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NBA Embarrassments

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/06/2007

Many teams get embarrassed during an NBA season. After all, it’s a long season and even good teams get smacked around on occasion. It happens. What’s important to look at from a handicapping perspective is what happens next! Does a blowout loss reflect something negative internally that is taking place? Something detrimental to the team’s short and long term health? Or is it an aberration that will subside quickly, in the form of a big win the next game?

The Denver Nuggets have been up and down all season when it comes to blowouts. On February 24 Denver lost by 20 at Dallas, the next game they won and covered at Memphis. Two weeks ago Denver got flattened 121-94 at Toronto. The next game they were a +6 road dog at Cleveland and won the game, 105-93. They recently got flattened again at Phoenix, only to bounce back the next night and win at Seattle by 11.

It’s no uncommon for teams to get totally outplayed, then come back with a fierce performance the next game. Usually these bounce-back teams have strong veteran leadership or good coaches who know how to use the bad defeat as motivation.

Of course, you have to be careful when bad teams get blown out, as that can have the opposite effect. Perhaps the bad team doesn’t care anymore or the players have tuned out the coach. It’s good this time of the season when a good team or one on the playoff bubble suffers an embarrassing defeat, as you know the group is already motivated to make the playoffs. So an extra slap in the face can get them even more fired up.

The poor Pacers have been blown out a lot the second half of the season, but they never seem to get up off the carpet, although they did show some pride with a stunning upset of the Spurs last week (without Jermaine O'Neal, no less). The Pacers went into the game losers of 17 of 19 games. "It's a big win for us, especially against a San Antonio team that, on paper, is probably better than us," Pacers forward Danny Granger said. "But we came in and got the win." But consistency, just like in handicapping, is more important than one surprise win.

A year ago the Pacers did use a blowout loss to right the ship after a 105-75 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Indiana was fighting for a playoff spot, so that loss raises eyebrows. "It was a terrible performance. It's as simple as that," Coach Rick Carlisle said at the time. Point guard Anthony Johnson said, "We were embarrassed, point blank." So what happened the next game? The Pacers played a very passionate game, covering in a 95-85 win over Chicago. What happens in one game can have an effect on what happens next.

Think back to the two teams that met in the NBA Finals, Dallas and Miami. During the regular season, Miami got destroyed by Dallas 112-76 on February. That was the biggest embarrassment of the season for the Heat. Miami then won 10 in a row and went 5-2 ATS after that debacle. A slap in the face, particularly one on national TV, can wake a team up helping them go on a strong run, often times both straight up and against the number.

Also, one can’t look at simply the next game that a team might bounce back after a terrible loss, but look at how the team plays for several weeks. "The bottom line is that nobody here wants to be the first Pacer team not to make the playoffs since 1997," Pacer Ike Diogu said after the win over San Antonio last week. "That's always in our minds.â€쳌 We shall see. The point is, don’t write off a team after a bad loss as they may use it as motivation the next game.

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