The NBA took center stage on Christmas Day and delivered a mixed bag of presents.
The early stockings were filled with coal as the first two games, involving the two New York City teams, were duds. Both teams lost at home with Brooklyn starting the day by dropping a 17 point decision to injury plagued Chicago.
A few hours later the final whistle blew as Oklahoma City routed the Knicks 123-94, yet another ugly loss for hosts and the absence of Carmelo Anthony made little difference in the outcome.
At least the next three games were less of a “bah humbug” as the Lakers gave Miami a game before falling by 6, Houston had an impressive win at powerful San Antonio and the night was capped by Golden State’s come from behind win over the LA Clippers.
It’s been abundantly clear from the start of the season that the better basketball is being played in the Western Conference. This point was further evidenced on Christmas Day as both the Nets and Knicks were expected to content with Miami for the top spot in the East. That’s why they were featured on a day on which the NBA provided the only major sporting action save for a college basketball tournament in Hawaii.
More than a third into the season the Knicks are 9-21 and the Nets are only a shade better, 10-20. To give Knicks fans even more reason to be apathetic towards their team New York ownership declared not to expect changes in personnel or in coaching in the foreseeable future.
Indiana and Miami continue to dominate the East and both need to guard against complacency with so much of the season yet to play. The lack of competition in the East could make either vulnerable come the NBA Finals when either the Pacers or Heat will face a well-tested representative from the West.
The NBA’s best record belongs to Oklahoma City. At 25-5 the Thunder are a half game ahead of Indiana (24-5) for the top overall seed. But the Thunder suffered a huge loss last week when Russell Westbrook suffered a knee injury that is expected to sideline him until after the All Star break. His absence will test the depth of the Thunder and place even more responsibility on Kevin Durant.
Considered one of the top three players in the league, Durant has become a team leader and there may be some value on backing OKC at the windows in the short term as the perception related to Westbrook’s absence may be exaggerated.
Road teams continue to widen their edge over home teams in covering spreads with a margin of 50 more covers than home teams. Road teams have been profitable in all three categories as Road Favorites are 165-135-5 ATS; Road Underdogs are 76-61-2 ATS; and even road Pick ‘ems are 6-1 ATS.
Games continue to be higher scoring that the lines makers have expected with OVERS outpacing UNDERS 242-209. As might be expected, teams in the Western Conference have been scoring more than their counterparts in the East.
All but three Western teams are averaging at least 100 points per game. Only three teams in the East are cracking the 100 point mark on average. That’s not to say that better defense is being played in the East. It’s more a case of poor shooting.
There are exceptions, of course, and Indiana continues to lead the NBA in allowing just 89.4 points per game. Next best is Chicago at 93.1.
Keep an eye on the Charlotte. Very quietly the Bobcats are becoming a competitive team. They start this week 17-14 and well on pace to exceed their projected season wins total of 26.5. Although offensively challenged, Charlotte is third in the league in allowing just 94.2 points per game.
More importantly the Bobcats are 19-11-1 ATS. This is a team that is very much under the radar and are most often in underdog roles. Because they receive little media attention they might well continue to be profitable at the betting windows until their improvement becomes a “media story.”
Wishing all of our readers a very Happy and Healthy New Year, here’s a look at three games this weekend.
LA Clippers at Dallas (Fri.): The Clippers are one of the teams expected to contend for the Western Conference title and with Doc Rivers in his first season as coach it is reasonable to expect to see overall improvement as the season progresses. Dallas is a team on the decline with star Dirk Nowitzki nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career and featuring a total of a half dozen thirty-somethings.
Nonetheless the Mavericks continue to play well and should be a contender to make the Playoffs at a seven or eight seed. These teams are meeting for the first time this season and we should see a game featuring more offense than defense. The Clippers will show defensive improvement under Rivers but that improvement takes time. Dallas has played 8 OVERs in its last 10 games and should be able to dictate the pace on its home court. OVER.
OKC at Minnesota (Sat.): Although a case was made earlier for playing on Oklahoma City in the short term as they adjust to the absence of Westbrook this should not be such a spot. Minnesota is a very talented team that has underachieved thus far. They are just 15-15 overall but have won 9 of 13 home games. They are likely to be short underdogs in this game which is the teams’ third meeting this season.
Minnesota won the first meeting at home in early November and Oklahoma City got revenge at home a month later. The Timberwolves are the healthier team and have an extra day of rest. The duo of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are as underrated a duo as there is in the NBA and catching the Thunder without Westbrook makes a huge difference in this matchup. MINNESOTA.
Golden St. at Washington (Sun.): Golden State is starting to gel as they get healthy. They start the week as winners of five straight. Washington has also played better of late and has a good shot of making the Playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. At 13-14 they are actually seeded fifth currently. Both teams are capable of running the court and that should work to the advantage of the visitors.
The dominance of West over East has been well documented in recent weeks. In many respects Washington is at a stage this season where the Warriors were last season – a team on the improve but still learning to win. On the road the price should be reasonable to back the deeper and well balanced visitors. GOLDEN ST.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]