Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Very Long Round-Up

It's remarkable how well things can go when teams shoot at or near the percentage you cap them to. Three totals, three winners last night, as the Heat stymied the Wizards, the Magic and Bobcats both cooled off in the second half, and the Mavericks continued their offensive surge. Last night felt a bit like we had started to leave opening two-week jitters behind and a teams were beginning to find an identity, with a few exceptions. The Mavs should continue their current mini-tear until the team's field goal percentage settles in the mid/high 40's, and the Kings' team-wide adrenaline will wear off soon, and the loss of Kevin Martin will, at some point, catch up with them.

Looking at tonight's card, my first impression was "I didn't even know there were this many teams in the NBA," as just about everyone is playing. Of course, that means betting opportunities, but it also means that either I shorten my writeups by a hair, or this blog entry might turn into Homer's Odyssey, but with 7'2" centers instead of cyclops, the Big Three as the hydra, and Allen Iverson as Xerxes.

What's that? If I continue with this insanity you'll just stop reading now? Hm, fair enough. Let's get down to business.

Sports Wagering

Pacers/Warriors - Indiana favored at home by 5 with a total of 223.5. The Pacers haven't played in a while, but this was a team that appeared to be figuring things out. They smashed the Knicks in New York (but who hasn't?), then returned home to deliver a 16-point beatdown to the Wizards, despite shooting only 40% for the game. This figures to be a very high scoring affair, and we should see both teams in their element. Neither club likes to take more than 10-14 seconds to get a shot off, and while Golden State prefers mid-range jumpers and risky passes, Indiana likes to pick-and-pop, and let Danny Granger take at least 9 or 10 3-pointers every night. Early money has come in heavily on the Warriors, with Golden State garnering credit for their 40-point blowout of Minnesota on Monday, yet we're seeing this line hold steady at 5 points, and even move to 5.5 at a few books. So far this year, the Warriors are 2-4 straight up AND against the spread, meaning that every time they've won, they've covered, but if they lost the game, they got stomped. The Warriors are not a good road team, and haven't been in about 15 years. They're 0-2 on the road this season, losing by over 20 to the Suns, and by 13 to the Kings. I see both teams breaking 100 easily, and I cap Indiana for a 9-point victory. Final score, Pacers 118-109. Leans to Indy and the Over.

Raptors/Bulls - The Bulls, fresh off a demoralizing, controversial last second loss to the Nuggets, had to gather themselves and fly to Canada. They head North as 5.5-point dogs with a total set at 208. I will admit, I am just not sure how this Bulls team responds after hanging with one of the elite teams in the NBA for 47 minutes and 58 seconds. Some clubs have an emotional letdown; others bounce back with a fire in their collective belly. Oddsmakers have set the line pretty high, considering the Raptors come home losing two straight -- the line doesn't cross the mysterious number of 7, but 5.5 is pretty sizable considering neither of these teams has really stepped up in the East, and I'd go so far as to say Chicago is playing better basketball over the last 4 or 5 days. I would lean to Toronto on the side, but VERY weakly, as this game is going to feature a great many question marks on Chicago's side that we'd be making a bit of a guess on. The total of 208 feels fairly accurate, too. Early public money is Under the total, and I'll tell you why I think they may be leaning the wrong way. Not only does Toronto push the pace, but they are among the League leaders in free throws per game AND free throws allowed. They are the only team playing tonight that shoots over 30 AND gives up over 30 free throw attempts per game. What that tells us is that even if Toronto isn't lighting up the rim from the perimeter, they find a way to get to the line and score 24-25 points from the stripe. And it apparently tells us that they have no problem taking swats at the other guys. Slight leans to Toronto and the Over.

Knicks/Hawks - Long way to go on tonight's card. The Knicks are home dogs of 5.5 points (I know a guy named Hook that just wet himself) with a total of 208.5. Early money has come in HARD on the Hawks, which makes Mike's system play look even better. System or not, the Knicks continue to play 24 minutes of HORRIBLE basketball every game, and 24 minutes of fairly inspired comebacks. The Hawks are coming off a 25-point drubbing of the Nuggets, and have a game IN Boston on Friday, which makes this game a classic look-ahead spot. The Knicks are fresh off a cover against the Jazz, though they did fall to 1-7 on the season. Really makes you feel bad for Mike D'Antoni, especially if they don't get a big-name free agent this coming offseason. In terms of the 208.5, it feels low for a contest between these two teams, but with the Hawks, like we said, in a bit of a look-ahead, I'd avoid the total for fear they come out and shoot 39%. I lean to the Knicks, and no play on the total.

