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NBA Defense & Overs

   by Bryan Leonard - 03/07/2007

I’m not a trend guy when it comes to sports handicapping. If a team has covered 8 straight road games, that alone isn’t enough for me to start backing them on the road. However, if there are reasons for the team’s improved road play, then I will take a serious look at that trend. Examples would be if the team has key players back from injuries, the coach has changed strategy the last few weeks, or some young players are getting significantly better.

One trend to keep an eye on is bad defense. We are beginning to approach that point in the season where bad teams can get even worse. Why? Because they know they’re not going to the playoffs. Teams in that spot can begin to care less and players can be more focused on individual stats to help their offseason contract talks, rather than focus on the team. This can rear its head in defensive stats, with a team getting more lazy and disinterested in team defense.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the worst nine defensive teams in the NBA in terms of opponents field goal shooting: Memphis, Milwaukee, Portland, Seattle, Washington, Boston, Golden State, Toronto and Atlanta. Of that group, only Washington and Toronto are going to make the playoffs. Also note that the worst defensive team on that list (Grizzlies) are also the worst team in the league. Yes, defense is still king!

Most of these teams have been on significant runs over the total, as well, a trend that can be directly tied into their poor defensive play. Memphis is on a 24-14-1 over the total run, while Milwaukee is 9-4 over the last 13 games. Portland is on a 70% run over the total the last 10 games, as is Boston.

The Celtics might be a team to keep an eye on over the total the rest of the season. They’ve been poor defensively ever since coach Doc Rivers has been there (sixth worst this season in field goal shooting allowed, and 12th worst in points allowed). Boston just got star Paul Pierce back and quietly won four in a row, three times as a dog. They have been a cover-machine at 8-2 ATS the last 10 games, all since Pierce returned.

In addition, Golden State is 12-7 over the last 19 games, Toronto is 9-6 over the last 15, while Atlanta is 9-3 over the last 12. Those teams have several strong offensive weapons, but there defense is poor. That’s a good combination, if you like to play totals, for overs.

Also keep in mind what happens when these bad defensive teams play each other. The Celtics and Bucks recently met (ranked No. 2 and No. 6 in FG shooting allowed) and the game sailed over the total by 19 points in a 117-97 Boston win. Golden State just played Memphis once and Washington twice and the Over was 2-1 in those meetings. Washington and Toronto recently hooked up in a battle that sailed 21 points over the total. So keep up on stats, trends and angles. When pieced together in a logical fashion, they can provide wagering edges.

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