NBA Point Spread

Ball Don't Lie
2014-12-04

Its fair to say that San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is taking a victory leap of sorts around the NBA, and its more than earned.

Its not just that Popovichs Spurs routed the Miami Heat in last years NBA Finals; its the way coach Pop went about movements that led to the glow. His system encouraged top line players to take pay cuts. He fought the NBA and wisely sat players, mindful of the 100-some game slog that a championship season demands. His championship teams have ranged from low post killers to defensive-minded stunners to the absolutely gorgeous, international-style basketball that was last seasons winner. Even in a San Antonio defeat on Wednesday night, Brooklyn Nets forward Mirza Teletovic praised San Antonios European-styled system after the game for allowing him to see the floor more clearly on his way toward a season-high 26 points in a Brooklyn win.

He allowed the first internationally-raised basketball coach to serve as head coach of the Spurs earlier this season. He hired the more than qualified Becky Hammon to serve as the first full time female assistant coach in NBA history. Hell make champions out of players as disparate as Stephen Jackson, and Boris Diaw.

Most importantly, to many of his coaching colleagues? He still gets under Phil Jacksons skin.

Jackson referred to Popovichs strengths last spring when discussing his hopes for the New York Knicks, as he attempts to resurrect the long-moribund franchise. Because Phil Jackson is Phil Jackson, though, he had to offer a Phil Jackson-styled qualifier. From Newsday:

"Tim Duncan making the salary he's making after being part of a dynasty -- not a dynasty, I wouldn't call San Antonio a dynasty -- a force, a great force," Jackson said in April. "They haven't been able to win consecutive championships, but they've always been there."

With the Spurs in Brooklyn on Wednesday, local press had to ask Popovich if he had any reaction to Jacksons months-old comments.
From Newsday:

"Oooh, that makes me so mad!" he said before the Spurs played the Nets Wednesday night.

But, Pop said it very sarcastically.

[]

"Just write whatever you want and I'll say I said it," Popovich joked. "Make it good though so you can get a promotion. Juicy. Ugly. Really good."

The dynasty/not a dynasty argument is really daft honestly, who cares? Its true that the Spurs have yet to win two titles in a row, injuries and other very good basketball teams have gotten in the way of such, but five titles spread out over 15 years with one mainstay big man and a backcourt that was around for four of the five is about as amazing as pro basketball gets. For the Spurs to roar back from what should have been an enervating loss in the 2013 Finals to play at their absolute peak some 12 months later might be the most impressive thing Ive ever seen in lo, these many years of covering this league.

Phil Jackson certainly competes, on that level. Winning 54 games with Pete Myers as your shooting guard and Michael Jordan shagging flies ranks up there. As does sustaining three different three-peat winners in spite of fatigue, in-fighting, or championship-level competition on the opposing side of the floor. Call it a coin flip, if you want to be right about things.

To Popovichs credit, however, hes not the one who is engaging these pissing matches. Phil Jackson might not be technically engaging here either, he just cant help speaking candidly, he just cant help being Phil Jackson. Hes just kind of like that, thankfully, and thankfully Gregg Popovich similarly remains true to his thoughts as to what counts, and what doesnt.

Phil Jacksons Knicks, and by extension Phil Jacksons preferred triangle offense, has been rightfully called out on the carpet for their overreliance on long two-point shots. This is more the fault of the players than the offense again, the ideal result from a triangles unfolding is a shot near the rim but Jackson has added to the intrigue by criticizing three-point shots as an NBA staple over the summer.

One of the shots most vocal opponents, through the years, is former Knick and former Jackson teammate Bill Bradley. Bradley has long called for the abolition of the shot, purporting that it reduces ball movement and slows the game to a standstill.

That may have been true around the time of the release of Bradleys last basketball book, but in the modern era the same cant be said. Bradley signed off on as much when he got in touch with the coach of the three-point heavy San Antonio Spurs over the summer to credit him with making the NBA fun again.

