Without Allen, Celtics remain hot

December 18, 2007 4:55 AM
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LAST WK  SEASON PCT
2-1 7-11 38.9

The NBA season is a week older and yet the main story remains the same. The Boston Celtics continue to fashion the league’s best record, 20-2, and begin this week on a nine-game winning streak.

And the two most recent wins came with only two thirds of their tremendously talented trio on the court. Ray Allen has been sidelined with a sore ankle, leaving Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to lead the Celtics.

What may surprise many is that the Celtics are playing outstanding defense and are leading the NBA in allowing the fewest points per game.

And by a rather significant margin!

Through their first 22 games (more than a quarter of the season) Boston is allowing a measly 86.5 points per game. That is nearly five points less than the second stingiest team, Detroit (allowing 91.2 ppg).

Boston has played 14 OVERs and 8 UNDERs thus far, but the recent trends have been to the UNDER. Seven of Boston’s nine most recent games have gone UNDER with 6 of the 7 going UNDER by more than 5 points.

A pair of teams that struggled early have started to play exceptionally well in recent weeks. Golden State started the season by losing their first six games, but has gone 13-5 since. Portland has been streaky, losing its first three games and then winning four straight before losing 9 of 10. The Trailblazers begin this week riding a seven-game winning streak.

More than 350 games have been played thus far and we have started to see a divergence in OVER/UNDER results. Through Sunday there have been 183 UNDERs and 164 OVERs (with 6 PUSHes). Home and road teams have each covered 174 games (with 5 PUSHes) and both favorites and underdogs are almost exactly even.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Jazz at Magic (Fri): Both teams have faded somewhat following strong starts to their seasons yet neither would appear to have any concerns about not being playoff teams. Orlando continues to be led by Dwight Howard, who is quickly becoming a top five player. Utah is just 5-9 on the road. Surprisingly Orlando has played just .500 basketball at home. Utah’s better pedigree from the much better Western conference makes for an attractive play as a small underdog. JAZZ.

Raptors at Suns (Sat): Phoenix is rested after having last played on Wednesday while Toronto travels from Seattle following Friday night’s game. The teams met in Toronto earlier this month with Phoenix winning a high scoring game 136-123, going OVER the total by a whopping 53 points. The UNDER is 8-4 in Toronto’s last 12 games. UNDER.

Rockets at Pistons (Sun): Houston won the earlier meeting at home last week, 80-77, pushing as a 3-point home favorite. Houston’s Tracy McGrady has missed only two games so the team’s sluggish start can’t be attributed to his absence. Houston has gone 8-2-1 to the UNDER of late. Detroit is second in the league in fewest points allowed. The result of the first game likely means the totals line will be below that game’s 186. UNDER.