Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blood on My Feathers

Quite an obscure title, but it was in reference to the mighty Hawk; not yesterday, though.

Another wacky Sunday in the books, with the Timberwolves coming through in a most unlikely of scenarios, and the Hawks putting forth a truly pedestrian effort in Motown. I must say, teams just do not seem to like playing in Detroit and Charlotte. I don't know if it's the hotel, the temperature in the arena, or what, but it just seems like we see some of the laziest performances in those two cities. That's not to say the home team is going to win, because let's face it, the Pistons aren't very good, but whatever they put in the water certainly gives them a chance to win an ugly one, like they did on football Sunday.

Sports Wagering

Bucks/Bulls
- Bucks by 2.5 with a total of 195.5. I think this is a nice bounceback spot for Milwaukee. This Bucks team is coming off a heart-breaking loss to the Magic, and in most cases this is a situation where I'd look for a carry-over to the next one, but Milwaukee is simply too good at home for that the carry-over to be the biggest factor involved in this one. That loss to Orlando was only Milwaukee's second home loss this year, and they should not be ashamed of dropping a close one to one of the strongest road teams in the NBA. Instead, and I think this is what we'll see, this team should look ahead to a very beatable Chicago Bulls club that is almost as bad on the road as Milwaukee is good at home. The Bulls have lost 4 in a row, SU and ATS, and they are showing zero signs of pulling out of this tailspin. In fact, on their current 6-game road trip, which happens to conclude in Milwaukee, the Bulls are 1-4, the lone win coming in the roadie opener at Sacramento. Chicago is 2-7 SU and ATS away from home, and Kirk Hinrich missed the last game, which doesn't at all help their cause. There isn't much "value" in this game, per say, as both teams have been losing, losing and losing some more, but given that both teams are undervalued at the moment, I think you simply have to err on the side of the home team in a short spread situation. In terms of the total, the Bucks have gone Over in 6 straight games, which says a great deal about how this team has been trying to play with Bogut injured. They are trying to speed things up a bit, and their defense has suffered, too. In this one, though, I'm just not sure I can trust the Bulls to score enough to help us get to our cause. Solid lean to the Buckos, very slight lean to the Over.

Mavericks/Sixers - Mavs by 10.5 at home with a total of 200. Bottom line on this one is that BOTH teams are in typical fade spots. The Sixers are on the second half of a back-to-back, with the first half occurring in the physical confines in San Antonio, so they're likely to be tired, and already short-handed, trying to play with the Mavs is a tall order for the remaining healthy bodies. The Mavs are coming home after a road trip, though, to be fair, it was only a 3-gamer. Still, I generally don't like backing a team coming home off a trip where they got blown out in the finale, which is precisely what happened to the Mavs. Dallas shot the ball at a ridiculous clip in the first 2 games of that roadie, which makes the loss in Cleveland even less surprising. We know they're a very, very good home team, but which factors outweigh which others when trying to set a line for this one? I'd be inclined to think Dallas covers this game by just a hair, but it's almost too close to call. The total at 200 tells me very little, unfortunately, though the Mavs have gone Over in their last 3 games, but Philly might struggle to score, so I'd lean slightly to the Under, or nothing at all.

Jazz/Grizzlies - Utah is back to being a double-digit home favorite again, but at least we got a value win out of them while we could: Jazz by 10 with a total of 207.5. Memphis is not in an enviable situation here, coming off a monster 4th quarter collapse in California, then hopping a plane to Utah and trying to handle a red-hot Jazz club on short rest. The only positive is that the game against the Clippers ended early, so they likely got into Utah at a slightly more reasonable hour than usual. Still, the Grizzlies are a very young team, and I'm not sure I see them bouncing back immediately from that sort of meltdown. Memphis was coming off that huge win in Portland, so it wasn't surprising to see them lose to a worse team, but it WAS surprising to see how they lost. 10 points is a lot to cover, but Utah has been blowing out anything coming their way this week, and I'd make a slight lean to Utah on this big spread. The total of 207.5 is hittable, but only if Memphis can actually play a full 48 minutes. I'd lean slightly to the Under, but only microscopically so.

Warriors/Pacers - Warriors by 2.5 at home with a total of 228. This total is extremely high, given the Pacers have broken 100 only once in their last 5 games, and that was against, of course, the Raptors. They've lost 5 of 6, BUT they've allowed over 100 points in all 5 of those losses. We knew this team was not built to win with defense, and I don't think it's going too far out on a limb to suggest the Warriors will probably break 100 points on their home floor. Maybe the most frustrating part of the Pacers teamwide slump is that they have not shot better than 47% from the floor in quite some time, and while I realize this team is a volume-shooting team, if you're going to run a fast-paced offense, giving up 105 points, you have to be getting good shots and making them! The total is not my favorite here, since we just don't know if Indiana can put up the points necessary. The side definitely favors the Warriors. They're coming off getting blown out by the Lakers, but they ALWAYS get worked over by LA. Golden State is playing better basketball without Stephen Jackson, and while the Pacers have a size advantage (who doesn't?), I think the home floor should be enough to get Golden State a win. The Pacers aren't that much worse on the road, which does put a slight shiver into this lean, but the Warriors are playing decent ball, and we'll see how this line moves before making our own decisions.

Fantasy Advice

Ben Wallace - I've said it before, but it bears repeating, Big Ben's alarm goes off when he's playing at home. He's a beast at the Palace. At home, 4 points, almost 12 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks per game; on the road, still 4 points, but only 7 boards, and less than a steal and block per contest. It's weird, but exploitable.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Once Was Spurned

I had a lot of bad luck, and while I'm not sure it's done, it's nice to get a few easy ones. The big play a few days back on Charlotte, and then last night another large play winner on Utah have me feeling my oats. Alright, enough of that mess. Huge NBA card, for a Sunday, so no time to waste, not when we've got a full NFL card to take care of, as well!

Sports Wagering

Pistons/Hawks - This line is OFF, and one can only imagine unless Detroit gets SOMEONE back from the infirmary, they'd probably prefer the game gets called. Ben Gordon, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are all out, and while none is expected to be at full strength, word is that Ben Gordon might make his return. Even if he does, how effective will he be? I don't like backing the Pistons here, as they are just out of offensive options. Charlie Villanueva, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum do not an offense make. Heck, they lost to the Clippers on their home floor in the last one. I expect the Hawks, who snapped a short 2-game losing streak with a decisive road win over the injury-plagued 76ers, to take it to the Pistons. Atlanta doesn't have another game until December 2, so there's no real look-ahead concerns, and really, the only thing that may hold them back would be taking the Pistons somewhat lightly. I don't expect Atlanta to fall into that trap. They know they're significantly better at home, so every win during the regular season is huge. They're not tired yet, and I just can't envision the Pistons putting up enough points to compete. I think Detroit will get sucked into a higher-scoring game than they'd like, as well, and I think this total could approach 200. Line should be out tomorrow around podcast time, and we'll make a play then.

Raptors/Suns - Holy moly, Raptors getting 2 points at home with a total of 230! There is almost zero chance I make a play on this game. Every time Phoenix goes on the road, they impress, while Toronto is a team I love to back at home because of their ridiculous home/road splits so far. But here we have those two trends going head-to-head, never a good spot to pick a side. I like the Suns by just a point or two, but Toronto could easily shoot 60% and win by 15, which makes this game way too hectic and unpredictable to be worth my time and energy. In terms of the total, we're talking about two teams that play zero defense. The Suns are scoring up around 120 points over their last 3 games, which has caused this total to balloon. Like I said, I just really do not like wagering on games like this one. If I have a change of heart, I'll be sure to let people know.

Clippers/Grizzlies - Clippers as a favorite...uh oh. LA is laying a staggering 3.5 points at home with a total of 200 on the nose. Interesting match-up from a betting standpoint, not a game I'd want to watch, though. The Clippers are getting healthy, aside from Blake Griffin, who probably isn't all that far from getting back on the court, too, and their improving health is showing on the court. Al Thornton has his legs back, Eric Gordon is trying to round himself back into basketball shape, and with Chris Kaman and Baron Davis developing a rapport at long last, this team is finding ways to win against the mediocre teams of the NBA. They've won 3 of 4 and are somehow just 7-10 despite playing like a 3-14 team at times. Alright, so the Clippers are playing better, and that's why we're seeing the 3.5-point favorite line, but is there any real value in this one. Memphis is coming off an impressive road win over the Portland Trailblazers, and this team has quietly been playing much better basketball, too. They also beat the Clippers by 15, 2 weeks ago in Memphis, and lost to the Clippers by 3 in LA a couple weeks before that. I don't like a side in this game, since both clubs are playing a bit better than earlier this season. Memphis has played 5 consecutive Overs, though, so perhaps there's a little value there -- the previous meeting in LA hit a total of 223.

Knicks/Magic - Knicks getting 6.5 at home with a total of 205. This is a tough spot, here. The Knicks played their butts off in Denver, but came up just short, and generally, a team coming off a tough, hard-fought loss is a spot where I'd prefer to fade, but with the Knicks, they had just played two TERRIBLE games before finally showing some signs of life in that Denver contest. Thus, I'd be more inclined to think that perhaps it was the START of a decent stretch of basketball, and not the end. Of course, on the other hand, New York returns home after an 0-3 road trip across parts of the West coast, and then the Rocky Mountains. So New York is something of a toss-up. The Magic, on the other hand, have been remarkably consistent, even without their starting point guard. Orlando fell behind by a good sum against the Bucks, but managed to come back and win the game SU while failing to cover. Still, it was a nice gut-check, and you have to think that was the Magic's weak effort over the next couple days. I get the sensation they'll continue to play hard in this game against New York, and with Dwight Howard getting healthier by the day, I'm not sure the Knicks stand a chance. Time will tell on this play. I don't like the total due to some of the reasons listed above.

Heat/Celtics - Heat getting 4 at home to the struggling Celtics with a total of 187.5. Boston finally covered one, and you have to wonder if that's the start of things 'evening out', or if that was just a situation where Boston got to play Toronto not in Canada, and a cover was the easy result. Before that, the Celtics had lost 7 straight covers, and they are now 6-10 ATS this season. It seems like it might be time for things to start coming back to the median. Based on math, I'd lean Celtics. Based on recent play, I'd rather not watch this game. Like I noted, Boston has been struggling, and their defense has been the biggest problem. Boston has given up over 100 points in the last 3 straight games, after allowing 100+ in just 2 of the first 13. The Heat have been suffering from a similar case of Raptoritis. After starting the year 6-1, they're now just 9-6, and only 1 of the 3 recent wins would even come close to qualifying as "good." They beat the Nets at home by 1, the Hornets at home by 1, and then the Magic on the road, also by 1. So what we're seeing is that if the Heat can take a game to the final possession, they're in okay shape, but if the game is decided before then, they're going to get blasted. I realize because Boston is Boston, they are always going to be a bad value, but I don't think the Heat stand a chance in this one. Lean to the Celts, and lean to the Over.

