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NBA Betting Roadmap, Week 15

   by Al McMordie - 02/01/2016

In a week in which there were two meetings among the top three contenders for the Larry O'Brien Trophy, the games were overshadowed by a development off the court. Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin decided to further sabotage his team's chances by breaking his hand on a team equipment manager's face. Of course, in the sports business, off-court drama often fuels the industry more than the games, themselves. Still, a lot is happening ON the court, so let's take a look.

Spread Watch

It is true that first impressions die hard. And, after getting embarrassed by the Chicago Bulls in coach Tyronn Lue's first game, many might have assumed that the firing of David Blatt was ill-advised. Some even went further and proclaimed that Lue should not be allowed to coach in this year's All-Star Game. But Lue's Cavaliers rebounded off that Chicago loss to win their next four games (and cover their last three), including a 117-103 beatdown of the San Antonio Spurs. Lue wants his team to play at a much faster pace than did Blatt, and Cleveland has scored 114+ points in each of the last four games. Even more impressive is the fact that the Cavaliers' "Big Three" of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have all been important cogs in a more balanced offense. In Cleveland's last two wins (over the Spurs and Pistons), all three players reached the 20-point plateau. This week, the Cavs will play road games at Indiana and Charlotte, before coming back home to take on Boston and New Orleans. And, should Cleveland win its first two games this week, Lue would surpass Steve Kerr for the best win percentage of any coach in NBA history! Certainly, Monday's game at Indiana will be a tough test (the Pacers have covered four straight vs. the Cavs), but the upcoming schedule is not daunting. If Lue's men can get out of Indiana with a win, then I would expect Cleveland to have an 11-game win streak going into its game at Oklahoma City on February 21.

Total Watch

In our last two weekly articles, I highlighted the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans, as both had started to play a lot of games 'Over' the total. And each team has continued on that front. New Orleans has played its last eight games 'Over,' while Memphis has done the trick in nine of its last 10 games. Interestingly, a team I've yet to focus on this season is the defensively-challenged Houston Rockets. But I cannot ignore James Harden & Co. any longer. Houston has played 16 of its last 19 games 'Over' the total, including its last five. And in those last five games, Houston's allowed an average of 116.8 ppg. For the season, the Rockets' defense is the worst, by far, of any team with a .500 (or better) record. Houston ranks #28 in defensive efficiency. In comparison, the next-worst team, with a .500 (or better) record, is Memphis, which ranks #17. On Saturday, Houston will host the Portland Trail Blazers. And, given that 14 of the previous 17 meetings have sailed 'Over' the total (including eight of nine at the Toyota Center), we could see yet another high-scoring affair.

Injury Watch

Is any team more disliked than the Los Angeles Clippers? If we're talking about the feelings of those employed within the NBA, then surely not. Of course, fans will always hate successful teams like the Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Heat, Bulls, etc. because those teams have stood in the way of less successful franchises in the Playoffs. But the Clippers are hated not for their success (as there's been none), but for the way they carry themselves. Indeed, the one thing that's rubbed league insiders the wrong way is how much they whine and act like babies on the court. Their sense of entitlement is off-the-charts, especially for a team which has never won anything. But over the last seven months, it's been the off-court turmoil, which has cemented the franchise as the most unpopular. First, there was the soap opera drama of DeAndre Jordan's free agency. Jordan agreed to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, but he reneged on his promise and returned to the Clippers. Then, this past week, their 6'10", 250-pound star forward Blake Griffin beat up a 5'8" equipment manager, and broke his hand in the process. Griffin was scheduled to play this week after rehabbing a quad injury sustained on December 25, but he now will be sidelined until late March. So his team's already-dwindling Championship hopes are hampered further. The good news for Los Angeles is that it's been playing well in his absence. Since Christmas, the Clippers are 15-3 straight-up and 13-5 ATS (though mainly against soft competition). But the bad news is that Griffin will miss LA's three most important home games in the season's second half: Spurs (Feb. 18), Warriors (Feb. 20) and Thunder (Mar. 2). Without Griffin, the Clips have realized that their games against the NBA's lightweights are 'must-wins,' and they've generally taken care of business. This week, LA will play Minnesota (3-19 SU their last 22), Orlando (2-12 SU their last 14), and Miami (5-7 SU last 12), so the opportunity to pick up three wins is very good. I especially like their chances to cover against the T-Wolves, as the Clippers have won 14 straight in the series (8-5-1 ATS). Even worse for the T-Wolves: they'll be unrested, and playing their third game in four nights, while the Clippers will have had the previous two days off.

Schedule Watch

The San Antonio Spurs have been unbeatable at home this season. They're 25-0 straight-up and 17-7-1 ATS. But away from the Alamo City has been a different story. The Spurs are a mortal 14-8 SU and 13-9 ATS, including 6-7 SU/ATS vs. non-losing teams, and 0-3 ATS their last three, overall. This week, San Antonio will travel to Dallas on Friday. The Mavericks have controlled the series at home, of late, as they're 4-1 SU and ATS vs. their bitter rivals. Dallas will be playing with revenge from a 29-point loss less than three weeks ago, in San Antonio. And the Mavs are 26-15-1 ATS when playing with revenge from a 20-point (or worse) defeat. Don't be surprised if Dallas delivers some payback on Friday night. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie. And don't miss any of my Basketball Winners here at BigAl.com, as I'm 16-3-1 my last 20, and 88-47 my last 135 in Hoops. I'm also red-hot in football (64-39 my last 103), so join today to get all of my award-winning plays.

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