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by Bryan Leonard - 12/28/2005
When it comes to sports handicapping, I'm not a trends guy. If the Steelers are 10-1 against the spread their last 11 meetings with the Ravens, for example, it probably means they have had superior teams or a match-up or coaching angle in their favor during that time. Or, if the Raiders are 14-2 ATS on Monday night, that doesn't help predict how they are going to do the next time they play Monday night.
During the 1970s and early 80s, the Raiders had a phenomenal record on Monday night. However, as the team began to go through some down years, that trend started to also to slide against them. Trends that interest me are ones that have viable reasons behind them.
A good example is the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons still have the reputation in the public's eye as a terrific defensive team. They can still bring the defense when they put their minds to it, as was evident Sunday when they shut down the Spurs in a game that went way under the total. However, they have a very different style this season, a run-and-gun team. The reason is new coach Flip Saunders does not hammer away at the team constantly for all-out defense, instead letting the players be creative more offensively. He has a deep bench, a great backcourt and a lot of offensive options, and it has worked. Detroit averages 106 ppg at home where they are 8-5 over the total. On the other hand, oddsmakers have caught up, too, as Detroit is 5-1 under the total the last six games.
Speaking of the Spurs, what trend still stands out about them? San Antonio is 10-2 under the total at home! This is nothing new, as the Spurs were 34-19 under the total at home last season on the way to winning another championship. Now there's a trend that has reasons behind it. They still have the same coach, Gregg Popovich, who demands defense and knows how to teach it. They still have Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen to harass opponents. And they allow just 87 ppg at home. That's an angle that has meaning.
The young Cleveland Cavaliers were a team that was terrific at home a year ago, but struggled on the road. This season they have a losing record, both straight up and against the number, on the road, yet started 11-3 straight up and 10-4 against the spread at home. Young teams in all sports learn to play their best at home first before improving on the road and the Cavs fit that mold. Again, that's a trend, but there are various reasons behind it.
Taking that a step further, notice that the Cavs play very good defense at home allowing 92 ppg. But on the road, they still have enormous defensive shortcomings allowing 105 ppg! This is not just an anomaly, but there are reasons you can sink your teeth into. If the Cavs are 10-0 against the number on Thursday night games, for instance, that doesn't interest me. But if they are 10-4 ATS at home (which they are), that's a trend that does get my attention: One strong enough to begin putting my money down!