NBA: Teams to Watch

NBA: Teams to Watch

Teams to Watch
By Brian Edwards

If gamblers are going to cash tickets consistently in the NBA, they can’t fall asleep at the wheel. In other words, teams are going to have highs and lows through an 82-game season, and bettors need to be able to distinguish between the right and wrong times to either back or fade (wager against) a squad.

For instance, Atlanta has been without starting center Al Horford for the last 12 games. Horford, who suffered a bone bruise in his knee in a Jan. 7 loss at Orlando, is the heart and soul of the Hawks. The University of Florida product provides Mike Woodson with defense, rebounding, energy and toughness.

In Horford’s absence, Atlanta had a 90-rebound deficit and went 5-7 both straight up and against the spread. Before Horford went down, the Hawks were in the midst of a 13-6 ATS surge. After practicing at full speed Monday, Horford will be back in the starting lineup Wednesday at Minnesota.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, All-Star guard Joe Johnson won't be available in Minnesota due to a viral infection that prevented from taking the team's charter flight. Nevertheless, they are 6-1 both SU and ATS in the last seven head-to-head meetings with the Timberwolves.

Another team that’s getting healthy and could be poised for a profit-producing run is Golden State. Since Stephen Jackson returned to the lineup, the Warriors are 5-3-1 ATS in their last nine outings. They also have Monta Ellis back in the fold after he missed the first 43 games.

Don Nelson’s team seemed to be in position to cover and win outright at home Monday against San Antonio. But Jackson couldn’t get a whistle on a shot attempt at the end of regulation, and the Spurs eventually won a 110-105 decision in overtime as five-point road favorites.

Oklahoma City has been a surprising money maker all year long. In fact, the Thunder has the NBA’s third-best ATS mark at 30-18 compared to an abysmal 11-37 straight-up ledger. Most notably, they have taken the cash in nine consecutive games as home underdogs. Look for Oklahoma City to be a home ‘dog twice this week when it hosts Denver and Portland on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

Cleveland and Orlando have been at the top of the NBA standings both SU and ATS all year long. The Cavs are currently 31-15 ATS, while the Magic are 31-15-1 versus the number.

On the flip side, gamblers should continue to go against Phoenix, which owns the second-worst spread record in the NBA at 16-28-1 ATS. The Suns held a players-only meeting Sunday to ‘air out their differences.’

GM Steve Kerr has completely changed the dynamics of this team’s roster over the last year, trading for Shaq and Jason Richardson while getting rid of solid role players like Raja Bell and Boris Diaw, not to mention Shawn Marion. The result is a lack of team chemistry, as evidenced by a 6-15-1 spread record in the last 22 games.

Memphis owns the league’s worst ATS record at 16-30-1. The Grizzlies have been absolutely atrocious lately, posting a 2-15 spread record in their last 17 outings.

Charlotte has steadily improved under the tutelage of first-year coach Larry Brown this year. This was clearly evident during a recent 7-1 ATS surge. However, a recent injury to Gerald Wallace has seemingly thrown this team for a loss.

The Bobcats have lost three in a row both SU and ATS (and by double-digit magins) without Wallace, who has a broken rib and collapsed lung that could cause him to remain out for an extended period of time. They are also without rookie point guard D.J. Augustin, who probably won’t return until later this month. Augustin was enjoying a banner year, averaging 12.1 points and 4.1 assists per game.

Andrew Bynum delivered the blow that knocked Wallace out of the lineup. Four days later, he went down with his own injury – a torn MCL that’ll keep him out for 8-12 weeks. The Lakers were fine without Bynum at Madison Square Garden on Monday, cashing tickets behind Kobe Bryant’s MSG-record 61 points. With that said, bettors should keep an eye on the Lakers, especially when they play against teams with superior post players.

In terms of ‘over/unders,’ Indiana has been a squad producing profit for ‘over’ backers. The Pacers have the NBA’s best ‘over’ record at 30-17. On the other hand, Detroit has seen the ‘under’ prevail most consistently (28-17).

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