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NBA Myth Exposed

   by Al McMordie - 03/28/2004

I've always found it interesting when I've turned on the television and heard half-truths and falsehoods uttered from the mouths of the "experts". Perhaps the saying that gets propagated the most is the post-season axiom, "It's always tough to beat a team three times in a season". Well, if an NFL or college basketball team already lost both regular season meetings against a division or conference rival, they have a heckuva shot at going 0-3. Even the players, themselves, have bought into this myth, as they've heard it dozens of times. Indeed, two weeks ago, Longhorn point guard Royal Ivey told a reporter that Texas would defeat Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship because, after all, "It's hard to defeat the same team three times in one year". But it's just not true. College Basketball teams are 24-45 SU and 32-35-2 ATS in the post-season if they lost both regular season games.

With that in mind, I was listening to the late-night broadcast of Sports Center three weeks ago, and they previewed the Detroit/Seattle game by asking if the Pistons could overcome the difficulty of playing in Denver the night before, because of the altitude adjustment. Detroit had played in Denver the previous night, and for years this has been an NBA "system" that I've read about in newsletters, and heard other handicappers discuss. People actually bet against an NBA team if they played the previous day in high altitude vs. the Nuggets. I don't know how it got started, but it's now found its way onto Sports Center. So, I ran the numbers in my computer and, not surprisingly, found that it's just a myth.

In fact, NBA teams are 101-74 ATS after playing the Nuggets in Denver the previous night. And it doesn't matter if our team plays the next game at home (52-31 ATS), or on the road (49-43 ATS). It doesn’t matter whether their foe is rested (66-46) or playing without rest (35-28). It also doesn’t matter whether our team is off a win (51-37) or a loss (50-37). Teams that played in Denver the previous night cover the spread. And quite possibly, the reason that they do is related to this myth. The oddsmakers have surely heard it, and probably adjust the number to absorb the extra money that will come in against our team.

This angle is 7-5 on the season, and has one more play this year. It goes this Wednesday night, and involves the match-up between Seattle and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Sonics will play at Denver on Tuesday, and then travel to play the Midwest Division-leading Timberwolves the next night. So consider taking the Sonics against Minnesota on Wednesday following their Tuesday night tilt in the Pepsi Center vs. Denver. But, whatever you do, make sure you stay clear of the Timberwolves, as the line will be inflated!

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