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Time Out: Southeast Division Checkup

The Miami Heat collected championship rings last season and remains favorite to do so again this year.

Miami soared to victory Thursday night in Oklahoma City, defeating the Thunder 110-100 and sweeping the season series between the 2012 NBA Finals rivals.

With the victory, the Heat increased its Eastern Conference lead to 3.5 games over second-place New York and five games ahead of third-place Indiana.

At 36-14, Miami enters the All-Star break with the third best record in the NBA, behind San Antonio (42-12) and Thursday night’s opponent, Oklahoma City (39-14).

With the league idle – barring All-Star festivities – until Tuesday (Feb. 19), BettingSports.com is taking the time to reflect on how teams have fared against bookmakers’ opening odds so far this season. We start with the Miami Heat and the Southeast Division.

Miami Heat

SU: 36-14 (23-3 home, 13-11 road)

ATS: 26-24-0 (15-11-0 home, 11-13-0 road)

O/U: 26-24-0

The Southeast Division as a whole is the worst division in the NBA. Its five representatives have combined for a total record of 105-149 (.413), hardly surprising when you consider the three worst teams in the entire league (Charlotte, Orlando, Washington) all reside within the division.

Tellingly, Miami has gone 7-1 (.875) against its division rivals. No other team has fared as well within its own division, although San Antonio has gone close with an 11-2 (.846) record in the Southwest Division.

So far this season, Miami has lived up to expectations, at least as far as the bookmakers are concerned. The Heat may have hit a few bumps in the road along the way (that one division loss at Washington being one of them) but as we reach the All-Star break, the side remains the favorite to win the Eastern Conference and the NBA title.

On opening day, Miami was considered 4/7 on to win the Eastern Conference. Today those odds have become 1/2. The Heat look assured of finishing with the No. 1 seed, so it’ll come down to playoff time for the team to prove itself.

On Oct. 30, Miami was considered 9/4 to win the NBA championship. Odds makers have shortened those odds to 17/10 now. With a pair of wins over nearest rival Oklahoma City, the bookies might not be wrong.

Atlanta Hawks

SU: 29-22 (17-9 home, 12-3 road)

ATS: 22-27-2 (9-15-2 home, 13-12-0 road)

O/U: 26-24-1

Bookmakers haven’t budged much when it comes to the Atlanta Hawks. The side opened with odds of 35/1 to win the Eastern Conference, ranking the Hawks eighth in the conference. Currently occupying the No. 6 seed, those odds have shortened to 33/1, ranking the side seventh. That’s some progress at least.

Odds of the Hawks winning a first NBA title since being based in St. Louis opened at and remain at 75/1. The only difference here is that the Hawks now rank 14th with the bookmakers instead of 15th, as they did on opening day.

Predicted to finish second in the division, bettors taking Atlanta to win the Southeast at 10/1 won’t be very hopeful with a seven-game gap between the Hawks and Heat.

Washington Wizards

SU: 15-36 (11-14 home, 4-22 road)

ATS: 32-18-1 (16-9-0 home, 16-9-1 road)

O/U: 20-30-1

A disastrous opening to the season that saw the Wizards go 4-28 pretty much wrote Washington off early. Few were surprised, in particular the bookies. The Wizards opened the year with odds of 125/1 to win the Eastern Conference (12th) and 250/1 to win the NBA title (26th).

However, the Wizards have compiled an 11-8 record since that appalling start and no longer look like the NBA’s worst side (we’ll get to that shortly).

Washington is currently 200/1 to win the East (12th) and 500/1 to win the NBA title (23rd). The odds may have increased, but the standing – at least in terms of the NBA title – has improved. Funnily enough, those are the same odds the team had on Nov. 20, when it was 0-9.

Now consider this: on Jan. 25, bookmakers had the Wizards at 2000/1 to win the East and 5000/1 to win the NBA title. That’s one heck of a turnaround in three weeks!

Orlando Magic

SU: 15-37 (9-18 home, 6-19 road)

ATS: 23-29-0 (9-18-0 home, 14-11-0 road)

O/U: 28-23-1

3-24: That’s all you need to know about the Magic right now.

The side has lost 24 of the last 27, easily the worst active streak of its kind. This downturn includes a 10-game and a 12-game losing streak. That’s a great way to find yourself towards the bottom of bookmakers’ lists.

Amazingly, Orlando is not considered the worst team in the NBA as far as Vegas is concerned. The side is currently 1000/1 to win the East (joint-13th) and 2500/1 to win the NBA championship (joint-26th). (We’ll get to which team is worse shortly.)

Those odds are a clear reflection of how bad the Magic is though. At season’s open, Orlando was considered 75/1 to win the East (10th) and 150/1 to win the NBA (19th). This really is a team trending downwards.

For the Magic now, the only real challenge is staying ahead of Charlotte, the team it meets next Tuesday to kick-start the second half of the season. Speaking of which…

Charlotte Bobcats

SU: 12-40 (7-19 home, 5-21 road)

ATS: 19-33-0 (9-17-0 home, 10-16-0 road)

O/U: 23-28-1

So the title of worst team in the Southeast Division goes to Charlotte. It doesn’t end there either. Charlotte is the worst team in the entire league, both in terms of record and according to the bookmakers. Nothing’s changed there then.

The Bobcats opened the season with the worst odds of winning the Eastern Conference (200/1) and the worst odds of winning the NBA title (500/1). Today, those odds have lengthened tenfold to 2000/1 and 5000/1 respectively. The Bobcats still have the worst odds in the league.

What more can you say? Well, at least the side has a shot at surpassing the equally terrible Orlando Magic. After that, we’ve got nothing.

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