Philadelphia 76ers staying hot, Utah Jazz finding rhythm

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The NBA season is barely three weeks old and we’ve started to see the familiar faces rise to the top of the standings.

Chicago and Oklahoma City, the teams considered by many to be the teams that will meet in the NBA Finals, are the first two teams to double digit wins

One of the amazing early season statistics concern Chicago. The Bulls are a perfect 5-0 at home and have yet to allow a visiting team to score more than 74 points on its home court, holding three of its five “victims” to exactly 64 points and the fourth to just 68. Obviously all five games have stayed UNDER the total but by an average of nearly 30 points per game!

Philadelphia has been one of the nice early season surprises and its 9-3 record has them atop the Atlantic Division by a full three games –the largest lead of any division leader. The 76ers have faced a rather easy early season schedule but, to their credit, they’ve taken advantage of games against lesser foes.

An early successful start, especially in a greatly compacted season such as this one, will give coaches greater flexibility later in the season as the playoffs draw near. And it may be critically important come this season’s playoffs for teams to be as fresh as possible.

One team that looked pathetic in the season’s first week has started to turn things around. The Utah Jazz looked absolutely miserable in dropping three of its first four games with each loss by 15 points or more. Yes, the losses were to a trio of the league’s best teams but the Jazz looked so bad that the prospects for any kind of turnaround were bleak.

Yet the Jazz responded with seven wins in their next eight games, covering in six. The latest was a solid 10 point victory at Denver on Sunday night.

Although most of the other wins in this stretch came against weaker teams it may be a sign that of the lesser teams in the league Utah may be one that can be a money maker over the next few weeks. Especially when facing such similarly talented foes, even if laying a couple of buckets or so may, upon first glance, seem uncomfortable.

In the 183 games played through this past Sunday, home teams continue to enjoy a solid point spread edge over road teams with their 102-80-1 ATS mark for 56.0 percent winners. Home favorites have been especially strong, going 72-49 ATS, 59.5 percent winners.

UNDER continues to dominate vs. OVER with a 107-74-2 margin.

Here’s a look at 3 this weekend.

FRIDAY

Phoenix at Boston: It’s been a much rougher than expected start for the aging and apparently out of shape Celtics. It’s been an odd start to the season as Boston started off by losing three in a row but then ran off a four game win streak that, as of Sunday, has been followed by four straight losses. But upon examination we find that the Celtics have generally beaten up the NBA’s patsies while losing mostly to teams expected to make the playoffs.

Phoenix is somewhere in between, clearly not a patsy but also expected to miss the playoffs. This is their fourth game of a five game road trip and their third game in four nights. Boston has not played back to back games since last weekend and should be in pretty good shape for this contest.

These teams traded double digit home wins last season and considering their 4-7 start the Celtics figure to be highly motivated for a prime effort in this spot. Despite concerns, they remain the far more talented team that is capable of periodic explosive efforts. One such effort is expected here. BOSTON

SATURDAY

Denver at New York: This is the first meeting since the big trade of last season in which Denver sent disgruntled star Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. Following that deal Denver played outstanding basketball over the balance of the season and its fine play has largely carried over to this season. Teaming with Amare Stoudemire, Anthony has given the Knicks a powerful scoring tandem but issues still remain at the defensive end of the court.

Yet the numbers suggest the Knicks are improvng in that area as their stats are pretty decent. That’s especially the case at home where they are allowing less than 96 points per game.

The linesmaker may be lagging a bit as, through Sunday, the Knicks had played just three OVERS and nine UNDERS this season. Defense has always been emphasized by Denver coach George Karl and he has a very deep and well balanced roster.

That should be an advantage here as both teams are off of games Friday night, although the Knicks did not have to travel after hosting Milwaukee. This is Denver’s fourth game in five nights but they should be able to give a strong effort as they will not play again until next Wednesday. At the same time fatigue could be a factor for both teams which would work to inhibit sharp shooting. UNDER

SUNDAY

Toronto at LA Clippers: The Clippers continue to make believers around the league and their 6-3 start has given this long forlorn franchise both hope and confidence. This was demonstrated last weekend with a solid win over their cross town rivals, the Lakers. The early season schedule has been favorable with 6 of their first nine games at home and through this past Sunday no team had played fewer games than the Clippers.

They do have a rematch against the Lakers in their next game but that does not occur until Wednesday. Toronto has struggled, as expected. DeMar DeRozan heads a team somewhat in transition with a roster not very deep. This is their first stop in a 5-game road trip after a lone home game that followed a 3-game road trip. Though neither team played on Saturday the situation set up better for the hosts who are likely to be close to double digit favorites.

It’s hard to imagine that scenario but with two of the brightest starts in the league, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the gap in talent between these teams can justify such favoritism. Especially for a team enjoying early season success and playing with great enthusiasm. LA CLIPPERS

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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