Spurs/Sixers - San Antonio by 10.5 with a total of 194. This line looks horrible to me, and I'll tell you why. The Spurs seem to have suddenly figured out their team defense, and the oddsmakers have reacted in record time. After this team was the biggest disappointment in the NBA through the first 10 games, they've rattled off 4 straight wins both SU and ATS. It makes wagering on San Antonio very difficult, even if you feel they will win this game big. 10.5 points is a ton, but the Sixers are just the type of team to get run over by a much better-coached and more talented ball club. The Sixers, as usual, are losing in the Fall. They've dropped 5 straight, and with Louis Williams going down for 2 months, they really are feeling the hurt. Rookie Jrue Holiday just can't hold his own, and the team is just in perma-struggle right now. I don't think they hang on through even 3 quarters, but at 10.5 points, the back door is certainly in play. Weak lean to the Spurs. I also don't think Philly has the firepower right now to push this total over, though the Spurs have been having no problem posting 100 at home. No lean on the total.

Thunder/Rockets - Oklahoma by 3 with a total of 198. At first glance, I like the Thunder, and let's see what the stats tell us. For one, it's starting to look like the Rockets lack of talent is catching up with them. This team has a bright young point guard in Aaron Brooks, a role player trying to be a superstar (and now starting to struggle as a result) in Trevor Ariza, Mr. Irrelevant, Shane Battier, and Luis Scola. They really don't have the personnel to compete long term. They kept up for a month on glue and tunnels (yeah, I made that expression up), but teams have started to gameplan for them, and suddenly they're finding it a bit tougher to score. They've lost 3 of 4, with the lone win coming against a completely exhausted Sacramento Kings club that Houston was fortunate to catch in such a spot. Otherwise, the Rockets are coming off 2 straight home losses, by 31 to Dallas and by 8 to the suddenly surging Spurs. Also worth noting is that the Rockets beat the Thunder by 9 in Houston earlier this year, so Oklahoma City is going to want to deliver a roundhouse to the jaw. The Thunder are definitely better this year, and oddsmakers and writers are starting to take notice. They are 9-7 SU, 10-6 ATS, are 4-2 both SU and ATS in their last 6, and the two losses came at Orlando and at the Lakers. Needless to say, this team is earning my respect. They beat the Bucks by 18 in their last home game after beating Utah by 10 on the road. Lean to the Thunder here, and no real leans on the total...maybe just a tiny bit to the Over.

Nuggets/Timberwolves - The game we've all been waiting for. Denver by 15.5 with a total of 214. I mean, just the math here is enough to make me want to run for the hills. Denver is expected to win by 15.5 points, yet the total is expected to approach 215? That means if Denver hits 115 points, we'd need the Wolves to break 100, basically. I'd rather not even mess with it. In terms of the side, we know the Wolves are awful; their next expected victory is sometime in 2012, so what's the point? Rather than go into all the reasons to take one side or the other, if this game gets on the card, it would likely because of line movement and little else. That's just the honest truth. Denver had a close win over the Knicks 2 days back, but after the Wolves they host the Warriors, so this isn't really a spot where the Nuggets can be planning ahead. They're on one of the world's easiest homestands, and that's probably why we saw something of a half-assed defensive effort against the Knicks. The Nuggets will win big here, but how big is too much of a question mark for me to venture a play.

Kings/Hornets - Kings by 3 at home with a total of 211. I must say, this line makes me want to jump on the Kings as fast as humanly possible, but I believe it's in all of our best interest to wait and see where the line goes. Sacramento is playing like they mean it! They are 7-8 on the season despite losing their best scorer to a long term injury, but rookie Tyreke Evans has absolutely taken over, even collecting nice chunks of rebounds from the guard spot. You just have to love the development of the young guys on this team, with Hawes, Thompson and Evans the future of the franchise. The Kings have been small favorites in their last 2 home games, and they've dominated in both. I see no reason to change my expectations here, OTHER than that the Hornets have covered 5 straight spreads. Somehow, without Chris Paul, New Orleans has won 4 of 5 straight up, but it looks like they might be starting to lose a step. They have shot under 40% in each of their last 2 games, but have been able to manage a 1-1 record in those games only because their opponents played some terrible games. I don't think they can expect the same performance from the Kings, who are great at home. Still, it's worth mentioning that the Hornets have been hitting totals near 200 despite shooting under 40%, so even a marginal game from the field could push this one Over 211. Lean to the Kings, weak lean to the Over.

Lakers/Nets - Lakers by 15 with a total of 192. It's rare I see a line like this one and think "sharp," but that's the exact sensation I got when I looked at it. The Lakers have been winning BIG lately, taking 5 straight games ALL by double digits, and failing to cover just once in those 5. I'd suggest fatigue might play a factor, but as a Cal grad, I know how easy the travel is from Oakland back to Los Angeles, and considering the game against the Warriors was decided by the 3rd quarter, the starters shouldn't be all that pooped. The Nets, meanwhile, I would wager, should be pretty deflated. They had their shot, as most basketball pundits figured if the Nets had any chance to get off the record-nearing schnide, it was against Sacramento. Well, now they have to go to Los Angeles to face the Champs, and this one could get ugly. Their only hope is that the Lakers take them lightly, but to this point, that really hasn't been an issue for LA. I don't know if it's the return of Gasol or the addition of Ron Artest, but the Lakers are playing angrier this year, and just beating teams out of the building. I'm not sure the Nets can score 85, but the Lakers can break 100 against anyone, so I'd avoid this one altogether, much like most of the other games with lines near 15. Hah!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Back to the ABA

I'm not sure there's much I can say about the New Jersey Nets that hasn't already been covered by every available news media outlet, so my vote is to send them to another League. Isiah Thomas already ran the CBA into the ground, so suggestions are welcome.

Because, I mean, really, this is getting embarrassing. This team should have found a way to win one by now. There are some good teams in the NBA to be sure, but a month into the season you need to find a way to back into a win, if nothing else. They have an All-Star point guard in Devin Harris, who, admittedly, hasn't been healthy, but also hasn't been doing anything when he's been on the court. They have a few decent role players in Bobby Simmons and Trenton Hassell, and picked up a solid young hard-nose type from the Magic named Courtney Lee, and the Nets have arguably the best 2nd-year Center in the NBA. I'd argue the Timberwolves are worse than the Nets. That team is Al Jefferson and 11 role-players getting more minutes than they deserve. But yet, the Nets are 0-16, 5-11 ATS, and there ain't much light ahead, at least not for another week.

New Jersey travels to Madison Square Garden on December 6 for a rematch with the Knicks, the next game this team has a chance to win, and I, for one, will be rooting for them like crazy.

Sports Wagering

Wizards/Bobcats - This line is OFF, but we can talk quite a bit about these teams based on their performances the previous day. Both teams won, in short. Washington went into Miami, and just as I noted in yesterday's blog, beat up on a suddenly overrated Miami Heat club to the tune of a 10-point road win, and a 17-point cover as a dog. The Wizards didn't give us much reason to trust them, but the Heat getting that win over the Magic was the best thing that could have happened for yesterday's line. The Wizards getting a win over the Heat should have very little impact on the line for this game. I think Charlotte's 3-straight home wins should have a much greater impact. Charlotte is a better-than-average 6-2 at home, but remains winless on the road at 0-7. For this reason, I expect to see the Wizards favored by a small spread, something in the 3-5 range, and I'm going to have a very tough time picking a side. The value is going to be with the Wizards, who are playing much better with a healthy Nick Young in the lineup at shooting guard, but the Bobcats are finding a way to get it done, and I'm suddenly concerned they'll actually scrap out a win on the road. Still, if you can't win at Philly, I'm not sure you can win in Washington. I also expect to see a total in the low 190's. I lean slightly to the Wizards, though we obviously need a line to move forward, and I also lean slightly to the Under.

Cavaliers/Mavericks - Cleveland favored by 7.5 at home to the Mavs with a total of 196. I am in stark disagreement with this line, and my job is going to be to determine if it's a trap or a mistake. The Cavs come home off an embarrassing loss in Charlotte, and trying to figure out how to incorporate Shaq back into the lineup. I really don't think it's a coincidence that this team lost in the Diesel's first game back with the team. He is a defensive liability due to his lack of speed, and he slows down the offense by forcing his teammates to feed him in the post even when he doesn't have the best position. I honestly believe Dallas to be a better team than Cleveland, and with both teams on the second night of a back-to-back here, and Dallas having won their first 2 games on the current road trip, it seems odd to see the Cavs handing out this many points. Clearly, there's something I'm missing about the Mavs. It's not a very long road trip, so I don't think this team is going to be gassed; their next game is at home against the Sixers on Monday, so it's not a look-ahead spot, and the Cavs looked confused and out of sync against the Bobcats. You'd normally figure the public would go crazy for a very good team getting 7.5 points, but let's wait and see where this goes first thing, and react. The total of 196 feels too high with the way Shaq should keep things nice and slow, but then, we only got an Under in last night's Cavs game because of a hideous 4th quarter. Lean to Dallas, pending line analysis tomorrow, and no real lean on the total.

Jazz/Blazers - Jazz by 4 with a total of 186. How about the Memphis Grizzlies, rolling into Portland as a double-digit dog and winning the game outright? The Grizz got off to a raucous start, and the Blazers could never quite make up the ground, and now they have to head to Utah to finish up the back-to-back in a pretty tough spot. Utah is coming off a beating of the Chicago Bulls, a game that stayed Under the total only because the Jazz made so many shots the Bulls could never get out on a break and get an easy score. The Jazz shot over 60%, getting carried by some absurdly successful nights from their 2 stars, even the one that doesn't want to be there. Scoring against the Blazers probably won't be so easy, but I really don't like this spot for Portland. The big, bad Blazers are a better road team this year than in year's past, but tired from a pretty bad home loss to Memphis is just not the way you want to face the methodical Jazz, who have quietly won 4 of 5. I also think there's a little value in the low total of 186. The Blazers have been scoring more since Brandon Roy took control of the game, though the poor road shooting of his teammates might hold this one Under. Lean to the Jazz, ultra-weak lean to the Over.

Bucks/Magic - Milwaukee getting 6.5 at home with a total of 193. Believe it or not, I see this line and I like the Bucks. I simply love that the Bucks struggled mightily on their recent road trip, since it only creates value for them coming home. This team is a trademark home/road splitter, as Milwaukee is 6-1 at home and 2-5 on the road. Still, coming home off a truly fatiguing road trip is rarely a time to want to back a team with your life savings. This is a spot where I'd like to give them one game to adjust to getting back home, then we can hit them hard in Monday's game against the Bulls, assuming they don't blow out the Magic and lose all their value. In terms of Orlando, I'm just not that concerned with how they've been playing -- this team is good, and they're just as good on the road as at home. Dwight Howard woke up from his 2-week stupor to blast the Hawks in a big win, and he could certainly do the same to the Bucks undersized frontcourt. Despite the line's value on Milwaukee, this is a play on Orlando or none at all. The total of 193 is very sharp, in my opinion.

