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NBA News and Notes

   by Al McMordie - 02/03/2008

The Cavaliers ended up with a 14-point rout of the Clippers, 98-84. On the surface it appeared to be a one-sided game. However, a closer look reveals a different story. The victory was tougher than it should have been. LeBron James returned after sitting out last week's loss against the Seattle SuperSonics due to a sore right ankle. He wasn't 100 percent.

Even more revealing, the Cavs were returning from a long road trip. It's true that many times teams returning from long road trips aren't in sync that first game back. The Clippers outrebounded the Cavs, 24-18, in the first half. The Cavs also trailed by two at the half, but they shook off their rust and wore down the Clippers with a late run, for a 98-84 victory.

Even the players admitted jetlag may have been the biggest culprit in the Cavs' slow start. "The travel may have had something to do with it," Daniel Gibson said. "We wanted to play hard. When there was a loose ball, your mind may tell you to go get it, but your body is slow in reacting." That's not uncommon, and is something to keep in mind when handicapping games. By the way, how important is LeBron to the Cavaliers' success? Cleveland is 0-6 this season in games he hasn't played.

Orlando is a team that has been on a nice roll, winning 4 in a row. This is a team with a first-year head coach in Stan Van Gundy, who has been searching for the right combination much of the season. Note that the Magic are now 7-1 with guard Carlos Arroyo in the starting lineup.

The Magic continued its roll with a 121-115 victory against the Indiana Pacers to go unbeaten on its two-game road trip. In addition, the Magic's system favors the 3-point shot, and Orlando hit 14 of 25 (56 percent) in its win over Indiana. When the Pacers cut a 12-point lead to four late in the game, Rashard Lewis drilled one from long-distance, and Hedo Turkoglu followed with a jumper to improve Orlando's incredible road record to 19-10 SU, 19-8-2 ATS! They also score more points on the road than at home, which is odd, but it explains their 16-11 mark over the total on the road.

Speaking of which, if you like to play totals, keep an eye on the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls just got two key players back. Ben Gordon returned from missing five games with a sprained right wrist and scored a team-high 33 points against Sacramento. Also, Joe Smith came off the bench after a two-game absence with the flu. After going 7 straight games under the total, the Bulls finally went over.

They also lost again, however, despite the improved offense, 105-101 (yet covered for myself and my clients as an 8-point underdog). Still, this is a team trying to figure out what they can and can't do. "What I'd like to see us do is play an entire game with effort at both ends," interim coach Jim Boylan said after the defeat.

The Clippers are on a tough road trip, a trip made even more difficult because of a winter flu bug that's affected the team. The Clippers lost at Chicago, playing their fourth straight game without leading scorers Corey Maggette and Chris Kaman. Both were out because of flu symptoms, and Los Angeles dressed just nine players. It is the team's longest trip of the year (7 games), and Kaman lamented, "I just had the flu and it tore me down. I was in my bed the last few days and haven't really done anything." So, it's no surprise the Clippers are on a 1-5 SU/ATS run with so few healthy bodies.

It's never easy to play in Denver, because of the altitude. Denver teams in all sports have had unique home marks many times. This season the Denver Nuggets are 20-5 SU, 15-9 against the spread at home! One the road, they are 8-13 SU, 10-11 ATS. The biggest difference is defense, allowing 99 ppg at home, but 109 ppg on the road. That is an incredible differential. And if you think that's a fluke, consider that, in college, the Denver Pioneers basketball team is 7-1 SU/ATS at home, but 0-11 SU, 4-6 ATS on the road! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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