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NBA Basement Dwellers

   by Al McMordie - 02/18/2007

All the focus over the next two months is going to be on the NBA postseason races. Who’s the top seed? Who’s fighting for the No. 8 seed? Who is getting hot at the right time in the quest for the NBA title? All of that is interesting, but sports handicapping is about winning against the spread, not winning straight up. It’s just as profitable to bet AGAINST teams, as well. And the second half of the NBA season is going to have plenty of bad teams that will be more interested in the Kevin Durant/Greg Oden sweepstakes than winning games. Organizations can’t really tank it, because they would get fined by the commissioner. And the draft lottery and ping-pong balls make it impossible to guarantee oneself the No. 1 pick. But there will be a lot of bad teams that will offer us opportunities to wager against them, such as the following:

Celtics: Boston(13-38) has the worst record in the NBA and just ended an 18-game losing streak (although we won with Boston over Milwaukee as a rare 5* play last Wednesday). They don’t play defense, have had injuries to star Paul Pierce and Wally Szcerbiak, and are a mind-boggling 4-21 SU, 5-20 ATS at home! Still, they are 17-7 against the spread on the road. This is a team that would be better off tanking it, but a couple of things are against that happening. Pierce and Szcerbiak are their best offensive players and both are now back from injuries. Pierce missed all of that 18-game skid. Fans won’t like this, but the Celtics probably won’t be the worst team at the end if Pierce and Wally Z continue to play. But what a go-against gold mine at home!

Grizzlies (14-40): Memphis is truly an awful team, changing coaches and styles halfway through the season. They are more likely to end up with the worst record because they have one outstanding player, Pau Gasol, and he is likely to be traded soon. Gasol has four years remaining on a contract extension that pays $13.7 million next season. Gasol can use either hand scoring in the paint, is an excellent passer and plays unselfishly. He's become a stronger rebounder and shot-blocker. But he’s asked out and is a player postseason teams covet (Chicago has plenty to deal). Memphis is 3-22 SU, 10-15 ATS on the road! If Gasol is traded, they will tank.

Bobcats: It ain’t easy being an expansion team. Charlotte has young talent, and snapped a 4-game losing streak just before the All Star break. The Bobcats shot 49 percent from the field vs. Chicago last Wednesday (another big winner for us), and another impressive part of that victory was holding the Bulls to 38 percent shooting in a 100-85 rout. Okafor (15 points and 21 rebounds) was central to that defense, with six blocked shots. The way to look at this team from a betting perspective might be 'under' the total. Charlotte lacks a scoring option and is 11-6 'under' the total over its last 17 games.

76ers: Philly went 2-3 SU/2-2-1 ATS to end the first half. Why was that unimpressive? All 5 games were at home. They needed OT to beat the Nets, beat Charlotte, and lost to the stumbling Clippers and Warriors, and finished with a loss againt the Wizards. For the season, they are 11-16 when they outscore the opponent's reserves, 6-19 when their bench is outscored. This is a team that does not match up against the superior West, at 5-18 SU, 9-12 in non-conference games. After trading Allen Iverson, it’s clear they are tanking it for the hope of Oden/Durant.

Bucks: This team is a mess. After all, they were blown out 117-97 by a team with an 18-game losing streak. The Bucks are 3-19 since Jan. 3, but most of those losses were without star Michael Redd! But that's just part of the problem. Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva do not play a lick of interior defense. And Bogut is also unhappy. After the Bucks were eliminated by Detroit in the first round of the playoffs last season, Bogut sounded off about his dissatisfaction with his play and the way he was being used in the offense. Bogut's comments essentially forced the organization to trade Jamaal Magloire and move Bogut to center. With Redd back, they could win some games, but be wary of this unhappy group that plays no defense. They probably will be worth a look to go 'over' the total. Note that the Bucks are 1-8 SU, 3-6 ATS in the division and 30-22 'over' the total. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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