A ‘Brown-out’

Feb 14, 2006 9:17 AM

As the NBA All Star break arrives, things have become quite interesting at the top.

For most of the season the Detroit Pistons have been by far the league’s most dominant team and on pace to match or exceed the all time record for most regular season wins (72), set by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls a decade ago.

Yet following an 11 game winning streak that spanned most of January, Detroit has gone just 4-4. The Pistons still own the league’s best record and a commanding lead (10½ games) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. At 41-9 after Miami’s Dwyane Wade scored the final 17 points to pull out an upset win, Detroit’s lead over San Antonio is just a single game. Dallas is just a game further back.

At the other end of the spectrum is New York. No team has fewer than the 14 wins the Knicks have managed in coach Larry Brown’s first season. Only Charlotte has a lower winning percentage, having played and lost two more games.

The linesmaker has done a very good job in balancing out pointspread wins and losses. No NBA team is hitting 60 percent against the line. Toronto (29-20-2) and Memphis (29-21) have been the most profitable ATS. Seattle (18-32-1) has been the biggest money burner, covering barely more than once every three games.

Both Seattle and the New York Knicks remain strong OVER teams. Excluding pushes, Seattle has seen 70 percent (35-15-1) of its games exceed the total. New York (32-18 OVER) is at 64 percent. Other good OVER plays are Boston (29-21-1) and Charlotte (29-21-2).

No team has gone UNDER at a 60 percent clip. The best in that category are New Jersey (29-20), Houston (29-20-2) and San Antonio (28-19-3).

Sunday’s All Star Game in Houston will present many wagering opportunities. Most sports books will have propositions available in addition to the standard side and total offerings. The number of props won’t come close to approaching the Super Bowl, but still there will be many player vs. player options available. There will be combination props such as total points and rebounds for certain players to exceed or fall below a specified number.

Unlike the Super Bowl when there is almost a two full weeks of shelf life for the props, the NBA All Star props likely won’t become available before Friday at the earliest.

There may be a built in advantage favoring the East. Although league leading Detroit did not place a single player in the starting lineup, four Pistons were selected as reserves. This allows for the possibility that for certain stretches of the game the East will have four fifths of the Pistons lineup on court. That familiarity could create several minute spurts on offense and defense that can extend a lead or narrow a deficit.

Despite the West clearly being the better conference for much of the past decade, the East has pretty much held its own in All Star competition. Their win last season ended a three-season run of West victories, but one came in overtime and another was by 4. The East has won five of the last nine All Star games. EAST +3.

All Star games have tended to be very high scoring with little emphasis or effort placed on defense. Plus, the league likes it that way. The "over / under" is likely to be in the 250 range. The presence of the four Pistons at the same time is more apt to have an effect on the defensive end of the court. UNDER 255.

Last week: 1-2

Season: 19-25-1

With no games being played this weekend here’s a look at the two Thursday contests to mark the figurative midway point of the NBA season.

Sixers at Bulls (Thu): Philadelphia currently holds the eighth playoff seed in the East with the Bulls two games back in ninth. This is the first meeting between the two this season. Allen Iverson is having another solid year for the 76ers. He’s the best player on the court, capable of taking over a game by himself.

Chicago will likely be a small favorite, though just 10-13 SU at United Center. The offenses could struggle as a result of scheduling dynamics. This is just Chicago’s second game home following a seven straight on the road. Philly played host to San Antonio on Wednesday. UNDER.

Rockets at Suns (Thu): Despite the absence all season to injury of one the league’s top five players, Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix has managed to lead the Pacific Division. The Suns have won nearly two of every three games and are on course to be the West’s second seed. They will be strengthened by their star’s return a few weeks following the All Star break.

The Rockets are 6-1 in their last seven games heading into this week, though only one win has been against an above .500 team. Both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady are finally healthy and Houston has fared better away (13-14) than at home. Rockets are rested and catch Phoenix off a Wednesday night road game against the Denver Nuggets. HOUSTON.