Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors, who have already clinched a spot in the NBA playoffs with their win over Brooklyn last Saturday.
What is noteworthy about this accomplishment is Golden State’s clinching was the earliest in NBA history, breaking the record they set last season. The Warriors clinched a berth on Feb. 27, 2016. In both seasons it’s taken just 123 days for Golden State to secure a Playoff berth and their “magic numbers” are 11 to clinch home court for a first round Playoff series and 22 to gain the No. 1 seed in the West.
The balance of power remains in the Western Conference as the teams with the three best records in the NBA reside there. Currently the top seven seeds in each conference have winning records but the current eighth seed in the East, Detroit, and the current eighth seed in the West, Sacramento, both have losing records. The Pistons are just three games below .500 whereas the Kings are seven south of breakeven.
The top eight in the East were collectively 67 games above .500 SU through Sunday (267-200). In contrast, the top eight in the West were 136 above .500 (304-168). The team making the NBA Finals from the West will have survived a much tougher field of opposition than will the champ of the East. It’s no small wonder Golden State is currently the 2-1 favorite to recapture the NBA title lost last season to Cleveland.
For many fans this NBA season has been very entertaining with scoring up over a year ago. Just two teams currently average scoring under 100 points per game (Dallas and Orlando) and just three are allowing an average of less than 100 (Memphis, San Antonio and Utah).
In comparison, seven teams averaged scoring under 100 ppg last season with six allowing under 100. A season earlier, in 2015-16, a whopping 15 teams – half the league – averaged under 100 ppg with also 15 allowing under 100 ppg.
Excluding points scored in overtime, two years ago the average total points for all regular season games was 198.5. Last season it was 203.9 and this season it is 209.6 – an increase of 11.1 ppg or 5.6 percent in just two seasons. And with the success of teams such as Golden State and Houston this trend toward faster paced, higher scoring games is more likely to continue than to reverse.
Through Sunday, 455 games have gone OVER the total with 418 staying UNDER and eight pushing. There has only been a slight decrease in totals results when looking at the results to date although there have still been more OVERS than UNDERS in both segments.
For the first 440 games the average totals line was 207.3. Over the next 441 games the average line was 212.7. Thus whereas the linesmaker has caught up somewhat, there has not been a full compensation for the higher scoring we’ve seen.
It would not be a surprise if, over the final third of the regular season, we see a continued decline in the split between OVER/UNDER. Plus there may be more UNDERS than OVERS from this point forward.
Toronto at Washington (Fri.): This is the second of back-to-back meetings as the teams played in Toronto on Wednesday. Their only prior meeting was in early November when Toronto won by 10 in Washington. The play will be to back the team that lost Wednesday’s meeting to win, cover and lose no ground in the battle for that third seed. Back the loser of Wednesday’s game.
Memphis at Houston (Sat.): This is a favorable schedule spot for the hosts who will have last played at the Clippers on Wednesday. Not only is Memphis off a road game at Dallas on Friday, a lone home game two nights earlier makes this their seventh different venue since playing back-to-back home games in early February. Combined with Houston’s preference to force pace, this is a tough spot for the Grizzlies who do have a four game homestand following this game. HOUSTON
Indiana at Atlanta (Sun.): Atlanta entered this week having played four straight UNDERS with seven of the last nine staying below the posted total. Indiana’s totals results have been streaky over the past month with five straight UNDERS followed by four straight OVERS followed by four straight UNDERS with which the Pacers entered this week. The circumstances surrounding this game also favor a lower than expected score.