NBA Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 3/11/2013
Do you remember the treatment that LeBron James received when he played his first game back in Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat? Well, expect similar fan reaction in two games this week as the Lakers' Dwight Howard returns to Orlando on Tuesday night for the first time as does Carmelo Anthony in Denver on Wednesday.
Howard for sure is going to hear it big time as the big man is reviled in central Florida after all his shenanigans earned him a trade to the West Coast. Howard used to be one of the most likable players in the NBA and a demigod in Orlando, but now his reputation is that of a whiner who pouts and doesn't play well when he doesn't get his way. Recently, Howard ripped some of his former teammates, saying his Magic teams were “full of people who nobody wanted."
More than a few of those teammates fired back. “At some point, when are you gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Jameer Nelson said. Howard laughably added that he “was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face.” As the Orlando media aptly described, the only thing Howard led the team in was insubordination in getting Coach Stan Van Gundy fired last season. The guy just doesn't have the sense of when to stay quiet, although he did apologize to Magic fans in a USA Today interview. It's too little too late.
The Lakers won their 16th game in their past 22 on Sunday with a 90-81 victory over the Bulls. They now hold down the No. 8 spot in the West, are two games over .500 for the first time, and I could see them getting as high as No. 6 because the Lakers are clearly better than Houston and Golden State, the two clubs immediately ahead of them. Should L.A. get to No. 6, we could have an all-Los Angeles first-round postseason matchup. The Clippers have had the Lakers' number this season, but at least L.A. would avoid the Spurs and Thunder in Round 1. Sportsbook.ag's Lakers season outcome prop now has them losing in the first round as a -220 favorite, with missing the playoffs at +400. They aren't going to miss the postseason barring a big injury. The Lakers better win in Orlando, however, as they are then staring at potential losses Wednesday in Atlanta and Friday in Indiana. The Magic actually beat the Lakers in L.A. earlier this year.
As for Anthony, he's not likely to get quite the lousy treatment in Denver that Howard will get in Orlando. Yes, Melo forced his way out of town, but the Nuggets really are better off without him, something the Magic clearly can't say. It's hard to believe that Anthony hasn't returned yet, but the Knicks had already played in Denver in the 2010-11 season when Anthony was acquired, and New York didn't visit last year during the lockout-shortened schedule. It's not clear if Anthony will even play. He has missed three straight games with a sore knee and was questionable for Monday's game at Golden State. I'm sure he wants badly to be on the floor.
The Knicks could be in some trouble of slipping out of the Top 4 in the East and losing home-court advantage for the first round. They enter this week a very distant No. 2, 8.5 games behind Miami but only 2.5 games ahead of No. 4 Brooklyn and 4.5 ahead of Chicago. New York will finish the regular season without Amare Stoudemire, whose troublesome knees will go under the knife yet again. He might be back in six weeks, at which point New York's playoff run could be over regardless. Stoudemire isn't the all-star he used to be but did average 14.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in a little over 23 minutes per game. Sunday's win over fading Utah improved New York to 22-9 without Stoudemire this season, but he will be missed.
Finally, Sportsbook.ag has an interesting prop on when the Miami Heat's next loss will be. They won their NBA season-high 18th straight game Sunday against the Pacers, who had been 2-0 this season against Miami. A victory Tuesday night at home against the Hawks will tie Miami for the fifth-longest winning streak in history. I don't see the Hawks pulling the upset as they are 0-3 this season in the series (0-3 ATS), and Miami has won 14 straight at home. The site has Miami losing Tuesday to end the streak at +350. Then Miami goes on a five-game trip, and here are the odds their next loss comes in those games: Philadelphia (+500), Milwaukee (+450), Toronto (+700), Boston (+350) and Cleveland (+1000). Should the Heat get past the Celtics with the streak intact, that would be 23 straight, which would be the second-longest streak ever. How fitting would it be for it to end in Cleveland? Many still believe that LeBron will return to the Cavs when he opts out of his contract after next season. I think it ends at Milwaukee, where the Heat were spanked earlier this season (albeit on the second of a back-to-back).
You can also get the streak ending in any April game at +2000, and that it doesn't end in the regular season at +10000. Should the Heat run the table, that would be 39 straight. The record 34th would come April 9 at home vs. Milwaukee. Not gonna happen. That March 31 game at San Antonio could be very interesting, however (+2500 to end there). A win would give the Heat the season series and the potential tiebreaker for home court in the Finals. The Heat already have that tiebreaker against the Thunder and Lakers. Miami split with the Clippers and Grizzlies.
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