Road victories play large early

Nov 15, 2005 5:39 AM

The NBA season is six games old for most teams and Detroit is the only one still unbeaten.

The Pistons have won all six of their early season contests with four coming on the road. Victories away from home are always tough in the NBA, perhaps more difficult than in any other sport due to the travel grind and proximity of fans to the playing area.

Road triumphs are also the sign of teams that are legitimate contenders since so few can fashion winning records outside their friendly confines. It’s still too early to draw any conclusions, but we recommend paying attention to teams able to win away from home early in the season.

Toronto remains the NBA’s lone winless team. The Raptors lack a real identity and their early season woes are compounded by the fact five of the six losses have been at home. But, they are not a lock to finish last in the Atlantic Division. Only one other team in the league has less than two wins — Larry Brown’s New York Knicks.

New York finally got its first win of the season Sunday night in Sacramento. Whereas Toronto’s early season failure is likely to continue well into the season, we can expect Brown’s proven track record of turning around down franchises to result in improved efforts and results from the Knicks.

There may actually be value in backing the Knicks in the short run as the public sours on New York and doubts Brown’s ability to work his magic in his hometown. But his record is such that a turnaround from New York’s early season travails is more likely.

Last week: 1-2

Season: 3-3

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

Magic at Cavs (Fri): Cleveland won in overtime in Orlando on Sunday and still managed to cover the six point impost. This matchup is more likely to find the Cavs as a double digit favorite. Last Sunday’s game started slow, but managed to climb above the posted total thanks to the five minute overtime which produced 32 points. That pace was more in line with the results of last season when three of the four games exceeded the total. That pace is likely to be forced here by the hosts. OVER.

Suns at Spurs (Sat): This is the teams’ first meeting since San Antonio ousted Phoenix in five games in last season’s playoffs after the Suns earned the top Western seed. The Suns are without several key components of last season’s team after trading away Joe Johnson in the offseason and losing Amare Stoudamire to injury in the preseason. San Antonio has bolstered its roster since last season and will be heavily favored. The defensive intensity should take a toll on the Suns, who hosted Utah a night earlier while the Spurs were idle. SPURS.

Blazers at Knicks (Sun): The Knicks almost got their initial win of the season last Wednesday, but blew a double digit lead in Portland. After winning in Sacramento the Knicks ended their road trip with games at the Lakers and in Denver before returning home. This is the first game following that lengthy road trip. Portland begins its own road trip after having hosted Golden State on Friday night. Both teams figure to be fatigued, compounded by the early start time. UNDER.