Nets/Sixers - This line is currently OFF. My thoughts on the game will mostly center around my intense hatred for the Sixers after they blew Monday's cover against the Suns. Philadelphia's rotation is all screwed up, and Eddie Jordan seems to be consistently falling in love with a small lineup that can't guard anything. I'm hugely bothered by this team's play, since they have not one, but TWO competent bigs that rarely see playing time down the stretch. Instead, we see Jordan run out a lineup of 5 outside shooters, and when the pressure mounts in the 4th quarter, we see leads slip away and a great many missed jumpers. The Nets played Philly close in their last game, and now Jersey gets to host Philadelphia. The line on that previous game was in double digits, but given Jersey covered easily, I would expect this one to be significantly shorter. If Jersey is getting more than 6 points at home, we'll probably ride them, and with the line being OFF, it seems there are some potential health notes to address. A total near 190 would seem probable, as well.

Celtics/Jazz - On these days with monster cards, there are bound to be a few games without lines this early in the a.m. So, going on past performance, we'll try to round up some information worth noting. The Jazz have all kinds of problems this year, especially on defense, and looking at Jerry Sloan during games makes me think he's at a funeral. One of the best coaches in the NBA has a cancerous lump at power forward destroying team chemistry, and more than likely disrupting team defense. The Jazz stormed out to a big lead in their last game, then promptly gave it all back, narrowly escaping the Knicks, and unable to cover the spread. Boston has come back to Earth a bit after blasting through the starting gates. They lost to Phoenix over the weekend, then picked up a 10-point win against an undermanned Nets team in Jersey. That being said, they're playing significantly better basketball than the Jazz, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Celtics laying 8 points with a total around 190.

Pistons/Bobcats - I love this game. Why? Because I'm not that great at math, and I should be able to count the final score on my fingers. Pistons are favored by 4 with a total of 172! There is no doubt in my mind that the public will be beating the hell out of the Over from the moment the line opened until the moment is closes. Still, I'm not convinced this total breaks 160. When Detroit has been able to control the tempo of a game, the total has been right around 165, and today they get an opponent who likes to run about as much as they do. The Bobcats made us winners last night when they somehow stayed Under the total despite a 58-combined-point first quarter. Bottom line is this -- if Charlotte continues to shoot under 40% for the year, and Detroit controls the game (they take only 74 shots/game, which I believe is lowest in the NBA), this should be an easy winner on the Under. In terms of the side, I'm at a loss. The public is on Detroit at -4, and we'll have to watch the line. Charlotte has not played well on the road, though they did put up a better effort in their last road contest in Chicago. This game might be so low scoring that no one can pull away. No play on the side, for now.

Bucks/Nuggets - The Nuggets are laying 3.5 points on the road with a total of 196.5. This is another interesting spot, much like the Bulls game, with the Nuggets playing another game so close to the last one. Given that most people are seeing replays of the Nuggets-Bulls game on ESPN, money should be coming in pretty strong on Denver, and I'd be curious to see how this line moves throughout the afternoon. It's a small enough line where I would think we'll see some slight upward ticks. The Bucks, by the way, have been playing some solid basketball behind lightning quick rookie Brandon Jennings. Perhaps most impressively, they've played well on the road and at home, and the loss of Michael Redd hasn't seem to slow them down...yet. The loss of a top player is always a dicey spot, and we're seeing the same thing in Sacramento. The "other" guys usually step up, but tend to run out of steam after a few games. This is a contest that scares me for a number of reasons. If this line drops to 3, we'll hop on the Bucks; if the line moves up, we'll probably avoid it altogether. In terms of the 196.5, the Nuggets played a tough, close game last night, and the Bucks are playing some good team defense under Scott Skiles. I lean to the Under, but only by a hair.

Wolves/Blazers - Portland, fresh off a road beating of the Memphis Grizzlies, head to Minnesota where they'll lay 7.5 points with a total of 192. Portland is getting a ton of credit, and rightfully so, as Andre Miller is starting to really work himself into the lineup, and he's really the guy that can get layups and dunks for the Portland centers (both of whom aren't much to write home about offensively). The Blazers have won 3 straight, and they continue to do it with good defense and exploiting their size advantage over most teams in the League. Minnesota, meanwhile, to quote the episode of Fresh Prince I watched yesterday, got "straight mollywhopped" in Golden State, and are a thoroughly unimpressive 1-7 on the young season. Still, Minny seemed to get up to play Boston when they came to town, and I imagine they'll try to put on a decent show for the hometown fans in this Northwest divisional matchup. Also, the total of 192 seems pretty high for a Portland game, and sometimes we can get more information from the oddsmakers' line than from all the percentages in the world. The high total would seem to indicate that Minnesota WILL successfully push the pace, and get into a shootout with the Blazers, who, again, played last night. I lean to Minny to cover and the Over.

