Complacency tripping up Clippers

Complacency could become a recurring problem for the Clippers and their backers. 

Since Christmas, the virtual co-favorites to win the NBA championship with the Lakers and Bucks have missed market point spreads in home games by 36 points to Memphis with a 140-114 loss as 10-point favorites, by 20.5 points to Utah with a 120-107 loss laying 7.5 points and by seven points in Sunday’s 135-132 win over New York. 

They don’t play like that every time out, of course. You probably watched the big Christmas win over the Lakers. Kawhi Leonard and company also took care of business against lesser lights Detroit and Sacramento. 

But those results show that bettors can’t just focus on skill sets when evaluating point spreads. They must take the extra step of anticipating motivation and intensity. Markets typically price top teams assuming peak effort every time out. Tough to make money asking contenders to consistently clear high hurdles. 

The Clippers have failed to cover five of their last six games immediately after a straight-up victory. The wind comes out of their sails soon after reaching full speed. To their credit, they’re 9-3 against the spread immediately after their last 12 straight-up losses, though it had been 9-2 ATS before the Knicks squeaker. 

Next up: a home game Friday vs. Golden State followed by a trip to potential playoff opponent Denver on Sunday. 

Other notes

— The Lakers will get their fourth look at potential playoff opponent Dallas on Friday night in Texas. Head to head, the Lakers and Mavs are 1-1-1 in regulation. The Lakers (-5) won the most recent meeting 108-95 on Dec. 29 at Staples Center. Dallas (plus-6) shocked Showtime 114-100 on Dec. 1. L.A. (plus-1) won 119-110 in overtime Nov. 1 in Dallas. 

Litmus tests haven’t been going well lately for the Lakers. They’re 2-4 straight up, 1-5 ATS vs. their last six opponents with winning records.  

— UCLA basketball is still searching for consistent quality. The Bruins (plus-8.5) upset Washington 66-64 on Thursday to end a three-game losing streak that included a 19-point market miss against Cal State Fullerton. But that win was followed two days later by a 79-71 overtime loss at Washington State as a 1.5-point favorite.

UCLA is now 8-7 straight up, 7-8 ATS. The Bruins are off until Saturday, when they host crosstown rival USC. They need to string together some big wins to even crack the top 120 in Ken Pomeroy’s market-respected computer rankings (kenpom.com). UCLA isn’t currently seen as Big Dance or NIT caliber. 

— USC continued its recent Under tendency with a pair of low-scoring decisions in Washington. The Trojans (-3.5) won at Washington State 65-56 in a game that stayed below the market total of 146.5 by 25.5 points. Then USC (plus-4) lost badly at Washington 72-40, staying Under 140 by 28 points. 

The Trojans have played 11 Unders in 15 games. They are 12-3 straight up, 7-8 ATS. 

Early Pac-12 assessments show USC on a list of bubble teams for the NCAA tournament along with Stanford and Washington. Grading out as Dance-worthy so far are Arizona, Oregon and Colorado. 

— In the NHL, the Kings are also showing recent Under tendencies. Six of their last seven games have stayed Under posted totals, with the offense barely averaging two goals per game in regulation. 

— The Ducks are skating in the other direction. Anaheim’s high-scoring 5-4 shootout win Sunday night over Nashville made it six Overs in the last seven games. For any sport, those new to sports betting should consider attacking Over/Unders if they’re having trouble picking team side winners. 

— In the NFL, both of last season’s Super Bowl teams have been eliminated from championship possibilities. The NFC champion Rams didn’t even reach the playoffs. Defending league champ New England (-4) was upset by Tennessee 20-13 on Saturday night. Tom Brady and company were unable to move the chains (losing third-down conversions 50% to 38%), unable to finish drives (losing red-zone touchdown percentage 100% to 33%) and losing the turnover category 2-1. 

Betting markets were slow to accept New England’s demise. The fading Patriots finished just 1-5-1 against the spread vs. teams that reached the playoffs. The only cover was a grinder at Philadelphia. An 0-1-1 mark vs. Buffalo was joined by non-covers vs. Baltimore (20 points), Houston (9.5 points), Kansas City (10 points) and Tennessee (11 points). 

That latter quartet represents the AFC’s final four.

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