Warriors/Lakers - This game should actually be pretty fun, as the Warriors get 8.5 points at home to the LakeShow with a total of 218. The Lakers covered 3 of the 4 games against the Warriors last year, which definitely shows they're not afraid to speed the game up and still enjoy themselves. That's the beauty of the Lakers, and why they can win championships lately; they can win almost any type of game, if rested. Interestingly, this total of 218 matches the lowest total of any of the 4 meetings last year. Is this the oddsmaker's reaction to the Warriors getting too many minutes and potentially suffering from a case of the bricks? These teams combined for games of 243, 220, 235 and 220 again last year, so it does strike me as a tad strange to see a line beneath all four of those. In fairness, though, the Lakers are playing better defense this year, or at least it appears that way because they blow teams out more often, but they have yet to cover a spread on the road (0-3 ATS), so why the 8.5 points? Are the Warriors really so bad that they deserve almost double digits on their home court, a pretty wild building when the Warriors actually win games? I'm not sure they are. I lean to Golden State to cover in this one, but I'd wait to buy on this one since the public is likely to give the Lakers their weekly earnings. If the line comes down, then we'll get confirmation on a Warriors play. I also lean weakly to the Over.

Fantasy Advice

Nick Young - A key addition to the Wizards rotation, and a prime scorer. Need points, get Young.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mega Sports Black Friday

I sincerely hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and today, it's back to the betting grind. Of course, yesterday had some betting mixed in with the turkey, stuffing, and whatever else we could jam into our bellies, and everything went quite well.

I'm anxious to see how a lot of teams play heading into this weekend, since I think we can take some information from this huge upcoming Friday card and apply it to games coming up. Unfortunately, the games tonight are going to be more interesting for how they impact future matchups than for the excitement of the game itself. Let's get down to business.

Sports Wagering

Sixers/Hawks
- This line is OFF, presumably until we get some word on Brand. Atlanta got spanked at home last night by the Orlando Magic, and now has to head to Philly to play a subpar Sixers team. The Hawks have come back to Earth a bit after a wildly hot start, losing 3 straight against the spread after winning 6 straight ATS. Normally, teams in this spot are good fade candidates, but I think the Hawks are going to be in the mindset to make a statement after getting creamed at home by a better team. They will want to roll into Philly and make sure the world knows they're a good team. Philadelphia, meanwhile, dealt the Celtics another ATS loss, but lost the game, and have lost 4 straight SU, but have actually covered in their last 3. I expect the Sixers to open as dogs in this one, but the Hawks loss to the Magic might give us a little value with Atlanta, since the public rarely likes the back a team that just cost them money the previous night. Let's wait and see where this line opens up, and take it from there. I am quite curious where we'll see the total open, too.

Heat/Wizards - Another line OFF. Very annoying, and it won't be the last. The Heat host Washington in this one, Miami coming off that very strange last-second win over the Magic in Orlando. Orlando bounced back just fine from that loss, but I wonder about the Heat. They seemed to catch the Magic on a night when Orlando was asleep for long stretches of the game, and I'm not sure the Heat are even close to as competent as they appeared in that ESPN game. The Wizards are definitely not competent, just barely edging a troubled, injured Sixers club at home after a dismal road trip through a few tough towns. This is a game with slightly more value in the Wizards, but unless we're getting a goodly number of points for Washington, I'm not sure I can trust them. The total might be more interesting, given that Miami's defense has suddenly dropped off precipitously, and Washington will look to push the total higher than Miami wants. I might go Over the total if we can get a number near 190, but we just have to wait and see.

Bobcats/Cavs - Charlotte is getting 4.5 points at home with a total of 186. I feel this total is pretty accurate. Cleveland has been playing some higher-scoring games, but Charlotte still has all kinds of issues scoring on offense when they're not forcing turnovers, and they still prefer to take 22 of the 24 second shot-clock to get a shot off. Charlotte is a decent home team, as they're coming off a dismantling of the Toronto Raptors, and while they're 0-7 on the road, they are 5-2 at home. The Bobcats have actually won 2 straight home games by wide margins, which means this 4.5-point home dog line is that much more impressive. I highly suggest we take a look at how the money comes in on this one before making any sort of move. The Cavs are 11-4 on the season now, but only 7-8 ATS, so they haven't really been covering as a favorite. Still, they've won 3 straight games, and after opening the season with 2 losses, Cleveland is 11-2; not bad at all. One thing to note is that Cleveland has another game on Saturday, at home against the Dallas Mavericks, so there is the potential prospect of a little looking ahead. The Bobcats solid play at home seems to counterbalance the Cavaliers' decent all-around play, and like I noted above, this one is a waiting spot.

Celtics/Raptors - The Celtics are favored by 10.5 at home to the Raptors with a total of 204. I don't know if the giant Thanksgiving meal is just leaving my head confused and spinning, but the lines for tomorrow look all kinds of crazy, but not crazy in "I see value" sense, more in the "what the heck is going to happen tomorrow" sense. The Celtics, for instance, are 11-4 SU, but 5-10 ATS. They are just an awful big favorite to bet on lately, as they've lost their last 6 games ATS, all as pretty sizable favorites. And here we are again. Surely, the Celtics will snap out of this "winning by not that much" stretch, but when? The Raptors might be just what the doctor ordered. Toronto has been downright horrible on the road where they are 2-7 SU and 3-6 ATS. The Raptors are -8.7 points to their opponents on the road, where they give up an average of almost 112 points. Yikes! I'm not sure I can trust either team on the side, given the numbers just stated, but the Over sure looks like a possibility. If Toronto is truly giving up 112 points, then we can safely assume the Celtics will break 100. Can Toronto score enough to get this thing Over? I'm not positive. They're coming off their poorest shooting night of the season in Charlotte, and the last time they shot under 40% in one game, they came back and shot 56% the next night. Weak lean to the Over.

Thunder/Bucks - Thunder are laying 5 with a total of 197.5. Very intriguing line, here. The Thunder have been mostly trading off ATS wins and losses so far this year, but are finally starting to get some favorite lines, and they're 2-2 ATS as a favorite. They're coming off a road win at Utah, which is a nice accomplishment for a young team. They've also shown very small home/road splits, which makes the home court advantage a little less interesting here. Milwaukee, meanwhile, is smack in the middle of a harrowing road trip that has taken them through Memphis, San Antonio, New Orleans, and concludes tonight in OKC. That being said, the Bucks HOST the Orlando Magic tomorrow, which means the Thunder are in a nice spot to capitalize on a road-weary club that might be looking ahead to getting home and trying to stack up against one of the East's elite clubs. The Bucks, too, have been a pretty sad road team, posting just a 2-4 record away from home, and a 6-1 mark in Milwaukee. I think the Thunder have a nice shot to blow this one open and win by close to 10. I also think this total is pretty close to accurate. The Bucks defense on the road has been a little lackluster on their current trip, and the Thunder don't play all that quick. I would lean slightly to the Under just given Milwaukee's look-ahead spot perhaps dropping them in a 85-90-point window, but again, the stronger lean here is to the Thunder.

Pacers/Mavericks - This line is OFF, so here are some notes on both teams. The Pacers, first, are coming off a nice 13-point home win over the Clippers to snap a 4-game losing streak. More impressively, they did it without Danny Granger. I'm not sure they can conquer a really good team like Dallas without Granger, and that is likely why we'll have to wait until tomorrow to get a line on this one. The Pacers didn't shoot the ball particularly well, so it wasn't exactly a pretty win, and for that reason I'm not ready to start backing this team again. Dallas appeared to be pretty upset about that 8-point loss to Golden State 2 games back, and they took their anger out on Houston with a 31-point drubbing on the road. The Mavs shot over 60% for the game for the second time this year in a situation where I'm not sure they could have been slowed down if 8 or 9 guys were trying to defend them. The Mavs, at 11-4, lead their division, and at 6-2 ATS on the road, have been a bettor's best buddy. I expect Dallas to open as a small favorite, perhaps in the 3-5 range, and we'll have to take a long look at it. I think we'll see a total over 200, and I might be so inclined to play the Under given Indy's recent shooting woes.

Pistons/Clippers - Compelling game, I know. No line yet. Still, we have work to do to get ourselves in game shape on this one. The Pistons have lost 6 straight games, and it appears as though a tougher schedule and the losses of Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are finally starting to catch up with this team. Of course, it didn't help that Ben Gordon hurt himself in the last game, cutting this team's offense, literally, to just Charlie Villanueva. You can try to convince me that Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey are viable options, but it'll take way longer than the time we have between now and when this game tips. The Pistons did manage to cover in 2 of those 6 losses, but 2-4 ATS is still pretty darn bad when you consider how many points they've been getting. Today, I expect Detroit to be the favorite, and amazingly, as a favorite, Detroit is 3-1 ATS. They are significantly better at home than on the road (3-3 vs. 2-7), but they just simply don't have the firepower to beat anyone if 3 of their best guys are sidelined. I assume this line is off because Ben Gordon might play (ankle sprain), and if he does, Detroit might be a nice option. The Clippers got truly embarrassed in Indiana by the Granger-less Pacers to start their current road trip, shooting 32% in the contest and being held to 73 points by one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. That being said, the moment I think I've got the Clips figured out, they storm out of the gate to an early 14-point lead, and ruin my plans. I think we'll see Detroit open as a favorite of about 3-4 points, and I expect a total in the 180's.

Rockets/Spurs - The Rockets are 1-point favorites at home to San Antonio with a total of 199. This is a very interesting game, to me. Houston has alternated SU wins and losses ALL MONTH, a span of, now, 12 games. Thus, they are 6-6 in November, 8-7 overall, and 9-6 ATS. Still, as that trend dictates, the Rockets are due for a SU win, and as a 1-point favorite, that also means they're likely in line for an ATS victory. Of course, it's nuts to wager on that trend alone. The real reasoning on this one lies mostly in the play of the Spurs. San Antonio seems to be starting to put the pieces together, winning 3 consecutive games SU and ATS. However, let's not get carried away. All of those wins have come on their home floor, where the Spurs are 7-2. They're a miserable 0-4 on the road, and have just not been able to make shots outside of whatever they call their building these days. The home/road splits have been pretty ridiculous. At home, the Spurs have a final margin of +10.2; on the road, -9.5. The nearly 20-point swing is just a hair larger than the 6-8 points that books usually move a line depending on which building it's being played in. I'm a little concerned that San Antonio is starting to figure out how to play together, but home wins over Washington, Milwaukee and Golden State are hardly games to completely change your opinion of a team. Strong lean to Houston. Weak lean the Under, since the Spurs clearly can't score on the road.

Nuggets/Knicks - Denver by 13.5 at home with a total of 218.5. I have to say, I don't care about the spread in this one, I just can't trust the Knicks right now. New York has looked AWFUL, and I mean that with a capital entire-word. They've shot under 40% against two teams with relatively uninspiring defenses (Lakers, Kings), and now they have to rise to a mile above sea level to take on another high-octane club that has no qualms about blowing teams out. The Nuggets have won 3 consecutive games SU and ATS, and have taken all 3 by double digits. They really know how to play in Denver, too, as they are a perfect 6-0 at home this year with an average victory margin of 16! That right there should almost be enough proof to take Denver. I really don't see this line moving up, though, and I'd advise waiting to see what happens. Sharps will usually just grab at a dog with a line this high, and I think we'll see the line drop to 13 at some point, and we can potentially look at it then. I also like the Under in this one, since I don't see the Knicks waking up any time soon.

