James Harden in Mike D'Antoni's fast-paced offensive system has been a match made in basketball heaven. The enigmatic Harden has done it all for the Rockets this season, including dishing out an NBA-high 12.2 assists per game. It was just last season that Harden took "isolation" basketball to a whole other level, consistently dribbling down the shot clock before hoisting the rock while his teammates stood and watched.
That's not the case this season. Much like D'Antoni's system helped elevate Steve Nash to multiple MVP's a decade ago in Phoenix, the same is being done with Harden in Houston. This has resulted in Houston not only churning out lots of straight up victories, but also plenty of profits for bettors.
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While the Rockets are flying high, the Nets, Timberwolves and Trail Blazers have continued to burn bettors the past two weeks. Here's the latest bi-weekly installment of Doc's Sports look at the hottest and coldest bets in the NBA.
Hottest NBA Teams ATS
Houston Rockets (11-6 SU; 12-5 Season ATS)
Recent: 6-1 ATS
In addition to topping the league in assists, Harden also ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring (28.9 ppg). ESPN noted this week that between his scoring and passing, Harden has accounted for 58.4 ppg, which is easily the best mark in the league.
The Rockets lone ATS hiccup the past two weeks came in a 115-102 straight up loss to the Raptors as a four-point home favorite Nov. 23. Since then, they've registered double-digit road wins and covers against both the Kings and Trail Blazers.
The Rockets will look to keep the good times going at Utah on Tuesday and at Golden State on Thursday.
Chicago Bulls (10-6 SU; 11-5 Season ATS)
Recent: 5-1 ATS
The Bulls have been a pleasant surprise. Bettors shrewd enough to get on this group early have been handsomely rewarded as the Bulls have the league's second-best record versus the number as one of the biggest surprises in the season's early going.
Jimmy Butler has been brilliant for Chicago, averaging a team-high 25.8 ppg on 49.8 percent shooting from the field; Dwayne Wade (18.9 ppg) has shown there's still mileage on those 34-year-old legs; and Rajon Rondo (7.7 ppg, 7.4 apg, 6.6 rpg) has proven a productive veteran pickup at point guard.
Note that Chicago has the league's fourth-best point differential (+6.3) and is one of just three teams to rank in the Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Golden State and the Lakers are the others.
Next up for the Bulls is a home date with the Lakers on Wednesday followed by a visit from LeBron and the Cavs on Friday.
Other hot NBA bets: Denver Nuggets (7-10 SU; 11-6 Season ATS; Recent: 5-2 ATS), Toronto Raptors (11-6 SU; 11-5-1 Season ATS; Recent: 5-2-1 ATS)
Coldest NBA Teams ATS
Brooklyn Nets (4-12 SU; 7-8-1 ATS)
Recent: 0-5-1 ATS
The woeful Nets actually got off to a strong start against the spread this season before turning into an absolute money pit. It has now been nearly three weeks since they last beat the number. The most recent losing margins for the Nets are by 17 points to the Kings on Saturday, 21 points versus the Pacers last Thursday, preceded by 19 points against Boston, 20 versus the Blazers and 19 points against Oklahoma City. In short, the Nets have been getting obliterated. Keep your money far away from this squad.
New Jersey this week plays the Clippers on Tuesday and Bucks on Thursday, both at home, followed by a trip to Milwaukee for another game against the Bucks.
Minnesota Timberwolves (5-12 SU; 5-12 ATS)
Recent: 2-6 ATS
If the Bulls have been the NBA's most surprising "good" team, Minnesota would have to be considered the most surprising "bad" team in the league. The young T'Wolves were projected by most to take a big leap forward this season, but instead they have regressed under new coach Tom Thibodeau. It has to be especially frustrating for Thibodeau, a noted defensive tactician, that his unit ranks in the Bottom 10 in most defensive metrics of note.
The T'Wolves only measure of success has come when able to simply outscore its opponents. ESPN recently pointed out Minnesota is 4-1 when scoring at least 110 points and just 1-9 when unable to reach that threshold. Until the T'Wolves can get things in order on the defensive end, they are another shaky proposition moving forward.
This week Minnesota plays a home-and-home against the Knicks on Wednesday and Friday followed by a trip to Charlotte on Saturday.
Other cold NBA bets: Portland Trail Blazers (9-10 SU; 6-13 ATS; Recent: 2-6 ATS), Dallas Mavericks (3-13 SU; 5-11 ATS; Recent: 2-5 ATS)
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