From the New York Times:

But stuff happens. The Spurs revolution overthrowing King James was televised. Within days, Joe Torre had weighed in with a congratulatory note. Then Bill Bradley called to tell Popovich that Tim Duncan and friends had reminded him of his old Knicks teams and that they had renewed his love of the N.B.A. game.

You say to yourself, something special must have really happened, Popovich said before heading to Brooklyn for Wednesday nights game against the Nets at Barclays Center, where the Spurs eight-game winning streak was broken. I should know this. I was there; I should have noticed.

[]

Of the call from Bradley, who is six years older than the 65-year-old Popovich, he said: I was speechless. He was a hero.

If Gregg Popovich can convince Bill Bradley that a shot from 23 feet away is optimal, then hes done his job here.

Now all Bradley needs to do is convince his ex-teammate that these Spurs are pretty damn dynastic.




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NBA: The King to be overthrown?
2010-05-13

LeBron James is supposed to be the best player in the NBA and probably is, but he hasn’t been close to being the best player in the second round playoff series between the Cavaliers and Celtics. With his pending free agency looming this summer, the possibility exists that tonight’s Game 6 in the series could be his last game with Cleveland. Oddsmakers at Sportsbook.com have made his team a 1-point underdog, meaning the chances are better than not that it will be at least his last game of this season.

King James showed a side of personality not seen often after he gave a lame effort like his teammates in Game 5 debacle. After losing 120-88 as seven-point home favorites, James had this to say about his 15-point showing.

"I spoil a lot of people with my play," James said. "When you have a bad game here or there, you've had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it's easy to point that out. So you got to be better.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to be out there and be the best player on the court, and when I'm not I feel bad for myself because I'm not going out there and doing the things I can do. But I don't hang my head low or make any excuses about anything that may be going on, because that's not the type of player or person I am."

It’s a bit presumptuous for James to say he’s had three lousy games in his career, but what basketball fans and those rooting for the Cavaliers want to know, where is the burning desire?

Is the elbow a much bigger issue? Does he find the lack proficiency from his teammates appalling? Does he not trust his coach in being knowledgeable to lead this club? Has he mentally checked out thinking about playing somewhere else?

Cleveland is 24-7-1 ATS off a defeat by 10 or more points, but this was one for the record books. No NBA with a regular season win percentage of .700 or higher had ever lost a home playoff game by 30 or more points. (Thanks Elias Sports)

Yes, Boston has had a few nice wrinkles to limit James, but does the game’s best player settle for idle dribbles and pass to teammate or use his brute force like in the past and blow to the cup and score or find Cavs teammate standing by himself with wide open look at the bucket with collapsing defense? Interesting to note Cleveland is 2-9 ATS in last 11 outings against teams with winning record.

Boston has outplayed and outhustled its younger opponent and is 7-3 ATS in the postseason. The Celtics don’t want to take any chances.

"We cannot come back here," Kevin Garnett said. "We have to think this is our Game 7 coming up and we cannot afford to have the best team in the league have a Game 7 on their floor. Just not possible."

Sportsbook.com has Boston as one-point favorites, as they go for their second three game winning streak in the playoffs. The C’s are 2-10 ATS off a road win by 10 points or more this season and 17-4 UNDER after a huge blowout victory by 30 or more. Cleveland has its back against the proverbial wall and is 2-5 ATS in last seven as road underdogs and is 16-5 OVER revenging a home massacre loss of 20 points or more.

The biggest deciding factor is LeBron’s mental state. This contest is being played with one day between games and James is shooting 36.1 percent on his meager total of 47 shot attempts, including 0-13 beyond the arc in this East semi-final with less than 48 hours between contests. In the two games Cleveland has won and covered, James is shooting 56.5 percent on 46 shots with two or more days in between outings. The Cavs are 0-6 ATS with one day of rest since April 11.

Game 6 is on ESPN at 8:00 Eastern and if Cleveland can force one more game, they will have two days off between conflicts.

The StatFox Power Line shows Boston by 6.


