NBA Basketball Betting and Handicapping: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 3/4/2014
The NBA's MVP race is far from over, my friends. LeBron James is making darn sure of that.
James had his signature game of the season on Monday night, scoring a career-high and Heat franchise record 61 points in a blowout of a Charlotte team that's pretty good defensively. It wasn't an NBA season high, however, as the Bobcats allowed 62 points to the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony earlier this season. The Bobcats are the third team ever and first since the 1961-62 Knicks to allow to 60-point games in the same season (both Wilt Chamberlain that year). It was James' 820th career game, the most games played in league history by a guy at the time of his first career 60-point game.
The Heat have won eight in a row to put the heat, pardon the pun, on the Pacers for the Eastern Conference's best record. James is averaging 37.4 points since the all-star break and shooting 67.9 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from long range (he missed one game). That's silly. The Heat already are +180 NBA title favorites at Sportsbook.ag and -130 to win the East. I think both numbers get a tad shorter if Miami can run the table this week. The Heat visit Houston on Tuesday night, San Antonio on Thursday night in the TNT opener and Chicago on Sunday, also on national TV.
Should Miami get through that, we could be looking at another very long winning streak. Not 27 like last season, but I could see the team rolling off 20 straight. Here's the schedule after this week: vs. Washington, vs. Brooklyn, vs. Denver, vs. Houston, at Cleveland, at Boston, vs. Memphis, at New Orleans, vs. Portland. The Heat will be favored in all of them. How cool would it be for Miami to take a 20-game streak into Indiana on March 26?
By the way, it behooves you to watch Thursday's Heat-Spurs game. It could be the last time you see six Hall of Famers on the same court in an NBA regular-season game for a while. Of course, I'm talking about Miami's James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (he's not there yet) and San Antonio's Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. I don't happen to think the Spurs will reach the Finals, and there has been talk both Duncan and Ginobili will hang it up after this season. The Heat beat the visiting Spurs by 12 in late January, but San Antonio was without three starters in Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter.
Sixers Of The West
I and others have hit plenty on the truly wretched Philadelphia 76ers here at Doc's recently, and they may not win another game this season. But there's also a Western Conference team you should be betting against every night right now: the New Orleans Pelicans.
They have lost starters Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson for the season and have all but mailed it in -- Anthony Davis can't do it alone. The Pelicans lost 96-89 in Sacramento on Monday night for their eighth straight defeat and 10th in the past 11 games. The Pelicans have one cover in that stretch.
Davis is playing through a shoulder injury and hasn't been good the past two games, shooting 5-for-20 from the field for 21 combined points and only eight rebounds. Here's why I believe the Pelicans may shut Davis down as well: they have reason to keep losing. The 76ers own the Pelicans' first-round pick if it's outside the Top 5 for the Holiday deal. The team with the fifth-worst record right now is equally awful New York, only 2.5 games back. If New Orleans added a big man like Joel Embiid (although his back problems are concerning) in this summer's draft to play alongside Davis, that's going to be a good team soon.
Thunder May Struggle On D
The Oklahoma City Thunder haven't looked all that good since Russell Westbrook returned from his injury, and they suffered an under-the-radar injury to be aware of. Guard Thabo Sefolosha, by far the team's best perimeter defender, could miss the rest of the regular season with a calf strain. He's fourth on the team in minutes and also a solid enough 3-point shooter, but it's on defense where he will be missed. Offensively it's not a big loss, and the Thunder now have Caron Butler to help on that end of the court. The Thunder also remain without center Kendrick Perkins for likely the rest of the regular season. He's a black hole offensively but also a good defender.
OKC came out of the break with three straight defeats. Losing at home to Miami and the Clippers is understandable, but not by 10 to Cleveland. All three opponents scored at least 103 points. The Thunder stopped the skid last Friday but allowed the Grizzlies, not exactly an offensive powerhouse, to score 107. Charlotte was held to 99 in the Thunder's 17-point win Sunday. Still, that was the fourth straight "over" total for a Thunder game, and I look for that trend to largely continue minus Sefolosha and Perkins.
Oklahoma City won't feel Sefolosha's absence on Tuesday night as it is a 20.5-point favorite against those visiting Sixers. Reportedly that's the biggest spread in the NBA since November 2009. I could see high-scoring Phoenix giving the Thunder trouble on Thursday, however.
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