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Situational Spots and Road Trips From Hell

   by Bryan Leonard - 02/11/2008

Not all games are created equal. Last week the Atlanta Hawks were a 9-point dog at Houston. Seems like an awful lot for a team on a 3-1 SU, 2-1-1 ATS run, doesn’t it? Especially since they beat the Lakers as a dog and lost to the Cavs by just 5. Well, it was the third game in four nights for the Hawks, and the second of a back to back spot, hosting the Cavs the night before. Houston, meanwhile, was rested. All of that came into play as the Rockets routed the Hawks, 108-89.

Handicappers and oddsmakers take careful notice of road trips and situational spots such as this. Taking it a step further, notice that in that loss to Houston the Hawks set or tied season lows for first-half points (31), points in a quarter (10 in the second) and field-goal percentage (.174, 4-for-23) by a Rockets opponent. The Hawks allowed 34 points in the paint by halftime, managing only 14 of their own, and the Rockets made 23 of 40 shots (57.5 percent) from the floor. "We should have just stayed at the hotel the way we played," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Our energy level early on was just non-existent." Road weary play or bad spots are very real, taking a toll at times on players. Keep in mind Atlanta started 12-7 ATS as a favorite, but 10-15 ATS as a dog.

The Lakers have some excitement because of the addition of 7-footer Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown. You don’t need time to assess that this is one of the most one-sided trades in NBA history. Gasol had 12 points and seven rebounds in a recent win over Miami. One thing he adds beyond stats is he’s a good shooter and passer, so if teams come after him, he can pass to Kobe or Lamar Odom. And if teams double team Bryant, Gasol offers another strong scoring option. In that win over Miami, Kobe Bryant had 33 points on 10-for-15 shooting while Odom was all over the place with 15 points, 18 rebounds and six assists.

Keep an eye on the Lakers over the next few weeks as they are on their longest road trip of the season, a 9-game trip. After coming home for one game, they head out on a 3-game trip, so they will play 12 of 13 on the road ending on February 24th. They play three games in four days, all on the road, at Phoenix, the Clippers and Seattle, the latter two back to back.

There’s always extra road travel with the Toronto Raptors, playing north of the border. Beginning in March, the Raptors play 9 of 12 games on the road, including a 5-game West Coast trip. Sandwiched in between that grueling trip will be 3 times they play back to back games.

The 76ers begin a trip playing 9 of 13 on the road, which continues into March. This is significant as they have been winning at home of late, but still struggle on the road. In fact, they average 93 ppg on the road, 3 less than at home, so it’s no surprise they are 14-10 under the total away from home, something to keep in mind as they head out on this road trip.

Miserable Miami has an unusual road trip coming up at the end of February. After hosting Sacramento the head out to LA, Seattle and Sacramento, before flying 3,000 miles home to face Toronto. Not good for a team that has packed in the season on that 1-22 run! Unless Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks can provide some spark (and much needed depth).

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