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Will somebody show Orlando some love?

Jan 20, 2009 5:04 PM
Bettin’ on B’ball by Andy Iskoe |
last week

Most teams will pass the halfway point of the 82-game regular season over the course of this week. Boston, Cleveland and Orlando are clearly the best in the East.

The three teams are within just a half game of one another as the week begins. There is huge drop to fourth-seeded Atlanta, 8½ games out. The Hawks are only a game ahead of Detroit and another half-game up on Miami for the 4, 5 and 6 seeds.

Philadelphia is currently seeded No. 7 with seven more teams within 3½ games of one another for the eighth and final seed.

The Western Conference is much more one sided at the top. The Los Angeles Lakers are a full five games ahead of co-second seeds, San Antonio and Denver. New Orleans is just a game back in fourth and there is actually just a 3½-game gap between the No. 2 and 9 seeds.

With tenth seeded Minnesota a full 10 games behind ninth seeded Dallas, there are realistically nine teams battling for eight playoff spots.

One team to keep an eye on (and perhaps make a futures wager on) is Orlando. The Magic, currently priced in the 15-1 to 20-1 range, have played well ever since dropping their first two games of the season. Orlando is 33-6 since that start. Yet they play in the shadows of Boston and Cleveland Cavaliers and fall under the radar of all but the most astute observers, handicappers and bettors.

At 28-12-1 ATS (+14.8 net units) the Magic are just a tenth of a unit behind Cleveland (27-11 ATS, +14.9 net units) as the most profitable team this season. Only two other teams are profiting by more than 5 net units (Milwaukee at +8.4 and Oklahoma City at +8.5).

Through Sunday, Boston has produced neither a profit nor a loss for their backers as they stand 22-20 ATS. Actually the fact that the Celtics have not produced a losing pointspread record is impressive considering that the defending NBA champions are such a public team.

Only 10 of the NBA’s 30 teams are showing a net profit thus far while 19 teams are showing a loss. The biggest loser has been Phoenix with its 13-25 ATS mark (-14.5 net units). The Suns are the only team showing a net loss in excess of 10 units. Detroit, Toronto and Washington are down slightly more than 8 net units each.

Things do have a tendency to even out over a full season so we might see Cleveland, Orlando, Milwaukee and Okie City overpriced and the Suns, Pistons, Raptors and Wizards undervalued in the coming weeks as a correction takes place.

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

Mavericks at Pistons (Fri): First meeting. Last season the home team won both games. The season before the road teams won both. A season earlier both teams won at home. Before that, both road teams won. The teams have almost identical records, both are aging and most experts agree their days of being title contenders are in the past. Detroit figures to be a small favorite. Both meetings each of the past two seasons have gone below the total. UNDER.

Cavaliers at Jazz (Sat): Cleveland won and covered the earlier meeting 105-93 at home in mid-November. The Cavs are without key contributor Delonte West for perhaps a month or more and are still without center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Cavs are a perfect 20-0, but just 11-7 on the road. Utah is a solid 16-4 at home and has adjusted to the loss of Carlos Boozer to injury. The Jazz are well rested while Cleveland is playing its third game in four nights. JAZZ

Spurs at Lakers (Sun): This is a quick rematch of the game last Wednesday won by San Antonio 112-111. The Lakers covered as small 2½ point underdogs and figure to be favored by a couple of buckets here. Both teams are well rested. The Lakers won 6 of 9 meetings last season including knocking the Spurs from the playoffs. The previous game this season went flying over the total, in sharp contrast to last season when 7 of the 9 went below the total. UNDER.