Spurs best thru 41

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Through 41 games or the midpoint in the NBA season, Boston and San Antonio control the top seeds in their respective conferences.

By virtue of their 37-7 record, the Spurs have a hefty 5½ game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the West, with a trio of teams (Dallas, New Orleans and Oklahoma City) 8½ back.

Boston is 33-10 but its lead in the East is just 2½ over Miami with Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta each within five. Only six teams have winning records in the East, though the Knicks are in the midst of a six-game losing streak.

Eight teams in the West have winning records with No. 8 seed Portland, five games above break even. There are two more teams just two games below .500, again suggesting the West in terms of overall balance, remains the stronger of the two conferences.

The gap between home and road point spread results has narrowed. Road teams hold a slight 324-305 ATS edge (51.5 percent) with 21 games ending in a push.

The unders retain their edge versus overs, 341-303 (53%) ignoring the six that pushed the closing total.

On an individual team basis, there are four covering at a 60 percent rate or better, headed by Philadelphia 27-15-1, 64%). Also showing a healthy profit are Memphis (27-16-1, 63%), New York (25-15-3, 63% percent) and San Antonio (25-17-2. 60%).

At the other end of the spectrum, three teams are covering less than 40% – the biggest money loser not surprisingly Cleveland at 15-27-1 (36%). Also costing their backers heavily are Sacramento 15-25-1 (37%) and Washington (16-25-1, 39%).

Only one team, Oklahoma City, has gone over in at least 60% of its games with a record of 26 overs and 17 unders, 60 percent.

However one of the more remarkable stories is developing at the low end of the continuum. Six teams have playing at least 60 percent of their games under (Chicago, Indiana, the Lakers, Milwaukee and Washington all between 60 and 64 percent), while New Orleans has had nearly 70 percent stay under the total (31-14 to the under).

It’s debatable if the Hornets will maintain that 17 gap over their remaining 37 games, much less that percentage. But it does bear watching.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Orlando at Chicago (Fri): In their only prior meeting this season, Orlando routed the Bulls in Chicago, winning 107-78. The Bulls will clearly be motivated to avenge that loss but the absence due to injury of Joakim Noah limits their ability to do so. Orlando may try to force the tempo while Chicago has preferred a slower pace, especially against top flight teams.

The Bulls may make a more concerted effort to play at their preferred pace to stay within striking distance of the more talented Magic. They also have a very winnable game on this court on Saturday against Indiana. Chicago starts the week having played four straight lower than expected scoring games. UNDER.Atlanta at Dallas (Sat): The Mavericks have finally gotten Dirk Nowitzki back from injury and his presence was clearly missed. After losing six in a row, the Mavericks have won two of three starting the week, including a win over the Lakers in what was their only home game in a seven game stretch. Dallas won the earlier meeting at Atlanta in mid November, 98-93, as three point underdogs.

 

The Mavs will come in as favorites in this game and playing to make up for lost opportunities while Nowitzki was sidelined – three of the losses came to below .500 teams. Atlanta has been playing well lately, winning eight of 10 entering the week. But only two of the wins have been against winning teams, although one was a four point overtime win at Miami. Al Horford is injured for Atlanta and his status for this game is uncertain. DALLAS.

Boston at L.A. Lakers (Sun): These long time rivals meet for the first time since the Lakers won Game 7 of last season’s NBA Finals on this court. The teams split their two games in the regular season with the road team winning each by a single point. Of their nine meetings last season, seven were decided by single digits and – somewhat surprisingly – eight of the nine games stayed under the total.

The Celtics are playing the better basketball as they sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 33-10 record. The Lakers are 32-13 and if favored by five points or more, the play would be BOSTON. Otherwise, the preference is the UNDER.

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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