Monday, November 16, 2009

Kung Pau

It's getting to that point with the Lakers, just as it does with anybody else. When a team loses an All-Star, whether that team is the reigning NBA Champion Lakers or the lowly Sacramento Kings, they step up for a few games, trying stretch their own feet into the size-17's left behind by their injured teammate. And usually they can do it...for a couple weeks. Of course, this is contingent on other talent existing on the same team (see New Jersey Nets for the exception).

Inevitably, playing with extra passion and going at, pardon the cliche, 120% of one's normal level of exertion will leave a man tired, and that's just what's happening to the Lakers right now. Kobe, Bynum, Odom, and co. have been trying to make up for the lack of Pau, and they've done a fine job of demonstrating that they're still part of the West's elite, but a dead-legged trip to Denver might have been the pin that popped the Lakers' shrinking energy balloon. The situation is far from dire, since any team with Kobe can continue to beat the lesser clubs in the League, but I fear the Lakers might have run out of steam for dealing with the equally skilled (Nuggets), and equally well-coached (Rockets) of the League. I would classify them as fade candidates in most tough games as a home favorite.

It'll happen to Sacramento, too. Mark my words.

Sports Wagering

Hawks/Blazers - This one has already climbed a small bit, with the Hawks favored by 4 at home with a total of 189.5. The line movement on the side has been fair so far, with early public money coming in on the red-hot Hawks, and forcing them to beat the defensive-minded Blazers by more than the 3.5's I was seeing late last night. We're also seeing big-time early money on the Over, though obviously there's a ton of time for things to even out. Portland has won 6 straight, including all 4 games in a fatiguing 4-games-in-5-nights road stretch. Maybe even more impressive is the work Portland's been doing on the defensive end of the floor: in those 6 wins, Portland has held their opposition to under 38% shooting 4 times! The totals of those 4 games have been 180, 172, 164 and 154. Of course, the totals in the other 2 wins were 209 and 191. So, really, the question for tonight is whether Portland can keep the Hawks high-fly act in check. It isn't going to be easy, considering the Hawks have shot under 40% in only one game this year, and that was on the road in Charlotte. They've gone over the total in 7 of their 10 games, and have shot over 50% in half of all games so far. This looks like a good old-fashioned tempo matchup. Normally, you'd give the advantage to the home team to control the tempo, but I'm not sure anyone can speed up the Blazers right now. Slight lean to the Under, slight lean to Portland on the side.

Magic/Bobcats - I'm hoping the damn Magic get healthy soon, because I'm awfully tired of dealing with all their games being "OFF" until noon eastern time. This one is extra-OFF, if such an expression can be used, as Orlando gets Rashard Lewis back. It'll be interesting to see if Rashard can shake off the rust in less than a game, though it usually takes even the best a little time to get their legs back. Charlotte has been horrible on the road, and watching their last game, at home against Portland, I'm just not sure I can trust this team to score with almost anyone. The line is going to be pretty high, as I believe oddsmakers saw the same things I did in Charlotte, and the Magic are only going to get better both offensively and defensively as this game wears on. More to come when the line is released.

Bucks/Mavericks - Bucks getting a point at home to the Mavs, with a total of 190. This one moved a bit overnight, as well, as the total made one small tick up (following the early public money on the Over), and the Bucks went from getting 1.5 to just having to settle for a measly point. The side interests me more than the total in this one, since it seems the Bucks PREFER to play a slower, structured game, but CAN get out and run, as we saw in their last game against the Warriors. I like Milwaukee to get it done at home. There, I said it. They've looked far better than most oddsmakers predicted, and I think they're just finally starting to adjust, given this nearly nonexistent spread in a game with a pretty strong team from the Western Conference. Yes, Dallas played last night and beat the Pistons in Detroit, so the back-to-back could play a roll in the shorter line, but for what it's worth, the trip from Detroit to Milwaukee is not one of the more grueling ones in sports. I think we'll see pretty consistent public money on the Mavs, since they know the name Dirk better than they know the name Jennings, at least for now, and I think we can probably use that to our advantage. That being said, my one concern is that Jennings, after posting 55 against Golden State, is due for a colder shooting night. Can the Bucks still take care of business if their new star can only give them 15-17 points?

Fantasy Advice

Leandro Barbosa - This is NOT where I tell you to pick him up OR drop him. This is where I advise you to put him on your watch list. Barbosa is dealing with all kinds of swelling in his wrist, which he had drained of fluid over the weekend before playing in Sunday's thrilling win over the Raptors. His numbers, as a result, have been horrid. If that wrist ever settles down, and if as many owners are giving up on Barbosa as I expect, then he could be a monster piece to land half-way through the season. At some point Phoenix will realize they're better off just resting him for a while, since they're clearly good enough to make the playoffs, and that's when we really need to train our eye on the speedy Brazilian.

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