Editor’s Note: Joe Nelson is the NBA Leader (+2,088, 63%) at VegasInsider.com. Don’t miss out on his daily winners. Click to win!Eastern Conference March Paths
With the calendar about to turn to March here is a quick look at the upcoming schedules in the Eastern Conference. In the short 66-game season there are great discrepancies in the schedules and it could make a big difference in the standings. Here are three teams that could make a move upward in March and three teams that could stall in the coming weeks due to the schedule.
For February the teams that we marked as having favorable schedules combined to go 21-13-1 ATS heading into the final two days of the month while our unfavorable schedule teams went just 18-19-1 ATS. While this is not a true play-on, play-against recommendation, these are teams that are worth following in March due to the schedules ahead.
Favorable March Schedules
Charlotte Bobcats: It will certainly take some courage to back 4-28 Charlotte in any situation but the Bobcats could double their season win total in the month of March. The Bobcats have just 17 games in the month with a well spaced out schedule. There are five sets of back-to-back games but there is only one long road trip, a manageable four-game trip to the southern part of the country and there are no west coast games in the month of March. Charlotte will play just seven of the 17 games this month against winning teams. They will play New Jersey three times in March as well as games against other losing teams such as Utah, New Orleans, Toronto, and Milwaukee. Charlotte has endured a very tough season but given how bad the team has been there will be value backing the Bobcats in many situations moving forward. A favorable schedule may help Charlotte at least move closer to respectability in the month of March.
Orlando Magic: With the Dwight Howard trade rumors lingering as a distraction the Magic have been an overlooked team in the Eastern Conference. While Orlando would be the fifth seed in the playoffs right now they have more wins than all but four teams in the entire NBA. Having played more games in the first half than most teams Orlando has a nicely spaced schedule the rest of the way with just 16 games in the month of March. The Magic only has one 3-game road trip and one 2-game road trip in the month and only half of the 16 games in March will come against winning teams. The Magic will get tested with some marquee match-ups including games with Oklahoma City, Chicago, Miami, and San Antonio but they also get games with some of the worst teams in the league. Orlando only has three sets of back-to-back games in as many days in the month of March and they will only leave the Eastern Time zone for two games, going to Chicago and San Antonio. While there are some big tests coming up in March Orlando has proven capable of winning some of those games and this should be a well rested and focused team this month even if it may appear that the team is facing some distractions.
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers were a bit of a surprise team early in the season with a great start. After losing five in a row to close the second half Philadelphia has fallen back to the pack a bit but they still maintain a healthy Atlantic Division lead and looking at the schedule in March this is a team that can get back on track and emerge as a contending team in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The 76ers will play just seven of 16 March games on the road and 10 of those 16 games will come against losing teams. The 76ers have to play the Bulls twice as well as the Heat and Spurs once each but they also draw games with Charlotte and Washington. Philadelphia will not have a road trip longer than two games and only three times will the 76ers have to head to the Central Time zone, getting every other game in Eastern cities or at home. Philadelphia only has two instances of games on back-to-back nights so this should be a good month for Philadelphia to re-gain some of the ground that was lost right before the All Star break.
Unfavorable March Schedules
Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are 20-14 and certainly in good shape to make the playoffs but this team may have a hard time gaining any ground for seeding in March. The schedule should wear on Atlanta as the Hawks cram 19 games into the 31-day March schedule. They will play on back-to-back nights eight times and at the end of the month will play a dreaded five games in six days stretch that turns into seven games in nine days to close the month. The caliber of teams going against the Hawks will be weaker in the second half of the month but that could mean some failures as favorites. Ten of the 19 March games will be road games for the Hawks including a tough east to west six-game trip early in the month that features games in Indiana, Miami, Denver, and Los Angeles in just over a week. The Hawks will only play seven of 19 games against teams with winning records so the overall schedule rating for March may not look that tough, but games against losing teams that can compete including New York, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Boston, and Detroit are counting heavily in that total. Look for a mediocre month for the Hawks that should leave them stalled in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Boston Celtics: Boston enters the second half of the season on a rough losing streak and battling injuries and trade rumors. They will not get any favors with the March schedule with eleven of 17 games on the road. The middle of the month will feature an eight-game West Coast to East Coast road trip with games against the Lakers, Clippers, Denver, Atlanta, and Philadelphia for a very tough stretch of games. Four of the first five games of the month will be at home but they will include difficult games with New York, Houston, and Portland. The Celtics do get to close the month with back-to-back games with Washington and Charlotte in late March but April will open with a bang, facing Miami, San Antonio, and Chicago in the first three games of the month. Boston would make the playoffs right now, even with a marginal 15-17 record but with a 4-9 road record on the season and a tough March travel slate the Celtics are at risk to fall out of that picture. Boston will also face five sets of back-to-back games on as many nights and the veteran heavy team is just 3-6 ATS playing on the second of consecutive days this season.
Miami Heat: Miami has been on a dominant run to the top of the Eastern Conference in recent weeks and Miami will be heavy favorites in just about every match-up. There could be a few snags along the way to one of the top seeds in the playoffs as the March schedule is daunting. There are just 16 games in the month of March for the Heat but 10 of those 16 games will be on the road and eleven games will be against opponents with winning records. Only three games will be against the bottom seven teams in the league and four of the six home games in the month will be against quality teams. Miami has three sets of three-game road trips that feature significant travel as well as quality foes with seven of those nine games being against winning teams. Miami has five sets of back-to-back games and seven games in the month against the other fellow seven teams that are above .600 in winning percentage this season. Don’t expect Miami to fall significantly in the standings but the ATS numbers could slip in March and the current run of dominance should take a small step back in the coming weeks.