I’m looking at three games in the National Basketball Association that have playoff and playoff positioning at stake. Let’s take a look.
Chicago (+9.5) at San Antonio – Despite the loss of both Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose, the Bulls have been able to hang tough by winning six of their last ten but Chicago finds themselves in a battle with the Cavs and Raptors for that second seed behind the Atlanta Hawks.
The defending champion Spurs have won four in a row and six of their last ten games. They are now securely in the seventh seed ahead of eighth place OKC. I don’t believe Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are content with the seventh spot though. Right now, they are less then two games out of the fifth spot and are looking to advance.
Chicago has a very good 19-11 road record while the Spurs are 22-7 at home. I see no reason for this game not to be physical and highly competitive.
Trends: Chicago is 9-4 straight up in their last 13 games…San Antonio is 4-1 SU in their last five games… The Bulls are 4-11 SU in their last 15 games against the Spurs in San Antonio… The Spurs are 2-5-1 against the spread in their last eight games.
The Pick: Take the Spurs to win but I like the Bulls getting the points.
Charlotte (+1) at Detroit – When Brandon Jennings went down with a torn Achilles’ tendon, most figured the Pistons playoff chances were over. Despite a brief flirtation, this appears to be the case. Detroit has fallen to four and a half games behind the eighth and final playoff spot. With about 20 games to go, there is time but they must win games like this one today.
The Hornets are among the teams the Pistons have to jump and they’re in no hurry to allow that to happen. Charlotte is actually tied for the seventh and eighth spots right now but based on tie-breakers is the odd team out. Both teams are headed in opposite directions as the Hornets have won four straight and the Pistons have dropped five in a row.
Trends: Charlotte is 5-1 straight up in their last six games… Detroit is 2-4 SU in their last six homes games… The Hornets are 8-16 against the spread in their last 24 games at Detroit… The Pistons are 12-6 SU in their last 18 games at home versus the Hornets.
The Pick: Detroit ends the skid today Take them to cover.
Toronto (+7) at Oklahoma City – The Raptors enter the Sooner State having lost seven of their last ten and they’ve dropped from the second seed in the East to the fourth as both Chicago and Cleveland have leaped them for the time being.
Meanwhile, the Thunder have won seven of ten and have ridden Russell Westbrook’s hot-hand. With Kevin Durant still recovering from foot surgery, Westbrook’s heroics of late have been needed. OKC has climbed into the eighth spot in the Western Conference but only has a one half game lead over New Orleans who has Anthony Davis back on the floor.
Trends: Toronto is 1-7 straight up in their last eight games… The Thunder is 5-0 SU in their last five home games… The Raptors are 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games on the road in Oklahoma City… The Thunder is 10-3 SU against the Raptors in their last 13 games games in OKC.
Detroit (+3.5) at Washington – Both the Pistons and Wizards have chosen poor times to hit losing streaks. Washington has dropped six straight games and eight of their last ten while Detroit has gone just 5-5 over their last ten and has dropped two in a row.
While the Eastern Conference is the weaker of the two conferences, the playoff race is unbeatable. Right now Detroit is in the 12th spot but amazingly, they are just one game out of the eight and final playoff spot. The Wizards are currently in the fifth spot and despite their poor play shouldn’t fall any further than sixth but stranger things have happened.
Trends: Detroit is 1-5 straight up in their last six games on the road… Washington is 0-5 SU in their last five games… The Pistons are 7-3 SU in their last ten games on the road at Washington… The Wizards are 2-8 against the spread in their last ten games versus Detroit.
The Pick: It’s hard not to like the Pistons tonight getting the points as well.
Toronto (-12) at New York – The Knicks have dropped eight of their last 10 games and as you know are now without Carmelo Anthony for the remainder of the season. I’m glad he was able to get so many minutes in the All-Star Game before shutting it down. Did you sense the sarcasm there?
Toronto is feeling heat right now from both the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have a one half game lead over the Bulls and a one game lead over the Cavs as the teams battle for the second spot in the East. The tight predicament is due to the Raptors four-game losing streak.
Trends: Toronto is 1-4 straight up in their last five games… New York is 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six games… The Raptors are 4-8-1 ATS in their last 13 games on the road… The Knicks are 1-8 SU in their last nine games.
The Pick: This is a good place for the Raptors to get back on track but I like the Knicks getting all those points.
Atlanta (-5) at Miami – Lost in all of the discussion about Cleveland’s big win over Golden State is the fact that the Hawks continue to lead the Eastern Conference. They’ve won six of their last ten but they’ve won three straight as they head to South Beach.
The Heat are trying to survive without Chris Bosh as they currently reside in the seventh spot in the East. The problem is that there are five teams within two and a half games of them.
Trends: Atlanta is 21-4 straight up in their last 25 games… Miami is 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six games… The Hawks are 1-5 SU in their last six games on the road in Miami… The Heat are 7-15 SU in their last 22 games at home.
The Pick: I love the Hawks to cover tonight.
