Friday, November 06, 2009

The Big Defensive Liability

I may take some flak for this remark, I may not, I just don't really know how the world views the Cleveland Cavaliers, but I can tell you after watching last night's game, The Diesel is hurting this club. Admittedly, the Cavs are a buck short without Shaq, but they're $1.05 short with him, and this is my take after watching O'Neal post a double-double with 5 blocks. That's what makes my thoughts, at least in my head, that much more poignant -- the fact that Shaq could have his best fantasy night of the season, and, in my opinion, still do more harm than good, is a testament to the fact that he should be coming off the bench and playing 18-22 minutes a night.

He takes up a ton of room, but he simply cannot guard bodies outside the paint, and while Zydrunas Ilgauskus is almost as slow, big Z has slightly better body control and understands the Cavs defensive schemes. I just don't think acquiring Shaq to start makes sense for any team in the League. We're in an era where centers can slide out and pop a 20-foot jumper, and if Shaq could still just push people around and jump the way he used to, it might not be an issue, but he runs into two problems in his old age. Either he comes out to defend the jumper and can't get back to help his teammates on drives or pick-and-roll plays, or he camps out at the edge of the key, and gets burned by his man just shooting over him. It's time to make Shaq the 6th Man of the Year candidate he should be.

Sports Wagering

Bobcats/Hawks - Do the Hawks really have the gusto to maintain their solid road warrior style over the long term? That is undoubtedly the key question when taking Atlanta on the road, and they continue their current roadie in Charlotte. Right now, Atlanta is favored by 2.5 at most books, 2 at some, and that has come down from an opening line of 3. Interesting line movement in this one that clearly favors Charlotte, but that's not necessarily reason enough to play the Bobcats. The total in this one opened at 177.5 and moved up to 179.5 where it sits now. I think that upward move is pretty fair, given Atlanta's propensity for running and gunning. Charlotte loves playing molasses-style games, and we see this approximately 180 point combination because of the two styles of play butting heads. Atlanta has won back-to-back games in Portland and Sacramento, so they're definitely playing good ball, and for that reason this line seems WAY too low. The afternoon will be spent determining if the line is that low because of a trap or because Atlanta is still underrated. Stay tuned, this one could have some value.

Magic/Pistons - This line is gargantuan, sitting at -13 for the home team right now after opening at the even higher mark of -14. The line likely came down a point because sharps feel that any time they can get 14 points in a basketball game, they'll take it, but since the line came down to -13, money has been fairly split, and I think the books will likely keep the line pretty close to this number. Orlando has a pretty good shot of covering, believe it or not. They missed a ton of wide open shots in their loss to Detroit a couple days ago and just looked tired and uninterested. Such will not be the case here, as you just know Dwight Howard is going to want to make a statement after his stinker in their previous match-up. Orlando is coming off a home beatdown of the Phoenix Suns, and the Pistons got stuffed in Toronto. The total is at 191.5 after opening at 193, with the move downward being driven partially by the public hammering the Under (in a rare move, there). The Magic will push 100, but I'm not sure Detroit can crack 85 in this one, so the Under does, in fact, look pretty good, but it might be best to avoid this one.

Pacers/Wizards - The Pacers are laying 1.5 at home to Washington with a total that has come down from its opening line of 209 to its current mark of 207.5. This line is interesting, as Indiana has only looked decent in one game this year, so for them to be favored is once again the oddsmakers capping this game by where the Pacers SHOULD be, not necessarily where they are. Money is fairly split, but with the Pacers shooting woes against even marginal defenses this year, I would lean to Washington. That total looks pretty accurate, but again, until the Pacers play a few games in a row that make me think, "Oh, this is an actual NBA team," I'm probably going to opt to avoid Indiana-related wagers. As I mentioned in a tweet a few days ago, Indiana has looked at times like they couldn't toss a stone into the ocean.

Sixers/Nets - Philly is favored by a whopping 12 points at home with a total that has skyrocketed from 189 to 194. When a total moves 5 points like that, I'm generally inclined to believe the final mark will be pretty close to where the line stops. Considering this one literally jumped 5 points before I could even analyze it, I would say take the Under or nothing at all. Most likely, nothing at all in terms of the total. On the side, as long as New Jersey remains without Devin Harris, they really can't compete with anyone. I know 12 points is a ton to lay, but the Sixers are going to be IRATE after getting embarrassed at home by the Celtics, and the Nets are the lucky team that gets to deal with the brunt of Philly's rage. Strong lean to the fave to cover in this one.

