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NBA Roadmap, Week 3

   by Al McMordie - 11/07/2016

The biggest surprise of the young NBA season would have to be the play of the Los Angeles Clippers. Yes, the Clips were considered by many to be the 4th best team in the NBA (behind Golden State, San Antonio and Cleveland). But virtually no one thought LA would be a championship contender. Its blowout win at San Antonio on Saturday served notice that it is a real threat to come out of the West. Let's take a look at some other goings-on in the NBA.

Spread Watch

The defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers are off to a perfect 6-0 start. But in Vegas, they've been less than perfect, as they're just 2-4 ATS, including 0-4 their last four games. And dating back to the preseason, they're on a 2-7 ATS run. Frankly, being overvalued might be a continuing theme for Cleveland this season. Certainly, it wouldn't be the first time a team won a title, and then burned money in the next regular season. This week, Cleveland will host Atlanta on Tuesday and Charlotte on Sunday, with a road game against Washington sandwiched in between. The match-up against the Hawks looks like another potential pointspread defeat for LeBron James & Co. The past two Playoffs, Atlanta was swept four games to none by the Cavaliers. However, NBA favorites off a straight-up win have been dreadful since 1991 when playing a team they ousted in the previous season's playoffs, as they've gone just 57-76-1 ATS. I'll take Atlanta in this road underdog role on Tuesday.

Total Watch

The San Antonio Spurs were annihilated, 116-92, on Saturday by the Los Angeles Clippers. It not only was the 2nd straight home loss for San Antone (a team which started 40-0 at home last year), but it was also the most points (73) ever allowed by a Gregg Popovich-coached team in the first half of a game. Last season, San Antonio's defense was among the best defenses in NBA history, as it had a defensive efficiency rating of 99.5. This season, its defensive rating has climbed to 103.8, which places it 11th in the NBA. And the Spurs now gone 'over' the total in their last four games. But help is on the way soon, as SG Danny Green will make his debut as early as this week. Last season, Green ranked #1 among shooting guards in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus defensive rating. But Green won't be back for Wednesday's game vs Houston, which ranks among the top 5 in defensive efficiency. And the Spurs' last four (and six of the last seven) home games vs. Houston have gone 'over' the total. Wednesday's game should, as well.

Injury Watch

Until Sunday night's SU/ATS overtime victory vs. the Bucks, the Dallas Mavericks had yet to win, as they were 0-5 straight-up (and 1-4 ATS) through their first five games. And part of the problem is that future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki has not been on the court for many minutes. Nowitzki did play in the first half this past Friday vs. Portland, but his Achilles' tendon injury flared up, so he sat in the 2nd half, and will miss at least another week. This is real bad news for a Mavericks franchise which hasn't had a losing season since 1999-2000. However, a silver lining is that Dallas' schedule is light this week, with just two road games vs. the Lakers and Golden State. Certainly, the Mavericks wouldn't be an odds-on favorite to win at Golden State, even with Nowitzki. But, now, the game against L.A. will even be difficult (notwithstanding Dallas' 10 straight wins in the series), given how (surprisingly) well the Lakers are playing. The Lakers are 4-3 SU and 6-1 ATS, and rank in the upper half in Adjusted Net Rating. But Dallas has overperformed (7-2 ATS) without Nowitzki in the lineup the past two seasons, so it's wise to tread lightly.

Schedule Watch

The New Orleans Pelicans (along with Dallas and Philly) are one of the league's three winless teams. The absence of several key players (Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Quincy Pondexter) is the main reason. But poor play has been equally to blame. Last Friday, New Orleans had ample opportunity to close out the Suns -- both in regulation and overtime -- but couldn't get a defensive stop. Phoenix survived to win 112-111, and that was the 2nd straight overtime defeat for New Orleans. And the Pelicans surely didn't help matters by misfiring on 13 of 28 free throws. This Thursday, New Orleans will have revenge on its mind when it travels to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks. Last week, Milwaukee went into the Smoothie King Center, and upset New Orleans, 117-113. But NBA teams have cashed 64% since 1990 early in the season (Game 10 or earlier) when playing with revenge from an upset loss. I look for the Pels to upset Milwaukee. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie. And don't miss any of my hoops, hockey and football winners here at BigAl.com. Join today for a week, month, 6 months or year to get all of my award-winning selections.

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