Those season-long records can be more than a little misleading.
Players have switched teams. Coaches have stepped out while others have stepped in. Injuries have distorted results.
Most of all, the early-season lines from sportsbooks were overly reliant on preseason predictions.
With that in mind, we check the results since our 2006 day planner was tossed in the recycling bin and 2007’s was cracked open. The lines are sharper now and these trends are a truer representation of what’s really going on.
You’ve heard the jokes about the “Titanic Division”, with basketball observers coast-to-coast bemoaning the indignity of a sub .500 team getting a top playoff seed by virtue of winning the Atlantic.
Well, if it’s truly the Titanic Division then global warming has melted all the icebergs as far as bettors are concerned. All five Atlantic Division teams were .500 or better against the spread (ATS) in January, even the sad-sack Boston Celtics.
As a whole, the division was 48-28-2 ATS for the month and as long as everyone cracks wise about the quality of basketball, the more sharp bettors will be laughing at the ultra-friendly lines.
The New Jersey Nets led the way with a stellar 12-3 ATS January, but the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks were also moneymakers with each going 10-5 ATS.
Busy Wolves stay on top of things (mostly totals)
The Minnesota Timberwolves were one of four teams playing 17 January games, six of which went to overtime (a league record for one month) simply added to the burden.
The Wolves played under the total just twice in the month and while four of the overtime games played under in regulation time, that still gave Minnesota 11 overs in regulation.
The Wolves’ scoring went up slightly in January, but low totals from the sportsbooks and the team’s defense were bigger contributors to the trend. All the same, Minnesota showed it could compete in shootouts against Phoenix and Memphis, which is worth noting if they continue to see totals under 190 points as they did through January.
Kings of pain
The Sacramento Kings spent January eliminating themselves from playoff contention and making sure the team’s backers lost a lot of money.
Their 5-11 straight up record in January caused both disgruntled fans and disharmony in the locker room. It was the 4-12 ATS record, however, that hit bettors’ bankrolls. It was easily the worst ATS record in the NBA, but the tail end of January hinted that bettors might be able to make money off the Kings yet.
Sacramento was a home favorite against good teams like the Lakers and Rockets in early January, and a 3-point road favorite in Portland around the same time.
One month of craptacular basketball later and bettors know the Kings won’t see such lines again this season. Sacramento covered the number in two of its final three games of the month thanks to lines that reflect the bad team it really is (a 12-point underdog in Dallas and a 5-point dog in Minnesota).
How the mighty have fallen
Like the Kings, the San Antonio Spurs made their backers suffer through the month of January, going 6-11 ATS. Unlike Sacramento, the Spurs remain too highly regarded for sportsbooks to give them friendlier lines.
They’re only 2-8 ATS over their last 10 games and their annoying habit of covering the spread as a heavy favorite justifies making the Spurs being a double-digit favorite at home (as far as the books are concerned).
San Antonio is only a .500 team straight up over that same 10-game stretch, however, and home losses to the Lakers and Rockets just wouldn’t have happened two years ago.
The Spurs’ methodical offense has failed them too often this year, with less contribution from role players and over-reliance on Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Not coincidentally, the Spurs played under the total in 13 of their 17 January games.
At least Run-TMC played some defense
The Golden State Warriors opened the new year by playing under the total in four of their first seven games. Then GM Chris Mullin pulled the trigger on an 8-player deal, discarding players best suited to a half-court offense and getting track stars in return.
The Warriors have played over the total in six of seven games since the trade, partially from the “give and let fly” philosophy on offense and partially due to a lackadaisical approach on defense. In any case, they’re making mediocre offenses resemble the Showtime-era Lakers and padding the wallets of anyone playing the overs.
Unfortunately, the days of 210-point totals may have come to an end for Golden State as their defensive woes aren’t exactly the league’s best-kept secret.
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