Remember how the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat were running over the rest of the Eastern Conference? The NBA betting lines haven’t been so kind to them lately.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 11 inclusive:
Not too long ago, there were two winning teams in the Eastern Conference: the Indiana Pacers, and the Miami Heat. How times have changed. This is still by far the weaker sister in the NBA family, but things aren’t nearly as bad as they were earlier this season – there are now four winning teams in the East as we go to press, plus another three teams within two games of .500. Meanwhile, the Pacers and Heat are quickly giving up ground on the NBA odds board. Let’s start our latest Eastern tour at the top.
The alarm bells were ringing last week, and now the Pacers (40-12 SU, 32-20 ATS) have turned into a giant tire fire. They lost 81-73 to the Dallas Mavericks (+9 away) on Wednesday, even though Dallas was playing on zero days of rest, and even though Dirk Nowitzki had sprained his ankle the night before against the Charlotte Bobcats. Nowitzki finished with 18 points and six rebounds, leaving the Pacers at 7-5 SU and 4-8 ATS in their past dozen games. One notable drag on Indiana’s market value: Danny Granger (10.4 PER), who just hasn’t found his touch since missing most of last year with patellar tendinosis.
At least the Heat (36-14 SU, 22-28 ATS) aren’t completely lost against the NBA lines anymore. They’ve fallen into a zigzag ATS pattern that reached eight games with Tuesday’s 103-97 victory over the Phoenix Suns (+2.5 at home). Dwyane Wade (21.3 PER) sat this game out, and Michael Beasley (17.2 PER) was once again a DNP-CD, but LeBron James (28.8 PER) put the team on his back and scored 37 points with nine rebounds and five steals. Miami is now 11-10 ATS against teams above .500 and 11-18 ATS against teams below .500.
Give them an A for effort, but it looks like the Hawks (25-26 SU, 26-25 ATS) may have finally suffered one injury too many. They lost 104-83 to the Toronto Raptors (–6.5 at home) on Wednesday, despite Gustavo Ayon (12.0 PER) posting 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting with 10 rebounds and three assists. Ayon is Atlanta’s third-string center behind the injured Al Horford (22.1 PER) and Pero Antic (12.4 PER), so if he has a good day and Atlanta loses, you know there’s something wrong. Could be Louis Williams (13.0 PER), who hasn’t regained his form after last year’s torn ACL. The Hawks are now 0-5 SU and ATS in their last five games.
The Nets (24-26 SU, 25-25 ATS) have been a little slippery of late – they haven’t strung together three ATS wins or losses since starting the New Year at 8-1 SU and ATS. But they have taken four of their last five games straight up, including Wednesday’s 105-89 win over the Charlotte Bobcats (+7.5 away). Paul Pierce (15.8 PER) turned back the clock with 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, hitting all five of his trey attempts. The upcoming All-Star break could give Pierce and Brooklyn’s other elder statesmen enough lift to get above .500 and secure a playoff berth. Maybe even a Top-4 seed.
And then you have the Bucks (9-43 SU, 20-32 ATS). They’re still losing basketball games, don’t worry, but the days of fading Milwaukee may be done. Wednesday’s 102-98 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans (–7.5 away) leaves the Bucks at 5-1 ATS in their last six games. Larry Sanders (14.1 PER) is out indefinitely with a fractured orbital bone, so Zaza Pachulia (14.5 PER) is starting at center, and he’s actually playing better than Sanders at the moment. Just don’t let Zaza get into a bar fight anytime soon.