There is a week 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 Magic, 76ers, Knicks, Nets and Kings be working as hard as those teams on the NBA playoff bubble, like the Heat, Pelicans and Nuggets?
In addition, coaches down the stretch may give rest to key starters. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich leaned on this the last few years and now more teams are following. Even coming into the season it was clear Golden State wouldn’t be pushing all season for the NBA record, like they did a year ago.
It’s the time of year when some disappointed teams play out the schedule and think less about preparing for their next opponent and 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 showing an interest in the last few weeks of the season.
Teams like the Knicks and Pistons were hoping to have better campaigns, as were the Kings who raised a white flag for the youth movement after trading DeMarcus Cousins. A team like the Lakers has struggled on defense, on a recent 10-3 run over the total. And a team like the Pistons has struggled on offense, on a recent 12-5 run under the total.
Sacramento has struggled to score in the second half of the season, trying to find an offensive replacement for Cousins, as the offense ran through him. Meanwhile Boston has benefitted from its strong depth and has been on a tear, very good at covering in the second of a back-to-back spot the last few seasons.
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. But 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. Five 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!