Mired in an early March slump just two weeks ago, the New York Knicks are now the NBA’s hottest team. With double digit victories this week over both the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks, the Knicks remain a half game ahead of the Indiana Pacers in the race for the Eastern Conference’s number two seed.
It is no surprise that the Knicks’ recent surge has largely coincided with the return of Carmelo Anthony. After missing 7 of 8 games with knee soreness, Anthony returned to New York’s starting line up on March 20th—and the Knicks haven’t lost since. On Tuesday, Anthony had his best game of the season, dropping 50 points and accounting for nearly half of New York’s points in a 102-90 victory over the first place Heat. Perhaps even more impressively, Melo netted 40 for his encore on the second night of a back to back in New York’s 95-82 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.
What is most impressive about Carmelo Anthony’s recent point totals is the efficiency with which he is scoring. In the 50 point performance against Miami, Melo needed just 27 field goal attempts to reach the half century mark. On Wednesday, Melo again shot a scorching 63% from the field on 17-27 shooting. Anthony is now second in the league in scoring at 28.1 points per game, just a hair behind Kevin Durant’s 28.3. Despite being one of the NBA’s most prolific scorers over the last decade, Melo has never won an NBA scoring title. With his first in reach, it’s a safe bet that he will shoot a high volume of attempts in the Knicks’ remaining games. NBA bettors should keep an eye out for favorable prop betting lines involving Anthony; with a high volume of shots likely forthcoming, there is a good chance he will regularly cover.
Although bettors should be aware that Lebron James did sit out the Knicks’ game with a hamstring injury, New York’s week was just further proof of what their entire season has shown: this is one of the NBA’s safest teams to consistently pick against the spread. At 41-32, New York currently ranks 7th in the NBA in covering the line.
With the top spot in the East clinched by the Miami Heat and the sub .500 Milwaukee Bucks all but locked into the 8th seed, it is the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff pack that bettors should keep an eye on. Just 2 ½ games currently separate the 4th seeded Nets from the 6th seeded Bulls. With less than 10 games now remaining and home court advantage in the first round still up for grabs, games like Thursday’s Nets/Bulls match up will be key contests to circle on the calendar.
Turning to the Western Conference, the Lakers found themselves at the center of controversy for the second consecutive week. On the final play of last week’s 120-117 Los Angeles victory, the referees suspiciously swallowed their whistles on what appeared to be a clear foul by Kobe Bryant on Ricky Rubio–a key play as the Minnesota point guard was in the act of shooting a potentially game tying three. The league later issued a statement acknowledging it was, in fact, a blown call. Of course, this admission didn’t change the fact that the Lakers were gifted a victory and, consequently, continued grasp of the West’s final playoff spot.
The Lakers’ Saturday game against Sacramento featured an equally puzzling ending. With the Lakers clinging to a 2 point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining, Kings guard John Salmons was whistled for a foul despite being sagged at least 3 feet off Kobe Bryant. After Kobe hit 1 of 2 free throws, DeMarcus Cousins drew Dwight Howard off balance and attempted a three. Despite the 6-11, 265 pound center visibly landing on Cousins in the act of shooting, there was no foul call. This string of blatantly blown calls gave the Lakers a narrow 103-98 victory. Think David Stern was Kobe, Dwight and company in the playoffs?
With their 113-96 loss against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, the Utah Jazz remained a game behind the 8th place Lakers. Although this race for the West’s last playoff spot will be the most exciting storyline the remainder of the season, this game is also noteworthy for drawing attention to the Denver Nuggets. Denver seems to have been consistently undersold during the NBA season—perhaps as a result of lacking a recognizable, marquee star ever since the Anthony trade. At 46-29 against the spread, they have been far and away the best team at surpassing the expectations of Vegas. Denver is a particularly strong home team; at 33-3 in their own house, they are in fact the best in the league. Don’t be surprised if they continue to be underestimated once the playoffs begin and offer NBA bettors irresistible lines.
One other often overlooked betting strategy during this time of the season is attempting to identify—and win money on–teams that are deliberately tanking. With clubs like the Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic long out of the playoff race, it’s the NBA’s worst kept secret that it is now more advantageous for them to lose than it is win. Key starters often suddenly come down with mysterious ailments as The NBA’s bottom feeders scramble for the best positioning and odds in the NBA’s May 21st draft lottery.
Besides the already mentioned Bobcats and Magic, other likely suspects include Cleveland (losers of 10 straight), Phoenix (1-9 in their last 10) and Detroit (2-8 in their last 10). These are already the NBA’s worst teams and, if they are already that bad when trying to win, it is a safe bet they are going to struggle to cover spreads in the remaining games with such a large incentive to lose. Charlotte in particular presents a compelling team to beat against. At 18-57 on the season, they have the NBA’s worst record and, therefore, best lottery odds; at 26-47 against the spread, they’ve also already been the worst team in the league at covering the betting line.
Even though less than 10 games now remain in the NBA season, there are still a number of unresolved questions. Will the Lakers or Jazz nab the West’s last playoff spot? Will Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony capture the regular season scoring title? Will more egregious officiating errors continue to put an asterisk next to each Lakers victory?
As always, stay tuned to NBABetting.org for our weekly recaps which highlight current betting trends and keep you up to date with the latest NBA news. You’ll also want to check out our reviews of the Internet’s most popular Sportsbooks. In addition to giving you valuable information about where you’ll want to place your bets, our reviews will also keep you aware of the outstanding promotional offers currently available.