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NBA Stretch Run
by Al McMordie - 03/29/2005
We are almost at the end of the NBA regular season. Many teams are in the playoffs and battling for position, while several others are out of it. But, like college basketball "bubble teams," there are several NBA clubs that still have a shot at the playoffs. These are the ones to look at carefully this time of year. Some teams on that playoff bubble are fired up and begin to play as if their playoff lives depend on every win (and it does). Other teams are just beginning to slip out of it, though they are mathematically still alive, but can play poorly, almost giving up on the season. Let's take a look at some of those clubs.
Minnesota: The Timberwolves have underachieved all season (27-42 ATS). They are behind Denver for the final spot in the West. Notice that the T-Wolves have gotten healthy over the last week, mainly because of the return of veteran guard Sam Cassell. They are on a 4-0 straight up run (2-2 ATS). It will be interesting to see if Minnesota keeps on rolling (and covering), finally playing with a sense of urgency -- something they really haven't done all season.
Denver: This is one of the best stories of the second half of the season. Bringing in George Karl has done wonders to soothe things over on what was a troubled up-and-down team. Denver is 21-5 SU under Karl and 20-7 ATS the last 27 games! This is a great example of a team crossing over that bubble line and likely solidifying a playoff spot with a great run, both straight up and ATS.
Lakers: The injury to Lamar Odom plus a late season six game road trip may have buried this team. LA had lost 8 in a row and is 2-8 ATS the last ten games, falling behind Denver in the process. Think Shaq is enjoying the Lakers' fall from afar?
76ers: A 4-1 SU/3-2 ATS run the last two weeks has put them into a position as the final seed in the East. However, remember that after acquiring Chris Webber they were supposed to make a run at the Atlantic division title, which didn't happen. Take note that Philly is 12-20 ATS as a favorite and 9-17 SU/ATS in non-conference games.
Magic: Orlando had so much to gain over the last month, but they've fallen like a meteor. This is a team that is technically still alive, but hasn't seemed to care much. Orlando is 1-10 SU, 3-8 ATS the last eleven games. This is also a group that really packs it in on the road, going 11-25 SU, 13-23 ATS. They are playing worse for the new coach, which is an even worse sign.
Nets: A 5-2 SU/ATS run has helped New Jersey, but they need to keep it up to cross the bubble. Their schedule is relatively easy the rest of the way. Will better defense be the difference? Totals players take note: The Nets are 14-6 "under" the total the last 20 games.