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NBA Playoffs: Adjustments and Handicapping Insight
by Bryan Leonard - 05/23/2012
If you want to have as many edges as possible when it comes to deciding which way to wager, it’s always a good bet to immerse yourself into the game and the action. Now, this doesn’t mean to strap on a uniform and help Serge Ibaka pull down a few rebounds, or try and run down the court trying to guard Steve Nash. 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.
The 76ers came back on Boston in Game 4 by going uptempo in the second half, which pushed it over the total. Will they continue to play that way? Or is Boston able to adjust? The Lakers did the opposite after getting blown out in Game 1 at Oklahoma City last week, slowing things down the next two games while playing much better.
Culling newspapers offers excellent information to assist the handicapper not always found when watching a game. There is a lot of information in that paragraph, particularly game strategy from the coaching staff. Much of that was info you might miss watching the game.
In this last year’s playoff series, a Memphis newspaper story identified a weakness that the Grizzlies have:
“The Grizzlies’ biggest weakness in this series, one that had been hidden for most of the NBA playoffs, and was being exposed over and over again in Oklahoma City’s 99-72 blowout to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference series. That weakness is a lack of an outside scoring option, someone who can get you 18 to 24 points per game, someone who’s enough of a midrange threat to loosen the defensive noose choking power forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol. That guy was Rudy Gay, but he was out. They were able to beat the Spurs in the first round because San Antonio didn’t have young legs inside that could stop Randolph and Gasol. And Memphis hit just enough 3-pointers in the clutch to get by the veteran Spurs.
“But Oklahoma City is an entirely different challenge. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are freak athletes who jump over you to score or go around you. Inside, 6-10 Serge Ibaka is long and athletic and is a problem on both ends of the floor. James Harden and 6-10 Nick Collison, the Thunder’s two best reserves, are a nice outside-inside balance that helped the Thunder bench outscore the Memphis bench 53-27 and the Thunder’s own starting five, who had 46 points. Memphis, one of the worst 3-point-shooting teams in the league and Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks is double teaming and forcing an uptempo style to get Memphis to shoot more from long range. Grizzlies guards Mike Conley, Allen and O.J. Mayo shot a combined 10 of 38 from the field, including 2 of 7 on 3-pointers the last game.”
That is exceptional insight from someone, a reporter, who not only was at the game but has followed the team on all season, knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Box scores, too, can tell a lot. So 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.