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Heal Dad!

Nov 12, 2002 6:57 AM

   The NBA season is not yet two weeks old and it’s clear the Los Angeles Lakers need Shaquille O’Neal if they are to achieve a fourth straight NBA Championship.

   Kobe Bryant, as talented as he is, cannot carry the Lakers alone, much as many other superstars of past seasons could not do it by themselves (Michael Jordan perhaps the most noteworthy exception). But when teamed with Shaq Daddy the Lakers are an imposing force.

   The longer it takes for Shaq’s injured toe to heal, the longer the Lakers will struggle. Hopefully for us, the Lakers will still be overpriced.

   The Dallas Mavericks are hot and a serious contender to win it all. Owner Mark Cuban has created a very positive work environment and it’s common knowledge throughout the business world that a happy workplace is a productive workplace. In the NBA, productivity is measured by wins.

   Scheduling is a major factor in successfully handicapping the NBA. Linesmakers are aware of long road trips and four games in five night situations. Too much of a point adjustment could work against the house as players who shop for line value are ready to pounce upon lines that dramatically change.

   Watch for spots that feature good rested teams against poor tired teams, especially at the end of a long road trip. Those games often make for blowouts. Conversely, look for poor rested home underdogs catching tired road favorites at the end of a long road trip. Those teams often make for good underdog plays.

   Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

   Mavericks at Celtics (Friday): Red hot and high flying Dallas visits one of the more storied NBA franchises in dead even matchup. Boston’s duo of Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce will be more than happy to run the court with Dallas’ talented roster, led by Michael Finley and Dirk Nowitzky. Boston has placed more of an emphasis on defense in the post-Rick Pitino era but they are more than capable of topping the century mark as well. OVER.

   Hornets at Hawks (Saturday): The Hornets have adapted well to their new home and begin the week having won all four home contests. Atlanta is a fashionable choice to make a major improvement from last season and make the playoffs in a well balanced Eastern Conference. New Orleans is off a revenge game Friday night vs. Chicago while Atlanta is well rested following a West Coast road trip.  The Hawks have not played since Tuesday. ATLANTA (-2).

   Sonics at Clippers (Sunday): Seattle has cooled off lately, following its fast start, with a pair of road losses the past week. The Clippers are starting to play better ball on the road. Their win in Orlando this past Sunday was encouraging. The Sonics are the better team and should be slight favorites in this contest but the Clippers have started to gain more of a following at Staples Center. Andre Miller is providing the kind of leadership to the Clippers that Gary Payton has given Seattle. LA CLIPPERS (+3).

   Last week: 2-1.

   Season: 2-4.