West still king, but Hawks flying up the chart

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Although the NBA All Star game is Feb. 15, the mathematical halfway point has already arrived. More than half of the 30 teams have already played at least 41 of their 82-game season and by the end of the weekend all will have.

There really is no winter equivalent of the “dog days of summer” fatigue baseball experiences, but monotony does kick in on the hardwood. Teams will put forth lethargic efforts between now and the end of February when the race to make the playoffs or to improve positioning re-energizes much of the league’s teams.

The first half of the season gives us a good indication of which teams are likely to make or miss the playoffs and can point to potential favorable (or unfavorable) wagering opportunities over the coming weeks.

The surprising Atlanta Hawks are threatening to make a runaway in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. At 32-8 Atlanta has a 5-game lead over Washington (28-13) and enters the week having won 12 straight games (11-0-1 ATS). Dating back to Nov. 28, the Hawks have won 26 of their last 28.

Toronto and Chicago are tied for the third and fourth seeds, 1.5 games behind the Wizards. Then there is another significant gap to fifth seed Milwaukee. Although a five-game gap is not incapable of being overcome, there is great incentive for those top four seeds to maintain or extend their margin, having home court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

Rounding out the final three Eastern seeds are Cleveland, Miami and Brooklyn.

Both Miami and Brooklyn have losing records and there are four other teams within 2.5 games of the eighth seeded Nets. The most “dangerous” may be Detroit.

Since trading away Josh Smith the Pistons have gone 11-2 SU and 10-2-1 ATS. First season head coach Stan van Gundy has been successful in prior stints at Miami and Orlando and can be expected to have the Pistons continue to show improvement over the second half of the season. While unlikely to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs, should they qualify, the Pistons could be a team to pull off an upset, barring key extended injuries.

In the Western Conference, Golden State has been the leading team since the season began. Despite their NBA-best 32-6 record, the Warriors have just a 3.5 game lead for the top seed. Portland sits second, a half-game ahead of Memphis.

As has been the case for a decade, the power in the NBA is heavily tilted west of the Mississippi. Whereas just four East teams start the week 10 games or more above .500, the 26-16 San Antonio Spurs are currently seeded seventh in the West. Houston and Dallas are tied for the fourth and fifth seeds at 28-13 apiece, followed by the sixth seeded Los Angeles Clippers.

Phoenix, at 24-18, would be seeded fifth in the East. And whereas the current 7 and 8 seeds in the East, Miami and Brooklyn, have losing records; New Orleans and Oklahoma City, both 20-20, are 3 games behind Phoenix.

Here’s a look at four games to be played this weekend.

OKC at Atlanta (Fri.): Atlanta is in the midst of a 7-game home stand as they catch Oklahoma City in the fourth of a 5-game road trip that ends Sunday as they meet for the first time this season. Atlanta remains the hottest team in the league dating back two months. OKC had to overcome the absence of both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the start of the season.

After a 7-game winning streak at the start of December, the Thunder have been basically mediocre going 8-7 SU over the past month while not winning or losing more than two straight games during this stretch. The Hawks start the week having gone 11-0-1 ATS, which includes 7 games as underdogs or as favorites of 4 points or less. ATLANTA.

Washington at Portland (Sat.): Portland has been one of the best teams in the NBA but started this week on an 0-3 SU and ATS streak. The Wizards finished their first half at 28-13. With John Wall and Bradley Beal the Wizards have one of the best backcourts in the league and one that has yet to hit its prime.

Washington has a winning road record both SU (11-8) and ATS (10-9). They are the fresher team and match up nicely. Playing in Denver on Sunday makes this actually the more favorable spot for the better effort. WASHINGTON.

Miami at Chicago (Sun.): Miami remains a team in transition following the departure of LeBron James and an aging roster while Chicago continues to battle nagging injuries on virtually a daily basis. The Bulls had the better first half and at 27-15 are in a virtual tie with Toronto for the East’s No. 3 seed. Miami is four games below .500 and seeded 7.

The teams have met just once this season with Chicago winning 93-75 at Miami in mid-December. That game stayed well UNDER the 193.5 total. That result may keep the total for this game deflated despite Chicago scoring higher than expected this season, especially at home. The Bulls are 16-5-1 to the OVER, including 6-2 in 2015. OVER.

Last Week: 2-1

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]

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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