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NBA Betting Roadmap, Week 3

   by Al McMordie - 11/09/2015

NBA Betting Roadmap,
By Big Al McMordie

After the first two weeks of the season, the standings look eerily similar to last year -- at least at the top. But the ironic thing is that it wasn't wholly expected. Indeed, the Atlanta Hawks were widely tabbed to take a fall this season. But they're right back in first in the Eastern Conference standings, with a 7-1 record (ahead of the 6-1 Cavaliers). The Hawks have also covered the spread in their last four games. Meanwhile, out West, it's Golden State once again on top with a 7-0 record (followed by the Clippers, Spurs and Jazz at 4-2). But the Warriors are on an 0-3 ATS run, which won't endear them to their fans. Let's take a look at some of the developing storylines, from a pointspread perspective.

Spread Watch

The Orlando Magic have busted out of the gates with a 7-0 ATS record, though they've won just three of those seven games on the scoreboard. Still, Scott Skiles' men are rewarding their fans in Las Vegas. And that's not much of a surprise, given his history as a head coach who gets the most out of his players at the start of a tenure. Indeed, in his last coaching gig with the Milwaukee Bucks (2008-2013), Skiles' men were 23-10-1 his first 34 games. His stint with the Chicago Bulls (2003-2007) didn't start off as hot, but the Bulls still covered 16 of his first 30 games. But his first year with the Phoenix Suns (1999-2000) was spectacular, as Phoenix opened with a 46-25-2 ATS mark. On Monday, the Magic will travel to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to play the Pacers, who are on a 4-0 ATS run. Indiana's also 4-0 SU/ATS vs. the Magic the last four meetings, so something will have to give on Monday night.

Total Watch

The Utah Jazz have opened the season by playing five of six games 'Under' the total. Last year, Utah ranked 14th in Defensive Net Rating (105.91), but this season, Utah currently ranks 1st in that category (93.40). The key for the Jazz, of course, is the play of center Rudy Gobert (aka "The Stifle Tower"). Gobert is the league's best rim protector, and opponents have only made 30.9% of their shot attempts when Gobert has been within both 5 feet of the basket and 5 feet of the shooter. This week, the Jazz will play against two other teams playing great defense -- the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. On Tuesday, the Jazz will travel to Cleveland, and the Cavs rank 5th in defensive efficiency (after ranking 18th last season). LeBron James & Co. have gone 4-3 'Under' the total this season. Then, on Thursday, Utah will play at Miami. The Heat are currently riding a 6-0 'Under' run, and rank 10th in defensive efficiency (after ranking 21st last season). The 'Under' will surely be worth a look in each of those two games.

Injury Watch

Of any NBA team, the New Orleans Pelicans could have least afforded another injury. Unfortunately, life's not always fair. Kendrick Perkins, its veteran center, suffered a right pectoral injury in New Orleans' 134-120 loss to Golden State, and will miss up to three months. Perkins' injury is the latest setback for New Orleans, which is already missing Norris Cole (ankle), Tyreke Evans (knee) and Quincy Pondexter (knee). And Jrue Holiday' minutes have been limited this season, as he recovers from a stress fracture in his right leg. Not surprisingly, these injuries have been the primary reason the Pelicans are off to an 0-6 SU/ATS start. And their unadjusted Net Rating of -11.91 ranks 28th, ahead of only 0-6 Philadelphia (-12.54) and 0-7 Brooklyn (-13.21). The Pelicans will kick off this week with a revenge match on Tuesday vs. Dallas, which defeated it, 107-98, as a 5-point favorite on Saturday. With Dallas on an 8-16-1 ATS run when going into revenge, and New Orleans 41-24-1 ATS at home when playing with revenge, the Pelicans might be worth a look on Tuesday.

Playbook

Last season, in coach Derek Fisher's first season, the New York Knicks ranked 28th (out of 30) in pace of play. Even worse: in each of the last three seasons (so not totally coach Fisher's fault), the Knicks have ranked dead last in fast break points per game. And when you combine a horrid half-court offense with hardly any transition baskets, you get a team (like last year's Knicks), which ranks next-to-last in offensive efficiency. Thus, it was a priority for Fisher to have his team get out on the fast break, and shoot early in the shot clock this season, before the defense could get set. No longer is running the Triangle Offense the team's highest priority. For New York's first three games (2-1 ATS; 3-0 'Over' the total), they had 19, 17 and 10 fast break points. But in their last four games (1-3 ATS; 4-0 'Under' the total), the Knicks have recorded 0, 0, 14 and 8 fast break points. And their pace of play ranks 20th in the NBA. Keep an eye on these categories, because if New York continues to fail to push the pace and/or convert transition buckets, their games are likely to go 'under' the total. On Tuesday, New York will visit Toronto, which is on a 5-0 'Under' run, itself. But the 'Over' is 5-0-1 in the last six meetings between these two teams at Air Canada Centre. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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