Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Rocketman

What can I say besides "How about them Rockets?" Now 3-1 on the early season, beating Portland at home and now taking down the Jazz on the road! Very impressive performances by one of the best-coached teams in the NBA.

This is exactly what I noted would happen in a pre-season blog entry. Undermanned teams with key injuries find a way to step up, initially, but once other teams have a chance to see how said team is going to put their new, different pieces together, usually the lack of talent will catch up. Now is the perfect time to make some money playing the Rockets, and it'll become pretty obvious when the time is right to switch sides and give 'em the fade treatment. You can trust me when I say we'll be watching that team with a microscope set at 20x to make sure we make our moves at just the right moments. Still, it was a nice win for them in Utah, so here's where we give credit where credit's due.

Sports Wagering

Cavs/Wizards - This line is currently OFF. My initial thought on this game is that it feels like the perfect spot to back the home team, if the spread is favorable. Cleveland has not opened the season well, while the Wizards have looked solid, even without Jamison to start the year, and Caron Butler for the last couple games. Still, I'm not convinced Washington is really going to be formidable on the road all season long, and the Cavs are notoriously tough on their floor. I expect this line to open with the Cavs favored by 7 or 8, and a total just under 190. More to come when we learn more about the line.

Pacers/Nuggets - The Nuggets are laying 5 points on the road in Indy with a total of 226. This is a strange matchup that sends one of the Western Conference powerhouses into the East to face a thoroughly underachieving, up-tempo team from the Midwest. Got that? The Nuggets have not taken a step back this year, and really haven't missed a beat out of the gates -- they are 3-0 to start the season, and 2-1 against the spread. You might have thought that the Pacers would get more than 5 points in this game, considering they're 0-2 to start the year, and haven't looked too formidable getting there, losing on the road to the Hawks and at home to the Heat. I think we'll see the public mortgage Park Place Ave to get money on the Nuggets in this game, and while I think the line is actually fair when you rank Indiana according to their talent and not how they played in their last game, I believe we might be able to get the home dog at better price later in the day. And if we can't, that might even work in our favor. In terms of the total of 226, I think that's within 3 of the actual final. Both teams like to score, but I'm not sure I can play a Pacers total until we see this team "even out" in their shooting. They've been hoisting bricks lately, and I'm not comfortable with their streakiness.

Sixers/Celtics - After barely failing to cover in their home game against the Hornets, the Celtics are laying 7 on the road to the Sixers with a total of 191. The first thing that hits me on this game is that the total seems a tad high with the way Boston has played defense this year. They've been consistently holding opponents to scores in the high 70's to low 80's range, so to set a total of 191, oddsmakers are definitely feeling like Philly will get the ball in the hoop a few times. I might lean to the Over, since, as we all know, there's a reason the line is where it is. That being said, there's plenty of time to analyze this line, and if there's a solid play, we'll make it. The spread is pretty fair, I believe. The Sixers are finding their form this year earlier than expected, and are putting numbers on the board. Their defense isn't really clicking yet, but I can tell you right now they'll put up a fight in this game. Teams get up to play the Celtics, and Philly has the assortment of weapons to get a handful of buckets even against the best defensive team in the league.

Pistons/Magic - Not sure why this line is OFF, though my best guess is that it has something to do with the health statuses of Vince Carter and Rip Hamilton. Some thoughts, then: the Pistons are a sad, one-dimensional team without Rip on the floor. Ben Gordon gets shifted into the starting lineup and immediately becomes the focal point of the offense for every minute he's out there. This is why we've seen Detroit hang with teams for 3 quarters then lose steam in the 4th -- they need another option, and they need Gordon to have some energy come crunch time, as that is when he's at his best. Also, it hasn't helped that their other offseason acquisition, Charlie V, has been dealing with a flu bug since the start of the season. They'll be better today than they were last time out, but they can't compete with the Magic. Orlando should be laying 7-8 points on the road with a total near 195 because of their ability to score, and the Pistons inability to do so. Of course, if Rip plays, I might change my thoughts on these lines.

Heat/Suns - Miami by 3.5 on their home court with a total of 216. Miami has gotten off to a fine start with their defense. It's a formula that is working very well, so far, with Miami focusing on the defensive end, trying to limit their opponents to 80-85 points, then count on Dwyane Wade to shoot between 45-55% from the field and slowly build a lead. They will have their hands full in this one. Phoenix will be their most difficult defensive test of the season so far, but once again, there's a reason the line is where it is. Miami's players seem bent on winning, and while we might be seeing a situation where they're slightly overrated, they play very tough at home, and I think this game comes down to the wire. I have no play on the side until we see some afternoon public money and can see where the line is headed. In terms of the total of 216, this is a low number for Phoenix, and I think it's spot on. Miami is going to try to make sure the Suns don't get up to their usual 120 points, and oddsmakers think this one is going to be a battle in the 104-110 range of scores.

