Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Everybody Loves Alvin

Decided to go with a syndicated situational comedy reference in the title today, because, really, who doesn't love Alvin?

Surely your first thought is, "Why is Dan talking about the Chipmunks?" Yeah, it's almost that snowy-white time of year for the Chipmunks Christmas songs, but no, I'm talking about Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry, who had become something of the "public savior" in early NBA betting. Phoenix has been the public choice in just about every game this year, and has had the Wiseguys on the other side 4 or 5 times (probably more, but those are just the ones that were clear from the line shift), and they've stuck it to the sharps in all but one of those games.

There's a time and a place for everything, and Phoenix has realized that the 4th quarter is the time and place to turn up their game. In stark contrast to years past, Phoenix is turning UP their intensity in the 4th quarter, and finding ways to score even when their opponents ratchet up the defense, as well. I really like the resolve the Suns are showing, and even though they've cost me a handful of bets, this team looks well-rounded and motivated, and I think they've got a great shot to be the #3 seed in the West at season's end.

Sports Wagering

Wizards/Cavaliers - Wizards get 4.5 points at home with a total of 194. I have news for Cavs-backers -- this game is going to be closer than you think. I still think the superior Cleveland team can cover, but I don't expect Washington to roll over the way they have for quite a few opponents already this year. The reason: Antawn Jamison. Washington gets their motor back. Jamison's strange shooting style, and consistency on both the boards and in the paint gives this team a completely new dimension on offense. They've been relying almost entirely on outside jumpshots, and even the best teams in the League can't win taking 60+ long-range attempts per game. Now, with Jamison's return, you can expect the average shot-length to decrease measurably, and while he may put a dent in Brendan Haywood's fantasy value, the Wizards are going to get a great deal better, especially once he shakes off the rust. I think betting Washington in Jamison's first game back is a recipe for disaster, but I do think this is a team that will get WHITE HOT and cover 3-4 spreads in a row at some point in the next 2 weeks. The total of 194 feels a little on the high side, especially if the Wizards suddenly have the weapons to actually run an offense and not heave up shots as fast as possible. Early lean to the Under.

Hawks/Heat - This game opened last night with the Hawks favored by 7.5, and climbed overnight to -8; the total is 192. I expect this to take even one small step further once the public catches wind of the beating the Heat took last night, at home, at the hands of the Thunder. The Hawks are cover-machines right now, and though that does take a little luck (beating Portland by 3 at the end of regulation would have been an ATS loss), Atlanta is a flat-out good team, and they take their competition seriously every night. The one egg this team laid was in Charlotte, and I don't see that being a problem going forward. The Hawks realize how much better they are at home than on the road, and I see them as one of the teams really going all-out during the regular season to try to get home court in the playoffs, much like the Cavs last year. Miami, on the other hand, is regressing after a hot start. They were able to win games with defense the first 2 weeks of the season, but now that teams have figured out how to contain just about everyone on the Heat besides Dwyane Wade, scoring has become way more difficult, and setting the defense off missed shots is never as easy as doing it off a made bucket. The Heat are going to continue to slide for the foreseeable future, and I lean to Atlanta. Atlanta also has had the unique ability to push the tempo, but can Miami score enough to get this one to 192? I'm not sure.

Sixers/Bobcats - Philly is laying 4 at home with a total of 182. This game has all the makings of some ugly basketball. Newest Bobcat Stephen Jackson should see plenty of scoring opportunities against a porous Philadelphia defense, but Charlotte's road struggles make this a tough game to cap. The funniest part about the Stephen Jackson deal, to me, is that his normally unbearable ~40% shooting is actually BETTER than the Bobcats have been doing as a team in quite a few games. Seems like they'll be okay with him just hoisting up shot after shot, so any bets placed on the Bobcats right now is resting in the hands of Jack, at least until they figure out a way to run a cohesive offense. Both of these teams are struggling right now, with Philly winning 2 of their first 3 games, and since losing 5 of 7 (including 2 straight), and Charlotte dropping 5 in a row. So, how do you determine which team is overrated, if either? Well, I like to try to determine which team has bigger problems, and I believe Philly's are worse than Charlotte's right now. The Bobcats simply can't score, but Philadelphia has no real point guard, isn't playing defense, lost bench-force Mareese Speights, and can't get a set rotation. I would lean to Charlotte to win this game outright, with the total slipping Under.