Timberwolves/Suns - Minnesota is getting 9.5 points at home to the run n' gun Suns with a total of 214.5. I'll be up front when I say I'm not a huge fan of this game. I think the Suns line is wildly inflated, much like the Denver line above, but I have a tough time trusting Phoenix on the road when we're talking about a team that just doesn't play defense. Phoenix has been a road favorite 4 times this season, and is 2-2 ATS. But, looking more closely, they were a road favorite of just 2 points in the 2 road ATS wins. When they were favored by 8 at New Orleans, they lost that game outright. I don't think the Timberwolves win this game, but catching 9.5 points at home is an awful lot of points. The Wolves are just bad enough that I wouldn't even take them with this many points at home, and instead I look to the total for some kind of value. Phoenix always looks to push the tempo, but they tend to score a good 10 points more in home games as opposed to road contests. Phoenix averages just 106 away from home, and while the Wolves play some shoddy defense and that final Phoenix number should eclipse 110, I'm not sure I see the Wolves keeping up. Like I noted earlier, this game scares the hell out of me. No leans.

Trailblazers/Grizzlies - Portland laying 11.5 at home with a total of 194.5. Another huge line. It's almost amazing how many uninteresting games we've had over the last few days, but we make do with what we can. Portland is a beast of a team. They failed to cover against the Nets in their last one, but still won by double digits, a feat the Blazers have accomplished in all 3 of the games on their current homestand. Once again, though, we need Portland to do better than just double digits. We need 12 points for a cover in this one against a Memphis team that is definitely showing signs of improvement. The Grizzlies are just 5-10 on the season, but 7-8 ATS, and have won 4 of 6. They are, like most young teams, much better at home. Memphis is 1-7 on the road, which certainly gives Grizzlies-backers pause in this one. Sure, they're collecting 11.5 points, but will it matter? Memphis was getting 10.5 points in their last game, at Phoenix, and lost by 15. Phoenix shot 60% in that one, which Portland likely will not do, but Portland's defense is such that I trust them to build a lead and hang onto it. Very slight lean to the big favorite here. The total looks spot on, with Memphis trying to push the tempo, and doing a nice job of scoring lately, while Portland probably will try to keep the young, quick Grizzlies from getting out and running.

Kings/Nets - Sacramento by 5 at home with a total of 194. This is a funny line -- the side is decidedly in the Kings favor, with Sacramento now a favorite in two straight games, the only two games they've been a favorite in all season long. But while the side favors the Kings, the total seems to favor the Nets extremely slow tempo. Perhaps I'm misreading it. It could be that oddsmakers just don't think New Jersey will break 90 points yet again, and that's quite possible. I'm actually surprised the red-hot Kings aren't favored by more than 5, and I'm concerned oddsmakers think this is the game the Nets get their first win. Only getting 5 points on the road seems like a pretty rough spot for Jersey, and that definitely gives me pause. My initial lean is strong to the Kings, but I think the prudent move is to see where this line moves, determine why, then react. Sacramento can certainly score at home, but the Nets 2-13 O/U record should make anyone think twice before betting an Over. I lean to the Under here, until Jersey shows they can break 90 points.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TNT Week Five: The Chuck and His Cranberries

Well, it happened. Monta Ellis finally stopped playing basketball, but it took a 14-point deficit with just over a minute remaining against the Spurs to make it happen. Ellis logged 46 minutes in a blowout loss, which is just ridiculous in every sense of the word. Though, you can certainly make the case that he should be playing every second of every game if he continues to shoot over 60% from the field and motor like a maniac the entire time!

In other news, and everyone knows I rarely toot my own horn, and this season so far, my calls haven't been all that impressive, but Charlotte, my strongest play of the season, was a 33-point cover. If that isn't the definition of an easy win, I don't know what is.

Also worth noting, the Knicks are the Knicks again. After 3 solid performances (one of which spoiled our 19-point Pacers' lead), the hapless bunch from New York have regressed. In a blowout loss in Los Angeles on Tuesday, they shot 38.9% from the field; in a blowout loss the following night in Sacramento, they shot 38.5%.

I was trying to describe my feelings as I watched the Lakers-Knicks game on TV. I am in Southern California for a few days for Thanksgiving, so I'm able to catch Lakers games on local channels, and there was a point in that game, midway through the second quarter, where I was able to stop LOOKING at the television and stop listening to the broadcasters and I was still able to tell exactly what was happening. How? The sound of inflated synthetic "ball" material colliding with rim was so loud, it pervaded my blog-typing train of thought. I heard "DOINK" about 9 times in 3 minutes, and I knew that game was done.

Sports Wagering

Hawks/Magic - This line is OFF, but by the time we begin recording tomorrow's podcast, we should have a number, and I already know which way I'm leaning on this one. Of course, the line could impact things quite a bit. The Hawks are coming off a road loss to the New Orleans Hornets, a failure that snapped a 7-game winning streak for Atlanta, arguably one of the best teams in the NBA thus far. The Hawks are 11-3 both SU and ATS, and you have to believe they will be given a ton of credit by the oddsmakers. The best thing we have going for us in this game is that Atlanta is hosting a legitimately good team in Orlando, which means the line won't be inflated as much as against, say, the Nets. This means that there will be a little value in the Hawks, if indeed that's the direction we want to go. You could make the argument that the Magic were looking ahead to this game with Atlanta in their 1-point, final-moment loss to Miami, and you might be right, but with that demoralizing defeat so fresh in their minds, how will they bounce back. I typically like to fade a team coming off a long winning streak, but I also typically like to fade a team coming off a last-second loss. There are few things more tiring than playing your butt off for 48 minutes in a game that you should win then watching it just barely slip away in the final moments. With the Hawks up-tempo style, I expect this game to open with the home team favored by 4 and a total just a hair over 200.

Jazz/Bulls - Where the hell are Jordan, Stockton, Malone, and even Bryon Russell? This matchup isn't what it used to be, but it's still a game, and we're still going to break it down. Utah opens as a home favorite of 7 with a total of 195. The Jazz are 7-7 SU, 6-8 ATS and coming off an embarrassing 10-point home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Jazz are clearly susceptible to teams with athletic wing players, and the Thunder definitely fit that mold. The Bulls "sort of" do, as well, but not at all the same. Chicago has a big, quick point guard in Derrick Rose, who just doesn't look quite healthy, and both Luol Deng and John Salmons qualify as solid 2/3 hybrids, but do they have the same ability to take it to the rack as Kevin Durant and Jeff Green? That is going to be the difference-maker in this game. The Bulls are 6-7 SU, 4-9 ATS, and have lost 3 straight both SU and ATS. This is what makes this game so difficult to cap -- both teams are severely slumping right now, though perhaps Chicago a tad more than Utah, so it's tough to find any advantage in value. We really have to just pick the lesser of two basketball evils, and hope that that team puts forth a decent effort. A key note in this one is that the Bulls are 4-1 at home and only 2-6 on the road, which certainly does not inspire confidence. Utah has not been their normal dominant home selves (4-3 in Salt Lake City), but Chicago's miserable road efforts this year make Utah's home court advantage a little stronger. The real value might be in the total. Chicago's defense has been horrendous on the road, and they've allowed over 103 PPG away from home. In Chicago, they allow just 87 PPG, a difference of over 16 points! Utah, meanwhile, scores 102 points at home. True, Chicago's road competition has been tougher than the teams they've played at home, but the discrepancy is pretty stark. I lean to the Over, and maybe just barely to Utah to cover.

Fantasy Advice

Darren Collison - I really didn't want to go there, since the moment Chris Paul regains his ability to break ankles (other than his own), Collison is, in the words of the scripture of the Holy Hand Grenade, "right out", but for the time being Collison is putting up big numbers in New Orleans. 18 points, 7 boards, 8 assists is mighty fine from a backup PG.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Energizer Monta

48 more minutes for Monta Ellis. Two games in a row, 48 minutes for Monta Ellis. This has been a nice short-term boost for Golden State, but this is going to take a toll. Ellis has racked up 182 minutes in his last 4 games, and he's clearly the go-to guy with Stephen Jackson gone. But it really doesn't matter how good he is or how his motor is seemingly running at "full" all the time, this is a bad decision.

With the intensity of modern basketball, Monta Ellis WILL - not might - WILL suffer an injury if he keeps playing this many minutes, and things will get ugly in the Golden State.

Sports Wagering

Bobcats/Raptors
- Bobcats by 2 at home with a total of 194. I love this line, and I'll make no bones about it. I also really like that Toronto beat the piss out of Indiana at home last night, so folks won't be afraid to bet the Raptors, and we can fade them. Charlotte is coming off a similarly large-scale beatdown of the Pacers in their last game, and I believe they'll continue to play good ball tonight against Toronto. The Raptors are a miserable road team so far this year, and I really don't see that changing against the slow-tempo Bobcats who figure to really try to take Toronto out of their comfort zone, whatever that is. My favorite part about this matchup is the comparison of home/road splits. The Bobcats are a dismal 0-7 away from home SU, and 4-2 on their home floor, a difference in win percentage of 67%! The Raptors aren't much better: they're 5-2 at home, and 2-6 on the road. Not to mention the fact that Toronto has to hop a plane and fly from Canada to North Carolina, not an easy jaunt by any means. This is going to be a team that plays with a little less bounce in their step, while Charlotte is better-rested, and should open this one up for a 9-10 point win. I also believe that as a result of the long travel for the Raptors, they won't be able to push the ball as well, and this game should go Under the posted total.

Pacers/Clippers - This line is OFF, as rumors of Eric Gordon potentially making his return swirl around Clippers camp. This is a good reason for the line to be off, since Gordon is a huge re-addition to this team. His ability to hit shots is something that most of the other guys haven't been able to do, though Al Thornton is starting to get some strength back in his legs. Thornton's return to health might have something to do with the Clippers' back to back wins, and this team is somehow only 3 games under .500 right now (I know, mind-boggling). The Clippers are 3-3 ATS on the road, though they're just 2-4 SU, which means this team is losing close games away from home. This game figures to be a relatively short spread, with Indiana the likely favorite due partially to home court advantage. Still, Indiana has been playing awful basketball lately, and after getting bopped upside the head by the Raptors last night, they have to come home to host the suddenly-competent Clippers. This isn't a game I like very much, since I don't really trust either team. I think the Pacers have a nice shot of waking up in this one, but they may not have the energy to sustain it for the full 48 minutes. The Clippers can't score like the Raptors, so if Granger pops off for 7 more threes, they'll win this one, but if the Clippers get Gordon back, they suddenly have another solid offensive option. I expect to see Indiana favored by 5 at home with a total near 204.

Celtics/Sixers - Boston by 12.5 at home with a total of 185.5. This line seemed pretty high for a Boston team that really hasn't been playing all that well, but at the same time, the Sixers have been equally bad. What's more, Elton Brand only played half of last night's game because of a sore hamstring, so he may very well miss the game with Boston. I might be so inclined to drop a unit on Boston because of the potential injury's effect on the line. If Brand is indeed out, this line could very well jump to 14.5, and given his 1-for-9 shooting performance last night, my guess is that he'll miss this one and maybe another game or two. In terms of the actual handicapping, I think both teams are slumping, so there really isn't much value on either side. I'm going to go ahead and advise playing the injury line on the side, and avoiding the total altogether.

