This season in the NBA has been nothing short of bizarre and entertaining. Let's pull no punches about it (looking at you Blake); the storylines heading into the back half of the season are too juicy to pass up.
The Golden State Warriors came out of the gates flying and got off to a 24-0 start before being upended by the Milwaukee Bucks. Steph Curry is playing like a man possessed, hitting seemingly every shot he takes (30.3 points per game) despite missing a few games due to injury. It will be interesting to see if the Warriors (42-4) can stay hot and threaten the NBA record of 72-10 for a complete season.
The circus that is the Cleveland Cavaliers never ceases to amaze the sporting world, this time firing head coach David Blatt despite leading the Eastern Conference by two games over the surging Toronto Raptors. The team just got its All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving back, and even his stretch of hot play could not save Blatt from misery. Everyone knows that LeBron pulls the string, but firing a coach when you sit firmly in first place is just asinine.
The Cavaliers currently sit at +275 to capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy behind only the Golden State Warriors (+175). All odds can be found SportsBettingOnline.ag.
Interestingly enough for the sake of this article, both Golden State and Cleveland will not be featured.
Let's take a look at the best and worst teams in The Association against the spread when playing on two or three days of rest.
Best Record ATS With 2-3 Days Rest
Portland Trailblazers - 8-1 (88.9%)
The Portland Trail Blazers sit in eighth place in the Western Conference with a record of 21-26. The loss of perennial double-double player LaMarcus Aldridge really sunk this ship in the off-season when he left for San Antonio as a free agent. Damian Lillard is doing everything in his power to keep the Blazers' afloat, but with a week supporting cast the overall record speaks volumes of where this team is at currently. The reason they sit atop this list is that they have gotten a bit lucky in terms of scheduling. Teams they have beaten with two or three days of rest include Lakers (x2), Suns, Kings, Nuggets (x2) and the Cavaliers. One of these teams is not like the others -- can you guess whom? (P.S. it is Cleveland. They are actually good). Their lone loss came against Detroit, who was in the midst of winning five out of six to start the year, which leads me to my conclusion: with rest, take Portland, when rested, against anyone in the bottom half of the league.
Indiana Pacers - 9-2 (81.8%)
The Indiana Pacers sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 23-22. They are being led by All-Star Paul George, who is their go-to man when crunch time hits. George sat out the first few weeks of the season recovering from a broken leg he suffered in USA basketball camp. It affected the team's outlook as they started 0-3 before racking up 12 wins in their next 14 games with George back in the lineup. The Pacers rank 11th in points per game this year with 102.3. Given that they had some time off to rest and get a full squad healthy it's no surprise that the Pacers are covering at a 81.8% clip. Fresh legs equal more points equals staying in games longer. I would look to back the Pacers next against Oklahoma City on Feb. 19 coming out of the All Star game.
Washington Wizards - 8-2 (80 %)
The Washington Wizards sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 20-23. Tough times have fallen upon the Wizards with injuries to their key guys John Wall and Bradley Beal. They rank 14th in points per game (101.6). Why are they successful with two or three days of rest? One word: Tempo. The Wizards average 100.5 possessions per game, which means they like to push the tempo. In the half-court set Washington looks a little bit out of sync, which is why they've only won three games this year when scoring under 100 points. Any team should be weary of the Wizards coming in off a lengthy rest period because of their ability to push the pace and score a bunch of points of the fast break (18.3 per game, second overall). Whether they can play any defense remains the question. They rank 24th at 104.1 points against per game. Look to play on the Wizards Feb. 9 when they take on the Knicks on three days rest. And take the over!
Worst Record ATS With 2-3 Days Rest
Minnesota Timberwolves - 1-5 (16.7%)
The Minnesota Timberwolves sit 14th in the Western Conference with a record of 14-32.
With a team full of young up-and-coming talent, you would be hard-pressed to find a single reason they are not very good. They started 2-0 against the Lakers and Nuggets and did not win their first home game until Nove. 23against Philadelphia. One would like to believe that given a couple of days off to rest, these young guys on the team would rebound and put forth a better effort the following game. Whether it is distractions (Flip Saunders) or a lack of team chemistry, this team has not lived up to its full potential. Wiggins, Towns, LaVine and Rubio all have the ability to be stars in this league, and it's unfortunate to see them struggle like they do on a consistent basis.
Sacramento Kings - 2-6 (25%)
The Sacramento Kings sit in ninth place in the Western Conference with a record of 20-25 on the season. They are led by All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins and often forgot about enigmatic point guard Rajon Rondo. The saga between Cousins, Rondo and head coach George Karl is nothing short of a circus. You would be hard-pressed to find a team that plays hard for a coach they do not like or get along with (I am looking at you Cleveland). The Kings rank third in the league with 106.4 points per game. The point total is not the crazy part; the crazy part is that it is only good enough for third. They sit behind the likes of OKC (109 ppg) and the all mighty Warriors (114.8 ppg). If you can put up points with the best of them, chances are you will be in many games down the stretch and able to cover the spread. That is not the case with these Kings since they are dead last in points per game against with 107.8. If DeMarcus isn't going off every night for 48 or 58 points, and Rajon is being bad Rajon, this team has more than just chemistry problems. Shots won't be falling, and sooner or later George Karl will be in the unemployment line.
Utah Jazz - 3-8 (27.3%)
The Utah Jazz sit in 10th place in the Western Conference with a record of 20-25 on the season. The problem with this team is they have no talent or depth on the bench. They rely too heavily on second-year guard Trey Burke (Michigan) to lead a team with Derrick Favors as their go-to big guy. Favors was a solid player in his time in Georgia Tech and is averaging a decent 16.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. When you play in the Western Conference and have to guard bigs like Draymond Green, Tim Duncan, and Serge Ibaka, those stats just do not cut it. The Utah Jazz are in the Bottom 5 in the league in points per game (97.6) and in the Top 5 in points against per game (96.8), which makes zero sense. One would think that if you sit in the Top 5 in defensive points allowed per game that you would be in every game. The problem lies with their shooting percentage, which is a sorry 44.3 percent. Look to play against Utah on Feb. 9 against Dallas when they go into American Airlines Center on three days of rest.
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