As the NBA moves into its fourth week, there is quite a bit to discuss. Unders continue to dominate the board with no signs of slowing, and through about 11 games we are starting to find out the identity of most clubs. Let’s dive into those topics in this week’s betting report.
Favorites: 29-22 ATS (season: 81-72-1 ATS)
Total O/U: 17-32-3 (season: 56-95-3)
Home-court advantage: + 2
We are just over three weeks into the season, and you will notice an addition to what we are keeping track of in the betting report: home-court advantage. It is still thought that home-court advantage is worth a full three points, but as you can see, that is not the case this season. Through 154 contests, that advantage comes out to just two points, and that is skewed by a short sample size and a dominant stretch from home teams over the last few days. We will keep updating this all season, but it is worth mentioning that the worth of home court was only a single point until recently.
Unders continue to be cash cows. Totals averaged out to 216.3 per contest last week, and still we saw 61.5 percent of them go Under to bring the season record to 95-56-3 on Unders. Offenses are getting better, though, as the average offensive rating in non-garbage time is up to 107.7, which is 0.4 points higher than through the first two weeks. As that continues to climb and totals continue to drop, we could see it creep back to the average. But it is hard to believe it is coming soon, given what we have seen to this point.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Clippers Climbing The Standings
Heading into Tuesday’s contest against the Trail Blazers, the Los Angeles Clippers were rolling. They had won four straight, covered three of the four and really found their identity on defense. Regardless of the outcome against Portland, it is clear Los Angeles is worth taking seriously. Despite a shaky start on offense, the Clippers own the third-best point differential in the Western Conference and are second in non-garbage time defensive efficiency (101.3). Their half-court defense is giving up a league-best 84.1 points every 100 plays, and opponents are shooting just 57.9 percent within 4 feet of the basket. What has been most impressive is the play of a bench that figured to be a weakness. With Paul George off the floor, Los Angeles is outscoring opponents by 4.8 points per 100 possessions thanks to a defense that has a rating of 100.0 in those possessions. Defense has been the name of the game for the Clippers, but the offense will slowly improve with the team’s health.
Los Angeles finally got Serge Ibaka back on the floor over the weekend, though Marcus Morris remains sidelined with a knee injury. As the minutes climb for Ibaka and Morris returns, this team will improve its offensive efficiency. Until then, this is a defensive-minded team that is among the best in the NBA. The Clippers’ point differential and net rating (+ 4.7) in non-garbage time are great indicators that their upward mobility is there. Do not doubt Los Angeles’ ability to continue its push toward the top of the Western Conference.
Hawks stuck in a tailspin
Last week I slugged the Atlanta Hawks as a bet-against team, as there were indicators their defense was due for a sharp decline. That prediction bore fruit, as the Hawks are 0-4 SU and ATS in their last four games with the worst defensive rating in the league over that span (118.8). Atlanta’s inability to limit dribble penetration has been a problem. It has allowed opponents to take 30.1 percent of their attempts at the rim and shoot 70.1 percent from that area while giving 46.9 points in the paint per game. According to the NBA tracking data, the Hawks are allowing 22.4 wide-open (no defender within 6 feet) attempts per game! We are just 11 games into the season, but this could certainly be an issue as the season progresses.
Last season many, including myself, projected Atlanta to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Through the first 34 games of the season that belief held true, as the Hawks were 14-20 with a defense that was giving up 114.0 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time. Their strong end to last season helped their defensive rating improve to 112.5, but this is still a flawed team on that end of the floor, and those flaws have shown through the early portion of this season. However, the market was slow to catch up. Through the first 11 games, the Hawks have been priced as a much stronger team, leading to a 3-8 ATS record. Until the market budges, it will be a sound strategy to continue fading Atlanta.
New York’s massive flaw
As someone who has been resistant to baptizing the Knicks as Eastern Conference contenders, I feel vindicated in the 3-3 SU/2-4 ATS slump New York is going through. Do not let the mainstream media fool you! The Knicks are greatly flawed on defense, and Tom Thibodeau is scrambling for answers. As of Tuesday, New York is 23rd in non-garbage time defensive efficiency, allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions. Opponents have given the Knicks a taste of their own medicine, taking 41.8 percent of their attempts from deep while shooting 36.0 percent on those shots. Some might write it off as hot shooting over a small sample size, but that is not the case at all. It is finally the chickens coming home to roost for a New York team that has been playing with fire since last season.
According to the NBA tracking data, the Knicks are giving up the second-highest rate of wide-open 3-point attempts in the league at 24.0 percent. Last season that figure was 20.4 percent, the sixth-highest rate in the league, but opponents failed to take advantage and shot just 34.7 percent on those wide-open looks. That is not so this season, as opponents are hitting 41.5 percent of their wide-open attempts. This problem goes beyond perimeter shots, though. The Knicks are giving up the second-highest rate of wide-open attempts overall and they rank 28th in opponent shooting on those attempts at 46.4 percent. This should not be chalked up to bad luck, folks. New York did this all last season and got away with it until the playoffs. The Knicks’ luck has clearly run its course.