NBA Betting and Handicapping: Scouting The Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 4/2/2012
Is it time to climb on the Boston Celtics’ bandwagon?
Boston had arguably its most impressive performance of the season on Sunday, beating the visiting Miami Heat, 91-72 (with Boston a 4.5-point dog). It seems ridiculous now, but remember that Boston was having conversations about trading point guard Rajon Rondo at the deadline? Well, Rondo was the best player on the floor Sunday with 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for his NBA-high fifth triple-double of the season. Rondo loves the national stage, apparently, as of his 18 career triple-doubles, 14 have come in a nationally televised game.
Boston was up only five at the half, but Rondo had eight third-quarter assists as the Celtics outscored Miami 31-12 in that quarter to blow it open. The Celtics stayed ahead by at least 19 the rest of the way for their fifth straight win – and fifth straight cover. Boston is now 15-5 since the all-star break (second-best record in the NBA behind Chicago in that stretch) and has jumped the 76ers for the Atlantic Division lead. And they have gone on this run despite losing big men Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox for the season and without Ray Allen for the past six games. Avery Bradley has been tremendous starting in Allen’s place and played terrific defense on Dwyane Wade on Sunday.
I would caution about jumping on that bandwagon, however. First off, the Heat have come up lame in their past few big road tests (double-digit losses at the Lakers and Thunder). And Boston’s schedule is about to get brutal: Wednesday at home against San Antonio, then visits to Chicago and Indiana, home to Philadelphia and a rematch in south Florida next Tuesday.
And I wouldn’t panic much if you are a Heat backer, either. Yes, they have dropped seven of their past 11 on the road. And catching the Bulls for the East’s top seed is looking less and less likely. But Miami plays its next five at home, starting Tuesday against the 76ers as nine-point favorites. The Heat are an NBA-best 21-2 at home (but only 12-11 ATS).
The game of the week is Wednesday night when the Thunder visit Miami for their final regular-season matchup. And OKC looks like the team to beat in the NBA right now although they are still behind the Heat in NBA title futures (Miami at +135, OKC at +250, although the Thunder have now jumped the Bulls). Oklahoma City entered Monday’s game vs. Memphis having won six straight, including beating the Heat, Bulls and Lakers by a combined 39 points. Russell Westbrook has really raised his game. The dude could always score but since turning the ball over seven times in a game against Denver two weeks ago he is only turning it over 2.2 times per game in the past nine. He had one combined turnover – and 63 points -- in the wins over the Bulls and Lakers.
If you are looking for one team to have a rough week, look no further than the Memphis Grizzlies. They are just 4-5 (3-6 ATS) since Zach Randolph returned from injury and he’s clearly not 100 percent yet, having averaged 11.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in that stretch. Memphis is at the Thunder on Monday, flies home to face Golden State on Tuesday (as 8.5-point favorites), then flies to Dallas to face the Mavericks on Wednesday. Then they are at Miami on Friday before hosting those Mavs on Saturday. This week could well determine Memphis’ playoff fate.
Injured All-Star Centers
The Lakers avoided potential disaster on Sunday when center Andrew Bynum went down with an ankle injury in L.A.’s win over Golden State. But X-rays to Bynum's ankle were negative, and the team said he had a moderate sprain. He is officially called day-to-day. Bynum used to be considered brittle but he has not missed any games this year due to an injury for the first time in five years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lakers keep Bynum on the bench for Tuesday’s home game vs. New Jersey. The Lakers don’t need him to beat the crappy Nets – L.A. is a 12.5-point favorite. But they will want him for Wednesday’s game against the Clippers. That one could well determine the Pacific Division Champion as it’s the final regular-season meeting and the teams have split their first two matchups.
Bynum is the West’s best center – that honor in the East belongs to Dwight Howard and he missed Sunday’s 104-101 home loss to Denver because of back spasms. Howard, who missed only the eighth regular-season game of his career due to injury, did make the trip with the team to Detroit for Tuesday’s game, with the Magic as five-point favorites. Forward Ryan Anderson almost certainly will sit Tuesday after he sprained his ankle in Sunday’s loss. Orlando has followed a three-game winning streak with three straight losses (ATS losses as well). The Pistons won’t have Rodney Stuckey for the game.
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