There is a week 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 Bucks, 76ers, Jazz and Kings be working as hard as those teams on the NBA playoff bubble, like the Mavs, T-Wolves and Knicks?
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 76ers and Lakers were hoping to have better campaigns. Philly management pulled the rug out from under the players in mid-season by jettisoning payroll, while the Lakers never recovered from another injury to Kobe Bryant (and several other players, for that matter).
LA hasn’t been playing much defense, on a 12-5 run OVER the total on the road. The OVER is 20-8 in the Lakers last 28 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game. And the 76ers were on a recent 6-22 ATS run in home games!
Sacramento winds up a lost season, but it was the first in its new building. The Kings have been better at home than on the road and for the second straight season their defense has been awful. The OVER is 34-15-2 in the Kings last 51 vs. a team with a winning record.
Detroit is another team going through the motions, with the Pistons’ troubling trend of embarrassing losses continuing since the All-Star break. Last season the Pistons finished the year 7-24 ATS against teams with winning records. This season the only teams they can compete against are bad ones, 23-11-1 ATS against a team with a winning percentage below 40 percent.
Injuries and new players added to the roster can make it tougher on bad teams, having to learn new chemistry while taking nightly drubbings. 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, 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.
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.
Two years ago Portland 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 went 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.
One season 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!
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Follow him on twitter: @JimFeistSports . Reach him at [email protected]