NBA Handicapping: The Texas Triangle
Posted February 9, 2011 by Bryan Leonard
The Bermuda Triangle is etched in American folklore as a mysterious place where planes and ships have encountered all kinds of difficulties. It’s an enigma dripping with fear, as some unfortunate people have entered the triangle and have never been heard from again. In the NBA, there’s a similar place not as deadly, but certainly one that elicits fear among professional athletes: The Texas Triangle.
Road play in basketball is a tough enough grind. Teams playing four straight home games, for example, are generally in better shape to play up to its capabilities than a team playing four straight road games. Road play can be grueling, with athletes having to put up with all kinds of physical and emotional demands not required when at home. Plan travel, a lack of sleep, and changing time zones are three of many challenges players have to put up with on the road.
Currently in the NBA, Texas happens to have three teams that have a lot of talent and come at you in different ways. Dallas has a strong offense and a defense this season, while the Spurs and Rockets can run the opposition ragged with uptempo styles. A good handicapper pays careful attention to teams taking a road trip through the Texas Triangle.
Playing at San Antonio is tough enough, the team with the best record in the NBA, a team that started 42-8 overall, plus 15-11-1 against the spread at home. They still play their tough defense at home, starting 17-10 under the total in the Alamodome. To rub elbows with the Spurs on their home court, and then travel to Dallas and Houston – sometimes with no rest – is particularly grueling for teams. That’s why it’s important for handicappers to examine not just each particular game, but a series of games.
Questions that you need to ask: Is this the second of a back to back road spot? Does Team A have the bench to play a physically demanding game against the Rockets, and then get up and down the court the next night against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs? Are they more interested in getting out of Texas to play lighter competition? Some teams have hit in their heads to try and take one of three games in Texas, so if they pull an upset at Dallas, for instance, maybe they will not be that interested in playing hard against the Rockets two nights later.
A few years ago the Jazz had a road trip that took them to San Antonio, where they were blown out 109-76. That was the start of an 0-4 straight up/spread run with losses at Seattle and at Dallas. Notice that after battling the Sonics in overtime, the next game Utah had nothing left in a 109-86 loss at Dallas. These are the kinds of situations over several games that can give handicappers an edge. After all, athletes are human. Psychologically, they know who they’re playing each night and who’s coming up on the schedule. Sometimes a team is beaten even before it gets on the court, which can be an enormous gift when trying to identify winners against the Vegas number. And the Texas Triangle is currently the most difficult road situation in the NBA.