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Inside NBA Totals

   by Larry Ness - 03/01/2011


As we pass the mid-point of the NBA season, this is a good time to examine totals. There are a lot of factors from a handicapping perspective that go into understanding totals. Team defense, coaching, a dominant shot blocking big man, home court can be factors when looking at unders. Such things as coaching philosophy, youth, and depth need to be considered when attempting to identify overs.
Let's take a look at the most prominent over team this season: Cavaliers. Cleveland is on a 20-6 over the total run and there are reasons for it. This is a small lineup, so they can get pushed around in the low post. The best way for them to compete is to get out and run! The Cavs beat the visiting Knicks for the second time this season, 115-109, upstaging the Carmelo Anthony/Amare Stoudamire duo.
Cavs forward Antawn Jamison had 28 points and 13 rebounds, center J.J. Hickson had 24 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots, while Ramon Sessions added 22 points. The shorthanded Cavs were without newcomers Baron Davis and rookies Semih Erden and Luke Harangody, all obtained in trades last week.
No matter. They ran until they dropped (or won). The Over is 16-5 in Cavaliers last 21 home games, 19-7 against the Eastern Conference and the over is 21-7 in Cavaliers last 28 when their opponent scores 100 points or more in their previous game. No matter how you slice it, this team scores points and usually gives up more. It’s all part of their style, out of necessity. Old Coach Mike Brown preferred a slow, defensive approach, but new Coach Byron Scott cares little for defense.
A few years ago a similar thing happened in Seattle, before the Sonics left town. The Sonics started 29-11 over the total. Talk about a handicapping skew! That's almost three out of every four Seattle games were going over the total. Why? That was a case where an aberration was not taking place, as there were several reasons for this. First, this was not a happy team. Remember that coach Nate McMillan got these guys to overachieve, but he left for Portland. A new coach came aboard and a lot of things fell apart, so much so that he was fired and assistant Bob Hill became the new head coach. McMillan's ability to get his group to play team-oriented basketball and defense did not materialized under the new coaches.
In addition, they had decent undersized role playing forwards who could rebound, but no big bodies to act as defensive deterrents. What you're left with was a bunch of scorers who wanted the ball, essentially. Seattle's defense was a joke all season, allowing 105 points per game and .495% shooting by opponents. Both were the worst marks in the NBA.
Youth can be a factor, too. Young teams, like currently in Toronto, can be more focused on offense than defense. Other times, teams can change in the middle of a season. Boston traded defensive force Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green, a better offensive player. It will be interesting to watch the Celtics defensive numbers to see if they shift any.
Coaching philosophy is also a major reason. The Detroit Pistons went from being a strangling defensive team under Larry Brown when they won the title to one that was more relaxed and wide-open offensively under Coach Flip Saunders, who gave the veteran team more freedom to be creative offensively. The new-look Pistons started 13-6 over the total on the road under him that first season.
And sometimes, it's simply the venue. Denver continues to play its best offense at home, partly because visiting teams aren't used to the thin air. Understanding all the facets of totals, offense, defense and team strengths and weaknesses can help sports bettors identify tangible trends to anticipate winning wagering opportunities.

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