Roughly three weeks remain in the NBA regular season and sports bettors are racking their brains trying to come up with the right answers to pick winners. The playoff chase is in high gear and many teams are scrambling for better positions or are trying to round their game into top form.
Among the many factors a NBA bettor has to take into consideration is scheduling, especially at crunch time late in the season. Every day this time of the season, nearly half the games do not have an overnight line due to one injury or another from a myriad of teams and if they are forced to play back to-back games or three in four days with travel involved, determining a winner is just that much more complicated.
While one is left to ponder these unfriendly conditions, here is what the schedule looks like for many of the contenders in each conference.
Western Conference Shoot-out
At least mathematically, 10 teams in the West still have a chance to secure a playoff spot and as this article was posted, each of them have a winning record in their previous 10 outings, proving what is at stake for all of them.
Unless the Los Angeles Lakers come down with an epidemic, they are fairly secure to wrap up the top slot out West. The second position is like the smog in L.A., not quite as clear. Denver and Dallas are going toe to toe, trying not only to keep teams from hunting them down in their own divisions, but seeking the higher seed should they meet possibly in the West semi-finals with crucial home court advantage at stake.
Both teams have seven road games left and the Mavericks have the edge in that department with 22-12 mark and brilliant 21-13 ATS record as visitors. Besides their exceptional road radiance, Dallas will be either favored or a short underdog in five of those contests.
Denver on the other hand is .500 on the road and 15-16-3 ATS in traveling uniforms. This week they open a five game road trip, visiting rugged outposts like Boston, Orlando and finishing up in Big D, possibly a real deciding matchup. The Nuggets also have a demanding close to the year- @Oklahoma City, home to the Lakers, San Antonio and Memphis and @Phoenix.
Positions four-thru eight will be not only challenge each West contender, but the wits of those putting down the cash to bet the correct side. Three teams in particular will have to literally take it one game at a time and will not have much time to do so. San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Houston all have a heavy workload with 14 games in just over three weeks. The Thunder have the most games on their own floor with eight and is 22-11 and 18-15 ATS, winning by 5.7 points per contest at the Ford Center. OKC will have to earn their postseason spot even at home, facing all contenders except for Minnesota on Apr. 4.
The Spurs have been scorching the last few weeks even without Tony Parker in the lineup. George Hill has proven his value at the point guard and they will need him and the other veterans like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to overcome a hellacious close to the year. The eight road games is hard enough (16-16, 14-18 ATS) at places like Boston, the Lakers, Phoenix, Denver and Dallas. But even when they are back home, Kobe and company pays a visit as does Cleveland and Orlando. If San Antonio doesn’t slip to eighth seed, it would appear to be a miracle, even with how well they have been executing.
Houston looks like a longshot to make the playoffs, down four games in the loss column to Portland and having eight remaining road games, all in groups of two or three. The Rockets are 8-14 as road dogs (10-12 ATS) and need a 11-3 close to even give themselves a chance.
Utah and Phoenix have both been playing solid basketball for some time and are seeking the all important first round home series as a fourth seed. The Suns have the more arduous journey with eight road games in final 12 contests, which includes a five-game trip mostly thru the Midwest. Steve Nash and the gang should at least show a profit as visitors, as they are 19-14 away from the desert, losing by less than a point a game (-0.8).
Utah’s slate is similar to the Suns, with one less roadie and one more in Salt Lake City. The Jazz travels should include being a road favorite in at least five of their stops and they will be favored in all five contests at EnergySolutions Arena.
Eastern Conference battle and positioning
The Boston Celtics have endured a great deal of criticism this season. This team is loaded with veterans, some believe a little too old. The C’s haven’t shown a great deal of heart or are just lacking in talent against the upper echelon clubs since the calendar turned to 2010. From wagering perspective their home record is their most disconcerting aspect at 21-12 and abysmal 10-22-1 spread mark. Eight of their final 13 contests are at TD Banknorth Garden and the Celtics better take advantage or they could fall to fourth seed, which would mean facing Cleveland in East semis.
Barring injuries or an unforeseen major collapse, the Milwaukee Bucks are going to back to the playoffs. The Milwaukee front office deserves a great deal of credit, adding veterans with young players to have this club in the fifth slot in the East, thanks to 14-3 sprint since Feb.19, with 12-3-2 ATS mark. The Bucks can generate further momentum by playing nine of their final 14 games at the Bradley Center where they are 23-9 and 20-11-1 ATS.
The Chicago Bulls still have a chance, but they have fallen out of favor with their 1-10 slide like Sandra Bullock’s husband. That leaves three teams fighting to avoid first round matchup with LeBron James and the fellas.
Miami, Charlotte and Toronto are bunched like bananas and the Bobcats should have the edge. Charlotte has the most remaining home games, eight of last 13, where they are 25-8 and 19-14 ATS. At present, only two of those contests will be against teams with winning records.
The Raptors are playing the poorest of the trio and are equal parts home and away for their remaining conflicts. Toronto could well be saddled with facing Cleveland, because they are the worst defensive team in points surrendered in the East.
The Heat’s biggest strength down the stretch is Dwayne Wade. Miami has eight road games left on their plate (only five at home), which sounds daunting until you take a closer look. Of those, only Milwaukee has a winning record. That leaves it up to Heat players to take grab the proverbial bull by the horns and finish sixth, thus missing the Cavs and Orlando in the opening round of the postseason. Miami is 15-18 on the road with 17-16 ATS record.
This is a great time for all NBA bettors to take stock of each contending team’s situation and think in advance how they season may play out when it comes to the schedule.