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The NBA’s version of semester break concludes with the resumption of play on Thursday following nearly a full week in which the majority of NBA players engaged in their own version of the three R’s – rest, relaxation and recovery.

When the first four teams return to action and the balance of the league follows suit on Friday and Saturday we’ll learn if a fourth R – rust – is also part of the equation created by the longer than normal All Star break.

Although considered the figurative midpoint of the season, more than three fifths of the regular season was played prior to the All Star break with most teams having just under 30 games to play before the start of the Playoffs. That translates into about two more months of regular season play and the drive to make the Playoffs starts to take on greater importance.

The next key date in the NBA season is this Thursday, which is the trading deadline. We might see a few teams make some moves to add depth in the hopes of either making the Playoffs or improving seeding position.

In the Eastern Conference six teams appear safely in the postseason with a 7.5 game gap separating sixth seeded Milwaukee from co-seventh seeds Charlotte and Miami.

Atlanta has a 6.5 game lead over Toronto for the top seed with the Raptors another 2.5 games ahead of third seeded Chicago, followed by Washington, Cleveland and Milwaukee.

The Hornets and Heat, who entered the All Star break with 22-30 records, are not in the clear by any means for those final two spots. There are four other teams within two games of those final two Playoff berths – Boston, Brooklyn, Detroit and Indiana.

Of that group, Detroit has played the best basketball over the past couple of months. The Pistons are 15-10 in their 25 games leading into the Break. Indiana also seems poised to make a late season push, especially if the rumors surrounding the return of Paul George, sidelined since breaking his leg last summer, turn out to be true and he returns to the court in late March.

The Pacers could be a good pointspread play over the balance of the regular season. Since enduring a 7 game losing streak in mid-January, Indiana has gone 6-3 both SU and ATS, including three straight road wins.

Although Golden State has been the best in the west since early November the Warriors are by no means a shoo-in for the top seed. Under-the-radar Memphis starts post-All Star play just 4 games behind the Warriors.

Portland and Houston are tied for the third and fourth seeds with identical 36-17 records, three games behind the Grizzlies but just one game ahead of fifth-seeded Dallas with the sixth-seeded LA Clippers a half game back and seventh-seeded San Antonio another half game behind the Clippers.

Rounding out the current “in” teams is Phoenix, 5.5 games behind the Spurs but just a half game ahead of Oklahoma City and 1.5 games ahead of New Orleans.

Unlike the East, where just six teams currently have winning records, each of the top ten teams in the West is above .500. With winning teams contending to make the Playoffs the play should be much more intense than when losing teams are involved. Simply put, winning teams know how to win.

Of course, when it comes to betting on such teams, often there are opportunities to go against some of these teams at the lower end of the Playoffs. These teams are under the pressure to win and are, in most cases, favored by lines that are often inflated due to the situation.

Often some of these non-contending teams are teams with young talent that starts to gel later in the season. One such team to consider as a “pointspread spoiler” is Minnesota.

The Timberwolves, after making the Kevin Love trade with Cleveland last summer, have a fine collection of young talent that would need time to develop both individually and as a team. At 11-42 Minnesota has the worst record in the Western Conference, second only to New York’s 10-43 record for the worst in the NBA.

At 23-30 ATS, the Timberwolves have been a money losing proposition thus far but there have been recent signs of progress. Since late January, Minnesota is 7-4 ATS. And after not having had back-to-back wins all season at the start of February, the T-Wolves had a three game winning streak, including a home win over Memphis.

Here’s a look at three games for this weekend.

San Antonio at Golden State (Fri.): The defending champions and the wannabe champions meet for the second time this season. The first meeting was back on Nov. 11, also on this court. Golden State was 5-1 after suffering its first loss of the season two nights earlier at Phoenix. The Warriors lost a second straight game as the Spurs, 7.5 point underdogs, won 113-100. The Warriors would not lose again for more than a month. This time Golden State will be rested and catch the Spurs off of a game Thursday night at the Clippers. GOLDEN ST.

Phoenix at Chicago (Sat.): The teams met in late January in Phoenix with the Suns winning at home, 99-93, just barely failing to cover as 7 point chalk. Chicago entered the break in good form, winning four in a row (3-1 ATS). Phoenix was not in good form, losing 5 of 6 and on a 3-8 ATS run. Chicago has dealt with nagging injuries all season and should have benefitted greatly from the extended rest. CHICAGO.

Memphis at Portland (Sun.): Both teams are Division leaders as they meet for the third time. Memphis has won and covered both prior games. Memphis remains a solid defensive team and they entered the All Star break on a streak of four straight UNDERs and a longer run of 11 UNDERs and two OVERs dating back to January 21. Portland has not had any Totals run of note since a 6-1-1 UNDER that centered around the start of 2015. UNDER.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday 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]

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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