Al McMordie’s NBA Betting Roadmap Week 3
By Al McMordie
Unlike past seasons, where the NBA’s best teams have burst out of the gate like supernovas, the league’s top squads have been stumbling and bumbling this year.
The Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder and Cavaliers are widely considered to be the most talented teams. Yet, in the aggregate, they are 19-14 straight-up, and 11-22 against the spread this season. And none of them is above .500 ATS!
On Sunday, the Spurs (-6.5), Cavaliers (-10.5) and Warriors (-14.5) all lost outright as big favorites. Golden State’s loss to Detroit was particularly stunning, as it was the first time (in 51 games) in the Steph Curry Era that the Warriors lost at home when favored by more than 14 points!
Let’s take a look at the upcoming week.
We’re two weeks into the NBA season, and the league’s two best records belong to the Memphis Grizzlies (5-1) and Detroit Pistons (5-2). Detroit also owns the best pointspread mark, as it is 6-1 ATS, including back-to-back upset wins on the weekend over the Clippers and Warriors. And Detroit was installed as an underdog of +8.5 and +14.5 in those two games!
This week, the Pistons will finish their West Coast road trip with a game against Lonzo Ball’s Lakers at Staples Center, on Tuesday, before returning home to face the Bucks and Kings. Their game at Los Angeles looks like a prime spot to fade the Pistons, especially given that the Lakers will enter that game off blowout losses to the Raptors and Jazz. And NBA teams, like Detroit, off back to back upset wins as an underdog of +8 or more points, are a poor 22-41-1 ATS since 1990, including 1-11 ATS vs. foes off back-to-back SU/ATS losses.
Consider taking the Lakers on Tuesday.
Last week, 33 of the 50 NBA games played went ‘under’ the total.
And the team which has played the most ‘unders’ this season is, perhaps, the team one would least likely suspect: Mike D’Antoni’s Houston Rockets. Houston’s 6-1 ‘under’ for the season, and is currently on a 6-game ‘under’ streak, while it held those six foes to an average of 98.1 ppg. Indeed, only Houston’s season-opening game against the league’s other high-octane offense — the Warriors — went ‘over’ the total.
Of course, it’s true that Houston added defensive-minded free agents Luc Mbah A Moute and PJ Tucker (though it lost Patrick Beverley). But I don’t believe that the Rockets, after ranking #18 in adjusted defensive efficiency last season, have morphed into an above-average defensive team. Instead, I think Houston’s relatively low-scoring games have much more to do with the nature of their opponents.
Indeed, the Rockets’ last six games were against five teams that all currently rank in the bottom half of adjusted offensive efficiency (Sacramento (#25), Dallas (#17), Memphis (#21), Philadelphia (#19) and Charlotte (#27))!
This week, Houston will once again take on Philadelphia, at home, on Monday, before taking on the Knicks, Hawks and Jazz. Of those teams, only the Knicks currently rank in the upper half of adjusted offensive efficiency.
I think it’s a great spot to take the ‘over,’ as four of the last five meetings have sailed ‘over’ the number, including the most recent meeting — a 129-122 Houston victory last December.
The San Antonio Spurs’ MVP candidate, Kawhi Leonard, remains out indefinitely with a quadriceps injury, and his absence is beginning to have a deleterious effect.
San Antonio has lost its last two games — to Orlando and Indiana — and scored just 87 and 94 points in those defeats. The loss to the Magic was a blowout from the get-go, which happens. But San Antonio never should have lost to Indiana. The Spurs were actually up on the Pacers by nine points with 6:35 left, yet collapsed.
If Leonard was on the court, it would not have happened.
Last season, Leonard averaged 25.5 ppg, and his usage rate was 31.1%. And coach Gregg Popovich routinely called his number when the Spurs needed a bucket late in a game. This season, however, the Spurs just don’t have enough reliable offensive weapons, and they rank a horrid 23rd in adjusted offensive efficiency.
This week, the Spurs will be underdogs for the first time this season when they face Boston, on Monday, and Golden State, on Thursday. (Last season, the Spurs were 5-1-1 ATS as an underdog in the regular season.) Then, they’ll finish up the week as “chalk” with winnable games vs. the Hornets and Suns.
It’s possible that Leonard could return later this week, but until he does, the Spurs are a team to avoid at the betting window when they’re laying points.
When I handicap NBA games, I try to look for certain events that might trigger an opportunity to bet on or against a team. One of my favorite such events is when a team pulls off an upset, as they often have a letdown in their subsequent game. This season, NBA teams have gone just 9-18 ATS off an upset win. But that’s not the best part. If our team coming off an upset win owned a W/L percentage of .500 or better, then our 9-18 ATS season record moves to 3-18 ATS, including 0-11 ATS vs. opponents with a losing record.
This week, we currently have three games that fall into this angle.
On Monday, the Timberwolves are favored at Miami following the T-Wolves’ upset win over the Thunder. Then, on Tuesday, the Pacers, off their upset of the Spurs, will host the Kings, while Detroit will try to follow up its shocking win over the Warriors with a victory against the Lakers.
Of these, I feel the two best games to play are the ones on Tuesday, and I’ll take the Kings and Lakers.
Good luck, as always…Al McMordie.
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