Memphis (-5) at Minnesota – Despite winning six of their last ten, the Grizzlies have dropped two in a row and continue to hold down the second seed in the Western Conference. The T-Wolves may have gotten Kevin Garnett back but they have the worst record in the West and Memphis comes in having played well in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Trends: Memphis is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games… Minnesota is 8-17 straight up in their last 25 games… The Grizzlies are 6-2 SU in their last eight games on the road in Minnesota… The T-Wolves are 3-14 SU in their last 17 games versus the the Grizzlies.
I’m sure if I really sat down and looked it over I could probably find another Sunday with four better match-ups in the National Basketball Association but the ones I have for you today are pretty darn good.
LA Clippers (+3) at Oklahoma City (O/U 209) – The Thunder are three games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and have gone just 5-5 over their last ten games. The Clippers come to town having lost three straight and are dealing with Chris Paul’s comments about a female official.
I don’t think that will linger much longer now that he’s been fined $25,000 but LA needs to be careful. They are after all a half game from slipping into the seventh spot in the West.
Trends: The Clippers are 1-4 straight up in their last five games… The total has gone UNDER in six of Oklahoma City’s last eight games… LAC are 1-5 against the spread in their last six games against the Thunder… OKC is 7-3 straight up in their last 10 games at home against the Clippers.
The Pick: I like the Thunder today and the UNDER.
Atlanta (+3.5) at Memphis (O/U 196.5) – The Hawks have won nine of their last ten games and are coming off a defining win over Golden State. They’ve stretched their lead in the Eastern Conference to eight games over second-seeded Toronto.
Memphis has won eight of their last ten games and is in second out West just three games behind the Warriors. The Grizzlies have also been very good at home where they’ve gone 21-5 this season.
Trends: The total has gone OVER in six of the Hawks last seven games… Memphis is 8-1 straight up in their last nine games… Atlanta is 5-2 SU in their last seven games on the road in Memphis… The Grizzlies are 4-11-1 against the spread in their last 16 games against the Hawks.
The Pick: Don’t be surprised if the Grizzlies win but I like the Hawks getting the points and I like the OVER.
San Antonio (+1.5) at Toronto (O/U 201.5) – The Spurs come to Canada having had some good recent success over the Raptors and they’ve won eight of their last ten games which puts them in the eighth spot in the very competitive Western Conference.
Toronto has had a very nice stretch of 7-3 in their last ten contests but seven of their 17 losses have come against the West. I have no doubts that they’d like to get some quality wins over the better Western teams.
Trends: The Spurs are 1-5-1 against the spread in their last seven games… The total has gone OVER in six of Toronto’s last eight games… San Antonio is 4-1-1 against the spread in their last six games against Toronto… The Raptors are 0-5 straight up in their last five games against the Spurs.
The Pick: Take the Spurs getting the point and a half take the OVER.
Portland (+4) at Houston (O/U 204) – These two teams have combined to win 15 of their last 20 games and are separated by a mere game in the Western Conference. It’s difficult to ignore the success Houston has had against the Blazers in Clutch City.
Trends: Portland is 0-4-1 against the spread in their last five games versus Houston… The Rockets are 6-1 straight up in their last seven games… The total has gone OVER in six of the Blazers last seven games when on the road against the Rockets… Houston has won 20 of their last 25 games straight up against the Blazers at home.
The Pick: I like the Rockets to cover at home and I like the OVER as well.
Most bettors’ eyes and wagers will be on the four final conference titles games today over in college hoops, but if you’ve got some attention and bets to spare, there is the eight-game slate in the NBA that may interest you. It’s a slate that includes some high-profile match-ups and interesting story lines and we’ve made it easy for you once again this week by providing you with some point spread quick picks. Check ’em out!
Miami Heat -7.5 at Toronto Raptors +7.5
There’s no denying that the Heat are scorching with 21 straight wins (the third longest streak in NBA history), but during their incredible run, we’ve also seen them slip up and have to pull out some close games. Toronto has played much better during the second half of the season and I think they’ll give the Heat a tough one today. Take Miami to win, but Toronto to cover +7.5 today.
Orlando Magic +9 at Milwaukee Bucks -9
Both teams are struggling lately, although the Magic’s recent woes can’t really be matched. Still, Orlando should be able to keep things fairly close in what will likely be a sloppy, low-scoring affair. Take Orlando to cover +9 in defeat.
New York Knicks +12.5 at Los Angeles Clippers -12.5
The Knicks have hit a major rough patch recently and have dropped their last three games with Carmelo Anthony on the mend. Still, the Knicks have too many weapons to be such a huge underdog against the Clippers. Give the Knicks a little more credit here and take them to cover +12.5.
Golden State Warriors +7.5 at Houston Rockets -7.5
While the Warriors seem like they are simply trying to hold on to a Western Conference playoff spot, the Rockets have quickly launched up the standings and have a chance to leap frog over Golden State for 6th position with a win today. Considering Golden State has one of the worst defenses and Houston has one of the league’s most powerful offenses, take the Rockets to cover -7.5 in the win.
