Boston still showing the way

Jan 22, 2008 5:40 AM

The NBA season is approaching the halfway point with the All Star game just a few weeks away.

With almost three months of play complete we have a pretty good idea of the teams that are contenders both for the playoffs and the NBA Title.

Boston continues to have the best record in the league despite three recent losses within the past two weeks.

At 32-6 the Celtics have six fewer losses than the quintet of teams with the next fewest losses (12). Of those five, only Detroit is in the Eastern Conference. Out West, it’s Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans and Phoenix.

The Celtics hold the top seed in the East with a 4½-game lead over Detroit. Nine games back is Orlando, leaders of the Southeast Division.

A total of just six teams have winning records in the East, with Atlanta and New Jersey holding down the seventh and eighth seeds.

It’s far different in the West, where 10 teams have winning records. Houston’s 21-19 record is good for seventh in the East, a half game out of sixth.

In the West, the Rockets are on the outside looking in — three games behind eighth-seeded Golden State and 1½ games behind ninth seeded Utah.

Of course most teams have nearly 40 games remaining and much can and will change over the next three months.

But it’s not too early to include in your handicapping the relative importance of games based upon positions in the standings.

Road teams enjoy a very slight edge over home teams in covering the spread through nearly 600 games.

The under holds a 303-282 edge with nine pushes. The average total points scored in games this season has been 197.7.

Home Underdogs, long the favored play of the so-called "sharps," are a disappointing and non-profitable 88-92-4 ATS this season.

Overall, home teams are winning by an average of 2.9 points per game but there are many one sided decisions in the NBA.

Home teams’ average margin of victory has been 12 points in 347 wins. Interestingly, when the road team has won their average margin has been 9.8 points in 247 wins.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Suns at Cavs (Fri): These teams met in the season’s first week with Phoenix winning at home by 11, covering the 7-point spread. The Suns are the deeper, more talented team.

But Cleveland has LeBron James, the best player on the court. Phoenix is playing its third game in four nights as part of a road trip, but will still be comfortable in forcing an up-tempo pace. OVER.

Hornets at Spurs (Sat): The Spurs are still one of the best teams in the NBA but have battled several key injuries. Both teams stress defense as the keys to their success. The stellar backcourt matchup of Tony Parker (Spurs) and Chris Paul (Hornets) should make this a well-played game.

But there is more to New Orleans than just Paul. Getting more than a couple of buckets makes the Hornets attractive. HORNETS.

Celts at Magic (Sun): Orlando dealt Boston their first loss of the season back in mid November. The Celtics avenged that defeat with a 103-91 home win in late December.

Boston has been vulnerable of late, but should be fresher. Orlando should have been in a more physically demanding game in Detroit. Boston should be a small favorite and can come up big. CELTICS.