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For much of the next few weeks the focus of the basketball universe will be largely directed at the NCAA Tournament that will feature most of the NBA stars of the future.

Meanwhile the NBA will plod along as the long schedule winds down and the start of the Playoffs is barely one month away.

Teams will be clinching Playoff berths, or will be eliminated, on a frequent basis over the closing weeks of the regular season.

As we have seen in recent seasons, as well as in recent weeks, coaches often shake up their lineups by resting starters, often in bunches, in an attempt to have their teams as fresh and as healthy as possible once the most meaningful part of the season begins.

Last Saturday we saw this philosophy taken to an extreme by the coaches of both Golden State and San Antonio as Steve Kerr and Greg Popovich rested a majority of their star players. To be fair, San Antonio’s key players were dealing with injuries. Golden State’s key players were dealing with fatigue as perhaps the grind of playing more than 100 games in each of the past two seasons has taken a toll on Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and others.

Handicapping and betting the games is tough enough when evaluating teams at full strength in looking to find edges. When the status of a team’s lineup is in question the challenge is even greater.

Yet, as this technique is employed by more and more coaches and is being used more often, bettors have been presented with the increasingly popular option of in-game wagering.

Introduced about a half decade or so on a rather limited basis more and more sportsbooks now offer in-game wagering on a much broader basis and across the spectrum of the sports that are booked.

For many years bettors were essentially limited to making wagers on the second half of basketball and football games, which offers the opportunity to adjust your position on a game depending how you interpreted the first half of play and forecast how the second half might unfold.

One of the most common strategies employed was to back a team that was a solid favorite prior to the start of the game that was trailing the underdog at halftime.

Now similar strategies are available at various – often many – stages of games, generally during stoppages of play due to timeouts, injuries, etc.

At such times sportsbooks that offer in-game wagering will post a revised line for the game that bettors can wager upon during the two to three minutes action is suspended.

Of course the sportsbooks still enjoy that 11 to 10 edge, which works out nicely for them with the increased volume related to in-game wagers. The sharp handicappers, bettors and students of the game often do quite well in this exercise at the expense of those who increase their action based on decisions guided more by the emotion of the moment rather than the insights gained by experience.

The status of starting lineups and player utilization are by far greater in the NBA than in the other widely wagered upon professional and college sports, which makes in-game wagering a powerful tool to offset the uncertainty – and often conflicting reports – that lead up to the start of games.

In attempting to offset the books’ 11 to 10 edge the major advantage the bettor has is deciding whether and when to get involved. In-game wagering provides another opportunity to take advantage of that edge.

With San Antonio’s win over Golden State on Saturday the Spurs are now tied with the Warriors in the loss column with Golden State having one more win through Sunday.

The top seeds in both conferences are up for grabs with Cleveland starting the week just two games ahead of both Washington and Boston in the East and Golden State holding that half game edge over San Antonio.

What seemed like a “slam dunk” matchup of the Warriors versus the Cavs in the NBA Finals (for a third straight season) has now had some uncertainty introduced involving both teams. With less than 20 games remaining for all teams the race to the end of the regular season promises to generate excitement, and that excitement will come to the fore when the NCAA Tournament draws to a close at the start of April.

Here is a look at three games this weekend.

Chicago at Washington (Fri.): Washington continues to play at an elevated level whereas Chicago has been in a mild slump. The Bulls had lost five games in a row through Sunday, losing ATS in all five. In contrast, the Wizards had won five straight and seven of eight but were just 4-4 ATS. Washington has won two of three prior meetings this season although Chicago covered in two of the three. The teams last met in early January just as Washington was getting on a roll.

Since January 6 the Wizards, through Sunday, were 25-6 SU and 19-12 ATS, including 13-3 SU, 9-7 ATS at home. Over their prior 31 games the Bulls were just 14-17 SU and 15-16 ATS. Washington started the week tied with Boston for the second seed in the East, just two games behind Cleveland. Chicago’s slump had them seeded tenth, a game and a half behind eighth seeded Milwaukee. WASHINGTON

Cleveland at LA Clippers (Sat.): Both teams are headed to the Playoffs with Cleveland holding the top seed in the East and the Clippers currently in fifth position in the West but just a game behind fourth seeded Utah. The Cavs are playing to avenge an ugly home loss to the Clippers, falling 113-94 back on December 1 although they were just short 3.5 home favorites.

The Cavs are playing the first of four straight road games and will play on the same court on Sunday against the Lakers. Both teams last played on Thursday. The Clippers have a greater sense of urgency as they get back to full strength after dealing with numerous key injuries for much of the season and started the week having won four of five. The Cavs had lost four of five through Sunday. LA CLIPPERS

Boston at Philadelphia (Sun.): Boston is battling for Playoff positioning in the East while the 76ers are playing out the string but are doing so with a new found sense of confidence and enthusiasm created by the fine midseason play of their young players before injuries cut short the tangible signs of progress.

The Celtics have won all three meetings this season but Philly has covered the spread in each game. The games were evenly spread out between early December and mid-February and the Celtics were favored by from 10 to 11 points in each. And even with the injuries the 76ers continue to cover spreads even while losing, going 3-7 SU but 7-3 against the spread since the All Star break. PHILADELPHIA

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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