Thursday, March 10, 2011

Can Bulls Conquer Hawks?

Opener:

The midweek winds to a close with some less intense games, but definitely ones with better angles to pursue - a team or two coming home, a few getting tired on the road, a rematch, and of course, plenty of injuries to track.

Can I convince a non-bettor to care about 80% of this card? Nope. Luckily, though, that's why we're here.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Portland Trailblazers @ Charlotte Bobcats with a total of N/A;
Charlotte might officially be in the radioactive category - they might get massive line value on a nightly basis between now and, well, when they win again, but this team is simply playing so horribly that I can't in good faith tell anyone to back them. As far as Portland is concerned, they won in Orlando and Miami, and they're hot. In fact, they beat Charlotte, at home, by 24 in the game just prior to this road trip. I don't want to back the Blazers with the Bobcats on revenge from that ugly loss, and I don't want to back the Blazers between games with Orlando, Miami and next, Atlanta. This is the sandwich affair, and I only wish we had any reason to act on Charlotte's behalf. Perhaps Tyrus Thomas and Stephen Jackson will play, and maybe then they'll have a little confidence? Sigh. Lean to CHARLOTTE and the OVER.

Los Angeles Clippers (-2.5) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of 191.5;
The Nets came through with a gusty win over the Warriors, netting us (pun intended) a nice little win on Wednesday in their first game without Deron Williams. However, his absence might just catch up with Jersey in this game. Why? Simple - Jersey was able to beat the Warriors because of Lopez and Humphries in the paint, dominating the glass. They won't be able to crush the Clippers near the rim the way they did the Warriors. Blake Griffin is a monster, and both DeAndre Jordan and Chris Kaman can rebound, as well. I like the confidence the Clips are showing, and they actually lost to the Nets, at home, way back in November. I also like that this is not the end of the Clippers road trip, so they'll try to keep the momentum going. The Nets host Boston next, so there's a slight potential to look to that game. Lean to CLIPPERS and the OVER.

Boston Celtics (-2) @ Philadelphia 76ers with a total of 188;
Boston's been an ATS mess lately because of porous defense, while Philadelphia continues to storm along, outside of a tough overtime loss to the Thunder in their most recent game. My concern with betting the side in this game is simply that the Sixers are going to try to bounce back from a heartbreaking defeat, while Boston laying only 2 is almost like a pick-the-winner spot. I believe this game will be hotly contested, since Philadelphia has done a nice job of hanging with Boston both times these teams have met, and though the Sixers haven't won either of those games, they've covered both. Not much else to say about this game - both teams want it, no real scheduling quirks, and no huge revenge angles, since the previous meetings occurred in December. PASS on the side, slight totals lean to the OVER, courtesy of Boston's weakened defense.

Related: Celtics Bigs Issue a Small One [ESPN Boston]

Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors with a total of N/A;
Let's see, who is sucking harder? Is it Toronto, losers of 3 straight and 5 of 6? Is it Indy, losers of 5 in a row, and a team that somehow managed to shoot 29% for a GAME in Minnesota? Tough call. I guess Indiana is coming off the uglier game, and it at least looks like Toronto is trying a little more? I'm not sure I can advocate backing Indiana right now - this team is in freefall, and even though I tend to like teams to bounce back off nauseating performances like the one the Pacers had in Minneapolis, Toronto is the team on double revenge in this matchup, and even though Toronto's lost 3 straight, one of those was in 3-OT in London, and the most recent was a 2-point defeat at the hands of the Jazz. I think I'd probably value the double revenge and slightly better recent efforts at a little more important than the bounceback factor, so very small lean to TORONTO and the OVER, since I can't imagine Indy shoots under 30% again...can they?

Detroit Pistons @ Oklahoma City Thunder (-9) with a total of 206.5;
Let's get revenge out of the way quickly - these teams played on the second day of the regular season, and Oklahoma won by a single point in Motown. No one remembers that game. The more important stats on this game are that Detroit is playing an up-tempo brand of basketball, seemingly not concerned with results as much as just getting through the season without in-fighting. Fortunately, things were so bad in Detroit, that just "not fighting" for 48 minutes has been enough to cover some big spreads. Unfortunately, spreads are slowly coming down. Detroit was catching 12+ in San Antonio, and that's down to just 9 here. If I'm taking the Pistons, I'd want double digits. On the total, both teams are focused on scoring only - this might be a hair inflated, but I still think if the teams shoot the ball near their season average, we could squeak out a 210ish final score. PASS on the side, totals lean OVER.

