The Los Angeles Lakers’ 33 game record winning streak, set during the 1971-72 season, is safe; with a 101-97 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, the Heat’s run at history was finally snapped at 27 consecutive victories. The Heat’s remarkable run of nearly two months of undefeated basketball began after a February 1st loss to the Indiana Pacers. Besides being the most popular news story of the 2013 NBA season, the streak all but clinched the Eastern Conference—and home court advantage at least to the Finals–for a Miami team that now possesses a commanding 11 game lead over the second place Indiana Pacers.

The Heat trailed by 9 at the half to a Bulls team that was again without superstar Derrick Rose and, for the third consecutive game, 2013 all-star Joakim Noah. Being down was nothing new for the Miami Heat who rallied for improbable victories just the week before against both Boston (down 17 in the first half) and Cleveland (down 27 in the third quarter). However, on this night, there would be no furious comeback and no last second Lebron James heroics. A tenacious Bull’s defense allowed Chicago to maintain the lead and, for just the second time in the last nine games, hold the Miami Heat under 100 points.

But what would an NBA game be without a little referee controversy? After the game, Lebron cited two instances involving what he believed was excessive contact from Bull’s players Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson.

“Those are not basketball plays, and it’s been happening all year,” James commented. “I’ve been able to keep my cool and try to tell Spo, ‘Let’s not worry about it too much,’ but it is getting to me a bit.”

While the Bulls celebrated afterward as if they had won Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Heat remain the team that has given NBA bettors the most cause for celebration. Even with a loss in which they failed to cover the line, the Heat remains 37-34 against the spread on the season. Chicago, at just 32-38, falls in the bottom 10 of NBA teams against the spread.

With the Milwaukee Bucks, despite being winners of just 3 of their last 10, a comfortable 7 games ahead of the 9th place Philadelphia 76ers, the Eastern Conference playoff picture is all but set. Not so in the West; with just 3 games separating the three teams vying for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, the race between the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks is likely to present exciting prospects for NBA bettors.

Currently holding a tenuous half game advantage over Utah, the Lakers failed to put any distance between themselves and the Jazz by going just 1-2 so far this week. Most disconcerting for NBA bettors, the Laker’s defense, despite being led by former defensive player of the year candidate Dwight Howard, has been abysmal in recent games. On the week, the Lakers are allowing opponents an incredible 113 points per game. While Lakers coach Mike D’Antonio has never been known as a defensive genius, that mark is still 11 points over their 101.6 season average. Even in their lone victory of the week, the Lakers surrendered 117 points to a Minnesota Timberwolves team that averages just 95 on the season.

The Lakers defensive woes were also evident in their most recent loss against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks entered the game having lost 4 straight but coasted to a 113-103 victory over the Lakers. Perhaps most telling was the fact that every Bucks starter scored over 15 points—an indication that, rather than having one weak link, the Lakers defensive issues are systemic and team-wide.

The Laker’s slide has given the Jazz new life; while it appeared just a week ago that the Jazz were on the verge of fading from the playoff picture (losing 5 of their last 6), two consecutive victories have moved them within just half a game of the Lakers. On Monday, the Jazz recorded an easy 107-91 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. The victory was a team effort; although leading scorer Dorell Wright recorded just 19 points, the Jazz featured 6 players in double figures.

Wednesday’s 103-88 win over the Phoenix Suns was paced by 25 points from both Gordon Hayward and Al Jefferson.

NBA bettors should note that both victories came against teams significantly below the .500 Mark. In fact, Utah is just 1-7 against teams that would currently be in the NBA playoffs. While the Jazz are a safe bet to beat the bottom feeders of the league, they should be avoided when matched up against the NBA’s elite.

Despite just a 35-37 overall record, the Dallas Mavericks are the final team remaining in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Due to the two Lakers losses this week, Dallas is just a game and half back from claiming their 13th consecutive post-season appearance. At 10-5 in the month of March, Dallas appears to be peaking at just the right time.

The Maverick’s lone loss in their last five came Thursday at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. Despite Dirk Nowitzki pouring in 21, the Mavericks were blown out 103-78 in a game which saw the rest of the Maverick’s starting line up contribute a meager 19 points.

The loss should do little to deter NBA bettors from sticking with the Mavericks the remainder of the NBA season. At 42-30 against the spread on the season, Dallas has consistently been one of the NBA’s most reliable bets. The game to circle on the calendar is the April 2nd showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers, a contest that will be pivotal in deciding the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

With the NBA season winding down, here are a few key dates all NBA fans and bettors should keep in mind:

  • April 17th: regular season ends
  • April 20th: 2013 NBA playoffs begin
  • May 7th: conference semifinals begin
  • May 22nd: conference final begin
  • June 6th: finals begin

In addition to betting on NBA games, both the NBA draft lottery and NBA draft itself present bettors with numerous possibilities for appealing prop bets. Possible bets include: which team will win the draft, which player will be selected first, which college team will feature the highest number of first round selections and many more. The key dates you need to know are:

May 21st: NBA draft lottery June 27th: NBA draft

As always, stay tuned to NBABetting.org for the latest NBA news and analysis along with our proven betting strategies that will be useful to novices and experts alike. Whenever placing a bet, be sure to first check out our recommended Sportsbooks, many of which currently offer promotions simply for signing up!