Check injuries close when betting basketball

Mar 3, 2009 5:05 PM
Bettin’ on B’ball by Andy Iskoe |
last week

Less than two months remain before the NBA playoffs begin so games take on added significance, especially involving a pair of teams vying to qualify or improve their seeding positions.

With the NBA trading deadline having passed, injuries are the major uncertainty teams must contend with down the stretch. With teams having played roughly 60 games, virtually every player has various nicks and bruises. Players may miss a game or two with minor hurts or just be rested, especially in back-to-back game situations.

It’s easy for handicappers and bettors to overreact to injuries but this is often not warranted. In general, the wagering public usually overreacts to injuries to star players and doesn’t react enough to injuries to supporting personnel.

Still, this deep into the season, most teams are able to compensate for the loss of an injured player at least for a game or two. At this stage of the season the game situation may be as important, if not more so, than injury concerns.

The playoff race in the West is rather straightforward with nine teams battling for eight berths. Actually eight teams are vying for seven as the Los Angeles Lakers have a solid 8-game lead over San Antonio for the West’s top seed. The gap between the second seeded Spurs and ninth seeded Phoenix is just 5½ games. Even a two or three game winning or losing streak can have major implications.

The situation in the East is not quite as simple. Boston, Cleveland and Orlando have separated themselves from the remainder of the conference. Cleveland starts the week with a half game edge over Boston for the top seed by virtue of having two fewer losses (12) than the Celtics (14). Orlando is seeded third, 3½ games behind the Cavs but also 10 in front of fourth-seeded Atlanta.

Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee currently are seeded sixth through eighth, but even No. 13 seed New York is just 3½ games out of that eighth and final playoff berth.

Whereas all eight Western Conference teams will make the playoffs with winning records, it is likely that at least one and perhaps as many as three teams in the East will make the postseason with losing marks.

The Western Conference still rates as the better of the two because of the overall quality of teams that will make the playoffs.

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

Cavaliers at Celtics (Fri): The home team has won each of the first two meetings with Boston winning by 5 and the Cavs gaining revenge by 15. Boston’s Kevin Garnett remains out for this contest and Boston has missed his presence, splitting six games. This should be played with playoff intensity. The first two meetings went under the total and this has the makings of being even more of a defensive contest. UNDER.

Pistons at Hawks (Sat): The Pistons ended an 8-game losing streak with road wins at Orlando and Detroit, coinciding with Allen Iverson sitting out both games with injury. Hmmm. After starting the season 6-0 Atlanta is just 27-26 since, losing 4 of 5 entering this week with all five against teams with winning records. Detroit, though clearly in decline, is still a talented team and has a huge experience edge here. PISTONS.

Suns at Spurs (Sun): Phoenix is 6-2 in its last 8 and has become a much more entertaining team since making a coaching change two weeks ago. But only one of the wins (Lakers) has come against a team likely to make the playoffs. The Spurs have won 2 of 3 meetings this season with the road team winning each time. San Antonio’s ability to make key stops and play better defense makes for a favorable situation. SPURS.