New Orleans Hornets -1 at Minnesota Timberwolves +1
Both teams are playing extremely poorly, making this game somewhat of a toss up, but considering that Minnesota earned a win over New Orleans earlier in the season, there’s no reason the Wolves can’t do it again at home. Take Minnesota to cover +1 and get the win.
Oklahoma City Thunder -5 at Dallas Mavericks +5
The Thunder have proved to be somewhat vulnerable, especially on the road lately, but the Thunder are still the owner of the NBA’s third best record. Their raw talent should be enough to earn them a win over Dallas, while they cover -5.
Atlanta Hawks +4 at Brooklyn Nets -4
The Nets have been excellent at home this season and own a 2-1 record in the season series versus the Hawks. Knowing that should be enough to feel good taking Brooklynto cover -4 at home.
Sacramento Kings +8.5 at Los Angeles Lakers -8.5
The Lakers have vaulted back into the playoff picture, but recent injuries to Pau Gasol (again) and Kobe Bryant make them a less-attractive pick, even at home against the lowly Kings. They did win their last game pretty much without Kobe – he played 12 minutes – but they can’t expect that to be the case every time. Take the Kings to cover +8.5 today.
With the NBA back from its All-Star break, there will be a lot for bettors to keep track of today. There are 11 games in action in the Association today, but don’t worry. We’ve made it easy by providing you with the winning quick picks. Check ’em out!
Memphis Grizzlies +1.5 at Toronto Raptors -1.5
The Raptors may have one of the worst records in the NBA, but they’ve stepped up their game since acquiring Rudy Gay in a trade from Memphis as winners of their last five games. However, the Grizzlies have also continued to win despite losing Gay and are currently on a four-game streak of their own. This will be the first meeting between the teams since the trade.
The Raptors got the better end of the trade, but the Grizzlies are still be far the better team. Take Memphis to cover +1.5 today.
Detroit Pistons -3.5 at Charlotte Bobcats +3.5
The Bobcats only have 13 wins on the season, but one of them came against the Pistons in the teams’ only other meeting this season. This time around, the Bobcats will have the home floor, but the last time they won back-to-back games was back in November. Go with the better overall team and take Detroit to cover -3.5 on the road.
New York Knicks +4 at Indiana Pacers -4
These two will renew their long-standing rivalry for the third time this season, as the Knicks and Pacers have split the previous two games between each other. The Knicks are coming off a two-game losing streak, but should be refreshed after the break, while the Pacers have dominated opponents at home with a 21-5 record. Look for Indiana’s defense to be the difference and for the Pacers to cover -4 today.
New Orleans Hornets 0 at Cleveland Cavaliers 0
Since both teams have been equally horrendous this season with similar records coming into tonight’s game, the odds makers are going easy on us and giving us an even line. Honestly, this one really is a toss-up though. Since Cleveland has the home floor, take the Cavs to win this one.
Miami Heat -5 at Atlanta Hawks +5
The Hawks have been superb at home this season (17-9), but the Heat have been superb everywhere and they are playing their best basketball of the season at the moment, as they are currently on a seven-game winning streak. Look for the Heat to make it eight in a row by covering -5.
Brooklyn Nets +3 at Milwaukee Bucks -3
The Bucks have gotten the better of the Nets so far this season, winning two of the previous three match-ups, but Brooklyn is coming in with plenty of momentum as winners of its last three. Look for the Nets to keep it going by winning on the road and covering +3.
Oklahoma City Thunder -2.5 at Houston Rockets +2.5
This match-up should be the highest scoring of the day, as it boasts the league’s top two scoring teams, but it’s a match-up the Thunder have dominated lately, winning the previous two meetings this season by more than 20 points on each occasion. Even on the road, take the Thunder to cover -2.5.
Philadelphia 76ers +3.5 at Minnesota Timberwolves -3.5
Although Minnesota has played better at home than on the road, they haven’t fared well without Kevin Love in the lineup, losing eight of their last 10 games. Look for the 76ers to take this one, covering +3.5.
Orlando Magic +10.5 at Dallas Mavericks -10.5
Yes, the Magic are 1-9 in their last 10 games, but the Mavericks haven’t been fantastic either, making their massive favoritism in this one unwarranted. Orlando should be able to cover +10.5 in the loss today.
Boston Celtics +7 at Los Angeles Lakers -7
I’m sorry, but the Lakers shouldn’t be getting seven points against anybody right now, much less a Celtics team that has won eight of their last 10 games. This should be easy money. Take Boston to cover +7 against the floundering Lakers.
Phoenix Suns +8.5 at Golden State Warriors -8.5
Normally I would love the Warriors here against the Suns, but as losers of their last six games, the Warriors confidence is obviously shaken. Their last win was in fact against Phoenix a couple of few weeks back and they did win by more than 8.5, but that was then and this is now. The Warriors should have enough to snap the streak, but they aren’t playing their best ball right now, so take the Suns to cover +8.5.
