The NBA season is more than a month old and five teams have started with outstanding records, led by Indiana at 16-1.
The Pacers’ gaudy record has been fashioned by mostly defeating weak teams. In fact, their 105-100 win at the Clippers this past Sunday was their first win this season over a team that currently, through Sunday, had a winning record.
Indiana has clearly benefited from a very soft early season schedule but wins over the weak teams count the same as wins over contenders. Often teams miss out on having top seeds because they lose such games.
It’s not unusual for contending teams to have roughly .500 records against other elite teams with their ability, or inability, to win the games they are solid favorites to win being the difference between a top playoff seed and a mid to low level seed.
Only one other Eastern Conference team, Miami, has a winning record. The two-time defending Heat are off to a nice 14-3 start. Only one other Eastern team, Atlanta, has as much as a .500 record.
The dozen other East teams all have losing marks, including all five teams in the Atlantic Division where 6-10 Toronto is in first place. The high payroll teams of Brooklyn and the New York Knicks are 5-12 and 3-13, respectively. Although the Nets may be patient with first season Coach Jason Kidd, Knicks’ coach Mike Woodson might not be so fortunate and could be replaced by the end of December.
Things are much different in the West. Both defending Conference Champion San Antonio and upstart Portland have gotten out of the gates at 14-3 with Oklahoma City 12-3.
Five other teams have won at least 10 games such that Dallas, Denver, Golden State, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers would round out the early field of playoff teams. Phoenix (9-8) also has a winning record and three others start the week at exactly .500.
In contrast to the East only three teams in the West have losing records. One of those, Minnesota, is almost break even at 9-10. It’s clear from the first month of action that not only does the balance of power reside in the West but there is considerable imbalance.
If the playoffs were to start based on the current standing the Eastern Conference would have five teams with losing records, and one at .500. As for the West, one team with a winning record would miss the playoffs as would three with .500 records.
It’s early so things can and will change. But what may not change is this early season imbalance, and the West’s current 57-23 straight up record against the East may continue to widen. In those 80 games, West teams are an impressive 48-31-1 ATS, an even more powerful indication of the difference between the two conferences.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Golden St. at Houston (Fri.): Both teams are off to solid starts with winning records after one month as they meet for the first time this season. Both like to force the pace and each is among the NBA’s highest scoring teams. Both are battling injuries but have been able to compensate for the missing key players without suffering too much of a decline in play. With each rested this handicaps as an entertaining, high scoring game. OVER.
Indiana at San Antonio (Sat.): This could be a preview of the NBA Finals as both the Spurs and Pacers are considered leading contenders in their respective conferences. And both have gotten off to strong starts. Indiana has played a much weaker schedule but that 13-4 ATS record attests to just how dominant the Pacers have been. The Spurs have started 14-3 SU but just 9-8 ATS. Indiana will be looking at this game as one of their first true early season tests and should be a short-priced underdog. The Pacers’ depth and outstanding defense make for a strong combination against elite teams. INDIANA.
Boston at New York (Sun.): This long time rivalry finds both teams struggling early on. Boston’s troubles were expected, with a gutted roster and a rookie head coach. The Knicks’ problems are a bit more surprising considering the success they enjoyed last season. To be fair, the Knicks have faced a fairly challenging early season schedule. And despite key injuries there is still talent on the roster. This could be a perfect spot for the Knicks to begin a turnaround. Boston may be the weakest team the Knicks will have faced since an opening night win over Milwaukee. NEW YORK.
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]