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by Bryan Leonard - 04/21/2010
Many teams get embarrassed during an NBA season, even the playoffs. 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?
I recall one season when the Indiana Pacers got pounded. They decided not to show up in their 105-75 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Indiana was a good team fighting for a playoff spot, so that loss raises eyebrows. "It was a terrible performance. It's as simple as that," the coach said. 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.
That same year the Miami Heat got destroyed by Dallas 112-76 back on February 9. Surely 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.
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. Most teams are motivated right now in the playoffs, but there are some teams lucky to get here and they could be prone to getting blown out if they realize they have not shot of upsetting a higher seed.
But an extra slap in the face, such as a blowout loss, could get them even more fired up. Also, one can't look at simply the next game that a team might bounce back after a terrible loss. A year ago the Orlando Magic had a bad playoff loss at Boston in game 2, losing 112-94. The next game, in Orlando, they went wild, pounding the Celtics 117-96.
Then in the NBA Finals they lost Game 1 badly, 100-75, only to force the Lakers into overtime the next game. In short, a totally different team showed up in that bounce back effort. A good handicapper needs to have patience and not read too much into one game.