Celtics/Suns - Celtics favored by 10.5 at home to Phoenix with a total that has moved up 1 point from 205.5 to 206.5. Phoenix got manhandled in Orlando in their last game, and thing are only going to get tougher for them. Boston returns to the parquet after a less-than-stellar game in Minnesota where they did just barely squeeze by a scrappy Timberwolves club. Boston has been winning by enormous margins this year, aside from the Minnesota game, but with Phoenix's offensive ability, and coming off a poor shooting game in Florida, I would stay away from the side in this one. In terms of the total, I just don't see how Phoenix lets this one stay below 200. Even if they can't score, the sheer number of possessions would seem to point to someone breaking 100, maybe both teams. We lost a key point in the total's move, which makes me less confident, but I'd still call it a slight lean to the Over.

Heat/Nuggets - Miami opened as a 1.5 point favorite to the Nuggets?? This game has TRAP written ALL OVER IT. Denver is coming off two road SMASHINGS, demolishing the Pacers, then demolishing the Nets shortly thereafter. Miami returns home after a solid road win in Washington, but in terms of how these teams have played this year, Denver has been the truly dominant club. So why, we ask, would oddsmakers give Denver points in this game? I see a few books that have dropped the line to a pick, but based on line alone I would say Denver lays an egg and Miami wins this one by 6 points. The total has come down from 206 to just 201.5, another sign that books think Miami dictates the tempo, or at least does so MORE than the Nuggets. If Denver had their way, this game would be a 115-100 final, but Miami wants no part of a scoring contest, since really, no one in the NBA can compete with the Nugs on that account. In a defensive battle, though, Miami has a chance. Taking care of the ball, Miami can use a balanced attack to hand the Nuggets their first loss of 2009. Again, with the total moving so much, I would avoid it. If you're an action junkie, play the Under. There's a reason the line keeps dropping against the money.

Wolves/Bucks - Minnesota earned some respect in their last game. Just by keeping it close against the Celtics, Minny gets the honor of laying 2.5 points at home to the Bucks with a total that opened at 185 and quickly climbed to 189. This is an interesting game, at least if you're stuck watching two teams that won't blow anyone out. Minnesota focuses on Al Jefferson inside, while the Bucks (with oft-injured Michael Redd out yet again) utilize the ball-handling prowess of rookie guard Brandon Jennings to make their headway. This line is too close for me to get a great read on the game, and among the NBA games tonight, this is one that probably sees VERY little action. The line movement has been fair so far, and while I hate to admit a lack of knowledge, I just simply do not know how these teams are going to react to this game. Minnesota is prime for a let-down after LOSING that game to the Celtics, while the Bucks are a growing team that could put up wonderful performance, or might just take the night off. I lean to the road team to win this one outright, but this is as WEAK a lean as I will even bother to mention in these Roundups. No play on the total.

Hornets/Raptors - Hornets laying 5 at home to the team from the snowy lands to the North with a total of 205. Most of the money right now is coming in on Toronto, with the Hornets still garnering almost no respect, even after an improbable win over the Mavs on Wednesday. Toronto, on the other hand, hasn't shown much on the road this year, losing their only game away from home to the Memphis Grizzlies. This seems like a spot where the Hornets (after a team meeting/Byron Scott tirade seemed to wake them up) can get a victory. I don't think this game will be decided by the final bucket, so I would lean on the Hornets to cover. In terms of the total, Byron Scott is preaching a quicker tempo this year, since he feels that they really don't have the weapons (not named Chris Paul) to score in a half-court set every time. Toronto is another team that likes to maximize the number of possessions in a game. This one could hit 215, and I lean strongly to the Over.

Knicks/Cavs - Knicks getting 8 points at MSG with a total that opened at 205 and has since plummeted to 200 on the nose at many books, with a scant few still clinging to 201 or 202. They'll join the party soon enough. The combination of spread and falling total is a downright kooky situation, especially given the fact that this line opened at 8.5, and has fallen a half point despite 85% of public money coming in on the Cavs. Someone out there named Mr. Oddsmaker has a good idea the Knicks will bring it, tonight. You know Lebron is going to try to do it himself, and he might just have to, though New York's style of play certainly lends itself to role-players having career nights, as well. The Cavs haven't really done enough this year to warrant laying 8 points away from home, and with this one being the second half of a back-to-back, you can bet your bottom dollar Mike Brown will try to slow this thing down to a crawl. I lean to the Knicks on the side, but with the total collapsing 5 points, I would probably just avoid it altogether.