The Association has six games on tap for us today and many of them feature some of the league’s best teams. With only three days of NBA basketball remaining before the All-Star break, you’ll want to take advantage and get your fix starting today with a modest, but tasty sampling of games. Here are our quick picks for each of the six games on the menu.
Denver Nuggets -2 at Toronto Raptors +2
Denver may have had its nine-game win streak snapped its last time out against Boston, but there was no shortage of offensive production for one of the league’s best scoring teams, as the Nuggets still managed to put up 114 in the overtime loss. Denver hit one point below that mark the last time they played Toronto back on Dec. 3, but won that game 113-110.
The Raptors have been playing well since they acquired Rudy Gay, winning their last two games, but the Nuggets feature too potent an attack for the Raptors to deal with. Look for Denver to cover -2 in the win.
Portland Trail Blazers +11.5 at Miami Heat -11.5
The Heat have looked plenty impressive during their recent five-game winning streak, a streak that has produced another streak – LeBron’s franchise record-setting streak of five consecutive games with 30 or more points and 60% shooting.
However, the Heat will be up against a team in the Blazers that defeated them earlier this year – 92-90 on Jan. 10. Considering the Blazers are also a team that plays in many close games, expect the Heat to win, but not to cover the large spread. Take Portland to cover +11.5 in the loss.
Sacramento Kings +8.5 at Memphis Grizzlies -8.5
Both teams are coming into today’s contest on a two-game win streak, but the Grizzlies have gotten the better of the Kings in their last two meetings, beating them by more than 15 points on each occasion.
With home court advantage, look for Memphis to continue its dominance over one of the West’s weakest squads and pick up another easy win while covering -8.5.
Oklahoma City Thunder -5,5 at Utah Jazz +5.5
With a 19-6 home record, Utah has been almost unbeatable in the comforts of its own building, but with the one of the league’s best offenses coming to town, the Jazz will likely be in for a major challenge.
The Thunder are scoring 106.4 points per contest and considering they’ve already beaten Utah once this year, OKC should be able to do it again, even on the road. Take the Thunder to cover -5.5 in the win.
Phoenix Suns +9 at Los Angeles Lakers -9
Both teams in this match-up have underachieved, but only one of them faced lofty expectations in 2012-2013.
However, the Lakers are playing much better lately, winning seven of their last 10 and they’ll definitely be a favorite to win against the worst team in the West. But to spot them nine points against any team right now seems like a mistake. Since they are still without Pau Gasol and are playing with a banged up Dwight Howard, look for L.A. to win, but not by nine points. Take the Suns to cover +9 in the loss.
Houston Rockets +4.5 at Golden State Warriors -4.5
The Warriors have hit the skids recently, dropping all four games on a road trip, but they’ll be at home today, where they are 16-6 on the season. Meanwhile, the Rockets are winners of six of their last 10 and will bring in one of the most explosive offenses in the league (106.1 PPG) that will look to keep the Warriors down.
Golden State is simply too talented to stay down for long though, so expect them to bounce back at home and pick up the win, covering -4.5.
Thursday night sees the NBA resort to its shortened TNT schedule with a trio of games that really could prove to be a mixed bag.
The marquee match of the evening takes place in TD Garden where Boston hosts New York. Meanwhile, Toronto and Orlando will be embroiled in a bottom-dwelling dogfight, while the Clippers look to return to winning ways with a trip to the desert.
Here’s Casino Review’s picks for tonight’s action.
Toronto Raptors @ Orlando Magic
7:00 PM ET
The jubilance of Sunday’s win over the Lakers didn’t last long for Toronto (15-27, 4-18 road). The Raptors lost to Miami in overtime on Wednesday night, and now face a second straight Florida night.
Meanwhile, Orlando (14-27, 8-14 home) returned from Detroit with the wrong kind of streak still intact. The Magic has now lost three straight and 14 of the last 16. That streak includes two losses to tonight’s opponent.
The Raptors have proven to be a nightmare for the Magic this season, winning three games, two of which came – as tonight’s game will – at the tail end of a back-to-back.
Toronto enters the game with a slight edge in scoring, and ranks as the No. 3 team in the league when it comes to turning the ball over. Orlando won’t like the sound of that, particular as the Florida side is last in the league in steals.
This Season: The Raptors have beaten Orlando in all three games this season, including a 35-point blowout the last time the two met (Dec. 29).
Odds: Orlando is favorites, with the spread at 4. The over/under is 199.
Take: TORONTO – Whilst it seems implausible that the Raptors will achieve anything of merit this season, the team from north of the border may be able to score a season sweep over the Magic, if for no other reason than the fact that the Raptors (22-19-1 ATS) are one of the better sides against the spread. Take the total to go over as has often been the case with these teams.
