Bet Losers

Mar 30, 2010 7:02 AM

Bet against NBA teams out of playoff

There are two more weeks to go in the NBA regular season. This means there are professional athletes in the NBA who will be going on vacation in a month, and other players who will be working hard, huffing and puffing 40 minutes per game, right on through until June.

Now let me ask you – will the majority of the players on the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers be working as hard the next few weeks as those teams on the NBA playoff bubble, like the Bobcats, Raptors, Bulls, Knicks, Grizzlies and Blazers?

This is the time of year when some disappointed teams play out the schedule and think less about preparing for their next opponent and think more about golf and early spring/summer family vacations.

This is understandable, as losing is no fun. Teams hit the 70-game mark last week, and many players on losing teams realize they have no shot at the postseason. Some fans and local newspapers are focused more on where their team will end up in the draft, rather than show an interest in the last few weeks of the season.

Teams like the Pistons, Hornets and Rockets were hoping to have better campaigns. Last week the Pacers completed a four-game regular-season series sweep of the Pistons, winning at Detroit, 98-83. With the loss, the Pistons were eliminated from the playoff chase, the first time they have missed the playoffs in eight seasons. Think the players were disappointed or giving 100%? That was part of a 0-6 SU/ATS run, meaning they’ve packed it in a while ago.

The Clippers have been a disaster (stop me if you’ve heard that before) in another disappointing season with injuries, trades, plus working on their second coach. They have been a great go-against since February, on a 6-15-1 ATS run.

Chris Kaman talked about the difficulty of the many changes in the Clipper world: the coaching switch from Mike Dunleavy to interim Coach Kim Hughes in early February and the loss of his running mate, the rebounding machine, Marcus Camby, who was traded to Portland. That has meant increased defensive responsibilities for him and the loss of instant chemistry up front.

"It’s tough. My minutes are really inconsistent," Kaman said last week. "I’ll start the game and they’ll take me out with six, seven minutes to go. I’ll go in for a little bit in the second quarter. I don’t really feel like I can get into a rhythm. It’s kind of tough – the coaching change, everything."

It can be tough to play in an environment with constant changes in personnel. Players need to develop chemistry and coaches have different teaching methods and styles. Washington is in a similar position, winding down a lost season filled with changes and injuries. Gilbert Arenas was suspended, they had a big trade in midseason, now Andray Blatche is playing on a sprained left ankle, Randy Foye has a sore left wrist and others are playing despite nagging injuries. They were a dead team a week ago in the first half when the Lakers cruised to a 26-point halftime lead.

This happened a few years ago with the Clippers, as well, when they fired their head coach and played lethargic basketball down the stretch, particularly on defense. That season at the end of January Los Angeles went on a miserable 7-17 ATS run, and during one stretch gave up over 108 points in five consecutive games. This current group of Clippers is doing something similar while allowing over 100 points in 11 of 12 games. That included a 6-0 run over the total, something to keep tabs on if you like to play totals.

There are also times when management doesn’t really care (though no one will ever admit it). A few months before the Cavaliers drafted LeBron James, Cleveland seemed more interested in setting itself up for the LeBron sweepstakes than playing quality basketball, going 2-13-1 ATS down the stretch.

This is not uncommon. A few years ago there were several teams that missed the postseason that ended the year on poor runs, straight up and against the spread. Two that finished 21-61 overall had late-season spread runs of 9-17 ATS (the Bulls) and 8-14 ATS (the Warriors), while the Clippers (6-10 ATS), Knicks (1-6 ATS) and Wizards (5-9 ATS) all ended the year a combined 12-24 ATS.

Seven seasons ago the Hawks completely packed it in, going 6-24 SU/ATS to end the season! You don’t always have to back the good teams to win and cover, as there are plenty of go-against spots this time of year!