but most of that criticism, and the fines that followed, was grounded more in the impact those absences may have had in TV ratings. The fact is that Popovich has used this practice in the past to keep his team as fresh as possible considering the age of his star players.
Of course several questions could be raised as to why this has started so early in the season, why the rest was not doled out on a player by player, game by game basis and why the rest did not occur a night earlier in Orlando when it was much more likely that the Spurs could win using a shorthanded lineup against the Magic more easily than against the Heat?
The fact that the Spurs led most of the way against the Heat before succumbing in the final minutes 105-100 does not take away from the fact that the Spurs still lost a game they might otherwise have won. That could impact the Spurs in the playoffs when it comes to seeding and possibly be significant should San Antonio and Miami meet in the NBA Finals.
At the same time the Spurs were playing a fourth game in five nights when they faced the Heat. Miami was rested after having not played in five nights.
So perhaps the better question to be asked of NBA Commissioner David Stern is why, knowing in advance that this would be a marquee matchup that would attract a huge TV audience, did the NBA allow what must be considered an unfair scheduling situation to take place?
Thus far home teams have won 62.7 percent of all games straight up (153-91) but just 115 of 139 (48.1 percent) point spread decisions (there have been 5 pushes).
The OVER has outnumbered UNDER by a very slim margin, 121-118, with 8 totals pushing.
Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend.
Lakers at Okla City (Fri): Oklahoma City remains a team on the rise whereas the Lakers appear to be on the decline, perhaps more rapidly than many observers have expected. The Thunder eliminated the Lakers from last season’s playoffs in 5 games although two of their wins were by just 2 and 3 points.
OKC will likely be favored by several baskets. Both teams are rested and we have seen the Lakers play higher scoring games under new coach Mike D’Antoni. Starting the week, 7 of the Lakers’ last 9 games have produced more than 200 total points. None went overtime and 5 produced at least 210 total points. OVER.
NY at Chicago (Sat): The absence of star Derrick Rose to injury is clearly reflected in Chicago’s mediocre 8-7 record. At the same time the Knicks have fared well without Amar’e Stoudemire as their 12-4 start will attest. These teams met four times last season and three of the games were decided by fewer than 6 points. Chicago was the much better team then.
The Knicks continue to play with confidence and Carmelo Anthony has taken to the role of being a leader. They are better balanced than the Bulls and should be getting perhaps a bucket in this game, especially after having played in Miami two nights earlier. Chicago did play Friday night but may have had an easy time at lowly Detroit. NEW YORK.
Milwaukee at Brooklyn (Sun): The Nets are off to a torrid 11-5 start while Milwaukee is 8-7. Brooklyn has fared well in its new home, winning 7 of 8 games at the Barclays Center. The Nets have already had a pair of 5 game winning streaks this season with the most recent streak ending with a loss in Miami last Saturday.
Brooklyn has fared well in the favorite’s role this season, going 6-2-1 thus far including 4-0-1 in its last 5 such spots. After winning their first 3 road games, the Bucks are just 1-3 away from home since. 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]