New York Knicks @ Boston Celtics
8:00 PM ET
New York (25-14, 11-8 road) will look to snap a two-game losing streak with a visit to division rivals Boston (20-21, 13-8 home). The Celtics will be looking to buck their own four-game losing streak, a streak that has seen Doc Rivers’ side drop below .500.
New York’s scoring may have been down of late but the team still averages 101.5 points per game, thanks in many ways to a 39 percent average from behind the arc. Despite their recent woes, the Celtics are one of the better shooting teams in the league, something that will come in handy against a Knicks team that doesn’t give the ball up but allows opponents a high-shooting average.
This Season: Boston defeated New York in the only meeting between the sides this season, the infamous Jan. 7 game in which Carmelo Anthony went in search of the Celtics’ bus and Kevin Garnett after the game, which was quickly followed by a suspension.
Odds: New York is a 1½-point favorite on the road. The total stands at 189.
Take: BOSTON – The Celtics represent another great chance for bettors to make some money off an underdog. Records can be thrown out the window in this one, which could get a little feisty. This is a rivalry game and both teams will play like it. Although Boston (15-23-3 ATS) has been terrible against the spread, take them to upset the bookmakers. Take the total to go over.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Phoenix Suns
10:30 PM ET
The Los Angeles Clippers (32-11, 13-6 road) round out Thursday’s schedule with a trip to Western Conference doormat Phoenix (14-28, 10-11 home).
The Clippers have lost two in a row to current conference high-flyers Golden State and Oklahoma City. Those losses have seen the Clippers lose ground on both the Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.
Phoenix has no worries about falling behind the leaders. Instead, the Suns are looking to get ahead of New Orleans just to be off the bottom of the Western Conference standings. If the Suns are to get a second straight win, now’s the best time, with Chris Paul missing from the Clippers.
In all reality, this game represents a much better opportunity for the Clippers to snap their losing streak than it does Phoenix extending its winning streak.
This Season: The Clippers have won both meetings between the sides this season by an average of 22 points. Los Angeles’ last trip to Phoenix (Dec. 23) finished 103-77.
Odds: The Clippers are favorites on the road. The spread is 6½ while the total is 193.
Take: LA CLIPPERS – Phoenix is in need of one series rebuilding program, and coming face to face with one of the best teams in the league isn’t about to change that. Take the Clippers (25-18-0 ATS) to run rampant and cover the spread against the pitiful Suns (17-24-1 ATS). Take the total to go over.
Get your midweek hardwood fix tonight with a 10-game schedule from the Association. Casino Review has fished out the top three games on the slate, and then thrown in some instant picks too. Read on to find out who you should be backing on Wednesday night.
Denver Nuggets @ Oklahoma City Thunder
8:00 PM ET
Oklahoma City (30-8, 18-3 home) and Denver (24-16, 9-14 road) meet on Wednesday night for the first of a pair of games this week, and the first of four this season.
The Thunder continues to pace the NBA, becoming the league’s first 30-game winner on Monday night. Winners of four straight and nine of 11, Kevin Durant and Co. will look to make a statement against their division rivals.
Denver meanwhile has won seven of the last eight, but a big portion of that trend has come at the Pepsi Center, as the Nuggets make up for a road-heavy early schedule. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 112-105 on Jan. 6, the side’s only road game so far this calendar year.
Expect this to be a high-scoring affair as two of the top five scoring teams in the NBA take to the court. Oklahoma City averages 105.1 points per game (2nd) while Denver scores and average of 102.7 points (5th).
Odds: Oklahoma City is favored in this one, with the spread standing at 8½. The total is 208.5
Take: OKLAHOMA CITY – The Thunder has turned Chesapeake Energy Arena into a fortress. That fortress is likely to hold-up against a Denver side that is not as efficient on the road as it is at home. Take the Nuggets to cover the spread, with the total going under.
Memphis Grizzlies @ San Antonio Spurs
8:30 PM ET
Division rivals Memphis (24-12, 10-7 road) and San Antonio (29-11, 16-2 home) do battle for a third time this season on Wednesday night. So far, both sides have held their home court advantage.
San Antonio enters the game just two back of Oklahoma City for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. A win will also put the Spurs within a half-game of the Clippers.
Memphis will be looking to gain ground on a San Antonio side that currently sits three games in front. Winning in the Alamo City won’t be easy though; the Spurs have dropped just two home games all season, the last of which came on Nov. 19. The Spurs have won 12 straight at home since.
Memphis’ woes have mainly come on the road this season. The Grizzlies have won just five road games against teams with a winning record. That trend needs to change if the side is to continue to push for a top four finish in the Western Conference. Make no qualms about it, a win in San Antonio would be a huge deal.
Odds: San Antonio is favorites (-4½) with the total at 186½.
Take: SAN ANTONIO – The Spurs simply don’t lose at home. Add to that the fact that Memphis doesn’t play well on the road and you have the recipe for a home win. The Spurs and Grizzlies rank in the league’s top five when it comes to covering the spread, which makes this one a difficult game to pick. Take San Antonio to cover. Take the total to go under. Memphis has been involved in fewer games (13) that have seen the total go under than any other team in the league.
