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Road Trip

   by Bryan Leonard - 03/08/2006

There have been several NBA teams coming home from long road trips this weekend, and several teams beginning ones. Road trips are interesting from a handicapping point of view. First, good teams will band together and take the attitude that they look at the road trip as a challenge, as if they have something to prove. Second, teams often tire out at some point during a trip, so a trip can take a toll on the team’s offense, defense and even spread mark.

You may recall a recent road trip the Dallas Mavericks took where they went 5-0 holding every opponent to under 97 points! That was clearly an example of a team with something to prove and they looked at the road trip as a challenge. The Pistons just returned home from a long trip out West. What was most noticeable is that they went 1-2 straight up and 0-3 against the number the final three games of the trip.

In fact, the Pistons just came home from a grueling 18 game stretch, going 12-6. The Detroit news this week commented on the fact that is was the most mentally and physically draining stretch of the season. Coach Flip Saunders said, "My focus going forward is to make sure we're healthy and rested for the playoffs. I think we need to step away a little bit and get reenergized for the stretch run." This was interesting and explains why they tired out at the end of the trip. This is not a Pistons team that is beginning to slow down, they just happened to hit a rough stretch.

Also what was interesting was Saunders admitting that the players were tired. He also mentioned late last week they he’s interested in getting more rest for his starters while gearing up for the players. >From a handicapping perspective, this should get your attention. Keep careful tabs on how the Pistons play against the spread the next few weeks. Will Saunders use his bench players more and play the starters less minutes? Keep track. If so, Detroit might not be strong against the number as they have been.

The Pistons just wrapped up a seven-game, 10-day run with each game played in a different city. After the 105-94 loss to the Lakers Saturday, the players were not happy. "Very disappointing, man," said Chauncey Billups. "We've got to win these games and we know that. We feel we beat ourselves." It will be worth watching them closely this week to see if they bounce back or are overvalued with oddsmakers.

In addition, the Celtics just came back from a stunning West Coast trip where they went 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS. The Celtics improved to 7-2 with rookie Ryan Gomes in the starting lineup, a guy who has been a catalyst for the Green of late. Seattle, too, has improved their play of late in what has been a miserable season. The Sonics are on a 4-0 ATS run partly because they have a new look. Newly acquired players Earl Watson, Chris Wilcox and Mike Wilks have helped to give them better defense, losing just 98-96 to the Pistons then routing Utah, 113-81! Seattle has been awful defensively all season, but notice they held Utah to 39 percent shooting and forced 23 turnovers! Is this a new-look Sonics team?

One final team to keep an eye on is the Clippers. They too have a new look, with three-point specialist Vladimir Radmanovic aboard. They just got center Chris Kaman and Corey Maggette back from injuries, too. Maggette is back after missing 39 games with a foot injury. Remember, road trips and line-up changes happen all the time and can have a significant effect on a team, both straight up and against the number.

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