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NBA Betting Roadmap, Week 2

   by Al McMordie - 11/02/2015

NBA Betting Roadmap,
By Big Al McMordie

After the season's first week, there are very few surprises. Of the five teams sitting at 3-0 (Raptors, Pistons, Thunder, Clippers, Warriors), only the Pistons would raise an eyebrow. And, of the eight teams bringing up the rear at 0-3 (Nets, Pacers, Bucks, Magic, Bobcats, Lakers, Rockets, Pelicans), the Rockets are the one team which one never would have expected to be winless on the first Monday of the season. Let's take a closer look at some of the storylines and betting trends developing early in the season.

Spread Watch

The Miami Heat started the preseason by going 0-2 ATS. However, they finished on a 5-0-1 ATS kick. And they've burst out of the gate in the regular season with a 2-1 SU/ATS record, which includes double-digit home wins over the Bobcats and Rockets (with a road loss to LeBron James & Co. sandwiched, in between). The win against Houston was especially impressive, as Miami was down by 19 points, 63-44 at halftime, but outscored the Rockets by 39 in the 2nd half. Miami's offense has been strong, with an unadjusted Rating of 106.6 (#4 in the NBA). This week, the Heat will play four games (Hawks, Timberwolves, Pacers, Raptors), including two games vs. opponents that remain undefeated ATS (Raptors, Timberwolves), and one game vs. a team (Pacers) which has yet to win "in Vegas." The Indiana/Miami game will be televised by ESPN, so it should draw a lot of betting interest. Miami was 0-4 ATS last season vs. the Pacers, so something will have to give Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Total Watch

After not going 'over' the total in any of their six preseason games (5 'unders' and 1 'push'), the San Antonio Spurs have played two of three games 'under' the total in the regular season. The Spurs' defensive Net Rating ranks 2nd in the league (behind Utah), if unadjusted for schedule strength (it would be #1 if one does adjust for schedule). That's one reason why the Spurs have largely sailed 'under' the total. The other reason is that San Antonio is still trying to get comfortable with new offensive sets with LaMarcus Aldridge in the mix. One of the biggest changes is that coach Gregg Popovich's offense is utilizing more post-up plays, to take advantage of the strengths of Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. And this new emphasis has reduced the number of drives that look to kick the ball out to open three-point shooters. As a result, the Spurs are averaging just 18.6 three-point attempts per game (compared to 22.5 last season), and the team is converting a worse percentage, to boot (33.9% compared to 36.7 percent last year). For the season, the Spurs' Offensive Rating ranks 17th (after ranking 7th last year), and their pace of play ranks 15th. I expect both statistical measures to improve as the team gets acclimated to its new offense, but the Spurs could struggle to score efficiently in the short-term. The Spurs will play the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Monday, before taking on the Wizards in the Nation's Capital on Wednesday, and Charlotte, at home, on Saturday. Like San Antonio, the Bobcats have played two of three regular season games 'under' the total (following a preseason, in which five of their eight games went 'under'). The Spurs and Bobcats have gone 'under' the total 13-5-2 their last 20 meetings, so that would be a betting situation to watch.

Injury Impact

Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins exited Saturday's 114-109 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers late in the 2nd quarter because of a sore right Achilles' tendon. Cousins underwent an MRI on Sunday, which revealed a strain in his tendon, and he's listed as day-to-day. Cousins is one of the league's 10-best players. Last season, his PER of 25.29 ranked 9th in the NBA. And his PER in this young season (25.35) is in line with 2014-15. Cousins missed 23 games last year, and the Kings went just 6-17 SU and 8-14-1 ATS in his absence (compared to 23-36 SU and 25-33-1 ATS with him on the court). This season, the Kings are 1-2, but their record is somewhat deceptive, as it includes two single-digit losses to the Clippers, who rank #1 in Net Rating, adjusted for schedule strength. In the Kings' other game, they blew out the Lakers, 132-114. If one doesn't adjust for schedule strength, the Kings would rank 17th in the league in Net Rating (which measures a team's efficiency). However, if one also adjusts for schedule, the Kings' Net Rating rockets to 2nd in the league! This week, Sacramento will host Memphis on Tuesday, then play at Phoenix on Wednesday, before returning home to Sleep Train Arena to take on Houston and Golden State on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Grizzlies, in particular, would be the worst team in the league for Sacramento to face without Cousins in the middle. Memphis has the NBA's best center (other than Cousins) in Marc Gasol. And its frontline tandem of Gasol and Zach Randolph also ranks as one of the league's best. Cousins missed two games vs. Memphis last season, and his Kings lost both games SU/ATS (97-85 at home; 97-83 at Memphis). But with Cousins in the lineup last season, Sacramento was 2-0 ATS vs. the Grizzlies.

Playbook

It was a short experiment. After playing rookie D'Angelo Russell as an off-ball guard against Minnesota, coach Byron Scott decided to start him at point guard in the Lakers' second game, at Sacramento. Unfortunately for the Purple and Gold, the results weren't any better. Los Angeles was blown out, 132-114, by the Kings. And then, in Game 3, Los Angeles also lost by double-digits, 103-93, at home vs. Dallas. The Lakers are now 0-3 SU/ATS and have lost nine straight regular season games (both SU and ATS), dating back to last season. In his first three NBA games, Russell has averaged as many turnovers as assists. And he's shooting just 36.7% from the floor (26.7% from long distance). The scuttlebutt around the league is that this wasn't Scott's decision, but rather came from management, which is under pressure to not only deliver a winner, but also develop star talent for its fan base. This week, Los Angeles will play three winnable games. On Tuesday, Russell will match up against another rookie point guard (Emmanuel Mudiay), as the Lakers will host the Nuggets. Then, this weekend, Los Angeles will be in the Big Apple to take on the New York Knicks (Friday) and Brooklyn Nets (Sunday). The Lakers/Nuggets game will be on NBA TV, and Denver is 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS its last 10 vs. Los Angeles. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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