NBA Betting and Handicapping: Scouting The Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 1/17/2012
Most basketball experts predicted that injuries would play a bigger role than normal during this NBA regular season with the lockout-condensed 66-game schedule resulting in tons of back-to-backs for each team.
Those experts appear to be right, and the injury bug seems to be hitting the guards the hardest -- although the Atlanta Hawks were devastated by a season-ending injury to big man Al Horford and Memphis hugely misses power forward Zach Randolph.
Reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose of the Bulls sat out Monday’s matinee at Memphis with a toe injury, one that’s probably going to be an issue the rest of the season. Rose missed a home game against the sorry Wizards last week with the injury but then played through it over the weekend as Chicago won at Boston and home vs. Toronto.
But Rose had a "minor setback" and was back in a protective boot on Monday and the Bulls came out totally flat and were dominated by the Grizzlies as two-point favorites.
Look for the Bulls to rest Rose whenever possible against teams they should be able to beat without him: For example, Tuesday night back in Chicago against the Phoenix Suns, who have lost four straight one-sided games. Since the Bulls are listed as -9, we assume that Rose should go tonight; Chicago still should be at least a six-point favorite without him. If he does rest tonight, he would have five days off before Chicago goes to Cleveland on Friday night where Rose might get to face off with point guard counterpart and No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving.
The Bulls have managed to get off to the best record in the Eastern Conference despite next to nothing from shooting guard Richard Hamilton, who missed his eighth straight game with a groin injury Monday. He doesn’t appear close to returning.
Also sitting Monday was Clippers point guard Chris Paul against the Nets. Paul strained a hamstring in Saturday’s 102-94 win over the Lakers – no team has had more impressive back-to-back wins than the Clippers, having beaten Miami last Thursday and then their hallway rivals, the Lakers.
Paul will travel with L.A. to Utah for tonight’s game, but I wouldn’t look for him in that one or Wednesday back at home vs. Dallas as the Clips conclude a back-to-back-to-back. Los Angeles then finishes the week at home vs. Minnesota and against the Raptors, two teams it should beat even without Paul. So presuming L.A. can get backup Mo Williams back (out Monday with a foot injury), I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul sits until a rematch with the Lakers next Wednesday.
Also unlikely for Tuesday is Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. He was hoping to be a game-time call at Cleveland, but Curry’s troublesome right ankle, which he has sprained perhaps a dozen times over the past two years, didn’t respond as well as hoped at practice Monday. Golden State has too much at stake with Curry to risk a catastrophic injury, so don’t expect him back this week. Curry has injured the right ankle three times this season. The most recent time was on Jan. 4 in San Antonio, and Curry hasn’t played since.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram counted 19 key players around the league losing time to injuries in the first two weeks of the season.
Tough week ahead for Heat
The injured star guard list continues down in South Beach where the Heat are saying that Dwyane Wade is out indefinitely with his own sprained ankle. Wade was hurt in the fourth quarter of Friday's 117-104 loss at Denver when he landed awkwardly and turned his ankle while pursuing a loose ball. He immediately left the game and did not return.
Afterward, Wade said that pain was unlike any he had ever felt and it’s time to wonder if Wade is starting to break down as he turns 30 on Tuesday. There’s no chance he plays Tuesday night as the San Antonio Spurs visit. But maybe that’s a good thing? The Heat went 3-0 earlier this season when Wade sat, and LeBron James gets much more aggressive when Wade is out.
LeBron is averaging 32.5 points, 11 assists, 7.5 rebounds and shooting 61 percent from the floor in two games he played without Wade. In fact, over the past two seasons, LeBron’s scoring per 40 minutes without Wade is 10 points higher than with him. Chris Bosh’s is five points higher. Obviously that makes sense considering there are most shots for James and Bosh to take with Wade sitting.
The Heat enter Tuesday’s game on a three-game slide. Yet the 9-4 Spurs might be the perfect tonic. San Antonio looks like an NBA contender at home, going 9-0. But the Spurs, who remain without Manu Ginobili, are 0-4 on the road. Thus, obviously San Antonio has gone 13 games into the season without a home loss or a road win. That matches the longest such streaks to start any of the last 28 seasons. Since 1984-1985, the only other teams to go undefeated at home and winless on the road over their first 13 games were the Nets in 1985 and again in 1995.
The Heat are 6.5-point favorites over San Antonio – the fact there’s even a line pretty much tells you that oddsmakers aren’t expecting Wade to play. The Heat have eight of their next nine at home.
Games to watch rest of week
It won’t get as much buzz as San Antonio at Orlando or Dallas at the L.A. Clippers, but Wednesday’s most intriguing game might be Denver at Philadelphia. These two are bucking the trend that you need a superstar to win (you still do in the playoffs). These are two of the deepest, most athletic rosters in the NBA, which is an absolute must this season.
The Sixers should have the edge – they opened as a 5.5-point favorite -- in this one as they won’t be coming off a back-to-back like Denver will be, with the Nuggets visiting Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The 76ers improved to 5-0 at home with Monday’s easy win over the Bucks.
Thursday night all eyes will be on the TNT opener between the Lakers and Heat in Miami – you know Wade wants to play in that one if at all possible. I will preview that game here at Doc’s. L.A. has not been good on the road thus far, winning only once in five tries and that was in overtime at average Utah. Hard to project a line on this one depending on Wade, but Miami would be a favorite regardless.
L.A. finishes its swing through the Sunshine State at Orlando in Friday night’s top game (ESPN). Saturday night the hype will be at Madison Square Garden where the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony faces the Nuggets for the first time since last February’s big trade. Expect Anthony to go off in that matchup.
I’m sure most bettors will be focused on the NFL playoffs on Sunday and there really is only one good game on the NBA schedule that day: Pacers at Lakers, which tips right around when the Giants-49ers NFC Championship Game should end (9:30 EST). All three of Indiana’s losses have come on the road and they were by a combined 53 points. So I’m not a believer in the Pacers yet. I project the Lakers to be nearly double-digit favorites.
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