West still much the
best after 30 games

Jan 2, 2007 3:47 AM

The NBA season is two months old and most teams have played around 30 games. The West continues to play the better brand of winning basketball and the divisional races are beginning to take shape.

Interestingly, in the Eastern Conference, there are two teams tied for first place in all three divisions as the new year begins.

Detroit and Chicago are tied atop the Central, seven games above break even. Chicago has made a very nice run over the past month after struggling in November.

Washington and Orlando are tied atop the Southeast with each team just four games above .500.

In the woeful Atlantic Division, New Jersey and Toronto are tied for first with records of 13-18. Contrast that to the West where 11 of the 15 teams have better records and Portland has the same 13-18 mark.

Dallas, at 24-7, has the league’s best record and a one game lead over San Antonio in the Southwest Division. The Mavericks also begin the new year riding a 10-game winning streak.

Utah has a 4½ game lead over Denver in the Northwest Division with a 22-9 mark. The Jazz are considered a title dark horse by many observers. Phoenix has a two game edge over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Pacific. The Suns, much like Chicago, have overcome a sluggish early season start to play the kind of basketball expected when training camp broke.

Through the end of 2006 road teams hold a very slight 230-216 pointspread lead over home teams, with 10 pushes. There have been just three more ”˜under’ results than ”˜over’ through 456 games.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Clippers at Wizards (Fri): The Clippers are not enjoying the same degree of success they had last season, but are still a team that has plenty of talent. Washington is improved over last season and star Gilbert Arenas is finally getting the recognition he deserves as one of the NBA’s elite players. Both teams are capable of running the court with each offense clearly the strength. OVER.

Pistons at Bulls (Sat): These long time rivals figure to battle it out all season for Division and Conference supremacy. The Bulls are a team on the rise whereas Detroit appears to have slipped a notch or two from recent seasons. The teams have shown solid play at both ends of the court. The main interest will be how Chicago’s Ben Wallace fares against his former teammates in their first meeting of the season. The preference is for this to be a low scoring game. The Pistons seeks to show Wallace and the Bulls that they are still the team to beat, though likely the underdog in this spot. UNDER.

Warriors at Suns (Sun): Golden State is seeking its first playoff berth in more than a decade. The Warriors are .500 through 32 games with a postseason shot, even in the strong Western Conference. Phoenix is one of the league’s elite teams. Only Dallas has fewer than the Suns eight losses. There has been a sharp contrast in Golden State’s performance at home versus on the road, where the Warriors are just 3-11. At 12-3, only Chicago and Utah have fewer home losses. Both teams like to run the court, but Phoenix does it better. SUNS.