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 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.


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