Atlanta Hawks @ Chicago Bulls with a total of N/A;
And just when Chicago looked like the best team in the East, Carlos Boozer goes down with an ankle injury. He'll be back, but it does slow Chicago down just a hair. The question for us, though, isn't so much how Chicago will deal with his absence, since we know they can still win games a man short, but instead, whether Chicago can finally overcome the Hawks. I also wonder if the betting public will put more stock in Chicago's hot play or Atlanta's recent stretch of solid play against these very Bulls. I'm inclined to think the public is going to side with red-hot Chicago (pun intended, again), but then, what do I know. We should get a slightly deflated line with the Bulls in this game, thanks to Boozer's injury, so with revenge on the brain, I can't help but think I'm going to end up with the rest of the 4-sided fellas...square lean to CHICAGO and the OVER.


Utah Jazz @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of N/A;
I'm hoping we see a line that gives the Wolves some points, but something tells me it's going to look an awful lot like what we saw when the Jazz visited Toronto - very short. Utah is struggling to figure things out the second half of the year, and even though they've looked, let's say, a tiny bit more respectable the last week, some of that can just be pinned on playing beatable teams. The Jazz might get Mehmet Okur back, but I'm not sure he'll make much of a difference with the way that team plays (or doesn't play) defense. The Wolves, meanwhile, seem to be getting into another of those short stretches of games where they find ways to cover big numbers. This would be the 3rd or 4th time this year Minny has looked capable of covering, but because I'm expecting them to need to win to cover this one (or stay within a bucket), that might be asking a bit much. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Minnesota get its first division win in March, but I doubt it's a greater than 53% shot. Tiny lean to the WOLVES, and I mean tiny, and the UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ San Antonio Spurs (-11.5) with a total of 208;
I don't know if the Spurs are necessarily slowing down, but it seems like the team's desire to crush opponents isn't what it was a few months ago. Sure, San Antonio made a statement in their win against the Heat, but the team has only covered 2 of 8 games since the Break, and lost the game right before the Break, as well. It just seems like the intensity isn't the same, and the first thing to go is usually defense. Teams are pretty consistently shooting in the mid-to-high 40% range against the Spurs, and that's allowing clubs to stay within 10 points. Will that be the case, here? I'm inclined to think that it will be. The Kings got blasted at home by the Spurs a little over a month back, so the Kings are on revenge, and on top of that, the Kings are still showing the ability to hang with most teams in the NBA, just not actually get a "W" against many of them. I think the Kings can stay inside that dozen - lean to the KINGS and the OVER.

Orlando Magic (-5) @ Golden State Warriors with a total of 207.5;
It doesn't happen all that often, but in this particular case, the Magic are the team in the better travel situation, even though they're on the road. Golden State returns from a 7-game road trip that wrapped up with a loss in Jersey on Wednesday. This team hasn't rested in quite some time, so this first game back is a true sluggish spot. Yes, it is a tad disconcerting that the Magic beat the hell out of the Warriors when these teams met in Florida in mid-January, but Orlando's size advantage against a team that doesn't rebound that well cannot be overstated. The Warriors struggle with big teams (as well as teams that play like themselves, but better, like the Suns). The Warriors have success against balanced teams where they can try to exploit matchups. Here, Orlando should win the rebound battle, and it's tough to see the Warriors overcoming that, if indeed the Magic play with some heart. Yes, the first game home angle outweighs the revenge in this one - lean to the MAGIC and the UNDER.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It's Getting Hot in Laker Land

Opener:

Who doesn't love a nice Thursday of NBA?

We get a short card to work with, so the time consumption drops, and the games are always the most interesting of the week, outside of, perhaps, Sunday morning.

