Celts fit into New England’s success

November 27, 2007 6:00 AM
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LAST WK  SEASON PCT
2-1 5-4 55.0

New England is the place to be in 2007.

Their sports teams are dominating the sports landscape. Boston’s Red Sox won a second World Series title in four seasons and the Patriots are on the verge of perfection and a fourth Super Bowl title this decade.

Lost in headlines has been the start of the NBA season for the Boston Celtics. Their dramatic last second win in Charlotte on Saturday night improved the record to a league best 11-1, answering even more questions about how the highly regarded trio of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce would mesh together on the same court on the same team.

As impressive as the Celtics have been in getting off to a fast start has been their play on defense. Boston is allowing under 90 points per game through their first dozen games and are looking very much like the contender they have been thought to be since making those off season acquisitions.

Of course it’s a long season and injuries have yet to become a factor. But based on early returns, fans in the northeastern most part of the country have yet another reason to be excited about their sports teams.

If Boston College gets by Virginia Tech in college football this weekend and plays in a major BCS bowl one can only wonder if those passionate fans will ever shut up. Hope you don’t mind the sound of New England accents!

The Celtics are not the only team off to a strong start, although only Orlando (12-3) is in the East. San Antonio and Phoenix have each lost just twice while Dallas, New Orleans and Utah are also winning better than two of every three games.

It should also be noted that the Milwaukee Bucks are off to a surprisingly solid start at 7-4 and tied with Detroit atop the Central Division. The season is still taking shape and it won’t be until the end of the calendar year before we start having a sense of the truly good and bad teams in the league.

If you are a fan of Miami or Chicago, you have reasons to be concerned. Chicago has started 2-10 and Miami 3-10. Both were in the playoffs last season and expected to return.

Yes, it is still early but losing often begets more losing. A negative attitude sets in along with decreasing confidence and changes made out of panic.

Keep an eye on both teams over the next few weeks with a reluctance to back either team even in favorable situations. Stay away until the Heat and Bulls start stringing two or three wins together. Because of their high visibility and recent success, both teams are likely to be overvalued even when playing poorly. Before getting back on either team, have them give you reasons why they should be backed.

Through this past Sunday, home favorites are a solid 69-56 against the point spread (55 percent). Often this means that a short term correction is on the horizon and that road underdogs should be sought.

The lines maker seeks to achieve point spread balance across the board.

Home underdogs are 34-31-2 and there have been almost as many games go OVER (94) as UNDER (98) along with four pushes.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Cavs at Raptors (Fri): Cleveland came from behind to defeat Toronto at home 111-108 last Saturday, barely failing to cover the 4½ point line. The Cavs have started slowly, going just 8-6 over nearly four weeks of the season. Toronto has not fared any better at 7-7. Cleveland’s LeBron James is having a solid start and will be the best player on the court. The Raptors are likely to be short favorites, but have won just 3-of-7 home games. Cleveland has gone 5-3 on the road. CAVS.

Mavs at Hornets (Sat: Both teams are off to fine starts and begin the week tied in the standings behind San Antonio. Each has a talented roster and has gotten excellent backcourt play. New Orleans point guard Chris Paul is a star on the rise. Dallas has been more of an uptempo team than New Orleans. Three of the four meetings last season went UNDER. New Orleans will try to turn this into more of a half court game. UNDER.

Magic at Lakers (Sun): Orlando has been an early season surprise, going 7-1 on the road. The Magic have already opened a five game lead in their division. The Lakers have started 7-6 and did win both meetings with the Magic last season. The Lakers have the best player on the court, Kobe Bryant, but Orlando may have the more complete team from top to bottom. Plus, the Lakers have injury concerns. Orlando has a winnable game on Monday at Golden State and could concede here if they fall too far behind in the third quarter. The Lakers should be favored by a bucket or less. LAKERS.