Magic/Cavaliers - This line is OFF, since the Magic can't quite get themselves healthy. Vince Carter came off the bench last night, but does that mean he'll play MORE minutes tonight, or have to skip the second half of a back-to-back to continue healing? These are just some of the questions that make this game a really bad spot for value. We DO have the Superman v1.0 versus the new edition, but that hardly seems like a contest. One of the Supermen has an unfair 10+ year advantage in the youth department. I apologize for keeping this writeup brief, but there's just not much else to say. The Magic need Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter healthy if they want to be a dominant team, and the Cavs need to figure out how to play defense if they want to get back into the elite of the East. With this game being in Orlando, I'd have to think the Magic have a slight advantage, but Lebron could put up 40 by himself, so...

Rockets/Grizzlies - The Grizzlies are 8.5-point dogs in Houston with a total of 215. This line actually feels pretty fair, with the Rockets the better-coached, more consistent team, but both clubs coming off tough games last night. Both clubs lost, though the Grizzlies played the more physical opponent (Portland, versus Dallas), so you'd figure Memphis will be a little more winded in this one. Both clubs love to push the ball, which gives us our obscenely high total of 215. I think we really should be impressed with the work Houston has done this year without their superstar(s). Despite getting shellacked last night, Houston still has a winning record this year, making the most of what they've got. Memphis, on the other hand, has been giving up all kinds of easy points to their opponents, allowing over 114 points/game! That's where we get this 215 total. Houston figures to score at least 114, since they, too, like to score quickly, and though the Rockets are better defensively than the Grizzlies, I believe Memphis breaks 100, as well. No play on the side, lean to the Over.

Spurs/Mavericks - This line is OFF. Both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are day-to-day, though the last I heard, Duncan was not going to play tonight, and may not play this weekend, either. We've seen how the Spurs can shoot the ball at home, though, which leads me to believe this game could fly over the total, no matter who is healthy. The Mavericks have been scoring at a ridiculous clip over their last two games, and though that may partially be due to Josh Howard and his ability to help his team get off to good starts, I believe it's mostly because the Mavs shot the ball poorly for the first week, and now they're just evening out. I expect the Spurs to be favored by 2-3, with a total near 200, and I expect we can fade the public with a play on the Over.

Suns/Hornets - Phoenix comes home after a hugely successful road trip across the Eastern seaboard to host the up-and-WAY-down Hornets. Phoenix is favored by 6 with a total of 216. I'm not sure if Phoenix is still getting less respect than they deserve or if this is another trap line, but I think I've learned my lesson with the Suns. We can either continue to bite on lines that look like traps, or just let Phoenix establish who they really are, wait for oddsmakers to start tightening up their Suns-related-work, and then try to find value against specific opponents. I rather like that second option. So, we have Phoenix, at 7-1, in their first game home after a long road trip (always a tough spot) against the Hornets, who shot the ball outrageously well against the Clippers, but are really not a very good team. The 6-point line feels way too low, but we've been roped into that madness before. Slight lean to the Hornets, but believe me when I say I'll talk myself out of it. The public likes the Over on the total, but again, folks need to remember that the first game home after a successful road trip is often the toughest, trying to settle back into a home with family obligations and the letdown that comes with crashing in your own bed. Slight lean to the Under.

Clippers/Thunder - The Clippers host the Thunder, favored by 2.5 with a total of 185.5. The total looks pretty spot on, with the Thunder and Clippers both struggling a bit in the shooting department, Oklahoma focusing much more on defense this year than in the past, and the Clippers generally a walk-it-up team (moreso with Eric Gordon out). The side looks a little weird to me. I think the Thunder are a pretty good team, though they have shown some struggles on the road. Still, they kept the game close with the red-hot Sacramento Kings last night, and the Thunder look like they're right on the cusp of breaking through for a road win. If ever there was a team susceptible to getting smacked, that team is the Clippers. They were playing fairly well before getting laid out by the Hornets. I like that public money is fairly split on this side, which means we don't have to worry as much about weird line movement. We can go with matchup analysis and take it on home. My one concern is that the Thunder DID play last night, and while the game wasn't terribly physical, it was winnable, and a team usually has a little letdown when they're unable to pull off the close one. Slight lean to the Thunder, no play on the total

Fantasy Advice

Joakim Noah - A monster game from Noah against the big, athletic Nuggets. Joakim pulled down 21 rebounds! His numbers should stay strong at least until Tyrus Thomas returns.

Erick Dampier - I just read that if Dampier averages 30 minutes/game this year, he guarantees himself 13 million dollars next year. This is TRADEMARK Dampier. I hate the guy, but when money is on the line, he always steps his game up. The classic 1-year-contract type of player, but 14 points, 20 boards and 3 blocks is good enough for a fantasy pickup in my book.

Tyreke Evans - I'm sure he's been picked up in your League, but it's definitely worth checking. He's dominating the League right now.

1 comment:

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