More than a third of the way into the NBA season we are starting to see stratifications in the standings in each conference.
The balance of power remains strongly in the West with the three teams that have the top records in the league – and three of the four teams with fewer than 10 losses – each sitting atop one of the three Western Conference Divisions.
At 26-7 the Oklahoma City Thunder have the league’s best record and are in first place in the Northwest Division where only Utah, at 17-18, has a losing record.
The Thunder are just percentage points ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers whose 27-8 record has them four games in front of Golden State in the Pacific Division. The third place Lakers continue to struggle and at 15-18 are currently seeded eleventh in the West.
San Antonio is up to its old tricks, atop the Southwest Division with a 27-9 mark, good for a 3½ game lead over Memphis, the team that started the season 12-2 (but has gone 9-8 since).
In all, eight teams in the West have winning records and those teams are a combined 181-90, winning just over two in every three games. Contrast that to the Eastern Conference where just 6 teams have winning records and the top eight are a combined 155-106.
Miami leads the East with its 23-9 record, a half game better than 23-10 New York. But then there’s a noticeable drop off to third seeded Atlanta.
But the imbalance also exists at the bottom of the standings. There are 6 East teams winning less than 40 percent of their games and four in the West. The league’s two worst, Washington and Cleveland, both play in the East. At 4-28 Washington has half as many wins as the Cavaliers.
This disparity is reflected in both the SU and ATS records of the two conferences. The Western Conference as a whole is 43 games above .500 SU (274-231) through last Sunday. The 15 East teams are a combined 228-271.
This imbalance carries over to point spread results as well. The 15 West teams are a combined 267-228-10 ATS whereas the East are a combined 224-263-12 ATS.
What this could suggest going forward is that the weakest in the West will make for good point spread plays when facing the weaker teams in the East.
The weakest in both conferences all have losing ATS records but the bottom teams in the West have still outperformed those in the East. They have done so, for the large part, against tougher teams at the top of their conference.
Here’s a look at three games to be played over the weekend.
Spurs at Grizzlies (Fri): Is this a case of the old boss visiting the new one? Or is San Antonio out to show the Grizzlies that the Spurs remain, if not the team to beat in the Western Conference, at least above Memphis in the Conference’s pecking order? These teams have met once, back on Dec. 1, with San Antonio winning but failing to cover as 6 point home favorites in a 99-95 win.
Memphis is likely to be a short favorite in this rematch and the teams will meet again in San Antonio next Wednesday. Memphis will be putting emphasis on this game after going 0-4 both SU and ATS last season against the Spurs. San Antonio is motivated to avenge its playoff elimination at the hands of Memphis a season earlier. Led by Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay, Memphis is still ascending the NBA ladder. This game could be a telling point that could indicate that ascension is continuing. MEMPHIS.
Jazz at Pistons (Sat): After starting 0-8 Detroit has improved its play and is 13-15 since, even though they’ve endured a second lengthy losing streak of 6 games in mid-December. They did have a modest 4-game winning streak snapped at home this past Sunday in an overtime loss to lowly Charlotte.
Utah is not in good current form, having lost 8 of its last dozen games. But 10 of the Jazz’ last 11 losses have been to teams with winning records. Utah has fared very well against teams with losing records and this game should be competitively priced. Both teams played at different venues on Friday night so Detroit does not have a normal home court advantage. UTAH.
Golden St at Denver (Sun): – At 22-11 Golden State has the fifth best record in the powerful West. Denver is better than its 20-16 record because, as detailed in previous weeks. The Nuggets have played an imbalanced schedule that has featured many more road than home games. Denver is 11-2 SU at home but the Warriors are a solid 11-7 SU away from home.
These teams have already met three times, all in November, with Denver winning two. One of the wins was a double overtime game at Golden State in early November. Both teams have been off since Friday and neither team plays Monday. Denver should be favored by about six or seven points which would make the road team attractiveunderdogs. GOLDEN ST.
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]