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'Beast of East' no longer Celtics

Jan 13, 2009 5:02 PM
Bettin’ on B’ball by Andy Iskoe |
last week

Near the midpoint of the NBA season, the Boston Celtics are no longer the leader atop the Eastern Conference.

Having lost 7 of its last 10 games, the Celtics have slipped to third seed in the East behind both Cleveland and Orlando. Boston’s slump began with the Christmas Day loss at the Los Angeles Lakers. Their only three wins since have been over Sacramento, Washington and Toronto, a trio with a combined 32-80 record!

The Lakers have the best record (30-6) in the NBA, a half-game better than Cleveland.

Home teams have started to perform better against the point spread during the past couple of weeks. So much so that blindly betting road favorites over the course of a season has been now basically just a break even proposition (286-260).

Similarly, totals results are also almost exactly even. The over has a slight 275-271 edge against the under. There have been a half dozen pushes.

It’s essential to demonstrate an ability to win on the road in order to be considered serious contenders.

There are nine Western teams with winning records, including seven that are better than .500 on the road. The East has five. One of those teams (New Jersey) has an overall losing record.

The Nets continue to baffle odds makers and bettors alike with their 8-12 record at home and 10-7 mark on the road. New Jersey’s overall home ATS mark is 8-12. On the road, it’s an outstanding 13-4 ATS. Despite that, the Nets have been underdogs in all 17 road games.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend:

Spurs at Sixers (Fri): The Spurs struggled to a 2-point win over the Sixers in the only meeting, failing to cover as 9-point favorites. I look for San Antonio to be favored by perhaps a bucket or so here. The Spurs hosted the Lakers on Wednesday and could be a bit flat here. Philly will place importance on this game. SIXERS.

Magic at Nuggets (Sat): The Magic have the league’s best road record (14-5) in facing Denver for the first time this season. But this is a tough scheduling spot for the Magic who were in Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Friday night while Denver was idle. The home court has been strong in this series. In each of the past five seasons, the home team has won every game. NUGGETS.

Suns at Raptors (Sun): This is the start of an Eastern road swing for Phoenix, which goes to Boston on Monday. Phoenix has owned Toronto of late, sweeping the two-game series in each of the past four seasons. Even with the coaching change the Suns remain high scoring, having gone over in 14 of the last 19. Toronto is not noted for playing strong defense. The two games last season produced 225 and 259 points. OVER.