As football winds down the NBA prepares to become the center of the professional sports world. Approaching the mathematical midpoint of its season, teams will play game 41 within the next two weeks.
Three teams have covered at least 60 percent of their games. Oklahoma City has been the most profitable team to date, going 24-12 ATS (66.7 percent). Boston is next at 20-12-2 (62.5 percent) with Miami at exactly 60 percent (21-14-1).
The worst pointspread teams that have cashed less than 40 percent of the time are San Antonio (13-21-1 ATS, 38.2 percent) and Detroit and Portland (both at 14-22-1, 38.9 percent).
The other 24 teams are all withing the range of 40 percent to 60 percent covers. Overall, through Monday, 18 teams — 60 percent of the league — are withing three games or less of .500 in terms of point spread records.
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Which brings up the topic of streaks and how to approach them. I’ll have more on this topic in coming weeks but nature of using streaks as part of our handicapping and betting toolbox has changed in recent seasons in the NBA.
In this context I am referring to teams on winning or losing streaks straight up or against the spread, not those involving totals. In past seasons winning streaks were usually signs of teams gelling, getting hot and generally playing through or without key injuries. Losing streaks would often occur when teams were dealing with injuries, enduring disharmony in the locker room or other off-court issues and tinkering with lineups and rotations.
From a betting perspective a key was identifying a streak in its very early stages and riding it for a period of time.
In the modern NBA streaks are much more difficult to gauge with the increasingly popular concept of “load management.” Resting players has a higher priority than current momentum as coaches look at “the big picture” of not wearing down players so as to be fresh for key late season games and the playoffs.
Consideration of streaks has long been a part of my handicapping process but more as a secondary factor. It’s not just important to be aware of streaks but to also be aware that streaks are factored into the point spread.
My approach in recent seasons has been in dealing with how to react once a streak has ended, especially when good teams have been on losing streaks (both SU and ATS) and when bad teams have enjoyed short-term success.
It all revolves around the concept that suggests over the course of a full season most teams will finish around .500 ATS with only a handful of teams at the extremes. I’ll discuss this topic further next week.
Spurs at Grizzlies: The Spurs remain a team in transition yet will be motivated to extend their streak of consecutive playoff appearances to 23. Currently sitting eighth in the West they’ve have played better of late, winning 8 of 14 since early December following a 7-14 start. On Monday they blew out the Bucks 126-104.
Memphis is a game behind the Spurs and is also playing better, going 9-6 after starting 6-16. The Grizzlies have won four of their last five home games and have played well on this court against several strong teams with wins over Utah and Miami and losses by 1 to the Lakers and 2 to the Clippers.
These teams meet for the third time this season with the road team winning the first two. The most recent meeting was here just before Christmas with the Spurs blowing out Memphis as short 1- point favorites. They’re likely to be favored by more than that here. Memphis has an extra day of rest and catches the Spurs off a Wednesday game in Boston that followed the Milwaukee win, creating a letdown spot. GRIZZLIES
76ers at Mavericks: These teams met three weeks ago in Philly with Dallas winning 117-98 as 8.5 point road dogs.
Dallas has been a nice surprise this season. Projected ninth in the West with a Season Wins Total of 42.5, the Mavs are 23-13 through Monday and tied for second with an average margin of plus 7.4 points per game. Interestingly they’ve played better on the road (12-5) than at home (11-8).
Philly is also 10 games over .500 (24-14) but has the typical home/road profile with a 17-2 mark at home compared to just 7-12 on the road. Dallas plays the final game of a six-game homestand after hosting the Lakers Friday night. The 76ers hosted Boston in a key divisional game on Thursday.
Philly has battled injuries with Joel Embiid currently playing through an injured finger. Dallas’ Luka Doncic missed only four games with an ankle injury and has been brilliant in his return, topping 30 points in his last four games. But they face a Philly team seeking revenge and do so after what was likely a tough game against the Lakers 24 hours earlier. 76ERS
Clippers at Nuggets: Both teams were 14 games over .500 through Monday as they meet for the first time this season. In their first season with the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have meshed well, averaging a combined 48.8 points, 13.6 boards and 8.8 assists per game.
Denver’s scoring is more balanced with five players each averaging over 30 minutes and between 11 and 19 points per game.
The Clippers should be fresh as they play just their second game since last Sunday. Denver is off a Saturday game on this court against Cleveland but won’t play next until Wednesday. Both teams have been strong ‘over’ teams for the past three and a half weeks with Denver 10-2 to the Over and the Clippers 9-3. None of those two dozen games needed overtime to cash the tickets. OVER
Last week: 2-1