NBA: Zig-zag trend does apply

Apr 20, 2004 6:51 AM

Form held up totally in the opening games of the NBA playoffs as all eight home teams won with six covering the pointspread.

Only Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers won tight games with their victories each coming by two points.

For those readers familiar with the "zig zag" theory of NBA playoffs handicapping the play in Game 2 of each series will be on the underdog.The Gold Sheet popularized the "zig zag" theory a number of years ago and it has performed well historically. Simply put your bet on the straight up loser of a playoff game in its next game.

The theory makes sense on several levels including that the loser of a game is more likely to make adjustments in their next game than is the winner.

Most teams don’t like to get swept in a series either which means we could have several chances to play home underdogs in Games 3 and 4 of a series if those teams are down 0-2 returning home or drop Game 3 at home.

You can make a nice profit by playing straight-up losers in the next game. If those games are competitive, the losing team may still cover the spread.

Let’s take a brief look at each series.

Pacers vs Celtics: Indiana had the best record in the NBA this season and dominated Boston in Game 1. The Celtics just don’t have much of a scoring option beyond Paul Pierce. If the ”˜zig zag’ theory is going to have some losing spots this could be the series.Indiana is likely to win this series in 5.

Nets vs. Knicks: New Jersey broke open a competitive game in the third quarter and blew the Knicks away in Game 1. New Jersey had been struggling over the final 1½ months of the regular season but pretty much locked up the East’s No. 2 seed for quite some time. Thus, the Nets really did not have the need to raise the level of intensity prior to the playoffs. New York should get Allan Houston back during this series and the Knicks have enough options to give the Nets a test. New Jersey should win in 6, but NY should be a good bet a home.

Pistons vs Bucks: Detroit is the fashionable pick of many observers to win the East.The acquisition of Rasheed Wallace greatly improved the offense and the Pistons have played great ball since. The opening game blowout win over the Bucks was the first one this season decided by more than six points.Milwaukee should be more competitive in upcoming games but Detroit should still advance in 5.Look for Milwaukee to win one of the two home games.

Heat vs. Hornets: Miami overcame an 0-7 start to finish with a winning record. The Heat were playing as well as any team in league over the last two months.New Orleans has a talented roster but slumped over the season’s second half.These teams are fairly even and the underdog should do well throughout the series. It would not surprise us to see the road team win at least twice.Miami should prevail in 6.

T’wolves vs. Nuggets: Minnesota won its final nine games to earn the top seed in the West and hold off equally red hot San Antonio in the Midwest Division.The addition of Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell has enabled star Kevin Garnett to earn likely MVP honors and make the Wolves legitimate title contenders.Denver is a team with a bright future but is overmatched.The Nuggets did not quit in Game 1 after falling behind by 22 and rallying to cut the deficit to five.But depth is the difference and the T-Wolves should eliminate the Nuggets in 5. Give Denver a home win in Game 3.

Lakers vs. Rockets: The Lakers survived a Houston scare in Game 1 as the Rockets sent Shaquille O’Neal to the foul line in the late stages of the game.Shaq’s struggles at the stripe make them vulnerable against a defensive oriented team and Houston has the talent to continue to frustrate the Lakers.This road team could win a pair of games although the Lakers should win in 6.Don’t expect many, if any, blowout wins.

Spurs vs. Grizzlies: San Antonio dropped three of four regular season games to the Grizzlies but demonstrated an overall superiority in Game 1. Still, Memphis has a very deep roster and should prove more competitive during the remainder of this series.It would not be a surprise to see the home team win the first five games of the series before the Spurs wrap things up with a win at Memphis in Game 6.

Kings vs. Mavs: This is the series most likely to produce an upset. The projection is for it to go the full seven.What keeps Dallas from pulling the upset is the poor road record and Sacramento’s outstanding play at home. The Kings are also a somewhat better defensive team, a fact that takes on added importance in the playoffs. The road team may not win a single game.

While form is expected to prevail in the opening round, we can expect some upsets in the next round when the field is of the highest quality. Remember that in the West only three games separated the top four teams.