NBA Betting and Handicapping: Scouting The Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 4/9/2012
How could a reigning championship team with a superstar player and an owner willing to spend deep into the luxury tax zone possibly miss the playoffs? That’s exactly what might happen in Dallas as the Mavericks are fighting for their playoff lives.
If my history is right, only two reigning NBA champs in the past 50 years have missed the playoffs the following season and it hasn’t happened since the Chicago Bulls won their final championship with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the rest. Of course, the Bulls blew up their team after that sixth title and won only 13 games in the following season (which was lockout-shortened to 50 games).
Mavs owner Mark Cuban actually purposefully did somewhat torpedo his team’s chances of repeating this offseason when he declined to re-sign Tyson Chandler and, to a lesser extent, J.J. Barea. Cuban wanted to have cap space this coming offseason in hopes of luring the likes of Deron Williams (very likely) and/or Dwight Howard (not happening now). But, still, the Mavs were supposed to be a contender, especially after seemingly stealing Lamar Odom from the L.A. Lakers in a trade.
However, Odom has been an abject disaster as a Maverick and he won’t be wearing the Dallas uniform again in his career. The slumping Mavs haven’t cut Odom but will render him inactive for the rest of the season in the hopes they can get something in trade for him this offseason. Any team that has Odom on its roster as of June 29 must buy him out by that date for $2.4 million or otherwise accept responsibility for the full $8.2 million that Odom is scheduled to earn in 2012-13. Odom, last year’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year, leaves the Mavericks averaging just 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game while shooting 35.2 percent from the field, all career lows. Plus his attitude was bringing the team down.
Dallas is hoping this is addition by subtraction as it has lost two straight and four of six (2-4 ATS) heading into Tuesday night’s home game vs. the Kings (Mavs are -10 and expected to have point guard Jason Kidd back). The Mavericks are currently No. 7 in the West standings but just 1.5 games ahead of No. 9 Phoenix, which is surging. And perhaps Dallas should be careful what it wishes for as the Mavs are 0-7 in games Odom missed this year. He was at least capable of allowing Dirk Nowitzki a little rest most nights.
The Mavericks are down to 28/1 odds to win the Finals. And after Tuesday, six of their final eight games are on the road, where the Mavs are 11-16 (13-14 ATS). A key game could be next Monday at Utah, which is right behind Phoenix at No. 10 in the West. The Suns and Mavs don’t play again this year.
East Playoff Race
This could be a huge week for the New York Knicks and their playoff chances. Thanks to a monster game from Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks stole a victory on Sunday at home against Chicago, thanks to some missed Bulls free throws. New York enters play Monday tied with Philadelphia (both 29-27) for the final two playoff spots in the East, with Milwaukee a game back at No. 9. The Knicks play four games this week and will be dogs in three of them: at Chicago in a rematch Tuesday (New York is +9), at Milwaukee on Wednesday and at home vs. Miami on Sunday; New York should have little trouble at home Friday vs. Washington.
That Bucks game could prove to be extremely important because right now the Knicks trail the season series, 2-1 – obviously then a Milwaukee win would earn the Bucks the tiebreaker should the two teams end up tied. It’s rather doubtful that New York goes into Chicago and wins and then obviously has to play 24 hours later in Milwaukee. And the Heat have beaten the Knicks by double digits twice already this season, so I would expect a 1-3 week for New York.
Meanwhile, it’s probably time to abandon the Philadelphia 76ers bandwagon if you are still on it. The Sixers have lost four straight (0-4 ATS) and were blown off the court Sunday in Boston, 103-79. Coach Doug Collins has to do something other than calling his players “sensitive” and “fragile” as he did Sunday. Philly is 9-18 since starting 20-9. However, the schedule does set up well this week with only three games: at New Jersey on Tuesday (Sixers -4.5), at the Raptors on Wednesday and home to the Nets on Friday.
It’s now or never for Philly because after this week, six of its final seven games are on the road, where the Sixers are 10-15 (10-14-1 ATS) and have dropped four straight.
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