The Indiana Pacers became the final team to lose a game this season and their loss at Chicago this past Saturday came following a 9-0 start to the season that has solidified their status as a contender in the East.
Miami is still favored to make it back to the NBA Finals but the Pacers and the Bulls both have real shots at derailing the two-time defending champions. Much will depend upon how healthy these teams are come playoff time as well as how injuries will affect play during the regular season.
But Indiana’s 9-1 record entering Monday does not have them as the team with the NBA’s best record. Although no team has a better mark, the San Antonio Spurs are also 9-1 and are again very quietly showing they still expect to be a factor in the West much as they have been for nearly a decade and a half.
But a team flying under the radar has the next best record in the NBA. And although Oklahoma City, the LA Clippers and even Golden State have been getting a lot of pub, and deservedly so, the Portland Trailblazers have gotten off to an 8-2 start that includes a win over the Spurs.
The schedule has been pretty weak and one of the two losses has been to the other strong team faced, Houston. But there are early signs Portland will be a legitimate contender to make the playoffs, although a first round exit may be the ceiling.
Still, it’s nice to have some less heralded teams make some noise early in the season, such as Philadelphia did in the season’s first week. The 76ers have come back to earth and start the week at 5-6. But as an indictment of the Atlantic Division that 5-6 record is good for first place.
Actually, it’s more of an indictment of the poor early season play of the high payroll teams that are the Knicks and Nets. New York and Brooklyn are tied at just 3-6 and behind both Toronto and Boston as well as the Sixers.
Barely 10 games into the season Philadelphia is nearly a third of the way toward going OVER its projected season wins total of 16 to 17.
Another team not expected to fare well this season is Phoenix. Yet the Suns are off to a 5-4 start and going 7-1-1 ATS in the process.
It’s been stressed before that money can be made in backing weak teams, especially early in the season, when legs are fresh and opponents often take wins for granted, especially in unfavorable scheduling spots for the favored teams.
Through nearly three weeks of the season home teams are just 70-75-4 ATS despite winning nearly 60 percent of the games SU (96-53).
Home favorites are 44-51-3 ATS (46 percent). Home underdogs have been a marginally profitable 25-21-1 (54 percent). Home Pick ‘ems are 1-3 ATS.
OVERs lead UNDERs by a slim 78-71 margin with the average game producing 199.1 total points, including the scoring in the 10 games that went into at least one overtime period.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Chicago at Portland (Fri.): Chicago is a well known entity and is one of the favorites to challenge Miami for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls have gotten off to just a modest start, standing 4-4 through Sunday with a 1-3 road record. Portland has been very much an “under the radar” team, being overshadowed by several more prominent teams in the West. Yet the Blazers have been a very strong early season team, standing 8-2 through Sunday, including identical 4-1 records at home and on the road.
Chicago is off of a national TV game a night earlier in Denver. Portland is back home after wrapping up a four game road trip on Wednesday. The Blazers behind star guard Damian Lillard may come a small home favorite as the lines makers have been quick to adjust to current season realities in recent seasons. And few teams are playing with as much confidence as are the Blazers currently. PORTLAND.
Minnesota at Houston (Sat.): Both teams start the week with identical 7-4 records. Houston was expected to be a contender in the West following the off season signing of Dwight Howard. Minnesota was projected as a lower seed Playoff team if they could remain healthy with their dynamic duo of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. The Timberwolves have rewarded their backers at the betting windows to the tune of 8-3 in the early going. Houston is just 5-5-1.
The Rockets do have a few days of rest after last playing at Dallas on Wednesday. Minnesota hosted Brooklyn Friday night. That should have Houston favored by a couple of buckets against a team that can be physical and continues to look at games against talented teams as a measure of their own progress. MINNESOTA.
Phoenix at Orlando: Neither team was expected to contend for the playoffs this season but each has started the season better than expected. The Suns actually have a winning record through Sunday (5-4). Orlando, 4-6 overall, is 4-2 at home. Both teams are young and are integrating new players into their lineups.
Weak teams are often marked by weakness at the defensive end of the court and players who often have trouble scoring against better defensive teams have it easier in these matchups. OVER.
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]