NBA sleepwalkers: Fading elite playoff-bound teams

Like the blue-hair retirees that ridicule the laws of driving, veteran NBA clubs will set the cruise control 10 miles under the speed limit and coast into playoffs the final three weeks of the season.

Coaches start to whittle down minutes for a multitude of reasons: Rest for wounded regulars that have played through injury, experience for young reserves that could be called upon during the postseason, conditioning for grizzled vets that have been preserving legs at the end of the bench.

The boys out in Boston recently said they wanted the top spot in the East, but they must be having a senior moment in their old age because that’s not realistic. They trail the Bulls by two games and seven of Chicago’s final nine come against teams with losing records. The C’s still have to go on the road and play at San Antonio, Miami and Chicago.

Doc Rivers told the media two weeks ago that while obtaining the No. 1 seed was an objective, his top priority was health.

Rajon Rondo has been a below average point guard the last month while playing through a variety of ailments. He’s also logging a career high in minutes. Rondo said he wouldn’t mind playing less now that Delonte West has returned and can run the point. Rivers confirmed he would be “decreasing” Rondo’s minutes going forward.

When the O’Neal twin towers resurrect we will likely see Big Baby’s minutes scaled back. And Rivers is still acclimating guys like Jeff Green, Troy Murphy, Carlos Arroyo and Sasha Pavlovic to the complex defense so more action for them equates to less for the regulars.

The Celtics went 5-8 overall and 4-9 at the wagering window the final three weeks of last season. They lost outright to Houston and Washington as 11-point favorites at home. After dropping back-to-back games at the Garden against the Grizzlies and Bobcats last week, Rivers said his squad looked “bored with the regular season.”

Boston has the fifth-oldest team in the NBA and what might come as a surprise, the Heat have the oldest. Miami is sixth in average age with minutes played weighted in.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade rank in the top 20 in minutes per game. Wade recently said he wouldn’t mind playing time for bench players being extended down the stretch. It’s been painfully obvious every member of that team outside of the Big Three could use some work.

The lead for the No. 1 seed in the West is five games. San Antonio has a four-game cushion over the Bulls for the overall best record. The Spurs have nine games left, five are at home and two of those come against Sacramento and Utah. It’s basically a done deal and Gregg Popovich will start to protect his assets.

Tim Duncan is already hobbled and Pop won’t throw him on the floor 30 minutes a night even if he returns before the playoffs. Last year, a healthy Duncan sat the final game of the season and averaged just 27.7 minutes over last five he played. San Antonio is 0-3 since he rolled the ankle.

From March 29 on during the last six seasons, the Spurs are 42-29 straight up but just 26-35 against the spread. Eight of those losses came as 7-point chalk or higher.

Starters for these teams aren’t going to be limited every game so don’t fade them from here on out. There’s a fine line between rest and maintaining rhythm.

But tread cautiously when throwing down on these squads down the stretch my friends. Unfortunately, we bettors don’t receive a daily memo from the coaches regarding the rotation. We can only hope intentions leak through the media so Google News and, of course, Covers.com should be your best handicapping tools going forward.

THIS WEEK’S SITUATIONAL BETS

Cavaliers at Bobcats (Wednesday, March 30):
Baron Davis said that when the Cavs welcome back LeBron James on Tuesday night there will be confidence, motivation, passion and not “a lot of smiles.” Cleveland will undoubtedl

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Posted by 1kenny
3 years ago

I like hou and dodgers on opeming day in mlb to win.
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Posted by 1kenny
3 years ago

Spurs and lakers dont like to go over when they play each other.ncaa champoinship will go over.
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Posted by 1kenny
3 years ago

I bet that phi kills hou on wed.
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Posted by 1kenny
3 years ago

Take santa clara+9.5
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Posted by 1kenny
3 years ago

Dont think vcu will win it all. No way
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Posted by 1kenny
3 years ago

Take was to win and minn
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Posted by WatsOnYourMind
3 years ago

this is the time of year when the team who "has to win" often does...unlike the rest of the season when you dont know how badly they want to win one game over another
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Posted by grahamillion
3 years ago

Thanks for the insightful comments to both Ashton and Scott. As I said, any insight is good insight and I'll never turn it down. Good luck to the both of you as well.
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Posted by grahamillion
3 years ago

For sure, sports is something that changes on a daily basis. Because anything can happen, anyone can and will win on a daily and weekly basis. I've learned my lesson on this many times before and am well aware of it now Don't get me wrong, it's great that Scott write's these columns, as I appreciate any insight I can get into handicapping matches. But these two articles just aren't consistent. But then again, I guess no one thought some of the "elite" teams would have fallen off as much as they have in the last week or two.
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Posted by ScottCooley
3 years ago

grahamillion, thank you for reading and excellent observation. As Ashton pointed out, and you concurred with, the NBA in particular is extremely volatile week-to-week. And I would like to point out a sentence from the "No Odds to High" column: "Of course you’re going to have one or two coaches like Gregg Popovich who will rest veterans down the stretch, but most elite teams aren’t backing off." Along with the injuries to Duncan and Manu, last night Pop sat Parker and McDyess just to rest them (even though "injuries" were listed). So that was four of the Spurs' five regular starters. The "elite" teams that I would be comfortable backing with big spreads are the Mavs, Nuggets, Bulls, Lakers, Blazers, Thunder and Grizz. Thanks again for commenting and good luck down the stretch.
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Posted by Ashton_Grewal
3 years ago

I hear what you're saying grahamillion and I'm happy to see that you're checking out Scott's column each week. But things change week to week in the NBA. The Celtics and Spurs have gone into deep sleep mode until the playoffs start. That wasn't the case a week ago. Scott wrote this piece yesterday afternoon and then the Spurs and C's both end up losing and failing to cover on Monday night.
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Posted by grahamillion
3 years ago

Forgive me if I'm wrong somewhere, but you're basically contradicting yourself, no? "No odds too high: Betting big NBA favorites down the stretch" http://www.covers.com/articles/articles.aspx?theArt=227622
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Top Response

Posted by 1kenny
3 years ago

"Dont think vcu will win it all. No way "