Saturday, November 14, 2009

How Granger Got His Groove Back

Well, what do you know? You don't have to be the Atlanta Hawks to beat the Celtics. Apparently, you can be the streaking Indiana Pacers. Danny Granger saved his best performance for the biggest game, going 6-of-9 from 3-point range, and scoring 29 en route to a 113-104 victory that really exposed the Celtics as being a bit more vulnerable than the so-called experts thought. Bottom line is, if you can make jump shots, you can beat Boston. They clog the line, bringing a TON of help, and then rely on solid rotations and quickness to force teams into jumpers. Indiana has long played UP to the level of their competition, and if Granger's injured heel is starting to come around (and if Troy Murphy gets his fragile ass back in the lineup soon), this team should stay in contention in the East all season long. They have a rapidly improving center named Hibbert, and superior size over their opponents at just about every position besides PG. Many of you noticed that I bet Indiana a few times early in the season, trying to capitalize on what I felt was an underrating by both public and oddsmakers alike. If Granger wasn't shooting 25% in those games, I think Indy wins them both, and could easily be a 7-win team right now, instead.

In other news, New Orleans was indeed worse without Chris Paul, Antawn Jamison did not play today because of the flu (his injury is doing much better), and the Thunder continue to be better than most people give them credit for.

Sports Wagering

Pistons/Mavericks - The Mavs took a huge step backwards with the announcement that Josh Howard's ankle is still not right, and immediately fell on the road to the Spurs. They bounced back with an easy win over the Timberwolves, who are still reeling from the after-effects of Kevin McHale jettisoning every worthwhile piece of his club to his buddy Danny Ain...achem...I mean, the Celtics. This will be a better test for the Howard-less Mavs. Detroit is playing solid basketball, especially at home, where Big Ben Wallace seems to step his game up. Charlie Villanueva's return to 100% strength has helped this team immeasurably, as well, and I think you have to give Detroit some respect if/when Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince return. In the interim, they're coming off a nice win on the road over Washington last night, and come home with the slightly more difficult travel schedule of the two teams involved. Dallas is a difficult team to cap, this year, as they've bounced back and forth between monster 55-60% shooting nights, and dismal 35-41% self-soiling efforts. And the worst part is that it doesn't seem to correspond with the type of defense their opponent plays; it almost seems random, right now. I would lean to the Over, with Detroit suddenly scoring the ball better, and Dallas due for a better shooting night.

Thunder/Clippers - The rematch we've all been lusting for! The Thunder narrowly escaped the Clippers in LA, taking home a straight up win as very slight underdogs. Interesting that this line rests at Thunder -6. They beat the Clippers by 4 in LA as 2-point dogs, so you'd think if oddsmakers were going to base this line on that result, the Thunder should get lay 10 points at home. Oklahoma City should see some public money early, I would think, and this line might move up from -6. Given the Clippers ability to lose, I lean Thunder early, and I'm even contemplating making this a play tonight on the assumption that in the WORST case, we can buy it back at a better line. The total currently sits at 178.5, which looks about right with the Thunder playing some low-scoring games when they control the tempo, and the Clippers failing to make buckets no matter the opponent. I think this number is pretty sharp.

Suns/Raptors - Phoenix minus 7 at home with a total of 231.5. That's a lot of points pretty well sums up my feelings on both the side and the total. That being said, that doesn't mean I like Toronto and the Under, not by a long shot. Phoenix is going to finally have a chance to catch their breath, and Toronto is in for a rude awakening. Amare Stoudemire had a terrible game in Los Angeles, and with his proximity to the basket on almost every shot, those types of games won't happen often. I expect him to bounce back in a BIG way in this one, and I wouldn't put an 11-for-16 shooting night out of reach. Suns should be able to push the pace enough to get this win, and I think it'll be by 8 or 9. Very slight lean to Phoenix, since the margin there is so slim. In terms of the 231.5 point total, there are a ton of ways this total could go Under, which makes me think the Over is the better play. I know, that logic is a little wacky, but this game should feature over 100 shots for both teams, just firing away with little regard for defense. More to come on this one, tomorrow.

Lakers/Rockets - This line has already moved a bit, as I saw it at Lakers -9 around 9pm last night, then shifted to 9.5 by 11pm. No surprise there. Houston has been looking a little more human lately, with their lack of size starting to catch up with them just a bit. The Lakers are never at a loss for size. Bynum is a monster, Odom is one of the longest small forwards in the League, Ron Artest is a mountain of a man, and let's not forget just how strong Kobe Bryant is. The Lakers took Houston's best punch when they faced off in Texas, and somehow LA still got the win. I just can't imagine Houston playing that well again on the road. Does that mean the Lakeshow will win by double figures? I'm not sure, but you can bet they'll be looking to take out some aggression on someone after getting taken advantage of a mile above sea-level. The total is at 204.5, pretty accurate unless one team either goes nuts or ultra-cold on offense. I don't see an early advantage on either side, but some movement could certainly change that.

Fantasy Advice

Earl Watson - Suddenly the starting PG in Indiana, Watson should see all kinds of assists with the shooters he has around him. Looks like they want T.J. Ford coming off the bench to provide a little scoring spark for the second unit. Makes sense - Watson is a more traditional distributor, while Ford is a better scorer. If Ford is alright with his decrease in minutes, this could really help Indiana, as a team, and you, as a fantasy owner.

J.J. Hickson - Put him on your watch list. He played 38 minutes tonight in a surprise twist, and if he continues to play over 30 minutes, he should get plenty of easy looks inside courtesy of a guy named LeBron.

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