Magic/Heat - The battle of Florida has no line. There are few things I hate more than no line. Oh well, guess we'll just do our best to figure this sucker out. The Heat are 2-4 in their last 6 games, with the only wins coming at home against the winless Nets and the undermanned Hornets (who, at the time, were coming off some big home wins and in a prime letdown spot, yet only lost by 1 to Miami). What this all means is that the Heat are getting exposed. They started the year with a flurry, playing solid team defense, and confusing opponents with their defensive intensity. That intensity has waned a bit over this losing streak, and the Heat have allowed over 100 points in all 4 of those losses, and the only team of those 6 that failed to break 100 was the Nets, and they couldn't break 100 in 3OT periods. The Magic, meanwhile, have won 5 straight, and are 9-5 ATS. The return of Rashard Lewis has really dampened the impact of Jameer Nelson going down, and this team is rolling right now. They're even playing some defense, though against the Heat you really only have to defend one guy. I expect the Magic to open as home favorites of 8 or 9 with a total near 190.

Pistons/Cavaliers - The Pistons are underdogs by 5 with a total of 183.5, and I think this is pretty accurate. Normally, with a line in this neighborhood, I'd wonder if perhaps it was a trap, but I actually think there is just a feeling that the Cavs won't play their best game here, and I'm not sure I agree. I really like the way Cleveland has begun to get their superstar some easy points every so often with an offense that has averaged 99 points this year, more than most would expect. Cleveland also doesn't play again until Friday in a road game against the Bobcats, so it's not really a look-ahead spot, either. The Cavs have won 7 of 8, with the lone loss coming at Washington, so they're playing good ball, and are 5-2 both at home and on the road. The Pistons are in a bit of a slump right now, so their value is decent, but their ability to win makes even good value a bit suspect. Detroit has lost 5 straight, 4 on their recent road trip to the West coast, and should be pretty happy to get home. The Pistons are 3-2 at home, not great but not bad, and an awful 2-7 on the road, so there's a pretty stark home/road split. I think Ben Wallace puts forth a nice effort against his former team, and I think this is a line we should look at under a microscope before putting any money on it. The total of 183.5 feels very low for a Cavs team that is suddenly scoring the ball, and with Detroit consistently scoring in the 90's (except against the best defensive teams in the NBA), I think this one has a nice chance of hitting 190.

Hornets/Bucks - The Hornets, believe it or not, are home favorites of 4 with a total of 200.5. I think some of this has to do with the way the Hornets have been crashing the boards, and truth be told, that does scare me a bit. They even played solid ball on the road against the Heat, and this team is somehow stepping up a bit in Chris Paul's absence. I don't think it can last, but damn if it isn't working in the short term. They've been shooting a fantastic percentage from 3-point land, and that's really been keeping them in the game. It's tough to handicap how long a long-range hot streak is going to last, though the Bucks defense doesn't exactly bring the fear, so I'm not sure this is the game where it all comes crashing down. Still, the Bucks are getting 4 points against a team without their best player, so you have to at least consider them. Milwaukee is coming off a bad loss to the Spurs, though they remain a respectable 8-4 on the season. What if I mentioned that 6 of those 8 wins have come at home? Yeah, the Bucks aren't too impressive on the road, and we're seeing that reflected strongly in this 4-point line. I think the play here is New Orleans or nothing at all. In terms of the total, I am not a fan, initially, of either side, though New Orleans has been trying to force the tempo and get open threes.

Timberwolves/Nuggets - Wolves getting 9 at home to the visiting Nuggets with a total of 202. The Wolves are coming off a loss in Los Angeles to the Clippers, and are a thrilling 1-13 on the season, only betting than the winless Nets. It makes this team very, very difficult to trust. They did cover in that loss to the Clips, but against a top-tier team like the Nuggets, I'm not sure I can side with either squad. Denver is a machine, and the T'Wolves are Al Jefferson and some other guys. The best play in this game is likely going to be on the total. The Wolves have played 5 straight games to the Under, and the Nuggets generally slow their game down a tad away from home, where the screaming banshees in the crowd known as "Nuggets fans" aren't there to keep Denver at the breakneck pace they so enjoy. Still, Denver is coming off a very low-scoring game last night, and I'm just not sure how long you can expect this team to go without a 120-point performance. The lean is to the Under, given Minnesota might not break 85, and no leans on the side.

Spurs/Warriors - This line is OFF, though I've already seen that Ginobili is out, so they can go ahead and put this line out already. This game scares me for a number of reasons. First, the Warriors have been playing MUCH better basketball since Stephen Jackson's sorry-ass was unloaded, now posting back-to-back wins over the Blazers and Mavericks, BIG accomplishments for the young squad. So, we lean Warriors? Not necessarily. The Spurs, notoriously slow starters, appear to slowly be coming together, and much moreso at home than on the road. They beat Washington by 22 at home, then came right back and shut down the upstart Bucks. Those were nice little tests for the Spurs, but now a high-octane offensive team comes to town, and the task for the Spurs is going to be to force the Warriors into jump-shots. I expect this line to open with the Spurs favored by just under double-digits, with a total up over 200, maybe even as high as 210. At those numbers, this is a game I'd avoid, but let's wait and see.

Rockets/Mavericks - Rockets by 4 at home with a total of 201.5. The Rockets are 8-6 on the year, but are on one of the strangest stretches of any team in the NBA. In their 11 games thus far in November, the Rockets are 6-5, but they got to that mark by alternating wins and losses in every game. I've pointed out trends like this before, and they rarely last, but it is pretty strange that this has last as long as it has. It certainly could continue, given the Rockets won their last game, at home, against the upstart Kings. Now they host a very good team, and a damn good team coming off a home LOSS to the Golden State Warriors. In this spot, I think we should wait and see how this line moves. Let's watch closely how the public reacts to the Mavericks losing a stinker at home. It would seem the gut move would be to get on Houston since they just lost their hats on the Mavericks last night, and wouldn't want to get back on them. We may indeed get some value with Dirk's bunch if we wait this one out. The total is pretty accurate, I feel, as Houston has begun to slow down just a tad, and the Mavericks are an execution offense, running plays on almost every possession, which works wonders for their shooting percentage most nights, but they just don't take that many shots. I lean Mavs, but I lean HARDER to waiting and seeing what we can get.

Suns/Grizzlies - Phoenix by 11.5 with a total of 222. Let's break this one down team by team. Phoenix is 11-3 on the season, 8-6 ATS, though they've done the majority of their damage against the spread when they're coming off an ATS loss. They are not. The Suns covered against the Pistons, who just looked overmatched on their recent road trip, and Phoenix was the beneficiary of a completely exhausted Pistons club, and just run them out of the gym. The Suns have also played to 4 straight Unders. Here, Phoenix gets a better test. After starting the season 1-8, the Grizzlies have rattled off 4 wins in 5 games, shooting a great percentage from the field in the process. Making shots can often help your defense get set, and as a result, the Grizzlies posted a few Unders before the books adjusted, and they've gone back Over the total in the last 3. In addition, the only game the Grizzlies have played in with a total over 220 has stayed Under. All these values make this game pretty tough to predict. You know damn well the game is going to move at a decent clip, and the Grizzlies are liable to get caught up in the madness of the Suns' style, but can they continue to play well enough offensively to stay close in this one. I have slight leans to the dog and the Under, but this game, as it stands, might be a no-play when we get to decision time.

Kings/Knicks - Sacramento by 4.5 with a total of 218. I have to say, I just watched the Lakers/Knicks game, and New York missed an absolute TON of open shots, typical for a team coming off a heartbreaking loss, which New York was after losing that OT contest in Boston. Still, they were getting open. You can say anything you want about the Lakers' defense, but it wasn't that impressive; they merely got a little closer to the bucket than the Knicks, and shot a better percentage as a result. This game was something of a surprise, though, since the Knicks had been playing some of their best ball of the year before completely decomposing in this one. I'm not sure they could play any worse against the Kings, so handicap this game assuming New York will play a little bit better. The Kings are in a tough spot, returning home after a rough road trip through the Southwest. They lost two grinders against Dallas and Houston, then got run out of Memphis, so after such a nice stretch, Sacramento has regressed a little. Of course, we all know how tough it can be to return home after a road trip, but after such poor results on the trip, I think Sacramento will be more motivated than most teams coming home. Still, this game is yelling at me to just scroll down and look at the next one. I like the Under, since I find i hard to believe Sacramento shoots the ball well coming home, but no strong leans yet.

Trailblazers/Nets - This line is OFF, and being the last game of the night, the lack of line does nothing to make me want to handicap it, but here are some quick thoughts. The Blazers are coming off a loss in Golden State, then 2 monster home wins over mediocre teams. The Nets are coming off a lot of losses, 14 to be exact, and they are showing no signs of breaking through. This line should be double digits, and I'm not sure I can suggest a play on the Nets, even getting 12 or 13 points. They're just that awful, and coming off a game against the Nuggets, they'll be tired, in addition to being, well, a bad team. The Blazers seem to have taken out some of their aggression on the Wolves and Pistons, so it's tough to say if they'll continue to play with the same anger here against the Nets. What is interesting, though, is that Portland has scored 228 points in those two games, averaging well over 100 despite being pinned as a defensive team. Nate McMillan has given the ball to his star, Brandon Roy, and the offense is clicking, and moving a bit quicker, as well. This team has a fantastic defense, so if they can continue to get some easy buckets, Portland can only get better. This is one of the teams in the NBA I trust to cover big spreads as their defense can hold opponents down and not allow the backdoor covers that other teams seem to enjoy doling out. I think we'll see a pretty darn low total in this one, too, as New Jersey might not score 70 points.

Fantasy Advice

The Warriors - Yeah, that's right, all of 'em. I'm not sure how many cases of "5 Hour Energy" they're going through in the Bay Area right now, but it can't be less than 10-15 a week. The Warriors used SIX basketball players in their win over the Mavericks. SIX! Three guys played ALL 48 minutes. This team is going to poop out at some point, but right now you can get some monster numbers out of any of them. Then, sell high, since eventually they're all going to suffer knee injuries.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Don with a Silent "P"

There were four NBA games last night, but the big news out of the National Basketball Association is that the Golden State Warriors have been hit by another situation. No, Monta Ellis didn't get into an altercation with Stephen Curry; no, Corey Maggette's hamstrings didn't suffer their usual mid-season detachment; and no, they didn't figure out a way to get Stephen Jackson BACK. This time, the Warriors have come face to face with their arch nemesis.

Pneumonia.

Don Nelson will not be traveling with the team for the foreseeable future, and Coach-in-Training Keith Smart will assume coaching duties for the time being. It has long been assumed that Smart would be the Head Coach of the Warriors following Nelson's tenure, which, according to his contract, isn't done for another 2 seasons. I'm not one to make predictions of firings, since I generally think it's in poor taste, but I think it may be time for Nelson to step down. He seems to hate his current job, and his presence just seems to be a continual rub the wrong way for the team and its fans. Plus, who would really want to be stuck in that chaos?

