NBA: Down the Stretch

NBA: Down the Stretch

Down the Stretch
By Chris David

Handicapping the Final Weeks

Gamblers following college basketball will only have three more chances to make money in the Big Dance after this weekend, plus about a handful of other options in the NIT, CBI and CIT tournaments.

If you like betting on the hardwood and want to follow some late-season trends that have produced positive results, then this writer suggests you turn your attention to the NBA. Sixteen out of 30 teams make the playoffs in pro basketball and it’s fair to say that at least a dozen of the spots are all but locked up by the final month.

Clubs are always jockeying for positioning and the final spots feature some tight races but for the most part, you have close to 10-12 teams that are playing out the string. Wagering on these clubs is difficult since you don’t know which squad will show up or better yet suit up. Some coaches and general managers like to empty the benches quicker than others to see what kind of talent they have on their roster for next season.

Handicapping the sides is definitely a crapshoot but the totals are another story, especially when a pair of these teams square off.

“I’ll never mention the NBA in the same sentence to Rucker Park or an And 1 festivity but later on in the year, the style of the game is often comparable to those street ball events,” said VegasInsider.com handicapper Matt Moore.

“The talent gap is huge but the up-and-down tempo and the lack of defense played is blatant. The only difference between street ball and games played on the pro hardwood is that the NBA uses three referees, who blow their whistles often.”

“A fast pace, no defense and free points when the clock is stopped all equates to serious ‘over’ looks.”

Adages are based on facts at some point and one of the most used in sports – Offense wins games, Defense wins Championships – actually cast some light in the NBA this year.

Should we be surprised that of the 10 worst teams in points per game allowed in the NBA, only Phoenix owns a winning record. And of those 10, only Chicago would make the playoffs with a losing record. Looking inside the defensive stats more, 15 teams are holding opponents on average under the century mark. In that group, only Memphis and Charlotte aren’t expected to dance in the playoffs and most would agree that the Grizzlies and Bobcats are defined as slow-it-down teams.

Back to the late-season trend, it can be defined simply as this:

Play the ‘over’ in any matchup when two non-playoff teams meet toward the end of the regular season.

Moore explained, “Sticking with the defenseless system, you have to put up a couple objectives. First, you’re always going to have a few teams that are fighting for the final playoff spot so classifying a team as eliminated from the postseason could be misleading. Even if you take out 3-4 teams that have a mathematical shot, it leaves you with 10 teams to follow in the last four weeks.”

Currently, Chicago holds a two-game lead for the eighth and final spot in the East while Dallas owns a three-game edge for the last seed in the West. Teams that still have a chance albeit a long one are the Bobcats, Bucks and Suns. Keep an eye on this trio the rest of the year and you can analyze more potential matchups between non-playoff clubs.

Here is a list of games to keep an eye on going forward, which includes the three teams that are still scratching for a late spot. Based on Wednesday’s affairs, you can already start to see a positive return.

Mar. 25
Milwaukee 106 Toronto 115 – Over 202
Charlotte 93 Washington 95 – Under 191
L.A. Clippers 140 New York 135 – Over 217

Mar. 27
Oklahoma City at Toronto
Memphis at Sacramento

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Mar. 28
New York at Charlotte

Mar. 29
New Jersey at Minnesota
Washington at Indiana

Mar. 30
Milwaukee at New Jersey
Memphis at Golden State

Apr. 1
Washington at Memphis
Sacramento at Golden State

Apr. 4
Toronto at New York
Memphis at Milwaukee

Apr. 5
New York at Toronto
Indiana at Oklahoma City
Golden State at Sacramento

Apr. 7
Minnesota at L.A. Clippers

Apr. 8
Toronto at Indiana
Minnesota at Golden State

Apr. 10
Phoenix at Memphis
Charlotte at Oklahoma City
Washington at Toronto
Sacramento at L.A. Clippers

Apr. 11
Phoenix at Minnesota
Oklahoma City at Milwaukee

Apr. 13
Charlotte at New Jersey
Memphis at Phoenix

Apr. 15
New Jersey at New York
Sacramento at Minnesota
Milwaukee at Indiana
Oklahoma City at L.A. Clippers
Golden State at Phoenix

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