Could frantic road trip finally cause Warriors to stumble?
By BIG AL MCMORDIE
The NBA’s first month is in the books, and it’s been a fascinating start to the season. The Golden State Warriors (18-0) have been as scintillating, as the 76ers (0-18) have been dreadful. So much so that sportsbooks are offering a prop bet on which will happen first: a Warriors loss (-160 odds) or a 76ers win (+130 odds).
Of course, with LSU’s Ben Simmons as a possible prize in next year’s NBA Draft, I suspect Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie isn’t minding his team’s futility. Let’s take a look at the week that was, and the week that will be.
The Golden State Warriors not only have an 18-game win streak ongoing, but they’ve also now covered six in a row (and nine of their last 11). But the next two weeks will provide the Dubs with their staunchest test of the season.
Golden State will embark Monday on a 13-day, seven-game road trip, which will include stops at five current playoff teams: Utah, Charlotte, Toronto, Indiana and Boston. Tonight’s game is surely a potential landmine for Luke Walton’s men, as the Jazz have covered five straight (and seven of their last eight) as home underdogs.
Even next Sunday’s game at Brooklyn could offer a surprisingly tough test for Golden State, as the Warriors will have to play without rest. And the Nets, who have caught fire by covering nine of their last 10, already took the Warriors to overtime in mid-November, in Oakland. Brooklyn’s also 10-4 ATS its last 14 as a home underdog.
Two weeks ago, I highlighted the Miami Heat, which had (at that time) played their previous eight games Under the total. All the Heat have done since is go 1-5 Over/Under for an overall streak of 13 Unders and 1 Over since October 30.
Miami is one of four teams giving up less than a point per possession on defense, and the other three (Spurs, Pacers, Celtics) have also played a majority of their games Under, but not to the extreme of the Heat.
This week, Miami will host Boston, Oklahoma City and Cleveland. But, even though both the Celtics and Thunder have played their last three Under the total (and the Cavs, their last two), this week looks to be a great spot for Miami’s Under trend to reverse, as the Heat’s Over/Under lines have been adjusted downward a bit too much. Based on my numbers, the value should now rest on the Over in Miami’s games.
Charlotte’s center, Al Jefferson, suffered a left calf injury early in Sunday’s game versus Milwaukee. Jefferson is third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding, so his status going forward bears watching.
Jefferson also missed Charlotte’s final seven games of last season, and the Hornets went 1-6 SU and 3-4 ATS in those games. The Hornets will welcome Golden State to The Hive Wednesday. Last season, Jefferson played well versus the Warriors, averaging 18.5 ppg, and the Hornets covered the spread as 8.5-point home underdogs in the most recent meeting.
The San Antonio Spurs have owned Memphis since their playoffs series loss to the Grizzlies in 2011. General Manager R.C. Buford recognized the need for a defensive stopper, so he traded George Hill for the 15th pick in the 2011 draft, which turned into Kawhi Leonard.
Prior to that event, Memphis was 10-0-1 ATS its previous 11 games versus San Antonio. But since then, the Spurs are 17-4 SU and 15-6 ATS in the series. Thursday’s game in Memphis will be difficult for the Spurs. San Antonio will not only be playing without rest, but it will also be playing its fifth game in seven nights. Since December 2012, the Spurs are 3-8 SU and 4-7 ATS on the road when playing their fifth game in seven nights, including 0-4 SU/ATS when the line was six points or less.
Of course, one never knows whether head coach Gregg Popovich will even play his aging veterans (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili) in situations like this. Regardless, Memphis will be worth a look.