Keep an eye on the Indiana Pacers. They fired head coach Jim O’Brien on January 30th and replaced him with the young energetic Frank Vogel. Since the firing, the Pacers have played with much more effort and passion and it resulted in a 7-3 SU run prior to the All-Star break. From a betting perspective, they went 6-4 ATS and have gone Over the total in six straight games.
O’Brien was a system coach that preached getting up and down the basketball court and shooting the three-point shot. Vogel is different and working more with the actual personnel than a specific system. He’s moved Roy Hibbert to the low block and emphasized a more attacking style which has led to more free throw attempts. The results have been favorable and I’ll continue to look for spots to back the Pacers and/or the Over.
It looks like the first seven seeds in the Eastern Conference will hold true barring any major injuries. That means Indiana, Charlotte and Milwaukee will battle for the eighth spot. It should be a tight race. Both Charlotte and Indiana have responded well to their respective coaching changes and Milwaukee is notorious for its big post-All-Star break runs. Last year, Scott Skiles’ bunch won 29 of their last 42 games and was a pointspread machine after the break at 22-9 ATS.
The most valuable team in Eastern Conference over the first half of the season was the upstart Philadelphia 76ers. They own a league-best 36-20 ATS record which is even more impressive considering the 6-6 ATS start. The Sixers were a key reason why I was able to produce over +20 units of profit for my clients. I released Philadelphia seven times and cashed in all but one contest. Philly plays with tremendous energy night in and night out which is something you don’t always see across the league. With the bench and defense a constant this team isn’t going downhill anytime soon.
It has to be at least somewhat shocking the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t have the worst spread record in the league. That dubious honor goes to the Washington Wizards at 20-34, 37% ATS. Head coach Flip Saunders has his work cut out for him as the Wizards have a slew of low IQ players. I’m not sure this teams knows how win…or even wants to. You can teach them what plays to run or how to improve their jump shot but you simply can’t teach competitive nature.
I've pounded on the Wizards but I’m not letting the Cavs off the hook that easily. They’ve struggled to cover numbers as well and have really emerged as a strong Over team at 34-22 O/U. The reason is simple; they are beyond brutal when it comes to playing defense. Since they lost Anderson Varejao – one of the few players willing to defend – the Cavs have gone Over the total in 18 of 24 games. It certainly looks like this trend could continue with all-offense Mo Williams back in the fold.
As bad as the Cavaliers play defense, Milwaukee may be just as poor on the offensive end. The Bucks have been a huge Under play at 21-34 O/U. It would seem they could turn things around some with the return of a healthy Brandon Jennings and Carlos Delfino but scoring will likely remain and uphill battle. Whether or not they improve on offense is going to be the key factor in their postseason run.