Teams in the Eastern Conference have been playing much better lately. All right, not all of them. Let’s see who’s beating the NBA lines in the East these days. Hint: not Philadelphia.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 3 inclusive:
So there’s been some talk lately about whether the D-League would be a more attractive option for young basketball players than the NCAA. Mark Cuban seems to think so, while Larry Brown strongly disagrees – as you would expect from an NBA owner and a Division I coach. But how about a third option? Why don’t we just admit that the Eastern Conference is home to its own D-League, developing players who will later sign with successful large-market franchises once their four-year tours of duty are up?
I suppose I might be a bit cynical about these things. But we are talking about the East here. Let’s start our latest tour with a look at one of the de facto D-League teams, as it keeps itself busy grooming Kyrie Irving for bigger things in greener pastures.
Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Cavaliers (24-38 SU, 28-34 ATS) were on a really nice roll there, but they’ve resumed their losing ways at 2-4 SU and ATS in their last six games. We all know about the Cavs and their errant youth. Injuries are also taking a toll on their performance; Anderson Varejao (17.2 PER) is out with a strained back, and C.J. Miles (16.2 PER) has joined him on the sidelines with a sprained ankle. These happen to be Cleveland’s Top 2 players in the plus-minus rankings over at 82 games, both tied at plus-5.4.
The Cavs did get back Dion Waiters (13.0 PER) on Tuesday, and he lit up the San Antonio Spurs for 24 points in just 23 minutes off the bench. It wasn’t nearly enough. The Spurs (–7.5) rolled to a 122-101 victory, with six of their players scoring in double figures. Cleveland’s defense would improve significantly if Varejao could return in time for Friday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats. That doesn’t seem likely at this point. Perhaps the New York Knicks on Saturday?
It’s all-tank, all the time for the Sixers (15-46 SU, 22-39 ATS). Their descent down the Eastern standings continued Tuesday night with a 125-92 spanking at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who cashed in as 21-point home faves. That’s right, the Thunder were laying three touchdowns to the Sixers, and they still covered on the NBA odds board. Quite impressive. Kevin Durant scored 42 points and Russell Westbrook had a triple-double. Even Hasheem Thabeet had a good game against Philly.
That loss makes it 15 in a row for Philadelphia at 3-12 ATS. Everything we hoped and prayed for as handicappers has come true; the worst teams are losing with so much vigor that the NBA betting market hasn’t been able to keep up. Let’s see if Philly can do it again on Saturday versus the Utah Jazz. Remember: Only one team can lose.
Speaking of the Jazz, they just dropped another one, 104-91 to the Wizards (–8 at home). This is a very timely 7-1 SU and 4-2-1 ATS run for the Wiz, sticking close to the No. 4 Chicago Bulls in the suddenly competitive Eastern standings. Washington could end up being a handful in the playoffs, too. The additions of Andre Miller (13.5 PER) and Drew Gooden give the Wizards some much-needed bench support for their talented starting five.
That fivesome includes Trevor Ariza (16.8 PER), who might be having his best season as a pro. Ariza led the Wizards with 26 points against the Jazz, just two games after dumping a career-high 40 points on Philadelphia in a 122-103 victory. And the competition just keeps getting easier: On Saturday, the Wiz get to play the last-place Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee. Bless this mess.