High drama means low score

Apr 9, 2002 6:55 AM

Over the final week of the regular season there are two types of games ”” meaningful and meaningless. Obviously teams out of playoff contention are involved in the meaningless games.

Coaches of these teams often will allot additional playing time to the younger players and those close to fulfilling contract incentives. The level of intensity is low and defense often disappears.

Meaningful games are those in which at least one team is playing to qualify for the playoffs or to improve seeding. Such games may be played in a playoff style atmosphere with deliberate coaching moves and player rotations.

These games are often low scoring, which is in line with what occurs in the postseason. Playoff scoring is down significantly compared to the regular season.

Many tight races remain before the regular season ends April 17. Sacramento is in excellent position to log the league’s best record and earn the home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Kings began the week with a 4½-game edge over Dallas but both San Antonio and the Lakers still have a shot. Sacramento is also on the verge of clinching the ­­Pacific title over the Lakers.

New Jersey is about to win the Atlantic Division and Detroit is about to clinch the Central. The Nets lead the Pistons by just 2½ games for the top seed in the East. But, as has been the case for the past several seasons, the strength of the NBA lies in the West.

All four of the top teams in the West have better records than New Jersey. Utah, the team currently seeded eighth, would have the fourth best record in the weaker East.

Last week overall straight-up results were presented that showed no bias at all in the performance of home and road teams and the Over/Under results. Looking at the home/road pointspread results shows the lack of a bias as well.

The linesmaker has done an outstanding job of balancing things out. Through this past weekend, Home Favorites had a pointspread record of 371 covers, 386 pointspread losses and 14 pushes while Home Underdogs were a remarkably balanced 153-154-8 against the spread.

Home teams were 12-6 in games when the closing line was a pick’em. Wagering is never an easy exercise but with this balance, the handicapper needs to look even deeper within the numbers to find some edges.

Here’s a look at three of the more meaningful games to be played this weekend.

Friday, April 12

Spurs at Pistons: Both teams are playoff-bound and will be highly seeded. San Antonio relies on a strong inside game with Tim Duncan and David Robinson while Detroit’s strength is defense and the increasingly unselfish play of Jerry Stackhouse. San Antonio won the earlier meeting this season at home in early January. With both teams believing they are legitimate ­­title contenders, this game should feature more intensity than many late season games. That usually points to a defensive struggle. Take UNDER.

Saturday, April 13

Mavs at Sonics: Dallas has one of the NBA’s top offenses but also sports one of the worst defenses. The Mavs employ their fast-paced tempo to boost two of every three games OVER the total points. In fact, all three meetings between these teams this season have gone OVER with the loser topping 100 in two of the games. Both teams have multiple options on offense and this should again be an entertaining high scoring contest. Take OVER.

Sunday, April 14

76ers at Magic: Philadelphia has had to play without starting guard Allen Iverson down the stretch and his absence has resulted in the 76ers’ inability to establish any home court dominance. Orlando has played very well at home but struggles on the road, as is typical of most mid-level playoff teams. Orlando’s Tracy McGrady is the best player in this game and has enough support to rate the Magic a solid edge. Orlando has won all three previous meetings and is likely to be a 4-6 point favorite. The history and the situation favors the home team. Take MAGIC.