NBA Handicapping: Hot or Cold Report
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 2/12/2010
The NBA All-Star Game is not the midway point of the season, that has already happened, but for all intents and purposes whatever happens from tip-off at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday up until the playoffs will be considered another part to the season. Who will emerge from the All-Star Break hot and poised to make a run to the playoffs and who will never snap out of the winter break?
The Bobcats have never made the playoffs or finished a season above .500 since joining the association in 2004 but if the playoffs started today, which they don’t, the Bobcats would not only be above .500 but also in the playoffs. They head into the All-Star Break with a pair of nail biting wins over Washington and Minnesota and then they have the lowly Nets on the other end of the All-Star Break. After that it is Cleveland, who many forget that Charlotte actually beat 91-88 in the last meeting. The Bobcats are 8-5 SU and 8-5 ATS against their next 13 opponents after the break.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are right where they want to be heading into the break. Yes, Kevin Durant is lighting up the stat sheet to the tune of 29.7 points per game but as a team the Thunder are the fifth best scoring defense in the league and limiting teams to 33.3-percent from the three-point range (second best in the league). The defense, not just Durant, is what will carry them into the second half. They are playing their best basketball of the season, winning six straight heading into the break, but the break is not a bad thing for them in terms of slowing down momentum. With the amount of minutes Jeff Green, Durant and Russell Westbrook are logging, this is a much-needed break.
For the second week in a row the Raptors are on the hot list. Everyone kept waiting for a full-out collapse from Toronto that would lead to Chris Bosh packing his bags; but instead it has been the exact opposite. Toronto headed into the break winning eight of nine and going 6-3 ATS. They have been extremely tough to beat at home (20-6 SU) and Toronto is home for four of the next five after the break with just a road trip to New Jersey in the middle.
Utah is all the way up to third place in the Western Conference, so now would be a good time to stop riding the Jazz. It is hard to imagine them rising any higher, and with the way they have played on the road (10-12 SU), the post All-Star Break schedule should raise concerns for the Utah faithful. The Jazz have already played nine more home games than road games this season. On top of that they open up the second half with trips to Houston, New Orleans, Golden State and Portland. They are a combined 1-3 SU and 1-3 ATS against those teams last time around and all three are tough places to pick up a road win.
It is becoming quite apparent that a return to the form of two years ago from the Boston Celtics is out of the picture. In the second half they should have only one goal, to hold onto the lead in the Atlantic Division. The Raptors clawed to within four games heading into the break thanks to a hot streak from Toronto, but also because of a lethargic stretch of basketball played by Boston that saw them go 5-8 SU. Boston has been a solid road team and has shown it can beat the teams coming up on its schedule, but that was a different team than the one who will emerge Tuesday night to face Sacramento. The Celtics hit the road for four straight games starting Tuesday and the entire second half figures to be a struggle for Boston to hold things together.
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