Rockets/Thunder - Houston is favored by 6.5 at home to the suddenly relevant Thunder. At first glance, you have to like Oklahoma City getting 6.5 points against a team playing better than they should, and my second and third glances have done very little to convince me to try anything else. Houston is coming off a hugely disappointing loss to the Lakers in a game they probably should have won, but instead fell behind late, forced OT, then lost by a single point in the extra 5 minutes. The Thunder are coming off a loss to those very same Lakers in rather similar fashion. That being said, you get the feeling the Thunder felt like their battle with LA was progress. Houston felt they SHOULD have won; Oklahoma City WANTED to win, but perhaps didn't believe they should. So, moving forward, Oklahoma City is feeling better about themselves, and should play Houston tough. This line is under that magic number of 7, which means Houston could front-door Thunder-backers, but I'd still lean to the road doggie on the side. The total in this one is currently at 188.5 after opening at 190, and I think it might still be a bit too high. I'll look a bit more into this total, but I just can't see these teams shooting the lights out coming off those tough losses.

Warriors/Clippers - Golden State covered in their last game, so they get to be a home favorite once more, this time laying 4.5 points to the traveling Clippers circus. The total opened at 218 and dropped 3 points to 215. I'm not sure I agree with this total movement, and I'm not sure I agree with the side falling from 5.5 to 4.5. I think we might be getting an advantage in both thanks to the movement. The Clippers have already decided to change their starting lineup to try to combat the Warriors small-ball, which means Golden State has the early mental edge. The Clippers, with Al Thornton battling the flu, should get sucked in by the Warriors style of play. The issue here is that the Clippers just don't shoot the ball well. If they take it to the rim consistently, this total should be easy to clear, but if the Clippers fall in love with hoisting up jumpers, we're in trouble. For that reason, the total is an avoid right now, but that could change. I lean to the Warriors to cover on the side. With a nice 8-point win over Memphis in their journals, and a tiny bit of confidence mixed into their afternoon snacks, the Warriors should take this one by 7 or 8 points, as well.

Lakers/Grizzlies - The Lakers are favored by 10 at home to the Grizzlies. Without looking at the numbers, I will go out on a limb and guess that the public is on LA. I disagree with that choice. The Lakers are going to be playing without BOTH of their big men in this one, and are coming home after two overtime road wins. LA is in prime position to try to coast through a game against lesser competition, and the Grizzlies are in prime position to take their best shot at the defending champs. I don't think Kobe lets LA lose this game, but I also don't see them pulling away. Strong lean to the Grizz. The total is a mess -- another game where we have over 5 points of movement on the opening line of 205. Right now, we're settled at 211. Just let this one go, or play the Under.

Blazers/Spurs - This is a downright harrowing journey for San Antonio, playing the late night game in Utah on TNT and getting blasted, then quickly shooting to the Pacific Northwest for a game against the bruisers in Portland. Portland is favored by 4 right now after opening as 3-point faves, and I think this line is pretty fair. San Antonio is going to give it their best, but I think Portland prevails in a defensive battle. Yes, the Blazers have looked a bit stagnant over their last couple games, but at the same time, the Spurs haven't shown anything worth a damn on the road. Two teams looking to get things turned around in different ways, but you just have to give the advantage to the home team in this spot. The total is at 185 and has been holding right around that mark most of the day. Truth be told, I would not be the least bit surprised to this game end with a final total of 185. Hah.

Fantasy Advice

This is really more of an injury column today, since last night's 2-game slate didn't provide much fodder.

Randy Foye - Mike Miller is expected to miss a few games with a shoulder injury. Foye should see increased time and increased shots, and should be a nice source of points and 3's.

Tyreke Evans/Beno Udrih - With Kevin Martin going down for at least 6 weeks in Sacramento, the two feature guards in the Kings' lineup should get a large boost. Though, really, the shots that Martin took will get spread around. Jason Thompson, who appeared in this fantasy section recently, will see a few more shots, as will Spencer Hawes. These two guards, though, will see the biggest change in minutes, and I want everyone to keep an eye on who picks up the slack in the typical guard categories.

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