This time around, we have the Lakers-Heat rematch, with each team headed in complete opposite directions; we have the Knicks on the road in Big D; and we have the high-flying, ultra-deep Nuggets attacking the banged-up-but-playing-decent-ball Suns. Plenty of reasons to tune in...or really, plenty of reasons to get a 2nd TV for your living room, what with the College Hoops occurring simultaneously.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Los Angeles Lakers @ Miami Heat (Pk) with a total of 188;
To no one's surprise, this line zoomed to Lakers by 2, and that, good friends, makes this game very, very hard for me to bet. Considering that when these teams met in Los Angeles on Christmas and both teams were playing pretty well, the Lakers were a 3.5-point home favorite. I realize a ton of time has passed between then and now, but for the Lakers to go from being considered a half-point neutral court favorite to an opening number that corresponds to 3-points superior to a current line of 5 points better...well, that doesn't add up. On the Tuesday podcast, I wondered aloud how many games the Heat would have to lose before the value started to swing back onto them, but what I neglected to note was that it depends largely on the opponent. Here, Miami isn't the public choice, which will, for one day, at least, create some line value on the home team. Can I back the Heat right now? Maybe, but it would take a nice Pepto-Prevacid cocktail, but at this price (LAL -2) I don't think I can pay to play on LA, even with their 8-game win streak and 7-1 ATS mark in that same span. As far as totals go, the Lakers are winning games with defense, playing a slower tempo, executing in the half-court, and using their superior size to just push teams slowly out of the game. It's probably the so-called "obvious" play, but I can't help but be a tad scared to take any overs involving either of these clubs. Slight leans to MIAMI (shudders) and the UNDER.

Related: Phil Jackson Sympathizes with Heat [Sun Sentinel]

New York Knicks @ Dallas Mavericks (-7) with a total of 215.5;
Both teams are playing the second game of a back-to-back, so the first note that pops to mind is a potential Over play. Both clubs are huge Over teams when they're unrested (Knicks are 9-6 to the Over, Mavs are 10-4), and even though it's almost inarguable that this total is a hair inflated to begin with, I still think it could go up and Over. Let's hope both teams play slow, ugly games on Wednesday to help our cause. In terms of the side, this is a tough one to call - the Mavs are crazy-deep, so you'd think that they'd have a slight edge in the back-to-back spot, but the Knicks catching 7 points is tough to ignore. New York has enough scoring punch to stay within 7 points on most nights, and if Dallas doesn't shoot 55% (which they might), New York should be able to get to the foul line and keep the game close. I hate to have 2 games in a row where I know darn well I have at least one lean (maybe 2, here) that is to the squarer side of the ledger, but damn if I can't figure a way that the Knicks get blown out in a low scoring game. Leans to the KNICKS and the OVER.

Denver Nuggets @ Phoenix Suns (-4) with a total of 216.5;
These teams are two nice stories. Both made huge trades, and both seem to have benefited from them. Phoenix has leaned heavily on Marcin Gortat, and now healthy, Vince Carter is chipping in with some offense, as well. The Nuggets have put together a monster of a bench, and though Gallinari hasn't really been healthy since his arrival in Denver, the team is still playing pretty well. The Nuggets are coming off an absurd layoff, and my big question for this game is whether they come out rusty or energized, and whether all that time off was enough to get the new pieces a little more time to develop chemistry. The issue, as I see it, is that the Suns lost by 34 on their last trip to Denver. So, while the Nuggets might be the team developing chemistry, the Suns are the ones that would seem to want this win just a bit more. Phoenix got a tough win over Houston in its last game, and now playing its second game back home (with a rejuvenated VC and without Channing Frye), this would seem to be a decent spot for both teams. Maybe the way to go is to consider the Under, if indeed Denver's long layoff created defensive energy and/or any rust. Just some thinking or talking points. Leans to the SUNS and the UNDER.

Related: Iverson's Denver Mansion in Foreclosure [HipHopWired.com]

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Dwight Sits on 16 T's

Opener:

I realize this space of the blog is often reserved for content to get everyone excited about another day of NBA, but today, it's for a tiny oddsmaker-directed rant.

Why can't you post more than 3 out of 11 lines the day before??

Come on, man!

Thus, today's blog is going to be heavy on the theory and rather light on actual line analysis - I'm not one to pass the buck, but today, blame it on the bookie...or was that blame it on the boogie?

Sports Wagering: NBA

Chicago Bulls @ Charlotte Bobcats with a total of N/A;
After Chicago tackled some serious competitors on a recent road trip, they averted a letdown spot with a win (but ATS loss) at home against the Hornets. Now, back on the road just for a game, the Bulls take aim at a Bobcats team that holds a 2-1 season series edge over Chicago. Of course, this could be considered kicking a team when they're down. The Bobcats have lost 5 straight, a few in extremely ugly fashion, and though Ty Thomas and Captain Jack are both due to return for this game, I'm still not sure that the Bobcats can compete with anyone on the offensive end. Keeping this one simple - until Charlotte shows any level of competence, I can't back them. Very small public lean to BULLS and the UNDER.

