Celts, Pistons clear favorites in Eastern Conference

Feb 5, 2008 4:40 AM
2-1 19-20 48.7

Boston and Detroit have established themselves as clearly the two best teams in the NBA East and the favorites to meet for the Eastern Conference title.

The Celtics, Pistons and Magic are the only Eastern teams with winning road records and all are at least eight games above .500.

The West continues to be loaded with outstanding teams. How loaded? Consider that defending Champion San Antonio has a solid 29-16 record yet is seeded sixth in the West. The Houston Rockets are 27-20 yet would not make the playoffs with that winning mark as they are seeded tenth. Ninth seeded Portland is 27-19, good enough to be seeded fourth in the East!

Once again there will be several good teams from the West that will miss the playoffs while there could be multiple teams from the East with losing records to make it to the postseason. What this does is elevate the chances of a team from the East winning the NBA Title.

In the West, the Los Angeles Lakers strengthened their team in recent days with the acquisition of Pau Gasol from Memphis. When the vastly improving Andrew Bynum returns from injury in a month or so the Lakers may well be poised to make a run at the top seed.

Home teams continue to be virtually 50/50 against the point spread more than halfway through the season (343 covers, 341 losses ATS), while winning just under 59 percent of all games straight up. The under holds a 358-330 margin versus the over.

Here’s a look at three games to be played this weekend.

Lakers at Magic (Fri): Orlando won the earlier meeting in LA back in early December. The Lakers are in the midst of a long nine-game road trip that started with a tough one-point loss at Detroit followed by double-digit wins at Toronto and Washington. The Magic should be favored by several buckets, but look for a solid effort from the Lakers against a team that is average at best defensively. LAKERS.

Kings at Warriors (Sat): Sacramento is now at full strength and playing some very good basketball, winning four straight and 7-of-9. Last season the teams played three overs in four meetings. Their only earlier meeting this season was played while the Kings were shorthanded and thus was low scoring. This handicaps as a high scoring and entertaining game. OVER.

Spurs at Celtics (Sun): The Celtics meet the defending NBA champs for the first time this season and should have the recently injured Kevin Garnett back on the court. The Spurs have not played as well on the road (9-11) this season. The Celtics have now won 6-of-8 games. CELTICS.