Saturday 24 March 2018 / 05:54 AM


The NBA seems to have entered the Year of the Dog, where underdog teams have been snatching up victories against great odds.

The run of boilovers started in earnest on November 29 – and it may continue to be one of the longest underdog winning streaks not only of the year, but of NBA history. The Nets’ 127-122 overtime win over the Clippers was the best game of that night, but the Magic also beat the Spurs, the Bucks stomped the Cavs, and the Jazz beat the Rockets.

It was an oddity that all these underdog teams would win on a single night, but I had no idea it would keep happening on the ensuing nights.

A day later, five out of five of the underdogs I picked managed to get up. The Pistons, Knicks, Suns, Heat, and Lakers all won in close battles. To put this into perspective, if one was to bet on all these teams winning at the same time in a parlay bet for $50, you would have won $19,756 in a single night. It’s not quite drastic as Lotto odds, but it’s still pretty surprising.

On December 1, the dog days continued. The Clippers embarrassed the champion Cavaliers in Cleveland, the Grizzlies beat the Magic, the Heat beat the Jazz, and the Rockets put on a phenomenal game against the Warriors to win in double overtime.

Will these dog days continue? Only time will tell. Statistically, they shouldn’t – but if 2016 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Someone Cast an Underdog Voodoo Spell on 2016

Think about how many underdogs have won this year. The Cavaliers (already the underdog) came back from a 1-3 deficit to beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. The NFL’s Cowboys are actually good, while the Dolphins have a shot at the playoffs. Even Donald Trump won not only the nomination, but the entire presidency against massive odds.

Around the world, Leicester City’s fairytale Premier League triumph, the Western Bulldogs’ drought-breaking AFL premiership, and maiden titles for the Cronulla Sharks (NRL) and Hurricanes (Super Rugby), plus Ireland’s first-ever defeat of the mighty All Blacks, made for a truly stunning year of unprecedented results.

Although it is highly unlikely that 2016 has got some magic juju going on, we can admit it is a very weird year.

Good Teams Aren’t Trying

The Cavaliers starters are playing like their bench. Back-to-back losses isn’t a good look for a champion, but it happens. It’s disappointing to watch them play like this after seeing what they’re capable in the playoffs, but I can understand it from their point of view. The regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. We saw what happened to the Warriors after they chased a nearly perfect season last year. They almost got eliminated in the Western Conference Finals, and then lost the Championship to Cleveland.

What is unsettling is to see LeBron play at a low level when you think he’s going to explode. After a technical foul was called on him that he didn’t agree with, you could see and partially hear LeBron starting to get angry. You’d expect him to blow up for 50+ points and pull a Kobe or MJ, but instead he missed his free throw and continued to let his team get buried at home.

What do Underdog Teams Have to Lose?

Why shouldn’t these teams play as hard as they can? Once the teams that are essentially guaranteed to be in the playoffs start actually trying, those games are going to get extremely difficult. While teams like the Cavaliers are pacing themselves in this marathon, nothing is stopping a team like the Bucks from going all out.

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About the author

Alex Moskov

Alex has come on board with CBS as our basketball and gridiron expert, providing opinions and analysis from the bright lights of the NBA and NFL.

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