Utah Jazz @ Toronto Raptors with a total of N/A;
Toronto got a nice little 3 day layoff after playing back-to-back games in London (the second of which went to 3-OT), and the status of some key players on both teams remains in limbo. Kirilenko and Millsap are both banged up for the Jazz, and the Raptors, who are supposed to get Reggie Evans back (to do some rebounding) had Andrea Bargnani come down with the flu on the flight home from Her Majesty's arena. Who is going to play, and does it matter? Utah is a mess, Toronto is a mess, and since the scheduling angles don't help, and these teams haven't played since early November, we have almost nothing to work with. Someone has to win, I guess. PASS on the side, and theoretically, we should have some value on an UNDER, but let's see on the line.

Golden State Warriors @ New Jersey Nets with a total of N/A;
The Nets are the other half of that London-layoff set mentioned above, and just like the Raptors, they are dealing with some personnel confusion. Deron Williams has left the team to be with his wife as they expect a child, so the Nets are going to have to rely on Jordan Farmar to run the show. He's not terrible, but he's also not Deron Williams, who could have pushed around the likes of Stephen Curry. This is a relatively bad spot for Jersey off the crazy travel and long layoff, but it's an even worse spot for the Warriors as they play the final game of a 7-game East Coast swing. Yes, the Warriors have actually played well in this type of bad spot before, so my desire to fade them isn't as strong as it might have been otherwise, but I think we'll get a favorable line without Deron, and I think the Nets should be able to control the glass. Lean to JERSEY and the UNDER.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Philadelphia 76ers (-1) with a total of 208;
This line surprises the hell out of me. The Sixers are playing a back-to-back and still laying points to the Thunder. This is either the gift of the century on Oklahoma City, or the screwball line of the year on the Sixers, and either way, I'm not sure I want anything to do with it. I've spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to find a reason why the Thunder are considered neutral court equals with the Sixers, and I'm struggling to do so. Oklahoma plays Detroit next, so it's not a look-ahead, they've won 3 of 4 in the month of March, and both superstars are playing. I guess we can wait and see how Philly's game in Indiana turns out, but I'm inclined to let this fishy one slip by. Lean to PHILLY because of the line only, and slightly to the OVER.


Los Angeles Clippers @ Boston Celtics (-10) with a total of 193;
The Clippers are a perfect 3-0 in March, and while I think that zero will likely become a one at the end of this game, I'm not so sure that the Clips won't stay competitive for 44 minutes. The question is, when Boston finally decides to turn up the heat, will they go up by 12 or by 8, and will LA make that one bucket in 4-5 tries that we'll need to cover. I think I'd be willing to take that chance with the underdog. The Clippers were 8-point home underdogs to the Celtics in LA and Boston took that game by 7. I think the Clippers are getting some confidence back even without Eric Gordon healthy, and with Griffin doing the rebounding and the Celtics not nearly as formidable inside as they were 2 weeks ago, LA could get a few 2nd chance points and that might be enough. Chris Kaman is getting closer to full strength, Mo Williams is more of a threat from the outside than Baron Davis, and the decent play of Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye is helping make up for Gordon's loss. And something still isn't quite right with Boston's defense. If the Celtics keep having to run D-Leaguers out there for the second unit, I think they'll struggle to pull away. Lean to the CLIPS and the OVER.

Dallas Mavericks @ New Orleans Hornets with a total of N/A;
I'd be surprised if Chris Paul returned this quickly from a mild concussion, but that's most likely why we're without a line, here. Tyson Chandler is slated to come back for Dallas, so that helps the already insanely-deep Mavs up front, and outside of that, we have a Dallas team that got a win up in Minny (but a failed ATS effort) to start a new winning streak, and a Hornets team that was just starting to show some signs of life before Paul went down. We also have two rivals that haven't played since a home-and-home back in November, and we have Dallas hosting the Knicks and Lakers after this game. And finally, we have Mardi Gras in New Orleans and a Hornets team coming home from a 5-game road trip (because of said party) - you have to think the home team might be a little anxious to snag a few beads in their day off. Small lean to DALLAS if the number is decent, and the UNDER.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Milwaukee Bucks with a total of N/A;
Isn't this the game we've all been waiting for? Can't win versus can't score. Hooray. The season series is tied at 1 game apiece, so no real strong revenge angles. Neither club is good enough to worry about a look-ahead to some sort of rivalry, so nothing there either. And both teams are playing the second half of a back-to-back, so that doesn't help us pick a side, either. You know what? Screw it. When a game just isn't interesting, we can't manufacture angles. PASS on the side, OVER lean on the total from both teams playing tired.

