300 games done, West
dominates East

Dec 12, 2006 6:54 AM

Nearly 300 games have been played in the young NBA season, representing nearly a quarter of the schedule.

While it’s still too early to sort out the contenders from the pretenders we can already see which teams have made the greatest strides since the start of the season and which may be set up for a decline in the coming weeks and months.

One thing that remains abundantly clear is how much better the teams are in the Western Conference than the East. Collectively the West teams are 74-38 against the East (66 percent) and only Memphis and Portland have losing records.

Phoenix and the Los Angeles Clippers are a combined 9-0 against the East and Houston is 9-1 out of conference.

Nine of the 15 Western teams have winning records, compared to just three in the East. Another two are at .500. All five teams in the East’s Atlantic Division are playing losing basketball with last place Philadelphia (5-14) just two games behind division leader New Jersey (7-12).

Of the three winning teams in the East, Orlando is 7-2 against Western Conference teams and Cleveland is 4-1. Perennial Eastern power Detroit, however, has won just 4-of-9 against the West.

This imbalance of power can actually provide some value in playing Eastern teams against the spread when facing teams from the West. Because of the imbalance on the court and the attention it will continually receive in the media, lines are likely to be inflated by a couple of points.

Things tend to even out over the course of the season so the on the court imbalance should reverse itself in the coming weeks, or at least not grow at the same rapid rate. The linesmaker will make the public pay to back the West and ultimately those lines will be a bit too high. That could cause the results to level off.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Rockets at Lakers (Fri): Houston has played some of the best basketball in the league over the first six weeks of the season as both Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming have remained healthy. As has been the case for Jeff van Gundy coached teams, it all starts with focus on the defensive end of the court.

The Lakers are off strong, largely due to an overabundance of home games. Kobe Bryant has become more of an on the court leader and is more trusting in his teammates than in the past. First meeting this season. In three games last year, only once did either team top 90 points. UNDER.

Pistons at Nets (Sat): Six weeks into the season, only Detroit has shown any semblance of a team likely to content for a deep run. At 13-7 the Pistons are second to only Orlando for best record in the East. New Jersey does lead the Atlantic, but with the lousy record of 7-12.

Detroit has played a slew of low scoring games, whereas the Nets have been involved in more ”˜under’ than ”˜over’ results This is the first meeting of this season. In last season’s four games, none topped 176 total points. UNDER.

Jazz at Pacers (Sun): Indiana is one of just five East teams at or above .500, further testament to a deeper decline in Eastern Conference basketball. Utah got off to a sizzling start, but the Jazz have cooled of late, going 6-4 after starting 9-1. Most of Utah’s success has come at home. The Jazz are just 5-4 on the road.

Indiana shows a strong home/road divergence, going 6-2 at Conseco. The Pacers actually swept the two game series last season, winning comfortably by 24 at Utah and 10 at home. In fact, the Pacers have won the last seven meetings between the teams, dating back to the 02-03 season. History is on the side of Indiana and the Pacers catch Utah in the first of a five-game in seven days road trip. PACERS.