This coming weekend, in Orlando, the NBA celebrates its annual All Star weekend when the best of the best treat the nation to an entertaining, and most often, unusually high scoring game that features much more in the way of theatrics than fundamental basketball.
But so what. The game is for the fans to enjoy seeing the best players in the world playing alongside one another for just a few brief hours.
The All Star Game culminates a weekend of special events, including a matchup involving the up and coming players, a three point shooting contest and a slam dunk contest many observers believe had its best days a couple of decades ago.
Nonetheless the weekend marks the halfway point of the season as by the time festivities begin on Saturday teams will have played 33 games of the 66-game schedule, give or take a few.
The Jeremy Lin phenomenon continues unabated as the Knicks have turned their season around since Lin assumed point guard responsibilities for New York.
The turnaround includes winning 8 of 10 games to improve from a directionless 8-14 to an improving 16-16, good enough to hold the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Coach Mike D’Antoni, whose grip on his job was considered precarious at the start of the month, is receiving praise for inserting Lin into the lineup – out of necessity for sure. He has allowed Lin to control the flow of the game and accepts his higher than average commission of turnovers because the positive contributions far outweigh his mistakes, both in terms of productivity and the intangibles he brings to the arena.
The big test remains how the Knicks’ chemistry will be affected when star Carmelo Anthony returns. He was expected to make his return on Monday against New Jersey. If Anthony is able to mesh well with his “new” point guard and the recently signed JR Smith there is considerable upside for the Knicks as they’ve become more of a complete team the past two weeks.
The defensive presence of Tyson Chandler combined with the offensive leadership of Lin and the three point sharp shooting of Steve Novak mean the Knicks are now much more than Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Philadelphia still leads the Atlantic Division with Boston and New York tied for second, five games back. But the 76ers appear to be sliding and both the Knicks and Celtics could narrow that gap in coming weeks.
Overall, Miami holds the top spot in the East with Chicago just a half game back. The Heat have been playing some outstanding basketball of late and enter this week winners of six straight games – all of which have been by double digits!
At 25-7 Miami’s record is percentage points better than 24-7 Oklahoma City, the top team in the West. The Thunder remain, in the eyes of many, the team to beat in the West with the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
But those wily old veteran San Antonio Spurs are making noise as we hit the halfway point of the season. The Spurs have been dominant at home this season and currently stand 13-1 on their home court.
But they are now the hottest team in the league by virtue of having won 10 straight games entering this week, the last six on the road as they endure their annual rodeo trip.
Prior to the start of this journey the Spurs were an ugly 3-8 on the road. Now at 9-8 the Spurs are putting things together. Three of the six wins have been against teams that currently would be in the playoffs, including division leaders Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Clippers. They’ve also split their two games to date with Oklahoma City.
With no regular games this season, the only main bettable event will be the All Star game. Normally a high scoring contest there is one strategy you might wish to consider although timing will be important.
Because the game is routinely high scoring the total for the game opens in the mid 200s – perhaps in the vicinity of 255 to 260 or so. Often this total is bet up even further – often several points – before late action comes back on the UNDER.
If you must have action – and for many of us such is NOT the case – you might consider playing OVER the opening total and then coming back with an UNDER close to tip off.
If the line does move up in the manner just discussed you should have a several point middle working for you where you risk losing the vig by cashing one ticket and losing the other if the middle does not hit.
But also keep in mind the bigger risk that the line moves AGAINST you and you don’t have the opportunity for reversing direction and catching a middle. In that situation you will be risking a full unit and getting the worst of the number to do so.
The bottom line is to remember the All Star game is an exhibition, no more, no less. While many of us can enjoy the game for its intrinsic entertainment value, others may need to have an investment on the outcome to gain enjoyment.
With just four games on Thursday to close out the first half of the season here are some guidelines to make plays based on specific point spread ranges for each of the four games.
Basically the idea is there will be no plays if the point spread falls within the specified range. Here are the ranges for each of the games followed by an illustration of how to use them.
Miami should be favored by from 2 to 6 points over visiting New York.
Orlando should be favored by from 4 to 9 points at Atlanta.
San Antonio should be favored by from 4 to 9 points at Denver.
Oklahoma City should be favored by from 7 to 13 points at home versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
In looking to make plays using these ranges the Knicks would be a play over Miami if getting 6½ or more points against the Heat. Conversely, if Miami is favored by 1½ points or less, or make pick ‘em or an underdog, the Heat would be the play. If Miami is favored by from 2 to 6 points there is no play on either side.
Next week there will be a return to our normal procedure of previewing games over the weekend once the All Star break is behind us.