Indiana Pacers @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of N/A;
Kevin Love's knee is a genuine concern, and though a missed game for the rebounding menace might not be a bad idea for his health, I can't see the Wolves making up for his skills. Fact is, they don't have the guys on the bench that can step up and rebound like Love can, so the Injured Star Theory, to me, doesn't really apply. It's not like losing a scorer, where someone else can usually can a few shots - this is the one guy on the Wolves that consistently gets second chance opportunities and makes sure the opponents don't. Without him, the Wolves are a jump-shooting, poor-rebounding team. They're Toronto, but younger. Indiana is slumping too, so they're not exactly a tempting play, but I can't back the Wolves without their only rebounder. Tiny side lean to the PACERS, and the OVER, since this one could turn into streetball.

New York Knicks @ Memphis Grizzlies with a total of N/A;
From an entertainment perspective, I like this game quite a bit. The Knicks are retooled, showing signs of playing some defense, and looking poised to be "that team" in the Playoffs, and the Grizzlies are using their superior strength to beat teams into submission with quality offense out of the half-court. The problem is that, from a betting standpoint, we don't have a whole lot to stand on. The Knicks play in Dallas tomorrow, and the Grizzlies play in Miami in 3 days. I suppose you could argue the Grizz have a look-ahead, but the long layoff nullifies that, to some degree. In addition, these two teams play again, in New York, in about a week. I'd rather just watch this game and see how the two teams attack one another, then make a move in the rematch. This should be a damn good game, though. Miniscule lean to the GRIZZ and the OVER.

Related: Knicks Bench Steps Up [NY Mag]

Detroit Pistons @ San Antonio Spurs (-12.5) with a total of 203;
A pretty high total is the first thing I notice about this game, but then, maybe it's not so crazy. Okay, yeah, it's pretty crazy. These two teams played each other in Motown on February 8th and the posted total was 188.5. The final total? 189. You'd think oddsmakers might feel inclined to, oh, I dunno, leave it pretty close to the same, but instead we're seeing a number 15 points higher? Mind-boggling, and possibly a hand-tip. Yes, Detroit has been playing a faster tempo since the player boycott (and subsequent roster shuffle), but 15 points? Detroit happened to be a 6.5-point home underdog in that game and lost by 11, so the venue adjustment is about right if we disregard revenge...which we're not. I think there's a little bit of value on the Pistons side (even though the Spurs might want to beat up on someone after that Lakers mess), and I think the high total is telling us that the teams are going to put some points on the board. Lean to the PISTONS and the OVER.

Orlando Magic @ Sacramento Kings with a total of N/A;
And finally, we arrive at the very last game on the board, yet another contest without a line. Why? Who the heck knows. I don't believe Tyreke Evans is expected back just yet, and we know darn well that Dwight Howard served his one game suspension. Oddsmakers, time for you to take your balls and remove them from the tea-cozy. Maybe they're all tired of getting beat like bongos, courtesy of a few red-hot Pregame peeps. Anyway, angles: Orlando is playing the first game of a 5-game trip, so they may very well put a nice effort out there; Orlando lost at home to the Kings only a couple weeks back, and that loss started the Magic on their hot run that took a hit with an exhaustion-aided loss to the Bulls and a suspension-aided loss to the Blazers; Dwight Howard will likely return to the lineup with a certain level of anger; the Kings got creamed by the Rockets in their last game, and DeMarcus Cousins turned an ankle late in that contest. Supposedly the sprain wasn't that bad, and if that's really why this line is off, I think I might have a tantrum. Either way, squares get the vote here - lean to the road MAGIC and the UNDER.

Related: Fran Vazquez, the One that Got Away [Business Insider]
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