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Reply To: NBA • Monday Service Plays • 12/21/15

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NBA bettors can stuff their stocking fading the Sixers this week
By BIG AL MCMORDIE

Christmas Day has long marked the unofficial start of the NBA’s calendar. It’s been an annual tradition since the league’s second season, in 1947. And it’s a day that the league has tried to showcase its best players and teams.

This year, five games are scheduled, and the marquee game is an NBA Finals rematch between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. A lot of other things are happening around the Association, so let’s take a look.

Spread watch

The Philadelphia 76ers might do for losing this season what the Golden State Warriors are doing for winning. That is, the 76ers might break the NBA’s all-time futility mark set by their own franchise, in 1973, when they went 9-73.

Indeed, I believe Philadelphia has a better shot at breaking that record than Golden State does of topping Chicago’s record of 72 wins, set in the 1995-96 season. Currently, Philadelphia is 1-28 SU and 11-17-1 ATS and it has gone 0-9-1 ATS its last 10 games.

This week, Philadelphia will play at home vs. Memphis Tuesday before hitting the road to take on Milwaukee Wednesday and Phoenix Saturday. The game Wednesday will be particularly tough for the Sixers, as they’ll be playing without rest, while Milwaukee will have had the previous two days off. Philadelphia has lost seven straight to the Bucks (1-6 ATS) since December 2013, while Milwaukee is a perfect 4-0 SU/ATS this season versus unrested opponents.

Total watch

The San Antonio Spurs are playing at an historic level on defense. The Spurs’ defensive efficiency rating is the best since the NBA/ABA merger 39 years ago. And the Spurs’ defense is a whopping 9.2 percent better than league average. In comparison, the Warriors’ historic offense is 10.3 percent better than league average.

But it seems the oddsmakers have finally caught up to how well the Spurs’ defense is performing. After starting the seasons 5-12-1 Over/Under, the Spurs have now gone Over in seven of their last nine, including all three games last week.

This week, the Spurs will welcome the Indiana Pacers to the Alamo City Monday, before traveling to Minnesota and Houston for games Wednesday and Christmas night. A1serviceplays.com The Spurs and T-Wolves played all four games Over the total last season, while Minnesota has gone Over in 18 of 30 as a home underdog. So, that game could be relatively high-scoring.

Injury watch

Kyrie Irving finally returned to the court Sunday and Cleveland responded with a 108-86 blowout win over the 76ers. Irving had 12 points, four assists and two steals in 17 minutes. For the near term, Irving will have his playing time restricted, so his full impact won’t be felt. But given that the Cavaliers are 34-3 their last 37 games when Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love are in the lineup, his presence can’t be understated, either.

This week, Cleveland will play the Knicks at home Wednesday before facing Golden State Christmas Day. With revenge from last year’s NBA Finals defeat on their minds, the Cavs surely will be motivated to hand the Warriors their first home loss this season – especially since Cleveland feels it got a raw deal last season due to the injuries sustained in the playoffs by Irving and Love.

Schedule watch

One of the more interesting storylines this NBA season has been the emergence of the Eastern Conference. For 15 of the past 16 seasons (the 2008-09 season being the exception), the Western Conference has had a better win percentage in all inter-conference games played.

Over that time span, the Western Conference’s record was 3,999-2,961 (57.45 percent) vs. the Eastern Conference (and 3,500-3,298-122 – 51.48 percent ATS). The disparity reached a pinnacle two seasons ago, when the Western Conference won 288 of the 455 non-conference games played (63.29 percent), going 240-208-7 ATS. Last year, the Western Conference won 58.55 percent (267-189).

This season, though, the Eastern Conference is 79-79 SU and 86-67-5 ATS in non-conference games, including 37-14-1 ATS as road underdogs (and 11-0 ATS as road underdogs versus foes off an upset win).

With that in mind, both Charlotte and Indiana bear watching Monday night, as they’ll be road underdogs at Houston and San Antonio, respectively. And Charlotte would fall into our 11-0 subset, as Houston is off an upset win Saturday versus the Clippers. Then, on Christmas Day, the Bulls (at the Thunder) and the Cavaliers (at Golden State) will be road underdogs.