Friday, November 20, 2009

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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