Pacers/Knicks - Pacers by 7 at home with a total of 214. This line shifted a half point in the Pacers direction overnight, and probably for good reason. Indiana is playing good basketball right now, winning 5 straight, and exploiting their talent advantage at a number of positions in the process. They didn't play their best last night, but got an 8-point win (and a cover) against the Nets on the road, and now come home to host the lowly Knicks. The first thing you look for when a team is taking on the Knicks is whether the next game has greater significance, and for Indiana, it does not. They play Charlotte on Friday, so I expect them to be focused in this one. The Knicks are 1-9, and are in a dead heat with the Timberwolves for Worst of the Year honors. They have had a ruthless habit of playing 24 minutes of respectable basketball, then falling apart the other half of the game, and I really see no reason why that won't continue. Indiana has the height advantage at Center, and the skill advantage at just about every other spot on the floor. The only thing that kept the Nets in last night's game was Brook Lopez's ability to grab offensive rebounds and put them back - such will not be the case tonight as the Pacers roll. Early lean to Indy, and the Under.

Magic/Thunder - Orlando by 11.5 with a total of 190. This is a monster line for the Thunder, considering how much progress they appear to have made this season. We need to ask ourselves, is this line this high because the Thunder are in a letdown spot after an easy win, or is it this high because the Thunder are getting disrespected by the League? My initial inclination is that the line would have opened near 8 or 9 if not for the back-to-back situation, but Oklahoma is coming from Miami, so the travel is pretty minimal. Also, this team is young and confident, so I don't think old legs are going to be an issue, either. The Magic, meanwhile, are trying to work a handful of just-recovered bodies back into the lineup, while dealing with the loss of others. Jameer Nelson is out over a month (again) with a leg injury, and just when Orlando was getting back Ryan Anderson and Rashard Lewis, they lose their floor general. This team obviously has the weapons to win any game by 15, but without Nelson running the show, and without Turkoglu as the other ball-handler, I think the offense stagnates just enough to let the Thunder in that window. Early lean to Thunder. No play on the total.

Celtics/Warriors - This line is OFF, and I have to believe it's because of Paul Pierce's nagging injury. He's been playing through it, but after Boston lost their last game in Indiana, Pierce spoke about how he felt he was hurting his team by being unable to cover his man, defensively. I still think he'll play, especially since Boston had a few days off where Pierce could rest up. The Celtics have lost two in a row, so you know they'll come to play with a purpose in this one, and the Warriors need to look out. Golden State is coming off a SU loss but an ATS win last night in Cleveland, and really, the first game without Stephen Jackson went about as well as any Warriors fan could hope. Vlad Radmanovic played like he could see the basket, and a number of Warriors saw minutes in a game that ended up much closer than the Cavs would have liked. I think we'll see another spread in the double-digits, and I think we should lay off. If I had to guess, though, I think Boston's team defense, with or without Pierce, will shut down the Warriors. The total should be just under 200.

Grizzlies/Clippers - If there's a team I can't quite get a read on, it's the Clippers. They play like absolute crap at home, go on the road and completely outplay the Thunder, then turn right around get rolled over by the Paul-less Hornets. Now, they have to complete a back-to-back in Memphis, and really, who the heck knows how they'll play! My numbers tell me the Clippers are going to get clobbered by a faster team, but I might just avoid betting on Clippers sides until they show any kind of consistency. The Grizzlies are coming off a 10-point win against the Timberwolves, just their second win of the season, but one where the Grizzlies finally played a little defense. Memphis lost a game to the Clippers in LA by 3 points, which makes you think they'll win this one in a closer contest. The total of 201.5 looks low for the Grizzlies, but they've actually played three straight to the Under. The Clippers have had 2 games go Over, so they're really all over the place. No leans on this fetid mess of a game.

Timberwolves/Rockets - The Rockets roll into Minny as 6.5-point favorites with a total of 199.5. Houston is coming off a tough loss to the Suns last night, losing late after leading most of the game. Minnesota is, well, 1-10 this year, and the last 10 games have been those 10 losses. This is a team in desperate need of help, and I just don't know if they can compete with anyone right now. They've lost 6 straight against the spread, as well, with all 6 of those losses by double digits. The Rockets are a well-coached veteran team that will eventually have their lack of superstar talent catch up with them, but this is a team they should be able to handle, even with the difficult travel schedule. I'm not sure I can advocate betting on Minnesota unless they're dogs of 14-15 points, since right now they can't keep games within 13 points. The total of 199.5 assumes the Wolves will actually score some points, and I'm not convinced they will. Early leans to the Rockets and the Under.