Sports Wagering

Raptors/Pacers - Toronto by 5 at home with a very high total of 214. In an effort to make these writeups a little more organized, I'll try to analyze things, one team at a time. We'll start with the road club, the Pacers. Indiana won 5 straight games, but that seems like a distant memory now. They have lost their last 3, a streak that started when Indy blew a 19-point lead to the Knicks, and continued with a 10-point defeat at the hands of the Cavs, and topped off by an 18-point clubbing by the Bobcats. The Pacers' offense seems to be regressing a tad, and what's worse is that their rebounding has gone down the drain, as well. You just have to wonder if perhaps Granger is dealing with his nagging injury issues again. Whatever you decide on that front, Indiana is not doing anything to inspire confidence, as they're allowing an absolute ton of points, and failed to break 100 in the losses to Cleveland and Charlotte. Toronto is coming off a home loss to Orlando, but Orlando remains one of the best road teams in the League, and Toronto is still a solid home team (4-2 at home, 2-6 on the road). Toronto's biggest issue is their defense, which leads me to believe that this game might actually go Over the posted total. Indiana has been missing shots, and some wide open looks might be just what the doctor ordered. Still, when people see these two offensive-minded teams squaring off, the first thought is "high scoring". My favorite lean on this game is on Toronto to cover.

Wizards/Sixers - This line is OFF. And for my money, this game is off. The Wizards breathe a sigh of relief getting home after a hugely disappointing 0-2 short roadie through Oklahoma and San Antone'. This will be an interesting spot for them. Washington has looked better offensively with Antawn Jamison back in the lineup, but got completely shut down away from home, and you wonder how much of that is a road slump, and how much is the backlash from Antawn's monster debut in the home win over the Cavs. The Wizards are a sad 3-9 so far, though this team is obviously better than that record would indicate. Their biggest problem remains falling in love with jumpshots. They have the personnel to take the ball to the basket and create open looks and layups, but yet they seem fully pleased to fire away from the elbow and out. The Sixers have even bigger issues, though the 5-8 would seem to indicate they're somehow better than Washington. Both of these teams have the talent to succeed, with Washington boasting a solid 3-star core, and Philly touting Iguodala and Elton Brand. While Washington's issue is shot selection, Philly's is defense. They tried to out-run opponents, and couldn't score enough, then they tried to slow things down and couldn't defend quite well enough, and now they're letting Elton Brand get his basketball legs back, and hoping for the best. Philly's 2 road wins this year came at New Jersey and at New York, and I believe Washington wins this game by a narrow margin with a total near 195.

Mavericks/Warriors - This line is OFF, too. Very frustrating time to handicap an NBA card, since tomorrow's 6-game card has just 3 lines out, and of those 3, two (as you'll soon see) are huge. In this one, we figure to see another rather beefy line, with Dallas bringing a 5-game winning streak into a contest against the team that ran them out of the playoffs a few years back. Still, Don Nelson was the true mastermind behind that upset, and his pneumonia could have an impact on this game. Will his inability to coach bring the Warriors youngsters together, or will his absence leave the team without the proper tools for trying to take down this Mavs team that Nelson helped build. The Mavs are getting a ton of open shots, but this game will force them to run a little, and I'll be curious to see how this team performs. This is the type of matchup where we'd normally see a Josh Howard just dominate. Athletic wing guys can break down the Warriors flimsy defense much easier than an aging distributor (Jason Kidd) or a 7-footer that prefers the fade-away jumper (Dirk), no matter how skilled he may be. Will the Warriors make shots, though? Golden State is coming off a nice home upset of the Portland Trailblazers, and so far, the departure of Stephen Jackson seems to have helped this team. They're not winning every night, but they've covered 5 straight spreads, and this one may be number 6, depending on the line. I expect to see the Mavs open as double-digit faves, and I think the Warriors might be worth a very small wager. I expect a total near 210.

Nuggets/Nets - One of two colossal mismatches on tomorrow's card, with the Nuggets favored by 14.5 at home with a total of 203. First thing that jumps out at me is the thought, "How many points will the Nuggets need to score if the Nets can't break 90?" The answer is at least 113. Let's look at some recent games to see if this makes any sense. For one, the Nugget beat the Nets by 28 points in New Jersey earlier this year, which definitely gives a little precedent for taking the Nuggets to cover this monster line. In actuality, this is the type of spread where a wise man would probably look at the total or nothing at all. The last two straight Nuggets games have hit a total of 205, but digging deeper we find a little more key info. The Nuggets really get caught up in the wildness of games in their home building, and try to run opponents out of town. They know they have the advantage with the thin air factor, so the faster the game in Denver, the better the Nuggets' chances of dominating. In fact, while Denver games have averaged a total of around 209 on the season, home games have seen 220 points, on average. Also, Denver has been winning at home by a margin of 16.4, so we definitely see some keys that point to Denver and an Over. Still, those scream public choice, so let's take a peek at the line, and if nothing gives us cold chills, then perhaps we can move on it. We haven't really broken down New Jersey, and that's because we really don't know what to expect. Devin Harris is back, but he's not at full strength, so the expectation is that the Nets will try to keep the game relatively slow. I'm just not sure they can have that kind of impact on the tempo of the game, not when Denver will take every defensive rebound and ram it down the Nets' throats. Eventually, you'll have to score to keep up, and we'll see the quarter by quarter total swell. Oh, and the Nets are 0-13. Yowza.

Jazz/Thunder - The third and final OFF line of the night. Oddsmakers need to just make some damn lines for us to analyze! This one is a tough one to break down. The Jazz are suddenly a game over .500 on the season at 7-6 (I know, that blew my mind, too), having won 3 straight, including their first win in a decade in San Antonio, and home wins over the Pistons and Raptors. The wins aren't the most impressive I've ever seen, but for Jazz team that appeared to be spiraling a bit just a couple weeks ago, 3 straight wins over anyone is a great success. Maybe more appropriate (and why betting the first few weeks of the season is always dicey), the Jazz are now 4-2 at home, and 3-4 on the road. Ah, sweet normalcy. The Thunder are all over the place, re-complicating matters. They've been alternating terrible games and great ones, getting blasted in LA in their most recent tilt just 2 days after blowing Washington out at home. By that pattern, they're on pace for a good game, but I'm just not sure I see them getting it done in a very difficult road venue. The Thunder feel ripe for another loss, here, but the spread is clearly going to play a large role. I suspect the Jazz will open as 7 point favorites with a total just under 190. More to come.

Lakers/Knicks - Lakers by 13.5 with a total of 210. Sometimes the world just doesn't want you to bet on a particular sport on a particular day. Huge lines and OFF lines have me frustrated, since I missed out on Monday's card (aside from a small play on Minnesota at the last moment) due to travel across this fine nation. The Lakers have been extremely streaky against the spread. 6-7 on the year, but the way they got there is the real key here. The Lakers lost their first 5 against the spread, won 3, lost 2, and have won the last 3. So, as you can see, LA has followed any W and any L ATS with another one. Unfortunately, that doesn't set us up very well for this one. They've won their last 3 games by 13, 15, and 16 points, and those games came against Detroit, Chicago and Oklahoma. Those big wins have given us the monster line we're seeing now. On the other side, believe it or not, the Knicks have actually been playing "marginal" basketball, winning 2 of 3, and taking Boston to OT before losing on a KG buzzer-beater. Generally, I like to fade teams after losing a heart-wrenching game, but I get the feeling the Knicks are using all 3 of their recent games, wins and loss, as building blocks. They didn't go into that game expecting to win, but they played well enough to do so. The Lakers' massive size advantage is going to make this one impossible, I would think, for the Knicks to win outright, but if Al Harrington continues to drain threes, the Knicks can hang in there. Time will tell. The total of 210 feels pretty accurate, though I do get the feeling the Lakers have the personnel to shut down the Knicks. This total AND side will depend almost entirely on whether New York can hit a few outside shots.

Fantasy Advice

Greg Oden - I mentioned much earlier that his production would skyrocket playing with Andre Miller, and it truly has. Oden has become a dunk and layup machine, and he's hitting his free throws, as well. One of the best FG% and block specialists in fantasy sports right now on a very good basketball team.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

For the Six People Watching NBA Tonight

I realize this blog will probably get a "view" number in the teens with everyone focused on MNF, but there are indeed four NBA games, and it's my sworn duty to take a peek at them for everyone's enjoyment.

Sports Wagering

Grizzlies/Kings - This line is OFF. My thoughts on the matchup, though, might give us a few angles to play once we get a line. Unfortunately, I'll be traveling most of tomorrow (Detroit to LA, Thanksgiving duty calleth), so I may not be able to land and get internet access in time to post follow-up notes on this game. Both of these high-scoring teams have recently begun to execute much better. They are both coming off a loss (or multiple losses, if you're Sacramento), but really, the Kings' effort can't be faulted. They've lost 3 straight, and while the home double-digit clunker to the Bulls was less than stellar, the gritty road losses to both Dallas and Houston showed that this Kings team has moxie, with or without Kevin Martin. I was right in one respect, that the Kings would finally lose one game, then a few more losses would follow, but I was wrong in another regard, in that I felt they would fail to cover the spread in those losses, since the win-streak would likely shift public perception and alter the lines. The Kings are covering machines right now. The Grizzlies have a ton of talent, and it seems to have taken a couple weeks, but they're starting to execute a little bit more on defense, and have seen their results improve as a result. They beat some lowly competition for 3 straight wins, but you still have to be better than 3 teams in the League to have a 3-game winning streak, and that's what we saw. The Grizzlies started off strong at home in their last game, too, but saw Milwaukee come back and win it late. This game is another home contest for Memphis, and I think oddsmakers feel these teams are pretty closely matched, with the edge, I would figure, going slightly to Memphis, for an opening line in the neighborhood of 4 or 5. I would lean Kings to keep this one close, since I don't see either team playing well enough to run away. The total is going to open over 200, no question, though Memphis, again, has been playing better defense, so I'd lean to a total near 207 or 208.

Spurs/Bucks - San Antonio by 9 at home with a total of 193. This side is too high, no question. There are times when we see a huge line that is baiting folks into taking the dog, but I believe this line is just the same thing we've seen all year, and that is a severe underrating of the Milwaukee Bucks, who just continue to play games that make Scott Skiles look like the smartest coach in the League. San Antonio got Tony Parker back, and they played a solid all-around game against the Wizards, but Washington is still adjusting to having Antawn Jamison back, and while they did trounce the visiting Cavaliers 3 games back, the Wiz ALWAYS play the Cavs tough. Make no mistake, the Wizards are improving, but San Antonio's drubbing of them is less an indicator of San Antonio's skill, and more an indicator of Washington's over-reliance on the outside shot. Milwaukee, on the other hand, runs a clever offense, and plays excellent team defense. Skiles has stockpiled guys like Mbah a Moute, Ilyasova, Delfino, and others that are all excellent wing defenders. I also like that the Bucks have one of the few guards (Jennings) in the NBA that can match speeds with Tony Parker. That's not to say he can guard him, but he has a better chance to stay in front of Tony, and then make him work hard on the defensive end. I think Milwaukee keeps this thing close until pretty late. I think the total is spot on. Milwaukee is not a high-scoring team, though they may try to push the pace a bit, and I'd lean just a nip to the Over.