Miami Heat @ Golden State Warriors
10:30 PM ET
The question coming into this one should have been, are the Warriors for real? Instead, we’re left scratching our heads and pondering whether Miami is for real.
Miami (24-12, 8-9 road) fell to Utah on Monday, dropping the Florida side below .500 on the road this season. That loss also lent itself to a 1-3 record to start this current six-game road trip. To put it bluntly, Miami is reeling, at least away from South Beach.
Golden State (23-13, 12-5 home) might just be the tonic the Heat needs though. Despite an impressive overall record, one that has surprised most, the Warriors have dropped three of the last four, including a tough home loss to Memphis. Prior to that game, Mark Jackson’s side had won 11 of 13 at Oracle Arena.
Miami pulled out a 97-95 win when the two sides played at AmericanAirlines Arena on Dec. 12.
Odds: Miami is favored, with the spread at just two. The total is 205.
Take: MIAMI – The Heat will take advantage of the Warriors’ mini-slump, but this is likely to be as close as the previous meeting between the sides. Take the Heat to cover the spread (just) with the total going over.
Take Chicago (21-15, 10-5 road) to win north of the border and cover the spread (-3½) against Toronto (14-24, 10- 8 home). Take the total (184.5) to go under.
Take Indiana (24-15, 9-12 road) to pile some more misery on an Orlando (13-24, 7-12 home) side that has lost 11 of the last 12. Take the Pacers to cover the spread (-1½) with the total going under.
Take Brooklyn (23-15, 8-8 road) – winners of seven straight – to defeat an Atlanta (21-16, 12-6 home) side that has been slipping of late, upsetting the Hawks and the spread (+4) in the process. Take the total to go under.
Take Boston (20-17, 13-6 home) to extend its winning streak to seven with a home win over New Orleans (12-26, 6-13 road). Take the Hornets to cover the spread (+8) with the total (183.5) going under.
Take Dallas (16-23, 10-7 home) to build a four-game winning streak while sending Houston (21-18, 7-11 road) to a fifth straight loss. Take the Mavericks to cover the spread (-4½), and the total (213) to go under; both of these sides rank in the top five in terms of the total exceeding the marker but 213 is simply too much.
After three wins on the bounce, take Washington (7-28, 1-15 road) to slip up on the road in Sacramento (14-24, 11-10 home). Take the Wizards to cover the spread (+4½) though, with the total going over.
Take Portland (20-18, 13-5 home) to defeat Cleveland (9-31, 5-19 road), but take the Cavaliers to cover the spread (+7). Take the total (197) to go under.
Now we’ll give you the inside scoop on which teams to pick as division winners. Some might surprise you. Some certainly won’t. And remember, while you might not make a lot of money on one single bet, a parlay of all six winners could score you a bucketload [pun most definitely intended!].
2011-12: Boston (39-27) | New York (36-30) | Philadelphia (35-31) | Toronto (23-43) | New Jersey (22-44)
The Atlantic looks set to be a bit of a crapshoot this season, with four of the five teams (sorry Toronto) realistically having a shot at winning the division. Whether that’s a sign of improvement within the division is debatable.
Boston certainly doesn’t look improved, and whilst losing one ‘team player’ rarely makes a huge impact, Ray Allen’s departure could do just that. Is New York better? Maybe. The Knicks are certainly older. How about Brooklyn? Joe Johnson makes the side better for sure, as does a stable lineup – no more Dwight Howard talk, yet – so yes. Philadelphia has Andrew Bynum, who could own the division, if he wants.
Odds: Boston (11/10) | New York (9/4) | Brooklyn (4/1) | Philadelphia (9/2) | Toronto (100/1)
Take: Brooklyn — This might be considered bandwagon jumping, but the Nets are certainly better than last year’s record suggests. A new identity and outlook could do wonders for this team. Philadelphia’s another dark horse that could make some noise.
2011-12: Chicago (50-16) | Indiana (42-24) | Milwaukee (31-35) | Detroit (25-41) | Cleveland (21-45)
Like last season, the Central will be contested between Chicago and Indiana. The remaining three sides have very little hope of achieving anything this season.
Chicago will have to face ‘X’ amount of time without superstar guard Derrick Rose, something that hurt the side badly last season. Preseason results have gone the way of the Bulls though. Indiana meanwhile has undergone very little change and will be hoping experience and familiarity carry through.
Odds: Chicago (5/6) | Indiana (1/1) | Milwaukee (22/1) | Cleveland (50/1) | Detroit (50/1)
Take: Indiana — Without Rose, the Bulls look very ordinary and unless Carlos Boozer is prepared to show up, very beatable. Indiana is deep, not with big name players, but with consistent players. Expect the Pacers to jump out to an early lead in the division. If and when Rose returns, then the Bulls may challenge.
