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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 13, 2012 at 9:53 AM

The blistering pace of the NBA regular season has been bringing us great TV matchups on virtually a nightly basis in recent days. Now that college football is over, we'll be able to devote more time to previewing and reviewing major matchups in pro basketball. We begin that process tonight with a look at ESPN's marquee doubleheader that features Chicago at Boston in the early game, followed by Miami at Denver.

Just two nights ago on the same network, Boston and Miami both fell in very close Dallas and the LA Clippers respectively. Last Night on TNT, it was the New York Knicks and Orlando Magic taking their turns in the spotlight. Such intense TV coverage is great for handicappers and sports bettors because you get to see stories develop before your eyes, then beat oddsmakers to the punch. The guys behind the line in Vegas this year absolutely HATE the busy NBA schedules. They're getting nailed hard on team sides, and hurt even worse by early day bettors on totals.

It's time for YOU to start taking advantage! We hope our periodic updates will help with that. You can be pretty sure that Friday's will be devoted to the NBA for the next several weeks because that's such a quiet night in the colleges. We'll let the drama determine how many additional daily reports we have each week as the season unfolds.

We take tonight's two TV games in schedule order, starting up in Boston...

8:05 p.m. ET on ESPN
Records: Chicago (10-2), Boston (4-5)

The big story here is that the current Boston "era" may officially be over. The team has a losing record through nine games even though they haven't been particularly ravaged by injuries. They were the lesser of two teams Wednesday vs. Dallas...even though Dallas was missing Jason Kidd, and only played Lamar Odom for 15 minutes.

Let's take a closer look at that 4-5 record:
4 wins: Detroit, Washington, Washington, New Jersey
5 losses: New York, Miami, New Orleans, Indiana, Dallas

The victories came against the absolute dregs of the league. Everyone is beating those guys! New Orleans is far from a power...but they beat Boston. Indiana is likely to be a borderline playoff team...and they beat Boston. New York has been inconsistent this year, but they won that Xmas Day game over the Celtics. Then, shorthanded Dallas, hit hard by injuries, came in and beat fresh Boston in that Wednesday night game you may have watched on TV. That's an ugly start...and one that suggests Boston right now is barely playoff caliber.

Chicago we don't need to talk so much about. You know they're an Eastern power along with Miami. You know that Derrick Rose is the defending league MVP...but that he missed the last game with turf toe and may be getting a bit of a break. Let's see how the two teams stack up in some key stat categories that we used last year in our playoff rundowns.

Offensive Efficiency: Chicago 9th, Boston 11th
Defensive Efficiency: Chicago 2nd, Boson 19th
Rebound Rate: Chicago 1st, Boston 25th
Turnover Rate: Chicago 16th, Boston 28th
Treys Per Game: Chicago 6.4, Boston 6.8

If you're relatively new to basketball stats, "efficiency" is scoring adjusted for tempo. Rebound and turnover rates are those items adjusted for possessions. Those first four come from John Hollinger's stat pages at ESPN's website. We also like to throw in treys-per-game because it tells you so much about a team's preferred style.

The numbers above suggest that Chicago is the much better team, particularly in the key areas of defense and rebounding. Both have a tendency to pound the ball inside, which creates turnovers. Those are made up for hopefully by increased trips to the free throw line. Neither team relies on the trey...but both know how to make them if you try to sink in too much in the paint.

We often find that recent boxscores help bring things into perspective in a way that solidifies what the stat categories are saying. Let's take a look at the Mavs/Celtics game.

Shooting Pct: Dallas 44%, Boston 45%
Three-Pointers: Dallas 6/16, Boston 4/11
Free Throws: Dallas 14/25, Boston 23/32
Rebounds: Dallas 43, Boston 35
Turnovers: Dallas 14, Boston 15
Vegas Line: Boston by 5, total of 183

Boston was getting a lot of respect in the line...respect that really wasn't deserved if you watched the game as it played out. Boston had a few good runs. But, that came against a shorthanded team that's still learning how to play together. After Dallas coach Rick Carlisle got tossed because Dirk Nowitzki was getting mugged in the paint, the Mavs took control until a late rash of buckets brought the Celtics back to equality. You probably saw highlights of Nowitzki's game winner on a drive to the rim in the final seconds.

