NBA Betting and Handicapping: Scouting The Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 3/19/2012
Are the Phoenix Suns a playoff team? The Suns were pretty much an afterthought in the Western Conference and possibly up for trading the face of the franchise in Steve Nash before last Thursday’s trade deadline. But Nash didn’t want to leave and that is starting to look rather sage. Entering Tuesday’s game at Miami, Phoenix has won four in a row (4-0 ATS) to get into the playoff conversation.
And do you remember Michael Redd? The former Milwaukee Buck used to be one of the top scorers in the NBA. Then injuries hit and Redd was never the same. He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in 2009 and missed 49 games. He then tore the same ACL again a year later, missing 64 games. He got into just 10 games for the Bucks last year, his last with the franchise for which he had played 11 seasons. But on Sunday, Redd scored 25 points in the Suns’ win over Houston. He was 10-of-13 from the field in just 19 minutes. In fact, he was the first player to score at least 25 points in less than 20 minutes of playing time since C.J. Miles did it for the Jazz in March 2010 (26 points in 19 minutes). The only other Suns player ever to do that was Wayman Tisdale against the Nuggets in December 1995.
That win moved Phoenix within a half game of Houston – probably the biggest loser at the trade deadline in that the Rockets did next to nothing despite being rumored in many deals – for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, I would warn you to stay off that Phoenix bandwagon. Tuesday’s game starts a tough four-game trip and the Suns will be dogs in all four: at Miami, Orlando, Indiana and Cleveland. The Suns are 9-11 ATS away from home this season.
The team with the longest winning streak entering Monday was the Milwaukee Bucks at five in a row – they have actually covered seven straight -- as they battle the New York Knicks for that No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. Perhaps no team was a bigger winner around the trade deadline than Milwaukee, which got Monta Ellis from Golden State for a guy who wasn’t playing much in Stephen Jackson and another who is probably done for the season in Andrew Bogut. Ellis had 18 in his Milwaukee debut Friday against his former Warriors mates. Love those Bucks “overs” now as they will be much more explosive with Ellis.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucks lost three of four this week as they visit Portland on Tuesday, host Boston, are at Charlotte (second of a back-to-back – trap game in a big way) and then host Indiana.
The Knicks, meanwhile, look like a totally different team since Mike D’Antoni shockingly resigned last week. Carmelo Anthony says the Knicks are having more “fun” over the last three games under Interim Coach Mike Woodson and it’s showing. Even though D’Antoni was considered an offensive coach and Woodson a defense guy, the Knicks are averaging 112.7 points per game in winning three straight (3-0 ATS) under Woodson.
Actually, the defense has markedly improved as well. In Woodson's first three games, the Knicks have allowed 93.4 points per 100 possessions. In D'Antoni's final 10 games, they gave up 103.7 points per 100 possessions. Opponents are shooting just 39 percent in Woodson’s three games compared to 46.7 percent in D’Antoni’s final 10. I wrote last week about a prop on whether Phil Jackson would be the Knicks’ head coach next year (I said no). If they keep playing like this, Woodson will get the full-time gig. New York will be a favorite in three of its four games this week: home vs. Toronto, at the Raptors (Friday) and home vs. Detroit on Saturday. Let’s see how they do Wednesday at Philly.
Game of the week
I won’t even bore you with a full week breakdown of the NBA schedule as there’s really only one game that truly matters this week: Miami at Oklahoma City on Sunday night after the NCAA Tournament games are finished. It’s the first meeting of the season between the two NBA title favorites (Miami 3/2, OKC 4/1 at Bovada); they play again on April 4. Thunder will be slight favorites for this one.
And the good news is that it’s not the second of a back-to-back for either club so we should see a fair representation of what each truly is. The Heat and Thunder each won on the other’s court a season ago.
There’s talk the Thunder might try and sign former Lakers point guard Derek Fisher, who was bought out by Houston after being traded there. OKC needs a backup for Russell Westbrook after losing Eric Maynor for the season earlier this year. Fisher could help teach the young club how to be a champion – it wouldn’t surprise me if the Heat and Chicago Bulls, who probably won’t have the injured Derrick Rose all week, also looked into signing him. If Fisher clears waivers by Wednesday, he will be free to sign with any other team but the Lakers. L.A. didn’t need him after acquiring Ramon Sessions at the deadline (a very good move).
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