Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 2 inclusive:
It’s still real to me, dammit. I’m a mark for the NBA, and speaking as a fan, I’m getting plenty of value out of the Eastern Conference right now. You’ve got the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers tied for first place with not a lot of time left. You’ve got the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks tied for the No. 8 seed. Heck, even the Cleveland Cavaliers might make the playoffs. It’s nuts.
Okay, that’s enough fandom. When you’re betting on the NBA, you have to put down the pom-poms and take a cold, hard look at the pros and cons of the teams you’re investing in. The fun wears off pretty quickly when your bankroll’s gone. So let’s fire up the minivan and take another tour of the Eastern Conference, starting right at the top.
Now the Heat (52-22 SU, 35-37-2 ATS) are just messing with us. On the surface of things, it looks like they’re locked in an epic battle for first place, winning each of their last four games SU and ATS. Surely this means they’re serious about grabbing that No. 1 seed in the East and home-court advantage all the way to the NBA Finals. Except you never know which players are going to play anymore. We’ve seen James Jones (16.5 PER), Toney Douglas (10.2 PER) and Udonis Haslem (9.2 PER) in the starting lineup during this streak – which, by the way, includes two games with the last-place Milwaukee Bucks, and another with the faltering Detroit Pistons.
The remaining schedule doesn’t look too tough for Miami, either. Six of the last eight games are against Eastern teams; the April 11 game (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA-TV) versus the Pacers should be incredible, but the other five games are certainly winnable to various degrees. Make sure you’re waiting for reliable game-day info on the lineups before you bet on the Heat – or anyone else – from here to the postseason.
At what point do the Pacers (53-23 SU, 35-40-1 ATS) snap out of this? They got a much-needed 101-94 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, but the Pistons beat the NBA lines as 10.5-point road dogs. That’s seven ATS losses in a row for Indiana. That’s 2-18 ATS since Feb. 25. Won’t somebody think of the children?
Miami has two games in hand on the Pacers, who have a semi-soft schedule going forward, but it doesn’t seem to matter which five people you put in front of Indiana these days. “We’re probably the most downtrodden 50-plus win team in the history of the game,” David West told reporters earlier this week. Worse than the 1993-94 Chicago Bulls? That’s pretty gloomy.
New York Knicks
Believe it or not, the Knicks (33-43 SU, 34-42 ATS) have made it all the way back into eighth place in the East. But that’s not good enough yet to make the postseason. New York is just percentage points ahead of the 32-42 Hawks, who hold the tiebreaker at the moment. Stat guru John Hollinger gives Atlanta an 81.4 percent chance of getting into the playoffs. The Knicks are at 14.2 percent, and yes, the Cavs are still alive at 4.5 percent.
Playoffs?! As long as the Knicks keep beating the NBA odds, sure, extend their season a while. They’ve won three straight games SU and ATS to improve to 10-5 ATS since March 5. And all six of their remaining games are against Eastern teams – but none of the tanking teams. Uh-oh. That includes this Sunday’s matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, ABC) with the Heat. Double uh-oh.