by Chris Arena, www.sportsinsights.com
The Charlotte Bobcats are the third best team in the NBA this season against the spread, rewarding bettors who have backed them with a 36-24-1 record. Their 26-35 actual record belies the fact that they have only allowed 1.8 more points per game than they score, and their "Pythagorean record" is a much tidier 30-31. "Pythagorean record " is a term coined by Bill James, the famous baseball statistician. It is a calculation of a team's expected wins based on their points scored and points allowed, a commonsensical approach of determining how lucky or unlucky a team has been in regards to its won/lost record.
The Bobcats have been very unlucky in their games won thus far, and while this is an unpleasant reality for Charlotte, it presents bettors with a rather nice value opportunity. Luck tends to even out over the course of a season and so it makes sense to believe the Bobcats will win more games in the remainder of the season, bringing their actual record closer to their Pythagorean record.
I feel that the Bobcats have improved significantly as a result of their acquisition of Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Vlad Radmonivic. I also like that D.J. Augustin continues to improve and Gerald Wallace has returned to health. The Bobcats are a much better team than their record right now, not just because they've been unlucky but also because they have legitimately improved and matured as a team.
These facts lead me to believe that Charlotte may win a good deal more games down the stretch than expected and will continue to be a nice team to back with the spread. However, I want to emphasize that it may be an even better idea to take the Bobcats on the moneyline. Their record is due to adjust favorably and their talent level continues to rise, so look for Charlotte to win straight up more often as the season comes to a close.
On a final note, be aware that Charlotte is an incredibly streaky steam, either covering or failing to cover in large bunches over the past few months - the last time they did not win or lose at least two consecutive games against the spread was December 13th of last year. Having covered over their last four games, the Bobcats may be due for a few gambling losses, but don't get discouraged as there should be more winning streaks in their future.
The Dallas Mavericks, who are 6-6 against the spread in their past dozen games, have exhibited an interesting trend worth investigating. Over those dozen games, the Mavericks have alternated wins and losses against the spread in every single game, starting with a betting loss to the Bulls on February 7th. Does this mean that Dallas expends too much energy in some games, only to play down in the following game? Possibly, but that's a little too simplistic for my liking. Looking at the actual games reveals two very distinct trends with gambling implications.
First, most of the Mavs' betting losses during this peculiar stretch have been to very good teams, which may tell us that the Mavs are intimidated by better opponents, or simply not as good as the public may think they are. Their six gambling loses were to Chicago, Boston, Houston, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City twice. The six games they did cover were against Sacramento twice, New Jersey, Milwaukee, Toronto, and San Antonio. Clearly, the latter list is much weaker than the former, with a couple exceptions (namely Oklahoma City and San Antonio). This information tells us to be wary when Dallas faces better opponents, with the prudent move being to bet the spread on the Mavericks' opponent when they play better teams.
The second interesting observation is that all six of their wins during this stretch was on their home court, and this has been a trend for Dallas all season long. Their actual record at home is 23-8 while they are just 14-16 away from American Airlines Center. Dallas is much more comfortable playing at home and this should not be ignored when wagering on the Mavericks.
In summary, don't be afraid to lay the points on the Mavs when they're playing lesser opponents at home, but fade them on the road and especially against the better teams in the league.
As always, your feedback is much appreciated! Please comment if you feel compelled, and I can be reached personally at Chris@SportsInsights.com.