NBA Basketball Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 2/11/2014
The Detroit Pistons pulled the rip cord on Coach Maurice Cheeks last week, which was somewhat surprising because it was only Cheeks' first season on the bench in Motown -- how general manager Joe Dumars is still employed is a mystery. Cheeks' 50-game stint was the fifth-shortest in the past 25 years for a coach in his first season with a team. The shortest: Jerry Tarkanian for 20 games in 1992-93 with San Antonio.
The Pistons reportedly have eyes on former Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, who interviewed for the job last summer. The team liked him enough to ask him to join Cheeks' staff as an assistant, but Hollins said no thanks (smartly as it looks now). The Pistons beat the Spurs 109-100 on Monday under interim coach John Loyer. It was the Pistons' fifth win in their past seven games, so perhaps they are close to turning it around. Loyer probably keeps the gig through the season because owner Tom Gores might want to dump Dumars too and not have him picking the next coach.
Now it's time to ask which NBA coach will be next to go, and I wouldn't be shocked to see a few of the books post a prop on this sooner rather than later -- perhaps during this weekend's all-star break. Clearly any list would have to have the Knicks' Mike Woodson at the top. Last week there were reports he could get canned before the Feb. 20 trade deadline if New York didn't start playing better. In addition, owner James Dolan oddly met with star Carmelo Anthony to discuss the team's future after a recent game. Woodson said this weekend he has gotten no indication that he won't be the team's coach the rest of the year. The Knicks have lost four of five but should handle the visiting Kings on Wednesday in their final game before the break (J.R. Smith will play despite fracturing his cheekbone in Sunday's loss to Oklahoma City). They better. More bad news for New York as it tries to get into the playoffs: 19 of its final 31 games are on the road. I believe Woodson makes it through the season but is a goner after.
I might make Minnesota's Rick Adelman the favorite. The Wolves enter play Tuesday a vastly disappointing 24-27 and have lost four straight (none of them very close). They are now seven games out of the final playoff spot in the West, so there's no time to waste. Minnesota needs to do whatever it can to make Kevin Love happy as well or else he leaves after the 2015 season. Minnesota hosts Denver on Wednesday for its final game before the break. Then it's a home game with Indiana on Feb. 19 before a five-game road trip that could all but bury the Timberwolves.
Other coaches you would have to look at would be Cleveland's Mike Brown, Milwaukee's Larry Drew and New Orleans' Monty Williams.
If it was possible for things to get worse in Milwaukee, it did in the past two days. On Saturday, Larry Sanders, who had just started to play pretty well, suffered a fractured orbital bone and is out indefinitely. It is possible he could return right after the break, or it could be weeks. Then in Monday's loss to Boston, fellow big man John Henson, who also has had trouble staying healthy this season, injured his foot and almost surely won't be playing in Wednesday's first-half finale against visiting New Orleans. Milwaukee fans already don't care about this team. The Bucks had the smallest crowd in Bradley Center history in Monday's loss. Milwaukee has two wins in 2014 and is an NBA-worst 19-32 ATS.
Sportsbook.ag has released odds for Saturday night's Three-Point Contest in New Orleans, and to no surprise Golden State's Stephen Curry is the +250 favorite. Curry, considered by most the best pure shooter in the game right now, set an NBA record for made 3-pointers last season and leads the league by far in attempts and makes this season, although his long-range shooting percentage is down quite a bit. This will be his third try in this contest, and he reached the final in 2010.
Defending champion Kyrie Irving is +550, but he's not really a great 3-point shooter. The guy I think who presents the best value is San Antonio's Marco Belinelli at +600. He's one of the best long-range shooters in the NBA. There are four players from Western Conference teams and four from the East, with the high scorer on each side facing off in the final.
The site hasn't posted Dunk Contest odds yet -- I'm not even sure everyone is clear on what the new rules there are. Seriously, can you remember who won that the past two years? (hint: a Raptor and a Jazz player). Portland's Damian Lillard is the defending champion in the Skills Challenge and the +300 favorite to repeat. I have no opinion on that nor the Celebrity Game between Team Bill Simmons (-1.5) and Team Jalen Rose. I will lean toward the East in the actual game as it looks to end a three-game losing streak to the West. I think it helps the East's cause that Kobe Bryant won't be playing for the West.
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