We are now a little over three weeks into the season, and I’ve found three interesting trends that might influence our picks tonight and beyond.
Warriors preparing for liftoff
Odds-on favorites to win back-to-back NBA Championships, it’s no surprise the Warriors are sitting pretty toward the top of the Western Conference on the back of a five-game winning streak.
They lead the NBA in scoring, and their defense is starting to emulate the numbers league-best numbers of 2016-17.
In what can only be a worrying sign for the rest of the league, the Warriors have navigated their way through the NBA’s toughest schedule to go 9-3 ahead of what is considered the most comfortable remaining schedule in the league.
Another reason why Warriors are about to absolutely take off:
According to BPI, they've played the hardest schedule to date and have the NBA's easiest remaining schedule.
— Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) November 9, 2017
It’s wasn’t all that surprising to see the Warriors go 1-6 against the spread through their first seven games. Squares love the Warriors early and were suckers for their blown-out lines. Not taking into consideration a typically lethargic start to a long season, the Warriors weren’t covering the 10-12 points Vegas was routinely asking of them.
The five games since have been a different story, though. They are 5-0 with three covers on the road against the Clippers (-5.5) Spurs (-8) and Nuggets (-9).
Given Steve Kerr is playing 11 or 12 guys every night, the big lines might be ones to avoid. He’s going to take his four All-Stars out of the game at the earliest opportunity and end a lot of games with his second unit.
Grizzlies, the favorite as the underdog?
The Memphis Grizzlies tend to play up or down to their opponent. One night they will beat one of the NBA’s elite teams before losing to a cellar-dweller 48 hours later. It’s as if they need to be challenged and face adversity before the “Grit ‘n Grind” mentality kicks in.
During a game, it might be a rough stretch or some tough calls before that happens, but when they open as an underdog, they are ready to dive on everything from tipoff. Perhaps insulted at the skepticism of Vegas and its punters, the Grizzlies have an impressive record straight up and against the spread whenever they’re being given points.
Since opening night of the 2016-17 season, the Grizzlies are 29-21 straight up as an underdog. Against the spread, they are 27-23.
The attractive trend is only looking better to start the 2017-18 season. At 4-0 against the spread as an underdog so far, the Grizzlies have not only lapped up the points, but they’ve beaten the Warriors, Rockets, Clippers and Trail Blazers straight up.
Having already topped the Rockets once this season, it’s going to be worth looking at the Grizzlies tonight after their line opened at +5.5 (now +7).
Houston relies on the 3-point shot while only five teams are defending it better than Memphis so far this season. At 3-0 against the spread as an away dog, I like the look of the Grizzlies tonight – especially if Vegas keeps disrespecting them by raising the line.
Celtics vs. the spread
After losing their first two games of the season, the Celtics have rattled off 11 straight wins, going 10-1 against the spread in the process.
#Celtics most profitable team in 2017 (10-2 ATS, +7.64 units)
+70% of bets on Boston -3.5 vs Charlotte pic.twitter.com/2W4DEUQ2CH
— Bet Labs Sports (@Bet_Labs) November 10, 2017
First, they lost Gordon Hayward but managed to bounce back two games later. Then Al Horford took his place in the stands under the NBA’s concussion protocol. Still, the Celtics continued to win and cover the spread. Finally, Kyrie Irving left the court after two minutes last night and his team pulled off the comeback to not only win straight up, but also cover the -2.5 spread.
Some doubts surrounded the Celtics in the buildup to the season. They were understandable given only four players from the 2016-17 roster returned for 2017-18. But through the first three weeks of the season, they have the best record in the NBA and are far and away the best performing team against the spread.
It remains to be seen how long it takes for Vegas to catch up on Boston’s line, but for now, the Celtics are performing beyond anybody’s expectations.