Virus plays havoc with schedule

Jan 13, 2021 3:12 AM

When last week’s Gaming Today became available on Wednesday, only 11 NBA players had missed games due to COVID-19 protocols. By Sunday that number had shot up to 27.

The Miami Heat had eight players as out, including All-Star forwards Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, following an unidentified player’s positive test. They were still scheduled to play as they woke up Tuesday morning despite being dangerously close to not reaching the threshold of eight available players.

On Tuesday, seven Celtics were listed on the injury report due after being listed as out for safety reasons following superstar forward Jayson Tatum’s positive test. Philadelphia sharpshooter Seth Curry was sitting on the team bench when he found out he had acquired the coronavirus. The 76ers played a pair of games short-handed and have a full week ahead.

The Mavericks, per ESPN, had four players test positive for the virus. The Wizards canceled Tuesday’s practice and placed a pair of players in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols after coming into contact with the three teams most affected over the past week, Boston, Philly and Miami.

Tuesday’s scheduled Celtics-Bulls game became the fourth contest postponed despite the NBA season being just three weeks old. If Heat-76ers goes down by press time, this number will move to five.

Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers has said that playing with eight or nine will cause too much wear and tear on the players forced to take the court and held out All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with minor injuries in Saturday’s loss to Denver. The 76ers were subsequently fined $25,000 for trying to force a cancellation. Starting this past Monday, Philly faced a five-game stretch in a seven-day span. Even at full strength, that’s quite the chore. An arduous schedule like that one was collectively bargained out of the NBA in the last agreement but is back in play due to the need to get games in.

These are unprecedented times for everyone and the NBA is navigating as best it can, but it appears guilty of some questionable decisions. The league specifically scheduled games only through early March in order to maintain flexibility because it knew this was a possibility. If they continue to force teams to play, don’t blindly fade the team that’s compromised by a short-handed state.

For us investors, it’s important to get on the best number if we do want to play against teams stricken by the effects of this pandemic. If you miss it, riding a bookmaker’s overreaction may be your best bet. That Nuggets-76ers game went from a 5-point spread to 15 once Embiid and Simmons were announced as out and closed at 13.5 across the Las Vegas Strip. Rookie Tyrese Maxey then went out and dominated garbage time, finishing off a 39-point breakout game by covering the spread with a last-minute flurry.

Later that night, the Heat saw 14-point lead with 2:06 left evaporate after allowing rookie Deni Avdija to knock down three 3-pointers, winning by only four. That number was moved from roughly seven to 11 when it was announced that Bradley Beal would join the injured Russell Westbrook as inactive.

We’re still inside the first month of the season, but early results outside the bubble suggest that more teams are going to win outright and double-digit spreads will likely wind up covered if you’re getting points. Teams are continuously losing focus in-game and surrendering comebacks. The drastic swings we’ve seen thus far can be chalked up to coaches not having a handle on their rotations and most still being in preseason mode after starting so suddenly on Dec. 22.

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We’ll look to examine riding early desperation in this spot next week, but it’s worth knowing that the Raptors have dug themselves a 2-8 hole while Western Conference powers like the Nuggets and Rockets are hovering at are below .500. Even though teams are scheduled to play 72 games in this shortened season, Yogi Berra’s “It’s getting late early” quote will begin to apply sooner than later.

Thursday

Warriors at Nuggets: Golden State is rounding into form and playing much better ball of late with Draymond Green back to help Steph Curry find a rhythm. Considering Steve Kerr’s strategy against Nikola Jokic-led Denver has always been to make the big man get up and down, look for the Warriors to try and avoid getting bogged down in a half-court game as they visit the Mile High City. Look for a higher-scoring game than expected. OVER

Friday

Mavericks at Bucks: Dallas is getting Kristaps Porzingis back this week and would’ve seen the “Unicorn” debut on Monday if not for a cancellation. He’ll be in the mix for this one alongside Luka Doncic, which should keep this spread manageable. However, trying to reincorporate him back into the fold while also dealing with COVID issues means there are too many moving parts to take points with the Mavs in this spot as Milwaukee is typically nails at home and again leads the NBA in point differential. BUCKS

Sunday

Pelicans at Kings: Zion Williamson followed Marvin Bagley III as Duke’s go-to guy but the two haven’t met as pros. That should change on Sunday night as these teams that have similar roster square off in California’s capital city.

Considering Stan Van Gundy hasn’t been able to get the Pels to defend yet and Sacramento has struggled in that department too, this has the makings of a track meet. OVER

Last week: 2-1

Season: 7-4