NBA Betting and Handicapping: Scouting The Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 2/20/2012
OK, this time I mean it: Nothing about Jeremy Lin in this week’s NBA week ahead preview. I’m frankly fed up with it all and if the guy played in say, Portland, instead of New York we wouldn’t even be talking about him. Blame ESPN and its Northeast bias.
It’s a short week in the NBA with the all-star break hitting after Thursday’s games as the league’s biggest stars head to Orlando for the weekend’s festivities (more on that in a bit). As an aside, look for the Magic to really start to take serious Dwight Howard inquiries now as there was no way the team was going to trade him before the break and then watch him come back as an all-star with another team. Expect some Howard trade props to be released by the books soon.
One team I want to look at this week is the suddenly relevant Detroit Pistons (11-22), who at one point were 4-20. On Sunday the Pistons totally dominated the Boston Celtics, winning 96-81 at The Palace. It was their second win over the Celtics in the last five days, third straight victory and seventh win in the last nine games overall. It’s not too often you will beat any team shooting 37.8 percent from the field but that’s what Detroit did against the C’s on Sunday. The Pistons outscored the Celtics 29-11 from the foul line. It was the largest margin of victory against the Celtics in 13 years in a game in which Boston outscored its opponent from the field. Detroit was only 29-for-46 from the line or it would have been a massacre.
The Pistons have now covered in nine of their past 10 games and the turnaround coincides with Pistons Coach Lawrence Frank inserting Jason Maxiell into the starting lineup 10 games ago. Jonas Jerebko has provided an offensive spark off the bench since being replaced in the starting five by Maxiell, who brings a defensive factor to the first five that Jerebko didn’t. The bench’s success has shown in the past nine games as Detroit has outscored its opponent in the second quarter of nine of those games. The Pistons have averaged 25.9 points, to 20.1 for opponents, in their last nine second quarters.
Detroit closes the first half with games at Cleveland on Tuesday and Toronto on Wednesday – probably as a slight dog in both yet both very winnable games. Still, the Pistons are just 3-12 on the road so they will have to start winning away from Auburn Hills (where they are 10-7-1 ATS) before they can be taken seriously. Detroit has won its past two on the road, at Boston and New Jersey.
Another injury worry for Manu
As usual, the San Antonio Spurs are overlooked by most casual NBA fans and bettors. But there the Spurs are at 22-9 and on a 10-game winning streak (8-1-1 ATS) entering Monday’s matchup at Utah. Tony Parker has been playing like one of the NBA’s best players. He had a game-high 30 points and 10 assists in Saturday’s overtime win over the Clippers. Parker is averaging 27.1 points per game in his last seven games for San Antonio, which has won 10 straight for the first time since Dec. 3-22, 2010, and improved to 6-0 on its annual Rodeo Trip.
However, the increasingly brittle Manu Ginobili was hurt again in Saturday’s loss. He definitely won’t play until after the all-star break and it could be a while. He left the team to return to San Antonio on Sunday and will have an MRI exam on his strained left oblique (rib muscle) Monday. Saturday was Ginobili's fourth game back since being sidelined for 22 games after he broke his left hand in a game against Minnesota on Jan. 2. Entering Saturday's game, Ginobili, a two-time all-star, had played only eight games for the Spurs, averaging 13.4 points on 56.3 percent shooting from the field.
Also keep an eye on the MRI results for center Tiago Splitter. He strained his right calf in Saturday’s game. The 6-foot-10 Brazilian has been having a breakout season, shooting a stellar 62.0 percent from the field in a little more than 21 minutes a game. The loss of Splitter leaves the Spurs with only three legitimate big men: Tim Duncan, undersized DeJuan Blair and reserve Matt Bonner, who is always at the three-point line. Coach Gregg Popovich ruled out increasing Duncan’s workload no matter how many games Splitter may miss.
I would thus be very weary of the Spurs as they close the first half at the Jazz, Blazers and Nuggets. Then the Spurs are home for seven straight but play five likely playoff teams in that stretch.
Bovada has released odds on Saturday’s Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shhotout at All-Star Weekend in Orlando, and both fields are lacking star power in a big way. If you can name me the four dunkers without looking, well, you are smarter than I am. The Knicks’ Iman Shumpert is the huge -175 favorite to win – likely because Lin will be helping his teammate out. It’s totally based on fan voting now, so expect the fact Lin is involved to be the difference. In terms of pure dunking ability, I like Indiana’s Paul George at +350. But not many fans will know who he is.
On the three-point contest, at least there are a few guys the casual fan has heard of: the Timberwolves’ Kevin Love (6/1) and Hawks’ Joe Johnson (6/1). The opening favorite is New Jersey’s Anthony Morrow – YAWN! – at 5/2. Morrow is third in the NBA entering Monday with 67 three-pointers made. The leader is Orlando big man Ryan Anderson with 93. He’s in the contest and obviously he will have the home-court advantage on Saturday for what that’s worth. Anderson is 3/1 and he’s my pick.
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