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Betting on Hoops

   by Al McMordie - 02/13/2006

Football season is behind us, and we find ourselves smack in the middle of both the college and pro basketball seasons. Fortunately for bettors, there are dozens of games each day to look for soft sides, totals, and winning opportunities. One thing to keep in mind as we sit at about the midway point of the basketball seasons is that we are approaching the point where some teams are more motivated than others.

There are many reasons for this: Injuries, personnel, coaching, postseason races at stake. Take the New York Knicks, for example. On the surface, the Knicks are not likely a team you can look at and assume they are going to pack it in the rest of the season. The main reason is that their head coach, first-year coach Larry Brown, has a long track record of getting the most out of his players. This guy can teach defense, motivate players and he understands the dynamics on the court enough to make changes to try and fix problems.

He also has an NBA ring (just two years ago with the Pistons) and has taken many teams to the playoffs. He’s an excellent NBA coach. Just last month he took a chance by putting rookie David Lee into the starting lineup and asked him to be a role player, boxing out on the boards and grabbing rebounds. And Lee excelled in this role, helping the team. However, there are a lot of problems with this team. The defense is awful, allowing opponents to shoot over 46%, fifth-worst in the league. Look at the teams ranked worse than NY in that category: Toronto, Seattle, Atlanta, and Charlotte. None are going to the playoffs.

In addition, the Knicks allow 101 ppg, third worst in the NBA. Brown is very good at teaching defense, of course, but there’s only so much a coach can do. You need talent on the court! His best offensive force, Stephon Marbury, is out until after the All Star break with a bad shoulder. But the bottom line is, how is this team performing? The Knicks are 1-15 straight up and 4-12 against the spread the last 16 games! They have been overvalued all season and are really going in the tank of late. Their defense has been so bad they have been money-makers over the total, at 16-9 over at home and 16-9 over on the road. Sports bettors need to look at teams like this and keep tabs on whether they are likely to get better, remain the same, or even get worse.

On the other coast, the Seattle Sonics are kind of a mirror-image of the Knicks: Underachieving with no defense. They are already on their second coach of the season and not playing any better. Seattle is 7-16 SU, 6-17 ATS the last 23 games! Ask yourself, are they likely to get better? Nothing short of bringing in a new coach to kick some butt is likely to change things. Also note that Seattle is 20-5 over the total at home!

New Orleansis a team of young players and limited talent, but what’s been impressive is how much rookie Chris Paul has meant to this team. He left his college team and they fell apart. And after joining New Orleans, the Hornets have played better than anyone expected. He appears to be a special player, one who makes the others around him much better, like a Tim Duncan or a Jason Kidd. The Hornets are 11-5 ATS the last 16 games! As long as Paul is healthy and in the lineup, this is a group that may continue to overachieve. This is why examining recent spread history is so important. And then trying to figure out WHY these trends are taking place can help identify future wagering opportunities. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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