The midpoint of the long regular season is at hand with just over a third of the league having played at least 41 games, the others soon to reach that mark.
Often the next month of action is akin to baseball’s “dog days of summer” as the grind of the season has taken a toll and the playoffs are still a few months away. As such, team performance is often as unpredictable as ever, especially as it regards the top teams in the league.
We have been able to identify the legitimate contending teams, the very good ones capable of making the playoffs, those that might and the rest with virtually no chance.
Scheduling dynamics often take precedence over Power Ratings during this stretch of the season, which is another way of stating the art of handicapping outweighs the science now that we’ve had a half season to develop.
More than any of the other major sports, the NBA has become much more spot play or situation based when it comes to handicapping as compared to years ago.
There are many possible explanations as to why there seems to be such a great variance in game to game performance. The ones that make most sense are the physical toll running and pounding up and down the court takes on the body and that just five players per team are playing at any one time.
As a result, the impact of any single player is greater than that of the other team sports with the possible exception of the pitcher in baseball. Even in football, the effect of the quarterback is felt only for the roughly half of the game the offense is on the field.
Coaches also have a greater impact on the flow of basketball games using substitution patterns. Again, the limited number of players on the court at any one time allow for more management of matchups, much as in hockey.
If you listen to professional handicappers discuss their thoughts on upcoming matchups, more often than not the discussion of the game and which side (or Total) to play rests more upon factors other than pure power ratings.
Yet lines are often more based on Power Ratings with minimal, if any, adjustments made for the situation or for issues other than key injuries.
As handicappers and bettors we have the advantage of picking and choosing which games to play based upon our particular style of handicapping and which factors we deem most significant.
This flexibility gives us the best opportunity of overcoming the books’ greatest edge of “11 to 10.”
Over the next few weeks give consideration to some of the teams that are playing well but are under the radar teams such as those within a game or two of .500, especially those teams that are trying to reach breakeven. A couple of those short term candidates are Washington and Memphis.
The Wizards are 19-20 and currently tied for sixth seed in the East but start the week just one game behind Atlanta and Toronto. At 20-19 Memphis is currently ninth in the West, 2½ games behind eight seeded Dallas.
From even more of a short term perspective, here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Minnesota at Golden St. (Fri.): The Warriors are a deep team that showed signs of emergence in last season’s Playoffs and appear on a path to being a contender this season. In their only prior meeting this season Golden State won 106-93, covering as 1 point road underdogs. That game was played one week into the season and was lower scoring than expected. Golden State has performed well despite playing eight more games on the road than at home.
Minnesota’s schedule has been much more balanced. Golden State has been the more efficient team and, although they will be favored by a few buckets, are worth backing. Most of Minnesota’s positive scoring differential results from blowout wins over sub .500 teams. GOLDEN ST.
Indiana at Denver (Sat.): Indiana has fared very well against Western Conference teams going 10-2 both SU and ATS with wins at Portland, the Clippers, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
In comparison, Denver is 1-6 SU and 2-4 ATS against those four elite teams, including 1-3 SU and ATS at home. There should be line value with the Pacers who travel to Denver after playing Friday night in Sacramento while the hosts last played Thursday in Portland. INDIANA.
San Antonio at Miami (Sun): The Spurs return to the site where they lost the NBA Finals last season, losing Games 6 and 7 after taking a 3-2 lead to South Beach. San Antonio should be highly motivated for what could be a preview of a rematch come June. Neither team has been dominating this season, often doing just enough to win. As such, both have cost their backers money at the betting windows despite impressive SU records of 31-11 (Miami) and 32-9 (San Antonio).
Spurs are 21-20 ATS but Miami is down over 6 units at 18-22 ATS. There’s a history of each team resting some of its star players in regular season meetings and although this might suggest a lower than expected scoring game, these teams played 5 OVERs and 4 UNDERs in nine meetings last season, with 4 of the last 5 games of the Finals going OVER the Total. Both teams have been strong OVER teams with a combined 48-33 mark. 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]