Blazers/Bulls - Portland laying 8.5 to the struggling road-weary Bulls with a total of 180. This total has already moved up a point from the opening line of 179, which I find rather puzzling, given that both of these teams are slower than molasses. Perhaps it's a situation where you get two ultra-defensive minded teams together, and the team with less size and less talent (Bulls) tries to make sure they don't get crushed by running and gunning. The Bulls certainly have the personnel to make some headway running the ball up and the court. Despite the Bulls potential to try to speed this thing up, I still see Portland dominating the game, and I just can't picture Chicago bouncing back after getting hammered both in LA and Denver. That team has to be a bit rattled, really getting taken to school by two of the best teams in the NBA. Chicago needs home cooking or a game against a bad team right now, and this is not the night for it. I would lean to the Blazers to continue to make Chicago look bad on this roadie. I also think that despite Portland picking up the pace a little in the second half, they will go back to slowing things down. I have a TINY lean to the Under, but with McMillan's choice to let Brandon Roy run the offense, I'm not sure if we see this team push the pace just a little bit more than usual, since he can just take the ball into the paint and make things happen by himself.

Clippers/Timberwolves - Hah! Seriously? This is a game? The only way anyone is going to be tuning in to this one is if they have money on it. That's where we'd normally come in, but sadly, the line on this one is OFF. The Clippers are better than the Timberwolves, that's pretty safe, and the Clippers are coming off a win over the Nuggets, but I don't think one win is going to earn them the entire world's respect. This game will receive very little action, especially since the line is getting released late. I would lean Clippers, since it's pretty clear the Wolves can't compete with anyone, especially on the road. I expect a total in the low 190's, and I expect the Clippers to open as a moderate-sized favorite, perhaps in the 5-7 range. This shouldn't have any traps, either, since almost no one is betting it, so there's really no reason to go any direction with the line other than what the power rankings tell us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Shootin' at the Walls of Heartache

The Warriors look way, way better without Stephen Jackson. It reminds me of the old riddle:

"What can you put in a bucket to make it lighter?

A hole."

Stephen Jackson's mighty hole in the Warriors' bucket has at last been replaced by the REST OF THE BUCKET, and while they may not be winning the tough road games, they're competing, and they look more cohesive doing it.

Your old pal Danno is headed out for 24 hours, so this may have some holes that require YOUR attention. I hereby issue a humble request that while I'm away from the internet, everyone can help each other by clearing up any mistakes I made, adding injury updates, and making the key plays!

Sports Wagering

Nets/Knicks - Here's a game that could make a lot of folks sick to their stomach, though word on the street is that Devin Harris is expecting to make his return tomorrow. The line is currently sitting on New Jersey by 2 at home with a total of 194. If Devin Harris has any of his usual spark, I think this is the game where New Jersey finally gets a win. They have a few solid pieces, with Harris at the point, Lopez down low, and now a healthy Douglas-Roberts on the wing. I lean to Jersey to cover, though these are two teams that have both been just terrible. New Jersey is 4-8 ATS, while the Knicks are an equally sad 3-8 ATS, so not only are these teams losing, but they're losing bad. The Nets are also 2-10 O/U, driving totals down, down, down. Devin Harris could help change that, though. His quicks are his greatest asset, and suddenly the Nets have a player that can get some steals and get out in transition. I think we'll start to see some Nets Overs in the near future, though Harris may take a game or two to get acclimated. No lean on the total.

Cavaliers/Sixers - Cleveland is favored by 11 with a total of 192.5. You know times are tough for the Sixers when they begin to get double-digit dog lines. Philadelphia is just a mess, and they really aren't showing any signs of turning things around. It starts with defense, and Philly's best defense this year has been trying to limit the total number of possessions. It hasn't been working, at least not in the sense of getting them wins. It has pushed some final totals down a little, but Philly just keeps losing. The Cavs, meanwhile, are starting to win with some offense. I know, I'm as blown away as the next guy, but suddenly they seem more concerned with having some fun out there than playing hard-nosed defense and trying to deflate opponents. The Cavs are an Over team during their last 5 or 6 games, and the question here is whether the Sixers can find a way to score 90 points. I lean slightly to the Over, but my trust in Philly makes this a very iffy play. In terms of the side, I'm not a big fan of taking a double-digit favorite, especially since Cleveland is returning home after a road game. Still, Lebron should have no trouble scoring at will against Philadelphia, and I think this line is right on the mark. No lean on the side.

Hornets/Hawks - Hornets are getting 6 points on their home floor with a total of 207. At first glance, this line looks like a trap, though perhaps I only feel that way because of the debacle that was Phoenix's defensive rebounding. That won't be a problem here. The Hawks are one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA, especially at the offensive end of the floor. They are on a tough back-to-back, as they hosted Houston last night in Atlanta while the Hornets have been able to take a night to prep for the high-flying Hawks. Atlanta has also been a much better home team in years past, though they're showing signs of becoming slightly more competitive on the road this year. The Hornets are trying to step up in Chris Paul's absence, and they did a decent job of doing so in an easy win over the Clippers and a tough win over the Suns, but it'll catch up with them at some point. This game, I'm sure, will see a ton of action on the Hawks, and smells like a no-play to me, a smell I can whiff from a mile away. The total of 207 seems pretty accurate. I would lean slightly to the Over, since New Orleans is clearly trying to move the ball up the floor quickly and get an open shot before a defense can get set.

Grizzlies/Bucks - Memphis laying 3.5 at home to the Bucks with a total of 198. Memphis is getting a ton of respect here, because this line basically tells me that oddsmakers think these teams are evenly matched on a neutral court. The Bucks continue to deal with injury issues, with both Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut hurt, and that does indeed leave them shorthanded. This game is another one that smells like a pass, since the Bucks are playing a back-to-back shorthanded. If you want to take anything, I think you have to lean to the Grizzlies, since they, at least, have enough healthy bodies to get through 2 games in 2 nights without getting gassed by the 7th quarter of 8. The total of 198 appears too high, especially with the way the Grizzlies have been focused more on executing on offense lately, but fouls could push this total up. Still, the Bucks don't figure to score a ton, since they'll be relying pretty heavily on Jennings. I lean to the Under, and barely to the Grizz.

Spurs/Wizards - This line is OFF, to no one's surprise. San Antonio is dealing with the absence of both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and Parker MIGHT make his return in this one. The Spurs desperately need healthy bodies, and this is a team, as you may have heard in my "Today in Sports Betting" daily podcast, that is just not worthy of backing until they figure out team chemistry with all the new faces. Basically, it's Wizards or nothing, though I'm not necessarily saying that's the way to go. The total should be relatively high, though I'm just not sure San Antonio can keep up lately. They've looked old and slow. More to come tomorrow when we see some lines.

Rockets/Kings - This is a big line. Houston by 10 at home with a total of 208. The total I like. Houston has been playing some Unders, but Sacramento plays minimal defense, and I think we'll see both teams get out on the break. But laying 10 points on the second half of a back-to-back where the first half was played in Atlanta? Houston has a tall order maintaining top speed for that many minutes after traveling significantly farther than Sacramento, who played in Dallas last night. I'm forced to pre-type a significant amount of this blog today due to time constraints, but I think we'll get a good idea of what to expect from Sacramento after watching the Dallas game. Sacramento finally lost their last game, the first "L" since they lost Kevin Martin, and it has all the makings of a severe letdown for all the guys that stepped up in those 4 big wins for the Kings. If Sacramento can keep it close against Dallas, I think they can do the same with San Antonio, but I fear a blowout. Updates to come. EDIT: Sacramento played a DAMN good game against the Mavs. I lean Sactown on this one when the line comes out.

Jazz/Pistons - This line is OFF. That being said, we can still take a peek at the game without knowing the line, and try to make some calls. The Jazz have won 3 of 4 (2 straight), and have gone 4-0 ATS in those 4 games, as well. Does this mean they've turned a corner? I'm still not convinced. Those SU wins for Utah came against Philadelphia, who is just in disarray, at home against an awful road Raptors team, and then in San Antonio against the Parker/Ginobili-less Spurs. This game won't really define a turnaround for Utah, either, but it could be a well-contested match. Detroit is finding ways to score, and can compete with the mid-tier teams of the NBA. Still, Utah is always tough at home, Detroit is on a tiring road trip through some tough, tough cities, and I expect this line to open near 8 with a total of 193.

Nuggets/Bulls - Denver by 9 at home to Chicago with a total of 205. Should be a good game, if only because the HOME team has to play the second half of a back-to-back in the thin air of Denver. Surely they're better accustomed to the situation, but I think Chicago has a huge energy advantage in this one. Denver is playing on the West coast, and even though it's just a game with the Clippers, they'll be getting into Denver in the wee hours of the morning, and will be forced to adjust to the mile high altitudes in just a few hours. I lean hard to Chicago with the points early, and I also think this game has a great shot of going Under. Denver isn't going to be running all game, they simply won't have the steam, and the Bulls should be more than happy to take it to the lethargic Nuggets in a lower-scoring game. Strong leans to both the Bulls and the Under.

Blazers/Timberwolves - Portland by 15 with a total of 186.5. Yikes. Sometimes 15 point lines are just outrageous, and sometimes they're not. This is a situation where Minnesota might actually need 15 points to hang with the Blazers. Of course, we should not forgot that Portland rolled through Minnesota and won by 17 there, so perhaps the Wolves will feel a little twinge of anger going into this one. We might also see Portland take Minnesota lightly, since they probably remember beating up on them on the road and don't think they'll need a top effort to beat Minny at the Rose Garden. I would lean to the Wolves, though this side screams pass to me. The total, on the other hand, seems a little on the high side. Portland plays incredible defense, and I know that's what everyone is going to be thinking, but I don't really see Minnesota breaking 85, which means Portland is going to have to hit 100 to cover and clear the total. Slight lean to the Under.

No fantasy notes from Friday's schedule.

Get Phoenix a Squeegee

I went to sleep and woke up this morning with the same excruciating mental image running through my head, that of the New Orleans Hornets collecting TWENTY-FIVE offensive rebounds. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

I sometimes forget to mention, this article can also be found at Pregame.com, the best Sports Betting Information site on the web.

Sports Wagering

Raptors/Heat - Raptors by 3 on their home court with a total of 200.5. The Raptors return home off a 4-game road trip that saw them win the first game against the Clippers, then fall in the final 3 (at Phoenix, at Denver, at Utah). We all know how dicey that first game home off a long road trip can be, though a 4-game road trip isn't the kind of back-breaking road trip that makes a play on the Heat mandatory. Why? Well, for one, the Raptors are 2-6 on the road, but 3-1 at home, so there's clearly a strong home court edge for a team that relies heavily on jumpshots. Secondly, the Heat are struggling badly. Miami has lost 3 of 4 after starting the year winning 6 of 7, and their only win over the last 4 games was on a buzzer beater, at HOME, against the winless Nets. This game is truly a battle of futility. Miami is not a team that is going to outscore many folks, but they were winning with defense to start the season. Now, not so much. All three of Miami's recent losses have been marked by shoddy defense, as the Cavs, Thunder, and Hawks all scored over 100 points against them. This Raptors team plays an up-tempo game, and may give Miami's defense fits yet again. Level-3 lean to the Raptors, and level-1 lean to the Under, since Miami has broken 100 themselves just twice all season.

