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NBA Playoffs: Adjustments & Information

   by Bryan Leonard - 05/29/2010

If you want to have as many edges as possible when it comes to deciding which way to bet, it’s always a good idea to immerse yourself into the game and the action. Now, this doesn’t mean to strap on a uniform and help Andruw Bynum pull down a few rebounds, or try and run down the court to guard Rajon Rondo. From a handicapping point of view, it’s good strategy to immerse yourself as much as possible in a series, without actually taking the court. That means watching the games, then reading as many newspapers as you can before and after each contest.
Watching the game provides useful information. You can see who is being double-teamed, who is working hard under the boards and who might be loafing down the court. A box score may show that a bench player played just two minutes, but watching the game can give you the reasons why that bench player didn’t see much time: Maybe the starters were getting the job done, maybe the two minutes he did play he was overmatched or ineffective, or maybe he threw a towel in the coach’s face (like Robert Horry once did to coach Danny Ainge). You can’t always learn the reasons why something is happening without seeing it for yourself. Culling newspapers offers excellent information to assist the handicapper not always found when watching a game. Here’s one example in the Orlando/Boston playoff series, the Magic had talked about what strategic changes to make after dropping the first two games at home. Boston played like it was the home team in Orlando, coming out strong each game and forcing the Magic to mount rallies. "We have to hit them first," Barnes said. The Orlando newspaper mentioned that the Magic want to “Keep the Celtics' defense on the move with better passing and playmaking.” That’s something to look for when the next game was played.
There is a lot of information available, particularly game strategy from the coaching staff. Much of that was info you might miss watching the game. And that can help a handicapper when watching the following games. What if Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnett pick up 3-4 fouls in the first half? That might negate their influence, or back up what Barnes was referring to (play a more physical game). Plus, it might offer a good second half wager on one team, if the game is close and Howard has 4 or 4 first half fouls. In addition, newspaper accounts offer excellent information on injuries. I learned during one NBA playoff series from a Miami newspaper that Shaq was still ailing, as was Detroit guard Richard Hamilton. In the following game, Hamilton was 8-for-23 shooting in Game 2. You can see that a player is struggling PLUS you know the reasons that it might be happening, valuable information.
Box scores, too, can tell a lot. In the three regular-season meetings between Detroit and Miami that season, the Pistons shot 36 percent from the field and averaged 78.7 points a game. In the first two playoff games, Detroit is shooting 42 percent from the field averaging 88 points, so Miami’s defense was very good. Shaquille O'Neal averaged 33 minutes, 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the series – numbers below his usual production, so it was clear the big guy was hurting.
Out West, Phoenix has had to figure out a strategic way to play some defense, as the Lakers have been shooting lights out with their height advantage. Kobe Bryant made a joking reference about being old after Game 2. He called talk about his age "entertaining" and "funny." "The notion that I'm old and that I won't figure things out," he said. "That's the part that's really funny to me. Like I said, they should know me better." So he’s not worn down or unhappy! Make sure you watch the games AND read various news reports all during the week. Successful sports handicapping is not guesswork: Seemingly small tidbits can help you turn a profit at the betting window.

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