2011-12: Miami (46-20) | Atlanta (40-26) | Orlando (37-29) | Washington (20-46) | Charlotte (7-59)
The Southeast is likely to be a snorefest this season. Miami has improved with the addition of Ray Allen and will garner national attention all the way to the playoffs. Nobody can dispute that. The rest of the division though, well…
Atlanta is worse. Orlando is worse. Washington is, well, an unknown. Charlotte could be better, but that starts with coaching. One thing’s for sure; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist won’t find his introduction to the NBA quiet as plain-sailing as Anthony Davis in New Orleans (not that things look easy for the Hornets).
Odds: Miami (1/25) | Atlanta (10/1) | Orlando (50/1) | Washington (50/1) | Charlotte (150/1)
Take: Miami — It may be an obvious choice, but this is a division that will be lucky to have two teams make it to the postseason. If you’re looking for an exciting bet, take both Washington and Charlotte (yes, Charlotte!) to finish above Orlando. There’s nothing magic about the Magic this year.
Oklahoma City has been the talk of the northwest for a couple of years now and that looks no different this season. With pretty much the same roster in place, this is a team that is built for long playoff runs.
Elsewhere in the division, Minnesota looks to make huge strides on last year, providing injury allows such. A second-year Ricky Rubio may well be the point guard to watch this year. Meanwhile, the jury’s out on Denver – Andre Iguodala may not be the answer – and Portland, while Utah looks to have made zero improvement this offseason.
Take: Oklahoma City — Like the rest of the west, the Northwest is unlike to herald a new division winner. Simply put, the Thunder looks better that the rest. Fans of those other four may want to start praying for injuries.
2011-12: LA Lakers (41-25) | LA Clippers (40-26) | Phoenix (33-33) | Golden State (23-43) | Sacramento (22-44)
The Lakers made big moves. The Clippers made small, but vital, moves. The Suns almost took a complete overhaul approach. The Warriors and Kings made few moves of note. The Pacific looks like it’ll be a two-horse race again this season.
Odds: LA Lakers (1/4) | LA Clippers (3/1) | Golden State (50/1) | Phoenix (75/1) | Sacramento (75/1)
Take: LA Lakers — In fairness, the Pacific could be the most competitive division in the west. A cross-hallway battle between the Clippers and Lakers will almost certainly be close. The overall result may well depend on how quickly the new-look Lakers are able to gel as a team. Take the purple and gold in the long-term, but expect a tough fight.
2011-12: San Antonio (50-16) | Memphis (41-25) | Dallas (36-30) | Houston (34-32) | New Orleans (21-45)
San Antonio certainly didn’t make a huge splash in the free agent market this summer but the front office did make the one move they needed to; re-signing Tim Duncan. Dallas meanwhile wished it could have made a big splash. With Deron Williams committing to Brooklyn, the Mavs now look like a ragtag assortment of ill-fitting pieces. Rick Carlisle has worked with worse though. Houston signed Jeremy Lin, hoping that ‘Linsanity’ will propel the team forward. Don’t hold your breath just yet. Memphis will quietly go about business and be there when the postseason comes calling.
Odds: San Antonio (5/8) | Memphis (3/1) | Dallas (7/2) | Houston (20/1) | New Orleans (50/1)
Take: San Antonio — There’s a reason the Spurs have won nine division titles in 14 seasons (the Tim Duncan era, if you will). As with the rest of the west, it’s an obvious pick but it’s all but impossible to see beyond Gregg Popovich – the best coach in professional basketball – and his battle-proven team.
The right coast came out on top last year as the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 in the Finals, earning the franchise its second championship and Lebron James his first.
This year, the Heat will look to repeat, something no Eastern Conference teams has done since Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls completed the three-peat in 1998. In fact, the Eastern Conference as a whole hasn’t won two straight championships since Jordan’s famous jump shot in Salt Lake City. Can Miami’s superstar team buck that trend?
The Beast of the East
It should come as no surprise that oddsmakers have made the Miami Heat, at 5/8, the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Actually, at 9/4, Miami is favorites to win it all, ahead of the Lakers and Thunder in the west.
Miami managed to add more talent to its roster this offseason, signing free agents Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Allen is looking for a second NBA Championship – having won one with Boston in 2008 – and apparently likes his chance more in South Beach than Bean Town. Who wouldn’t? About to enter his fifteenth year in the league, Lewis is looking to win his first.
The addition of the two former Seattle Supersonics teammates undoubtedly makes Miami a better side. Allen proved invaluable for Boston again last season, despite having to sit out a chunk of the season with injury. Lewis has always had talent, but played for some terrible sides. He follows in the footsteps of the likes of Juwan Howard, Jerry Stackhouse and Mike Bibby, journeymen who all arrived in Miami with championship hopes.
But is the East really a one horse race? Sadly, it appears so. A retooled Miami looks to have stepped up another rung on the ladder, while the rest of the conference, as we shall see, may have taken a step back. Whether Miami can win the NBA Championship is a question for another day though.