Bucks/Nets - Something is obviously escaping me, since I can't figure out why this line is OFF. I have heard rumors of a Bucks trade of Carlos Delfino and Hakim Warrick, but nothing is confirmed. Well, at least not for my eyes to see. In any case, the Nets are the Nets, a team with a rapidly improving center, an injured All-Star point guard, and 10 guys that aren't worth their weight in buckwheat. The Bucks, meanwhile, are a very tough nut. They're playing solid basketball, led by rookie PG Brandon Jennings. Andrew Bogut is healthy, and Scott Skiles clearly likes Mbah a Moute and Ilyasova to log big minutes going forward. If Michael Redd could ever stay on the court for more than 3-5 games at a time, I'd really fear the Buck. I think the Bucks win this game going away with a final total near 184.

Jazz/Raptors - Utah by 8.5 with a total of 214.5. Two extremely inconsistent teams going head-to-head? No thank you. Utah is coming off a 4-point loss to the Cavs on the road after posting a beatdown of Philadelphia the game before. The Raptors got bludgeoned last night in Denver after losing a nail-biter in Phoenix on Sunday. Both teams know how to score, but will either team bring some defensive intensity and actually try to win? Utah has played 3 straight games to the Over, while Toronto went WAY Under in Phoenix, then WAY over last night. The Jazz are really pushing the ball over their last few, so I would lean slightly to the Over, but like I mentioned above, with the way Toronto seems to bounce between great and awful performances on the road, they are a team I'd rather see at home before I put money anywhere near their game. We'll also know more about the status of Deron Williams for Utah, who has been spending a great deal of time with his sick daughter, but now that the team is back in Utah, as well, I imagine he'll be playing.

Mavericks/Spurs - The line is OFF, and once again, I'm not positive why. Both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan played in the Spurs last night, and while Manu Ginobili has been dealing with a bum hamstring, he figures to continue playing through the tightness. I had seen indications that Dallas might open as 6 point favorites, but I suppose only time will tell. Dallas has won 3 straight on the road after losing IN San Antonio, so you know they'll want to show the Spurs they're not the 35%-shooting clunk-squad they displayed in their last game with the Spurs. This bet on Dallas would be much easier to make if half the Spurs were still in the training room getting their ankles massaged. With San Antonio fully healthy, I think we'll see a line in the 3-4 range, which is exactly where I see this game ending up.

Blazers/Pistons - This is a very tough spot for Detroit. As 10.5-point dogs in Portland, they'll have to show a bit more moxie than they showed last night when they got their throats crushed by the Lakers. The Pistons are a decent Eastern Conference team, but they really don't stack up well with the powers from the West. They got beat at home by the Mavs in the game before last, so after winning 3 straight, they've lost 2 in a row. Also, surprisingly, Detroit has played 4 straight Overs, and after opening the year with 3 Unders, 6 of 7 have gone Over the posted total, so the defense isn't working quite as well. The Blazers, meanwhile, went 4-1 on a 5-city road-trip, and are thoroughly controlling the tempo of just about every game. That being said, Detroit won't be "out of their element" in a slow, plodding, defensive game. Detroit knows how to play decent team defense, and knows how to score in the half-court, and if it weren't for the back-to-back, I'd probably advise taking a shot on the Pistons. As it is, this is a line to watch throughout the day. The total of 178.5 is very, very low, but as noted, both of these teams prefer a slower game, so we need to take the day to decide if that means that the Pistons will try to push the pace to get the Blazers out of their comfort zone, or if both teams will be content trying to win a slug-fest.

Fantasy Advice

Stephen Curry - I rarely advise picking up a Warrior, but with Stephen Jackson out of town, Golden State needs someone in the game they can trust to bring the ball to the frontcourt, and Curry is the closest thing to a point guard on that club. I expect him to see consistent minutes until the rigors of a full NBA season start to wear him down. 14 points, 5 boards, 7 assists isn't a bad way to break back into the starting lineup.

Chris Douglas-Roberts - Douglas-Roberts exploding for 27 and 12 last night against the Pacers, and now that he's healed from his battle with swine flu, this is his chance to shine. If he puts up one more big game, pick him up, since the Nets don't really have much going on that could steal the starting spot back.

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