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Examining NBA Totals

   by Bryan Leonard - 01/25/2007

We have just crossed the midpoint of the NBA season. Don't start looking at the teams with the best records and think they are destined to meet in the conference finals. One year ago, the Pistons were 32-5 and destined for the NBA Finals, so many thought. They never made it. Four years ago the Mavericks were 32-8 (with Steve Nash) and the Spurs were only 27-16. San Antonio went 33-6 the rest of the way and won the title.

The point is, things change all the time. This is a good time to examine NBA totals because a lot of unusual things have happened. The Bulls were an awesome defensive team last season and added Ben Wallace, so everyone expected a dominant defensive team. They haven't been, although they have started to pick things up of late (on an 8-2 run under the total). No one expected the Memphis Grizzlies to go from a plodding halfcourt game to a run-and-gun style, but that's what happened when they changed coaches and philosophies, going on a tear over the total until oddsmakers caught up.

There are a lot of factors from a handicapping perspective that go into understanding totals. Team defense, coaching, a dominant shot blocking big man, home court can be factors when looking at unders. Such things as coaching philosophy, youth, and depth need to be considered when attempting to identify overs.

The Pacers have been a strong defensive team under coach Rick Carlisle for several years, but this season has been different. The Pacers are 15-7 over the total at home and recently went on a 7-2 run over. The Big Trade has changed personnel, so it's important to carefully examine this team to see how they play with respect to totals with their new personnel.

One thing impressive about the Orlando Magic is all the talented young players they've acquired. Equally impressive is their team defense at home, allowing 91 ppg there. That's why Orlando is 14-6 under the total at home and 26-14 under overall. It often takes time for young players to learn defense and this group appears to understand that more and more.

Coaching philosophy is also a major reason. The Detroit Pistons went from being a strangling defensive team under Larry Brown to one that is more wide-open offensively under coach Flip Saunders, who has given this veteran team more freedom to be creative offensively. The new-look Pistons are 11-7 over the total at home.

The Spurs still bring tough defense under head coach Gregg Popovich, who also still has the tools on the court to carry it out with stoppers like Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen. San Antonio struggled earlier in the season, as age is perhaps catching up to this team, but after giving up 114 points to Washington, Popovich chewed his team out in practice and wanted more defensive focus. The Spurs are 10-3 under the total since that loss to Washington.

And sometimes, it's simply the venue. Minnesota is 15-5 over the total at home, while Kobe Bryant's Lakers average 107 points at home, where they are 14-8 over. Understanding all the facets of totals, offense, defense, home court and team strengths and weaknesses can help sports bettors identify tangible trends to anticipate winning wagering opportunities.

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