Friday, 14 January 2011

Golden Nuggets

Anyone who follows the NBA, or basketball in general, will know that one player can make a huge difference to a team. The absence of a player such as Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis, Dwyane Wade or Amar'e Stoudemire (how cool is that to have an apostrophe in your name?) who score an average of 25 points a game will significantly affect the odds, far more than the absence of say Didier Drogba would affect Chelsea's price. So when I heard that the Miami Heat would be missing LeBron James (average 25.4 points per game) for their already tough game at Denver v the Nuggets, a quick check of the handicap market (Denver getting 2.5) showed money on Denver available around the 1.85 mark. Value? The Nuggets won by 28.

I mentioned that the game was 'already tough' and that's because the NBA regularly schedules back-to-back (consecutive nights) games for teams. There are various systems and theories that revolve around game twos of back-to-backs, but my experience is that any edge is miniscule. Two nights ago the Heat played in LA and lost to the in-form Clippers, and then had to fly to Denver for last night's game. In US sports, Denver is a unique place to go for a game, given that the altitude there is about, as Broncos fans will know, one mile, and ideally teams arrive there more than a day ahead to get acclimated. Of course, when you have a game the night before, you have no choice but to arrive late, and if Miami left LA straight after their loss, they wouldn't have arrived until the wee hours of Thursday, and losing an hour on the way.

How significant is this? Over the last 55 games that Denver has hosted an opponent playing the second game of a back-to-back, they have a 46-9 record. A little nugget of information for you (pun intended).

The Clippers are also worth looking at a little deeper than their overall record. They started the season abysmally, going 1-13 before finding their feet improving to 4-8 over the next twelve games. Since that time, they are 8-3 and beating teams like Miami almost with ease. They have the 13th best (ok, 3rd worst!) record in the Western Conference, but with more than half the teams making the play-offs, and half the season to come, they can still make it. They are currently 7 wins behind Portland, who have injury problems (the latest is Brandon Roy having surgery on both knees) and I can see the Clippers catching several teams currently above them.

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