Bulls/Bucks - Yep, another OFF line. Hopefully, books will get these darn games straightened out soon, since I'm trying to be "doin' work" right about now. For this one, you have to believe the Bulls are happy to be home. They go right back on the road for a game in Cleveland on Thursday, which many might see as a look-ahead spot, but I think the Bulls are disciplined enough to know that this game is a very winnable one for them, and that they need to take advantage of beatable opponents, especially in their home arena. The Bucks are coming off a nice comeback effort against the Pistons. This team is underrated across the board, but I don't think they win tonight. Still, while we have a paragraph dedicated to the Bucks, I want to note how impressed I've been with rookie PG Brandon Jennings in his first two games. After nearly posting a triple-double in their season-opening loss at Philly, Jennings struggled through the first half of the Pistons game, then turned it on late and led the Bucks' surge to victory in game two. He'll be in Rookie of the Year talks at season's end, I have zero doubt. For tonight, I think we'll see a Bulls line in the -5 range, with a total near 196. If I'm way off, then perhaps we have a potential wager.

Thunder/Lakers - Lakers laying 7.5 on the road with a total of 193.5. Truthfully, when I read this line, I stopped and curled my mouth to the side. Something seems funny, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. We know the Lakers are a very good road team, mostly unintimidated by heading into someone else's house, but 7.5 points on the road when you don't play much defense is an awful lot. The Lakers seem to have used that loss to the Mavericks as a wake-up call, executing their offense to perfection against the Hawks. Still, without Gasol in the middle, this team is not complete, and they end up shooting from the perimeter more than they'd like. I think the Thunder have a great shot to cover this number, and I think the Thunder have a decent shot at winning the game. Gasol's skill will be missed more away from home, where the role-players will suffer and the Lakers will need to count on the starters to get even more done. 193.5 seems like a pretty low total, too, but the Thunder's recent defensive efforts are getting a lot of attention, and it may be something of an overreaction to the hideous nature of their last game against the Blazers. I lean slightly Over.

Mavericks/Jazz - Dallas is favored by 5.5 to the Jazz with a total of 200, right on the nose. This is a great situational game. The Jazz are coming off a home loss to the Rockets last night, and everyone just figures they'll be tired and play poorly. The Mavericks swept their trip to Staples Center, and they head home feeling good about themselves. This is the perfect time for an underdog to roll into Texas and steal one from the home team. I have to give oddsmakers credit, this line is perfect if you're grading the teams based on how they'd play in the middle of the season, but at the start, they know (and we know) that bettors are going to bet based on what these teams "did for them yesterday", and there's no way bettors are fans of Utah right now. We can be fans of Utah (basketball, not culture), and we can take home some money. The total is a pretty inconspicuous number, in effect saying that the teams will score right around 25 every quarter. I think Dallas plays flat, and I think there's some sneaky value with the Under.

Blazers/Hawks - Another line OFF, making our write-ups a little more difficult, but again, I'll fire off my take on the matchup, and we can later compare to the line. The Blazers head home after a tough loss in Houston and a superbly ugly win in Oklahoma City. I think we'll see Portland favored by 6 or 7, based mostly on the fact that on a neutral site, Portland is just a hair better than Atlanta, but because of Atlanta's stereotypical poor road play and Portland's raucous home building, this game deserves a 5-point swing in that regard. Sometimes it's a good idea to fade a team coming home after a road trip, but Portland was only gone for a couple days, so I don't think that factors in, here. The Hawks are coming off getting bopped upside the head by an angry Lakers club, but that is really par for the course for this team. They dominate at home, and struggle on the road despite having one of the most talented, young rosters in the NBA. I believe Portland wins this game with a solid defensive effort, but only time will tell if we can get any kind of value with the line. I expect the total of this game to be lower than people expect, so let's see where we can begin on that O/U.

Fantasy Advice

Spencer Hawes - You wonder if Hawes clawed himself out of the doghouse with a splendid all-around performance last night, or if he just had a nice game against a poor defensive club, and added some bonus cookie points in OT. Still, he's worth owning just in case he turns it on. Jason Thompson was in foul trouble last night, which helped Hawes to a few extra minutes, but again, his ceiling is just too high to ignore.

Larry Hughes - Larry played 40 minutes for the Knicks last night, though we should temper our expectations a bit. Nate Robinson is out for a couple weeks, so Hughes will see increased minutes in the short term. I'm very curious how he responds when he goes back to splitting minutes at the SG. I think D'Antoni finds a spot for Hughes because of his length and athleticism. If he can even shoot 40%, he'll get playing time.

Aaron Brooks - This kid is for real - I mentioned that he needed to be picked up a few days ago, and I'll say it again. Brooks led the Rockets to a win over the Jazz with a 19 point, 9 assist effort, and he just gets better every single game, especially in the Rockets' up-tempo offense this year.

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