Let's check the key categories:

Defense: a wash...but remember that Kidd was out for the Mavericks and Odom didn't play much. Given Boston's reputation for defense, they should have fared better in this stat.

Rebounding: big edge to Dallas, which is something they weren't supposed to be able to do on the road vs. physical Eastern teams.

Boston did win free throws, but Dallas ate up most of that with a couple of extra treys. All in all, another disappointing result for a season where they're only beating patsies. Given the Vegas price in this one, handicappers must continue to look for ways to fade the fading Celtics. Maybe that's not a great idea tonight with turf toe eating at Rose...but it's hard to see Boston thriving against an intense schedule.

10:35 p.m. ET on ESPN
Records: Miami (8-3), Denver (7-4)

Miami has only lost one game in regulation this season, but is coming off back-to-back overtime losses in Golden State and Los Angeles this week. They also won an overtime game last week in Atlanta when both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade were out with injuries. The last thing you want to do is grind out extra minutes in this year's schedule!

Miami is still a favorite in the East along with Chicago to ultimately play for a championship. Denver is off to a great start this year...that's matched their strong finish last year after trading away Carmelo Anthony. Denver has talent and depth in a season where depth may mean everything. The Nuggets have stubbed their toes here and there in unexpected ways. But, you can bet they'll be fired up for a home game against the Heat.

Let's run the team indicator numbers...

Offensive Efficiency: Miami 8th, Denver 3rd
Defensive Efficiency: Miami 4th, Denver 9th
Rebound Rate: Miami 5th, Denver 12th
Turnover Rate: Miami 27th, Denver 22nd
Treys Per Game: Miami 4.9, Denver 5.7

Defense and rebounding wins championships. That's why Miami is such a great threat...they rank top five in both categories AND have James and Wade scoring points for them! Let's not leave out Chris Bosh, who can step up and score if top defenses are disrupting the first two stars. Denver certainly doesn't embarrass themselves in those categories. Getting rid of Anthony actually helped them shore things up in those needed areas. Anthony was a fantastic scorer who wasn't always motivated to defend and tended to pick his spots for rebounding. Quality stuff on both sides outside of turnovers. We're finding that top teams will live with giveaways if their aggression is paying off in other ways.

Let's take a closer look at that Heat/Clippers thriller from the other night. If you live on the East Coast, you better start recording all of these great late night games!

LA CLIPPERS 95, MIAMI 89 (in overtime)
Regulation: Miami 86, Clippers 86
Shooting Pct: Miami 40%, Clippers 42%
Three-Pointers: Miami 5/16, Clippers 6/17
Free Throws: Miami 20/34, Clippers 17/23
Rebounds: Miami 50, Clippers 45
Turnovers: Miami 18, Clippers 15
Vegas Line: Miami by 3, total of 203

Both teams were on night two of a back-to-back, which led to some sloppy shooting and ballhandling. Apparently Miami was too tired to make free throws! They obviously would have won in regulation with a better percentage from the charity stripe.

The game had a playoff feel to it at the start...and 86-all at the end of regulation meant the playoff feel was there the whole way. Hopefully the sloppiness here, and elsewhere across a low scoring Wednesday Night card, wasn't a red flag that the league's best players are starting to run out of gas less than a month into the season.

That's something we'll be watching very closely this year, both in terms of sides and totals. When a team runs out of gas, they're going to start missing the spread by 5-10 points before Vegas catches up. Those who can stay fresh because of quality depth and smart coaching can maintain their best form much longer. This is just a DREAM SEASON for pro basketball handicappers because oddsmakers can possibly keep fingers in all the potential holes in the dike!

JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK plans on taking advantage of the way through the Spring and early summer. You can win along with us by purchasing game day selections here at the website with your credit card. Or, call us to sign up for the rest of basketball (pro and college) in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

We do have combination packages available that also include the last seven games of the NFL season. You can use tonight's NBA to help build your bankrolls for our GRAND SLAM of playoff powderkegs set for the Divisional Round this weekend.

Whether it's the NFL, pro basketball, or college basketball, you're going to GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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