There are three more weeks to go in the NBA regular season. This means there are professional athletes 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 Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Hornets be working as hard the next few weeks as those teams on the NBA playoff bubble, like the Bucks, Cavaliers, Knicks, Nuggets, Suns and Rockets?
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.
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 Blazers and Nets were hoping to have better campaigns. Portland recently cut Greg Oden, traded away Marcus Camby for nothing and fired Coach Nate McMillan – all in the same week! Think the players are disappointed or giving 100%? The Blazers are 6-18 ATS in their last 24 games as an underdog and 15-5-1 UNDER the total against a team with a winning record.
The LA Clippers are going to make the playoffs but there are rumblings that they are unhappy with their coach Vinny Del Negro. It is a situation worth watching closely, as the Clippers are in fourth place in the Western Conference, but also just 1½ games above ninth. The Clippers are also 3-8 ATS in their last 11 home games. A year ago this team was in a late season free-fall, going 6-15-1 ATS.
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 has been in that kind of position the last few years, winding down lost seasons filled with changes and injuries.
This year they are dealing with more personnel changes, trading for Nene Hilario recently.
Most teams don’t have to deal with learning how to play with new teammates at this point in the season. 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 drafting LeBron, Cleveland seemed more interested in setting itself up for the James 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.
Ten years ago the Atlanta 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!