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NBA Betting Tip: Ride the Hot Hand

   by Bryan Leonard - 03/18/2007

There’s an old rule in sports betting: Don’t go against a hot team. Subsequently, is a team is on an 0-5 SU/ATS run, why would you want to find reasons to back that team the next game? If a team is playing bad, losing straight up and against the spread with regularity, there must be reasons for a slump like this.

We just saw a Milwaukee team on a 1-4 SU/ATS run as well as losing 11 of 16 games. They were an unhappy team, playing little defense and showing little interest in playing hard. Andruw Bogut flipping the bird to fans is one of several indicators that things weren’t going well on the court and in the clubhouse. However, the Bucks just stomped the Spurs 101-90 as a 7-point home dog. How? Changes! In that example, it was obvious that a major change took place before playing San Antonio as Coach Terry Stotts was fired.

It’s clear they had a new attitude under their new coach, Larry Krystkowiak. After being introduced as the new head coach of the Bucks only hours earlier, the Bucks played one of their most complete games of the season. Said Mike Redd, “It's a fresh start. A new day. A new coach. Just go out there and do what he says to do. A great win." That is common in sports when a major change like that takes place. A new coach can air a stifled locker room. One year the underachieving Red Sox fired manager John McNamara in mid-season, then they went 19-1 under new manager Joe Morgan!

It’s important from a betting perspective to look beyond stats when approaching teams that are hot and ones that are ice cold. I used a piece of that when giving out the Cleveland Cavaliers last week. You rarely want to go against a team in a win situation when their best player is on fire.

That was the case with the Cavaliers and LeBron James. I was impressed by how they handled their previous game in Detroit: James hit what was thought to be the game winning 3 pointer at the buzzer. Many players including the head coach ran to the locker room expecting the victory. But replays showed that the ball left LeBron's hand at 1/10th of a second after the buzzer. They team then came back on the court and beat the Pistons in the extra stanza.

Many teams would fall apart after battling so hard to take the lead late, but Cleveland led by the red-hot James showed the killer instinct, something he has been criticized for in the past. I backed them on the road against lethargic Milwaukee (this was before they changed coaches) and the streaking Cavs won straight up on the road.

The Lakers got three key players back in the lineup last week and hoped to end a miserable 0-6 SU/1-5 ATS run. One was a key frontcourt player in Lamar Odom, as well as role player Luke Walton. Yet, as a small dog at Denver, the Lakers continued to stumble, losing 113-86! Coach Phil Jackson admitted the players coming back from injuries were gassed in the second half. Again, be careful of backing teams in slumps, and be cautious of going against hot teams. It’s better to ride the streak than to predict when it might end.

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