It did not have the grandiose billing of Spurs-Warriors II but this past Saturday’s game between San Antonio and Golden State was one of some historical note.
Considered not just the two best teams in the Western Conference but in the entire NBA since the start of the season, the game matched the two best teams in terms of records this deep into the season.
The contest was dramatically different from their only prior meeting this season. On Jan. 25 the Warriors hammered the Spurs 120-90, easily covering as 5 point home favorites and sending a message that they are still the team to beat. On Saturday the Spurs entered the game 34-0 at home and were bet up from 3.5 to 5 point home favorites. Leading virtually wire to wire the Spurs remained perfect at home with a low scoring 87-79 win.
The Warriors have not won a regular season game in San Antonio since 1997 and kept alive the possibility for what would be one of the most remarkable feats in the history of not just the NBA but in all of professional sports. Both San Antonio and Golden State are unbeaten at home with the Warriors 32-0 and the Spurs now 35-0.
But it may not be easy for either or both teams to complete their perfect seasons as they still must host one another over the final week of the season. Golden State hosts the Spurs on April 7 and three nights later the Warriors are in San Antonio.
Because of the timing of those two games extraneous factors may come into play, the most significant of which may be a decision to rest players with the playoffs starting a week later.
Perhaps no potential playoff series in the history of the NBA – including the NBA Finals – is anticipated as much as Warriors vs. Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. In the minds of many such a series would be the de facto NBA Finals with the survivor expected to be a solid favorite to win the title regardless of which team comes out of the East. If that team is other than Cleveland, the Spurs or Warriors could be most heavily favored team to win the NBA title in several decades.
Of course much can happen before we reach that stage of the playoffs and hopefully basketball fans will be spared the loss of any key players due to injury.
For most of the season Cleveland has been the clear favorite to win the Eastern Conference but its lead over Toronto is down to just a single game as of Monday. Cleveland has already clinched a playoff spot and Toronto is on the verge of doing the same. There have been reports recently of some friction in the Cleveland locker room but the Cavs continue to play winning basketball, winning 8 of their last 11.
One team that bears watching – and to consider backing – over the final few weeks is Atlanta. The Hawks, coached by Mike Budenholzer, a disciple of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, seems to have learned well from his mentor.
The Hawks won 60 games last season, Budenholzer’s second as Atlanta coach and represented 22 more wins than in his first season. Seeded first in the East, the Hawks needed six games to get by both Brooklyn and Washington to reach the Conference Finals where they were swept in four games by Cleveland.
Currently seeded third in the East and with a half-game lead over Miami atop the Southeast Division the Hawks are playing their best basketball of the season as the playoffs approach. Following a slump that saw Atlanta go 5-10 from mid-January to just after the All Star break the Hawks have won 10 of their last 12 with 6 of the wins over teams with winning records. And one of the two losses was an overtime loss at Golden State.
Realizing he has a pretty good team, the emphasis appears to be one of doing enough to be in position to both make the playoffs and potentially improving the seeding over the final month of the season, seeking to remain as fresh as possible for a deep playoffs run.
The confidence gained from the Hawks’ performance last season seems to have put this strategy in play for this season.
Prior to the All Star break games were averaging 203.6 total points and there were 383 OVER, 394 UNDER and 14 pushes. Since the break games are averaging 210.5 points with 125 OVER, 113 UNDER and 3 pushes.
The linesmakers have taken note and that is reflected in the adjustments made to the totals line. Prior to the All Star break the totals line averaged 202.7. Since the break that average has increased to 209.9.
As has been the case in most sports over the past decade adjustments are being made far quicker with major factors being the combination of technology and information dissemination.
For many years the edge enjoyed by handicappers and bettors was in the uncovering of information and its relationship to pointspread winners. That edge has now shifted to how that information is being utilized with the result being betting markets that have been more volatile than at any time in the past.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Dallas at Golden State (Friday): The price will be high but bear in mind Golden State has 27 more wins than the Mavericks and appear to be back in rhythm as they prepare for the Playoffs. GOLDEN STATE.
San Antonio at Oklahoma City (Saturday): OKC last played Thursday and have not played back to back nights in a week, giving the situational edge to the hosts. Given Spurs Coach Popovich’s proclivity to rest players as the playoffs approach, The Thunder are likely to come in as a small favorite. OKLAHOMA CITY.
Houston at Indiana (Sunday): Overall Houston has faced a tougher schedule and catches Indiana off a game in Brooklyn on Saturday while they last played at home on Friday. HOUSTON.
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. Email: [email protected]