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The Texas Triangle

   by Bryan Leonard - 02/23/2007

As we start the second half of the NBA season, who wants to play in Texas these days? The Houston Rockets have been playing great basketball and will be getting star center Yao Ming back soon. San Antonio looks loaded to make another title run, while the Dallas Mavericks are 44-5 since starting the season 0-4!

The Bermuda Triangle is etched in American folklore as a mysterious place where planes and ships have encountered all kinds of difficulties. It’s an enigma dripping with fear, as some unfortunate people have entered the triangle and have never been heard from again. In the NBA, there’s a similar place not as deadly, but certainly one that elicits fear among professional athletes: The Texas Triangle.

Road play in basketball is a tough enough grind. Teams playing four straight home games, for example, are generally in better shape to play up to its capabilities than a team playing four straight road games. Road play can be grueling, with athletes having to put up with all kinds of physical and emotional demands not required when at home. Plan travel, a lack of sleep, and changing time zones are three of many challenges players have to put up with on the road.

Currently in the NBA, Texas happens to have three teams that have a lot of talent and come at you in different ways. Dallas has a strong offense and a deep bench and can run the opposition ragged, while Houston and San Antonio have suffocating defenses that force the opponent to work hard for 48 minutes for every basket. A good handicapper pays careful attention to teams taking a road trip through the Texas Triangle.

Playing at San Antonio is tough enough, where the Spurs have started 16-8 allowing just 91 points per game. San Antonio is 15-9 under the total at home. But to rub elbows with the Spurs on their home court, and then travel to Dallas and/or Houston, sometimes with no rest, is particularly grueling for teams. Houston is 19-6 at home, and Dallas is 24-3 at home!

That’s why it’s important for handicappers to examine not just each particular game, but a series of games. Questions that you need to ask: Is this the second of a back-to-back road spot? Does Team A have the bench to play a physically demanding game against the Rockets, and then get up and down the court the next night against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs? Are they more interested in getting out of Texas to play lighter competition? Some teams have hit in their heads to try and take one of three games in Texas, so if they pull an upset at Dallas, for instance, maybe they will not be that interested in playing hard against the physical Rockets two nights later.

The Miami Heat open the second half of the season through the Texas Triangle, playing at Houston and Dallas. Toronto is soon at San Antonio and Houston, while Denver is at Dallas and San Antonio. The Magic have the toughest stretch of all, playing four straight road games that end at San Antonio and Dallas – back-to-back!

These are the kinds of situations over several games that can give handicappers an edge. After all, athletes are human. Psychologically, they know who they’re playing each night and who’s coming up on the schedule. Sometimes a team is beaten even before it gets on the court, which can be an enormous gift when trying to identify winners against the Vegas number. And the Texas Triangle is currently the most difficult road situation for visiting NBA squads.

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