Sixers/Grizzlies - Philly laying 6 at home with a total of 197. Elton Brand woke up, but the Sixers are still a mess. I would argue this team is the WORST 5-6 team in the NBA. They've beaten Milwaukee, New York, Jersey twice and Charlotte for their 5 wins - not terribly impressive. They outrebounded their opponent in just 2 of 11 games, which is pretty awful considering Philly has some pretty large bodies on the inside. The issue is with their defense. In Philadelphia's 6 losses, their opponent has shot over 51% in 4 of them, so you can see that one of the biggest problems is figuring out a way to stop the other guys. With all the athleticism, you'd think the Sixers would be able to muster something at some point, but not yet, and without solid defensive rebounding, the Sixers can't get out on the break where they're most lethal. So, instead, they've tried slowing the game down a bit, and have played to the Under in 7 of 11 games so far. The Grizzlies are 3-8 on the year, but are coming off back-to-back home wins over the Wolves and Clippers in two games you couldn't have paid me to watch live. Memphis, like Philly, tried to win with offense to start the year but realized that unless you have the weaponry of the Lakers, Nuggets or Suns, you need to focus on defense. Memphis started the year with 3 of 4 Overs, but after an Under, a Push and one final Over, Memphis has gone Under 4 straight times as they continue to focus on executing an offensive gameplan and using their underrated strength to take the ball to the hoop, get to the line, and slow the game down. The Grizzlies are 3-2 at home, and 0-6 on the road, though, which gives us very little confidence in the side. Level-1.5 lean to the Sixers, level-4 lean to the Under.

Pacers/Cavaliers - This line is OFF, as we wait to find out the status of the Cavs' injured bodies. My thoughts on the game are basically as such: Indiana is coming off an ugly home loss to the Knicks, blowing a 19-point lead at one point en route to a 7-point straight-up loss. The Knicks' 3 off days seemed to give them extra life in the second half, and the Pacers tired legs led to a litany of fouls, and a game that took about 10 minutes longer than every other 7pm eastern game that night, thanks to rituals at the charity stripe. The Cavs are coming off getting their asses handed to them on the road by the Wizards, who looked like a playoff contender with Antawn Jamison back. The game didn't really tell me much about the Cavs, though. A healthy Washington team ALWAYS plays the Cavaliers tough in our nation's capital, and the Cavs usually move on to other cities and deliver a solid beating. I expect the Cavs to be favored by just a point or two on the road, with oddsmakers assuming Indiana's meltdown was a fluke and this team is more like the one that won 5 straight. Indiana is a high-scoring team, which should inflate the total a shade, but the Cavs are playing an offensive-style game all of the sudden, and have hit 5 straight Overs, so...

Hawks/Rockets - Hawks by 7 at home with a total of 205.5. Is this finally the game where the Hawks fail to cover? This team has been a cash cow this year, going 10-2 straight up and 11-1 ATS. This does, of course, mean that the books will adjust at some point, and the Hawks will likely fail to cover more often than not the rest of the way. This is a pretty high line for Atlanta against a Houston team that is really nothing to scoff at. Atlanta has won their last 6 games and is a perfect 6-0 at home, where they've long been an outstanding club. Houston has been alternating ATS wins and losses the last 7 games, and we're coming off an ATS win in Minnesota. This trend is obviously insane to follow, but it does point to Houston not covering. You can't really take stock in a pattern like that, though. Perhaps the better notes on these clubs involve the scoring. Both are extremely high-scoring teams, yet we're seeing a very reasonable total of 205.5 (opened at 206.5). The total moved down a point from opening line because of some recent indicators. After opening the season with 6 of 7 Overs, the Rockets have gone Under in 4 of their last 5. Atlanta has gone Over in 9 of their 12 games, but the last 2 might be a bit misleading. The Portland game was sitting on 85-82 with 4 seconds to go in regulation, so without the 3-pointer that tied the game and the resulting OT, that one was at 167! The Miami game went over by just 4 points. This is a very interesting mark, and we'll watch the line throughout the day to get a feel for it. In terms of the leans, I just can't lean against Atlanta until they give reason to do so. Level-2 lean to the Hawks, waiting on the total.

Celtics/Magic - Boston laying 7 to the Magic in the Commonwealth with a total of 190. The first thing I think when I see this line is that it's too high, and so is the total, but let's see if that makes sense. The Magic are finally getting healthy and developing some team chemistry, covering 2 recent double-digit home spreads against the Nets and Thunder. They are certainly a better team with Rashard Lewis in the lineup. The Magic are 9-3 on the season, but the pattern is pretty clear in games they've lost. In Orlando's three defeats, they've shot 28%, 19% and 22% from 3-point land. This team takes a ton of threes, and if they're not falling, unless Orlando is taking on the dregs of the League, they're going to be in trouble. It's what makes this team so difficult to cap. I'm not convinced Dwight Howard is 100% either, and that might be an issue against Boston. The Celtics are also 9-3, but they seem to be headed in the other direction. While the Magic are getting healthy, Boston has a slightly injured Paul Pierce, and have lost 2 of their last 3 games, the win coming against the undersized Warriors. Also, while the Magic are more an Over team, the Celtics are more the Under bunch, which really makes us pause on this game for a while. The line feels awfully high for a battle of 9-3 clubs, and I'd lean to the Magic despite the early half-point reverse line movement -- this is a level-2.5 lean, and if we can eliminate the very minimal reverse line action, it will jump to a big play. I also lean (level-3) to the Under, since I feel Boston successfully slows the game down on their home court.

Thunder/Wizards - The Thunder are very small favorites (looks like 2.5) at home, with a total of 194. Let's just check these teams out one at a time. First, the Thunder. Oklahoma City got blown out in Orlando in their last game, and now return home for one game. In fact, the schedule has sent the Thunder on the road for 3, home for 1, road for 2, home for 1, and then back on the road for 2 more before finally getting a real homestand. The Wizards, meanwhile, just got Antawn Jamison back from injury and delivered a firm punch to the Cavs' collective gut with a 17-point win. We need to remember, though, that Washington had lost 6 straight before the big win, so it's not time to put them in the pantheon of champions just yet. Still, the return of Antawn Jamison truly changed the way this team functions, and I'll be very curious to see how this team plays over the next couple weeks. The issue at hand here is that neither of these teams is what we saw in the last game. The Wizards are going to be decent, but not as great as they were against the Cavs. The Thunder are fairly middle-of-the-pack, but not as bad as we saw in Orlando. We know the Thunder will try to ratchet up the defense here, and we know the Wizards will continue to try to push the offense. These games where two different styles come together are always interesting. Level-2 lean to the Thunder, and level-1 lean to the Over.

Mavericks/Kings - Dallas by 11.5 at home with a total of 201. This game is a great spot for us to capitalize on the Kings letdown. Sacramento lost their top scorer a little over a week ago, as you probably recall, and promptly went on an impressive 4-game winning streak. That all came to a screeching halt on Tuesday, though, as Chicago blew into town and smashed the Kings 101-87. When a predominantly young team loses a top threat, the other guys often step up to fill his shoes, but when that team finally falls, there is often a few-game stretch where those young guys feel a tad overwhelmed, and this looks an awful lot like scenes we've seen in the past. Sacramento finally got beat by the Bulls, and had to fall off cloud-nine, then get on a plane and head to Dallas to face the surging Mavs. Dallas is 9-3 SU and ATS, and has won 4 straight, SU and ATS as well. I really like what this team is doing right now, as they're playing solid team defense, and the insertion of Drew Gooden into the starting lineup (even though it was due to illness) has seemingly given Dallas one more player who can do something on the offensive end. They'll need Dampier's toughness back at some point (though personally I think the guy is insufferable), but in the interim, this team is rock solid at home, and doing a ton of winning. The huge spread exists for a reason, and I think Dallas covers this one by 3 or 4. I also think Sacramento struggles to break 90, and lean to the Under. Level-4 lean on Dallas, level-2 lean on the Under.

Bucks/Bobcats - Milwaukee, another home favorite, is laying 5.5 with a total of 178.5. Milwaukee has been a truly pleasant surprise so far this year, and the 'team wins' Over might be the easiest bet ever cashed, barring any more injuries. Michael Redd is out, as usual, but rookie Brandon Jennings is, well, THE MAN. Kid can flat out play, and he's carried the Bucks to a 6-3 record to start the year, including 5-1 at home, where they'll be playing this one. In fact, the Bucks only home loss came on Dirk Nowitzki's miracle buzzer-beater in OT; otherwise, they've been bullet-proof on their court. I don't expect the Bobcats to break through. Sure, they acquired Stephen Jackson to give them a little more versatility on offense, but Charlotte continues to have all kinds of issues on offense. They're 0-6 away from home, though they HAVE covered the last two road games. Still, I can't expect this team to keep going on the road and losing close ones. A few of those in a row can take its toll, and the Bobcats are due for a loss of more than a couple points. The total of 178.5 feels pretty spot on. The Bucks have played some high-scoring games lately, but mostly because of the opponent: the Knicks, Nuggets, Warriors and then the OT game with the Mavs have seen a great many points, but now the Bucks can go back to slowing things down with the Bobcats. Level-3 lean to Milwaukee at home, and level-2 lean to the Under.

Clippers/Nuggets - This is a pretty hefty road line, and we'll have to summarize two of those to end this preview. The Nuggets are giving up 9 on the road with a total of 208. The Nuggets have a way of pushing totals up pretty high. The O/U for Denver is just 6-5, but breaking it down a bit further can reveal a few things. Three of Denver's Unders have come against the Blazers, Heat, and Bulls, teams that have been working hard to slow the tempo. The other two Unders came when the Lakers couldn't get off the floor in Denver, and against Indiana, when the posted total was 224. When Denver has played defense-neutral teams like the Clippers, the total has gone Over every time. The concern on this one is whether the Clippers can score at all. This team is, once again, floundering, and I hate to say it, but I think Dunleavy may have run his course in LA. Marcus Camby hurt his back again, and this team generally looks confused at both ends of the ball. A team with Baron Davis, Al Thornton, Chris Kaman, and when healthy, Eric Gordon and Marcus Camby, should NOT be as bad as these guys are. Over the last 6 games, the Clippers are 1-5 SU and ATS, losing every ATS battle when they've lost the game. Well, they're going to lose this game, which makes me think they've got a damn good shot of losing the ATS battle, as well. Level-3 lean to Denver, level-2.5 lean to the Over.

Warriors/Blazers - Another big road line, though this one has moved a bit. It opened with the Blazers favored by 9.5 in Golden State, and has since fallen to just 8 with a total of 206. It seems most folks felt the line was too high, but I have to admit, I'm on the other side of the fence on this one. The Warriors generally have their biggest problems with teams that can outmuscle them, and the Blazers are definitely the bigger, stronger of these two clubs. I can see a rebounding advantage for Portland upwards of 15 in this one, so even if they're not shooting the ball well, Portland should get ample second-chance opportunities. The Warriors are just 3-8 this year, but 6-5 ATS, so oddsmakers have adjusted well. Golden State has won their last 4 straight ATS, and I'm guessing that has a great deal to do with why this line dropped by 1.5. We need to remember, though, that the Warriors two home wins have come against the Grizzlies and the Timberwolves. They lost by 28 to the Clippers at home, and have only beaten the Knicks on the road. I think the initial line move might be a bit of an overreaction to the Warriors recent ATS run, and I have a level-2.5 lean to the Blazers, with a level-3 lean to the Under.

Fantasy Advice

Peja Stojakovic - I have no idea where his 7-three performance came from, or the 13 rebounds, but if he can keep his back from decomposing, he could be a nice 3-point specialist for your fantasy team. Of course, so could Rudy Fernandez, and he's not injury prone.
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