Stormy Times in the Windy City
Somehow, oddsmakers seem to believe that the Chicago Bulls (6/1) are the second best team in the East. If that’s the case, there’s no hope for those wanting to see somebody, anybody, challenge the Heat.
Chicago’s offseason has been a rough one. Derrick Rose’s ACL injury will keep him out until at least January, and if the team proceeds cautiously as it has suggested it will, that date could be pushed back much later. Will Rose miss an entire season? It’s not beyond imagining, although it I unlikely.
Without Rose, the Bulls look beatable. Carlos Boozer has not proven to be the leader he needs to be. He’ll be further thwarted by the absence of Omer Asik, who bolted for Houston. The Turk played well last season and his replacement Nazr Mohammed isn’t up to scratch. Then there’s the signing of Vlad Radmanovic, who has pretty much failed at every stop of his career. Things really aren’t looking good in the Windy City.
Rounding Out the Top Five
The thing is, it’s not just Chicago that could have problems in the East this year. The entire conference – Miami aside – looks a little worn. That shows up in the next three picks in oddsmakers rankings.
Boston (8/1) is third favorites to take the East crown. But just how good will the Celtics be?
We all know of the C’s aging roster, and we saw how it caught up to the team last season. Why would this year be any better, especially with the loss of Ray Allen?
A full training camp may get the team better prepared for the start of the season – something wildly lacking last year – and the signing of Jason Terry from Dallas is a good move, although at 35-years-old, he’s hardly a spring chicken. But can this side compete? Will we see the front office pull the trigger midseason and begin rebuilding? We’ll find out, starting in just three weeks.
After Boston, the rebooted Brooklyn Nets and the retooled New York Knicks close out the Top Five, both with odds at 12/1 to take the East.
Brooklyn is certainly the ‘hip’ team coming into the season, but having Jay Z in the owner’s meetings and a bunch of players weighed down by truckloads of cash doesn’t make a team. Only on-chemistry will do that, and that’s an uncertainty coming into the season. The addition of Joe Johnson is a good move. The resigning of Deron Williams is a very good move. Passing on Dwight Howard? That might be the best move for a team that doesn’t need off-court distractions. The Nets may well be the most interesting team in the East.
The Knicks aren’t going to shy away from water-cooler talk either. So fans are upset that Jeremy Lin will ply his trade in Houston, but the chances of Lin succeeding under the spotlight of MSG were slim at best. Veterans Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Ronnie Brewer suggest the team is looking to win now, but the only way that will happen is if somebody finds a way for Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire to play together. Raymond Felton at the point could be a disaster waiting to happen as well.
Indiana (14/1) made the moves it needed to this offseason – basically resigning Roy Hibbert, who may not be the league’s best center, but he’s the best center for the Pacers – and will be better than advertised.
Orlando (60/1) – considered better than Cleveland, Toronto, Washington (all 100/1), Detroit (125/1) and Charlotte (200/1) – are worse than advertised and will be lucky to finish above two of those sides listed.
Philadelphia (18/1) will be an interesting watch, if nothing more, as they try to woo Andrew Bynum, who arrived as part of the blockbuster Dwight Howard to the Lakers deal. Philly looked good at the tail end of last season and into the playoffs, and are potentially better this year. Bynum’s less-than-professional-at-times attitude could prove costly though.
So there you have it. Now’s the time to get your preseason bets in. Unsurprisingly, the Heat, Lakers and Thunder are currently taking the most money, but could 2012 be a season where a surprise team comes from nowhere and wins it all? It doesn’t look like it on paper, but sometimes those papers lie. That’s why we watch the NBA.
Eastern Conference Odds
Miami 5/8 | Chicago 6/1 | Boston 8/1 | Brooklyn 12/1 | New York 12/1 | Indiana 14/1 | Philadelphia 18/1 | Atlanta 35/1 | Milwaukee 60/1 | Orlando 60/1 | Cleveland 100/1 | Toronto 100/1 | Washington 100/1 | Detroit 125/1 | Charlotte 200/1
NBA Championship Odds
Miami 9/4 | L.A. Lakers 5/2 | Oklahoma City 5/1 | Chicago 12/1 | Boston 18/1 | San Antonio 18/1 | L.A. Clippers 22/1 | Brooklyn 30/1 | Dallas 30/1 | Indiana 35/1 | Memphis 35/1 | New York 40/1 | Philadelphia 40/1 | Denver 66/1 | Atlanta 75/1 | Houston 75/1 | Minnesota 90/1 | Golden State 100/1 | Orlando 100/1 | Phoenix 100/1 | Portland 100/1 | Utah 100/1 | Milwaukee 125/1 | New Orleans 150/1 | Cleveland 200/1 | Sacramento 200/1 | Toronto 200/1 | Washington 200/1 | Detroit 250/1 | Charlotte 300/1
*Odds correct as of October 9, 2012, provided by Bovada.