NBA Handicapping: Teams that Could Close Strong
by Trevor Whenham - 4/1/2014
It seems very hard to believe, but we are now just a couple of weeks away from the end of the regular season in the NBA. For some teams that means that the urgency is intensified as they fight to secure playoff spots and to be sure they are ready to give their best effort when the postseason begins. In other cases, the end can't come soon enough, and teams will be just mailing it in as they wait for the suffering of a long season to ease. Bettors can do well down the stretch by being able to spot teams who are likely to be playing at a full effort and for whom a full effort has been converting into wins and covered spreads lately. Here are four teams that stand out from the pack because of their potential to reward bettors in their last eight games.
Phoenix Suns: It is a complete war for the last two spots in the Western Conference, with Dallas, Memphis and Phoenix all tied at 44-30. Of the three, Phoenix is the least likely, but they are playing the best ball right now. They suffered an embarrassing loss at the Lakers last time out, but they had won eight of nine before that. Their remaining schedule is very tough with six of eight games against teams that are in the playoffs in the West or fighting to be. That will turn off some bettors, but they are playing tough enough that they could win some of those games and play close in others. They have a very good chance of beating public expectations the rest of the way. They are just so much fun that I also hope that they find a way to come out on top of this race and keep playing when the season ends.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are the team that won't die. How many squads could lose two players of the caliber of Rose and Deng and still be in a position to finish third in their conference? Sure, the conference isn't dominant by any means, but this is still impressive. As of Tuesday night they are tied with the Raptors for third, and the fight for that position will be significantly because it could potentially have an impact on home court in the second round if the Pacers don't get their act together and are upset in the first round. The team has won 18 of their last 25 games, and seven of their last 10, and they are playing very well despite their circumstances. The race will motivate them to continue this play, so they should be reliable the rest of the way. Their remaining schedule is almost laughably soft, so the wins should keep coming, and the spreads should be covered.
New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans are far out of the playoff picture, and they have been long forgotten by the public. They have quietly been playing very good basketball recently, though. They have won five of their last seven, and one of those two losses hardly counts since it occurred in San Antonio and on the second of consecutive nights. The offense is working well, Anthony Davis has begun to realize his staggering potential, and the team is well-coached for a squad this far down the standings. The team is doing all this while dealing with all sorts of injuries - Eric Gordon is the latest to be out with a knee injury, joining Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson, among others. The team was 4-0-1 ATS in the five recent wins, and they are frequently underdogs because of their record and struggles, so there is a good chance they can deliver value the rest of the way.
San Antonio Spurs: Sometimes you just can't over think things too much. The Spurs are a very public team right now, but that doesn't mean that they aren't delivering real and significant value. They have won 18 straight games and 21 of 22, and are in the midst of one of the great runs in NBA history. The public would have to be blind to not see how good this team is right now, yet they have remained dominant for bettors. They have covered 17 of 22 spreads over this streak - a ridiculous 77.2-percent clip. You would think that their betting success would slow down as the streak extended and the public got more involved, yet they have covered 11 of their last 12. It's just incredibly impressive, and despite the fact that betting on a team winning everything seems like the wrong thing to do for bettors who seek out value, in this case it's just the ticket. They still haven't technically clinched the top seed in the West, so they aren't likely to let up on the gas anytime soon, either. The way that this team is dialed in, I don't expect them to let up on the gas until June.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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