Heat lacking
a pilot light

Nov 28, 2006 6:47 AM

On the first night of the NBA season, the Chicago Bulls went into Miami and laid a 108-66 whipping on the defending champion Heat. Not much was made of that.

At the time, it explained away Miami’s inept performance as an understandable sign of complacency following a title season. Just one of 82 games, the Heat are now the hunted, Chicago wanted to send a message etc.

Given the slow start since then by the Bulls, perhaps that result said even more about Miami. The Heat have struggled over the season’s first month and begin this week at 5-8 with star center Shaquille O’Neal again sidelined by injury.

The sensational Dwyane Wade will be called upon to carry even more of the load in Shaq’s absence but Miami is fortunate to play in the weaker Eastern Conference where only Orlando, Detroit and Cleveland have winning records!

Utah (12-2) continues to have the best overall mark in the NBA with San Antonio (11-3) a close second. Overall there are 10 teams in the West with winning records and another two sitting at .500.

Road teams continue to be a profitable wager, covering 104-of-196 decisions (53 percent) with 3 pushes. Most of that success lies with road underdogs. At 82-66-3, the road pups are cashing at a 55.4 percent pace. The ”˜under’ holds a slim 99-95-4 edge.

Bulls at Hornets (Fri): There are grumblings of discontent between Bulls coach Scott Skiles and several of his teammates. After signing Big Ben Wallace in the offseason, the Bulls were a fashionable choice to win the East. Not now. The opposite is true of the vagabond Hornets, at 8-6 with second season pro Chris Paul taking a leadership role on the floor. Sharp bettors have taken note. HORNETS.

Kings at Spurs (Sat): The Spurs start this week just 4-3 at home, while winning all seven road games. Sacramento has started 7-5 in what appears to be a much better Pacific Division. The Spurs won 10 days ago at Sacramento 108-99. Look for this game to be played more in line with the pace of the defensively strong Spurs. UNDER.

Magic at Clips (Sun): The Clips have faded a bit over the past week. The Clips have dropped four straight, but those losses were on the road. At home, they are 6-1. Orlando has also enjoyed a strong home court, winning 7-of-8 at home, while splitting their six road games. The Clippers took both meetings last season, but the Magic are improved team this season with more scoring options. Both teams are capable of running the court and neither plays outstanding defense. Styles of both suggest a high scoring game. OVER