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Negative scheduling costs
NBA’s superior teams

Dec 23, 2003 6:16 AM

More than a quarter of the way into the NBA, most teams have played at least 10 games at home and on the road and have had several lengthy home stands and road trips.

The NBA season is a grind and even more demanding than major league baseball even though the baseball season plays twice as many games. Travel is much more demanding in the NBA and the physical energy exerted by its athletes in two and a half hours is much more intense than what a major leaguer must exert in a more leisurely paced game.

Consequently scheduling dynamics play a huge role in handicapping the NBA. It is not uncommon for a team to give completely opposite efforts in back to back games regardless of the quality of opponent. Sure, there are always extremes with the top teams almost always playing their best ball and the weakest teams almost always fading in the fourth quarter.

There are exceptions to these extremes, but the vast middle class of the NBA (20 to 25 teams) will exhibit fluctuations in performance on a regular basis. By looking at how these teams perform at home versus the road and with rest versus no rest enables us to isolate situations for better or worse than usual performances.

In most cases the astute handicapper will try to isolate negative situations for the good teams and positive situations for the bad. This almost always results in taking points with an underdog. Isolating negative situations may be even more profitable since looking for positive situations still requires that shots get made. That is not always something you hope to rely upon with bad teams.

Such plays are often "against" good teams in negative situations.

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

Kings at Warriors (Fri): Dallas is off a Christmas Day game against Dallas while Golden State is rested following a Tuesday home game that followed an East Coast trip. The Warriors begin the week at .500 and appear to be an improved team despite significant personnel changes from last season. Sacramento won the first meeting by a bucket last month as a double-digit favorite. The Warriors will be motivated for a good effort here and catch the Kings in a negative scheduling situation. GOLDEN ST.

Nets at Pacers (Sat): Both teams played on the road Friday night. Indiana won an earlier meeting as a road underdog. The Pacers continue to set the pace in the Eastern Conference. The Nets have climbed to .500 and playing better basketball over the past two weeks. Indiana’s Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal are matched by the Nets’ Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin. The deciding factor may be the presence of New Jersey’s Jason Kidd. The overall talent is even and scheduling dynamics give neither team an edge. The underdog is worth the look. NEW JERSEY.

Celtics at Lakers (Sun): These teams that provided so many thrills for NBA fans in the 1960’s and 1980’s have had vastly different levels of success in the past decade. The Lakers have three NBA titles in the past four seasons. Boston has made the playoffs just three times in the past 10 seasons. The trade sending Ricky Davis to Boston adds scoring punch lost when Antoine Walker was dealt to Dallas. The Lakers have plenty of scoring options with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Karl Malone and a capable bench. This should be a fast paced, high scoring contest even though it will be reflected in the line. OVER.

Last week: 1-2

Season: 17-6