NBA: Celtics Favored to start Western Swing
2010-02-17

In the first game after the 2009 All-Star break, the Boston Celtics lost Kevin Garnett to a knee injury. A year later, they may still be feeling the effects. After an injury-plagued first half of the season and quiet All-Star game, Garnett and the sputtering Celtics still hope to reestablish themselves as title contenders during the season’s second half, which begins with Tuesday night’s visit to the Sacramento Kings. The road team is a hefty 5.5-point favorite at Sportsbook.com. Get more on this contest on the GAME MATCHUP page.

It was during a 90-85 loss at Utah last Feb. 19 that Garnett was initially injured, causing the 2004 MVP to miss all but four remaining games and the playoffs. Garnett missed nine contests from Dec. 30-Jan. 20 with another knee problem, and he’s been held without a double-double in 10 games since returning, averaging 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.

He started but played just 13 minutes in the All-Star game, totaling four points and three rebounds, and seemed miffed by questions about his health before Sunday’s game. “I’ll speak one time about my health. It’s great,” Garnett said.

The Celtics (32-18, 19-30-1 ATS) are 5-5 since his return and 9-13 since Christmas as their lead in the Atlantic Division has slipped to four games over Toronto. They’re already two losses shy of their total from last season and two over the total from their 2007-08 championship campaign. Since Dec. 27, Boston is burying backers with 6-15-1 ATS mark.

“Our expectations are to try to win a championship and be consistent, and that’s something we haven’t been able to do over the last month or so,” Paul Pierce said. “But we’re a veteran team, we stick together, and we’ll turn this thing around.”
Boston will start by trying to avoid a third straight defeat. After a 96-89 home loss to Orlando on Feb. 7, the Celtics went into the break with a 93-85 defeat at New Orleans on Wednesday, with Garnett totaling seven points and shooting 2 of 9 from the field. “Our starters struggled,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “Kevin struggled in the second half and Paul forced too much due to the struggling of the team.” This is the first of four games west of the Mississippi River and the C’s are 10-7 against Western Conference clubs with a repulsive 4-12-1 ATS record.

While Pierce won the 3-point shooting contest on Saturday night, he’d love to share some of his outside touch with teammate Ray Allen, who missed the loss at New Orleans due to back spasms after shooting 38.9 percent from the field and 26.8 percent from 3-point range in his previous 10 games. Allen has been mentioned in trade rumors ahead of Thursday’s deadline. If traded, he would have played his last home game with the Celtics, who also face the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland and Denver on this trip.

Sacramento (18-34, 25-25-2 ATS) is the weakest opponent on the trip after it lost 18 of 22 (7-14-1 ATS) going into the break to effectively end its playoff chances. But the young Kings won their last two games (both as road underdogs) and will be trying for their first three-game winning streak since they won four straight from Nov. 25-Dec. 2. Kevin Martin scored 26 points and Beno Udrih added 22 off the bench as Sacramento won 103-97 at Detroit on Wednesday, prompting coach Paul Westphal to lament the timing of All-Star weekend.

“We’re learning and getting good performances from different people,” Westphal said. “I hate to see the break coming right now.” The Kings are 19-34 ATS in home games after playing a game as an underdog.

The Kings have also been involved in some trade rumors, mostly involving Martin as rookie guard Tyreke Evans continues to emerge. Evans leads all rookies with 20.3 points per game. He’s never faced the Celtics, who’ve held Sacramento to an average of 77.5 points in four straight wins (3-1 ATS) since they acquired Garnett and Allen. Boston’s last visit to Arco Arena resulted in the biggest home loss in Kings history, a 108-63 defeat on Dec. 28, 2008.

Sportsbook.com opened with Boston as six-point favorites with total of 199.5, but they are 2-10 ATS off an upset loss as a favorite and 8-0 UNDER after leading their last two games by 10 or more points at the half. Sacramento returns to action 17-35 ATS in non-conference clashes, losing by more than nine points per game and is 16-7 OVER after they’ve covered the spread this season.

This contest is viewable in local markets starting at 10 Eastern and the Celtics are 17-9 on the road with .500 spread record. The StatFox Power Line shows Boston by 1, well shy of Sportsbook.com’s betting line.