Bettin’ on B’ball by Andy Iskoe |
Handicapping the NBA has become more and more an exercise in identifying favorable situations. The NBA may be the most physically demanding of all team sports and the wear and tear on an NBA athlete’s body is evident by checking the injury list on a daily basis. While some injuries are severe enough to sideline a player for several weeks at a time, the vast majority of injuries involve missing a couple of games or three to allow muscles and joints to rest and recover from the severe stress they are subjected to by running up and down the court on a nightly basis.
Power ratings are a useful, even critical, tool in evaluating the true potential of teams relative to one another, all things being equal. But all things are never equal as travel factors, scheduling dynamics and injuries come into play in every matchup. The key is in determining to what extent each of these extraneous factors impacts a given game.
Whereas years ago handicapping sports was more of a science than an art, relying more on raw statistics and ratings, the past decade or so has seen handicapping become more of an art than a science. Successful understanding and application of each discipline is a requisite for success over the long term.
Identifying and acting upon streaks is another upon which to focus in trying to identify favorable situations. Current form is a very important factor to consider but current form is not defined simply by looking at a team’s most recent game or two. Rather, concentrate on how a team has played over the past few weeks.
As February begins the lines maker continues to do an excellent job of balancing pointspread results. Through Sunday Home Teams were 346-347 ATS with 10 games ending in Pushes. It’s doesn’t get any more even than that. Home Favorites are 242-250-8 while Home Underdogs are 100-92-2.
Only three teams have covered in at least 60 percent of their pointspread decisions with Atlanta’s 30-16 ATS mark leading the way. Charlotte and Utah are the other two such teams.
At the other extreme are New Jersey and Washington. At 4-42 New Jersey is threatening to blow past the all time worst season record of 9-73 set nearly 40 years ago. It might not be long before some sports book in town offers such a proposition upon which we can wager.
New Jersey’s 16-30 ATS record is the league’s worst with Washington the only other team covering less than 40 percent of their games.
Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend.
Chicago at Atlanta (Friday): Atlanta has been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference all season and at 30-16 currently holds down the third seed for the Playoffs. Chicago has been red hot over the past month after being one of the most underachieving teams over the season’s first two months. Their poor start fueled rumors around the holidays of the imminent firing of coach Scott Skiles. That did not materialize and the Bulls have played well ever since. Chicago starts this week as winner of 5 in a row – all on the road – and winners of 9 of their last 11 games, vaulting into the East’s seventh seed. These teams have split their two previous meetings with each winning at home in December. The Hawks won the first game by 35 points before the Bulls won in overtime 10 days later. The Bulls are playing with confidence and should be getting a few baskets in this spot. CHICAGO.
L.A. Lakers at Portland (Saturday): The Lakers concluded an 8 game road trip on Monday in Memphis before returning home for a pair of games including hosting Denver on Friday before heading back on the road to Portland. In their only previous meeting a month ago, also in Portland, the Trailblazers defeated the Lakers 107-98 as 4 point dogs. Since that win Portland is just 5-6 while the Lakers are 9-3 with 7 of those wins on the road. The Lakers control the top seed in the West while Portland is in the middle of a contentious race for a Playoff spot. Portland was idle Friday night after hosting San Antonio a night earlier. The spot does favor the Trailblazers despite the revenge angle for the Lakers. But the toll of all that travel could impede the Lakers’ efforts in the fourth quarter against a Portland team that could have star Brandon Roy back in the lineup after missing several games with a bad hammy. Even with Roy sidelined, the spot sets up well for the hosts. PORTLAND.
Orlando at Boston (Sunday): This Super Bowl appetizer features the last two Eastern Conference champions. The teams have met three times this season with the last meeting just last Thursday when Orlando won by a deuce at home after trailing by 11 entering the fourth quarter. That result continued the recent woes of the Celtics who start the week in fourth place in the East, seven games behind conference leading Cleveland and a game and a half behind second seeded Orlando. Since Boston’s Christmas Day win at Orlando the Celtics are just 6-11 and injuries can only explain a few of the losses. Perhaps the aging Celtics are pacing themselves for a late season run, knowing that in the East they are certain to make the Playoffs and they are not concerned about where they are seeded. Their recent struggles likely provide some value in the number and this is a spot that calls for a motivated effort from the Celts who will not play again until Wednesday. BOSTON.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe