Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Well-Oiled German Machine

I am without League Pass, and I cry daily. Luckily, last night, ESPN2 offered bonus coverage of the final couple minutes of the Mavs/Jazz game, and I was able to see the conclusion of one of the most electrifying displays of offensive prowess in NBA history. Dirk Nowitzki, after being held to just 11 points through the first 3 quarters, got some sort of schnitzel injected directly into his veins, and the rest is history -- well, Mavericks history, at least. In 12 minutes of game time, the German sensation scored 29 points, and was at the helm of a 26 point 4th quarter swing.

See, this is why I'm just gaga over the NBA. I have a schoolgirl infatuation with people flying through the air, falling, contorting, and somehow while all that is going on, having the presence of mind and motor function to flip a little ball into a hoop. It's just remarkable! On any given night, we could be treated to gravity-defiance; if that doesn't make you want to watch sports, well, then I'm just farther out of touch than I realized.

Sports Wagering

Raptors/Pistons - Raptors by 8 with a total of 194. The Pistons are coming off a fine home win over the Magic last night, but I don't think this is one of those scenarios where the momentum carries over. This feels more like the Pistons gave every ounce of strength they had in the ol' strength-tank, and now have to get their butts to Canada (though admittedly, Detroit to Toronto is a 1 hour flight) for a tough road test. I think this line is pretty fair, and I expect, like usual, to see the public on the fave and the sharps on the dog, though we won't know until tonight who gets the win. I strongly believe this game ends with the Raptors winning by a margin somewhere between 5 and 11, so I'm not sure I'd suggest a side. The Under has some value here, since the Pistons are going to try to slow this game to an ugly, hideous crawl. They have about 1/5 the scoring the Raptors do (partially due to injury, partially due to roster), and the Pistons will turn this thing into a possession game. Slight lean to the Under.

Magic/Suns - Both teams on the caboose end of a back-to-back, though Phoenix picked up a solid win in Miami, and Orlando sleepwalked through a loss in Detroit. This is another of those interesting situations where the road team actually had the easier travel schedule the night before, staying well within the confines of Florida, and feeling good after a dominant 4th quarter the night before. The total here is 218.5, and I'd avoid it, given the Magic shot the ball very, very poorly last night, and I'd rather not bank on them getting their touch back in under 24 hours. I do like getting 8 points with the high-flying Suns -- they can score, and when you can get points, you're never out of a game. Steve Nash is playing his ass off right now, and the Magic are still without Rashard Lewis. Dwight Howard should have a 20-20 night, but it won't matter when this thing is decided by 6 points. Slight lean to Phoenix.

Wizards/Heat - Another pair of teams in the "home-half" (to use a baseball term) of a back-to-back, though both of these clubs are coming off a loss. The question we need to ask before wagering on this game is...are the Heat due for a couple poor games, or was last night's awful 4th quarter just a 12-minute anomaly? I believe the Heat put up a good fight tonight. Dwyane Wade is not the type of player to sit and sulk after a bad one -- if you can do a mathematically absurd commercial where you fall 7 times and get up 8 (you all remember this ad, I hope -- the math implies Wade STARTED his journey lying on the floor), then you can certainly get back up after bowing down to Steve Nash. Wade should absolutely toast the Washington defense, and I think Miami's tough-as-nails defense this year should work significantly better on a Washington squad that is clearly one Jamison short of relevance. The current line is Washington -2, and I'd lean Miami to win this thing straight up, though you can certainly take the points if it makes you feel more secure. A total of 193.5 seems fair.

Nets/Nuggets - Last night's Nuggets/Pacers game was a laugher. It seemed like the line was too low, to suggest perhaps the Nuggets were due for an off night, but such was not the case, and tonight, despite being in the midst of a back-to-back, the Nugs are laying 9 points in Jersey. That's a ton of points on the road, but the Nuggets are probably the best team in the West right now, so we're getting a pretty fair number. The health status of Devin Harris is obviously concern number one, and with his current groin strain likely keeping him out until next weekend, I find it tough to believe the Nets can score more than 85 even in this likely up-tempo game. I don't usually advocate laying 9 points on the road, but the Nuggets might be a "play until they fail" team here at the start of the season. The total of 199 is another one of those cop-out sort of numbers, where oddsmakers just figure it'll land near 200. Can the Nets score enough to get this total near 200 points? I'm not convinced. I believe this game ends with the Nuggets winning 107-85 or thereabouts, so I do have a slight lean to the Under.

Knicks/Pacers - The Pacers have been a complete failure thus far, shooting some unholy percentages and getting pasted even in their home building. I am avoiding this team, as they will break out at some point, and then it's time to ride the Over train until the books adjust. For the time being, Knicks lay 5.5 at home with a total of 223, and I wouldn't touch this game with someone ELSE'S money. The best bet among the 4 standard possibilities would probably have to be the Knicks to cover, but again, wouldn't advise it at all.

Wolves/Celtics - Here's another outrageous road line, with the Celtics laying 12 in Minnesota with a total of 186. It's always interesting to see such large spreads with such low totals. Oddsmakers think Boston is going to win this thing by holding the Wolves to low-80's, and I think that's completely possible. Later in the season, I'd say JUMP on Minnesota, but since we're still early in the year, it's really not safe to bet against Boston. They're on a mission, home and road, to hold teams to season-lows in points. Just look at their margin of victory in each of their games! The Celtics are 5-0 this year with margins of 6, 33, 28, 10, 31. Can you really take a huge dog and expect them to cover? I don't think so. This is either Boston or nothing, and the total seems a little high, given Boston is on the second half of a back-to-back, and Minnesota has the firepower of a potato gun.

Rockets/Lakers - A lot of story lines in this one. The Rockets pushed the Lakers to the brink last year in the playoffs, then of course the offseason swap of small forwards. Ron-Ron returns to Houston, the one city he didn't leave a turd of a lasting impression. Trevor Ariza gets to face his old team as the secondary scorer in an offense that SOMEHOW finds a way to score points. Aaron Brooks should have a field day in this one, since the Lakers used Ariza to guard him in the playoffs last year, and they don't really have an option this season. Thus, we find ourselves with the Rockets as 1.5 point dogs. You can bet your most precious family member that the public is going to be betting the Lakers like you wouldn't believe, and this seems like a prime fade spot on paper. Kobe's health is a key issue. He was battling the flu last night in an OT affair, but Kobe has a way of lighting up opponents when you least expect it. I lean Rockets, but at the same time, Lakers are a decent road bet, so...in any case, the total here is set at 202, which I believe is FAR too high for a game you just know both teams are going to dig in and try to win to make a statement.

Hornets/Mavericks - I'm not really sure what the Hornets have done to make them 4 point favorites in this one, but here we are. The Mavericks ARE coming off a wild home comeback over the Jazz, so this is a trademark let-down spot for Dallas, but at the same time, are the Hornets really good enough to lay more than a point or two to any Western Conference potential playoff team? This line has a motive, I'm sure of it. We'll watch it move, but I can guarantee the expectation of a sleepy game from Dirk after his heroic one last night, and until Josh Howard gets back for Dallas, if Dirk ain't there, the team will fall. The total is set at 189.5, which looks awfully low for the Mavs, but I believe it's right on the money. Dallas is concentrating on defense more than usual this year, and the Hornets know they won't be outscoring many teams. I think this game ends with a total right near 187, too close for me to recommend a play on the Under, but certainly the better of the two choices.

Kings/Hawks - Atlanta continues their Pacific Ocean Magical Mystery Tour, 1-1 so far after a VERY impressive road win over the suddenly struggling Trailblazers. Tonight, they lay 5.5 to the worst team in the NBA. The Kings had to go to OT to get their first win of the season, barely nipping Memphis in, potentially, their most entertaining game of the season -- oh, and I'm not talking about "so far", I'm talking about the WHOLE season, so if you missed it, you may want to start following a different team...but I kid. This one should be interesting. The Hawks are finishing up a back-to-back, though the travel was minimal, coming down from Portland to Sacramento, and they've been on pacific time for a few days now. Also, it's far too early in the season to think a fairly young team like the Hawks is going to get winded. That being said, Portland does play a physical game, and going from a tough game to a supposedly easy one can be an emotional soft spot. I think Atlanta has enough to prove on the road where they'll give a decent effort, and should be able to take this game by 8 points. The total of 208 might be just slightly below the end result, with my capping showing Atlanta coming through with a 110-102 victory. Slight leans to the Hawks and the Over, right along with senor publico.

Warriors/Grizzlies - The Warriors are favored by 6 points despite being 0-2 on the season. The total is a beastly 224, and climbing. Oddsmakers think Memphis's porous defense is just what the doctor ordered for a team that remains in complete disarray. True, the Warriors do play significantly better on their home court (though that is most likely due to both their comfort at home as well as opposing team's disdain for one of the crummiest facilities in the NBA). I'll be perfectly frank: I don't have a great read on the Warriors yet, a team made up of a few recognizable names, a handful of D-League promotions, a nutcase, and first round pick Stephen Curry. Memphis is going to be competitive this year, or at least more than in years past, which makes me think that oddsmakers feel the Warriors will take advantage of one of their early winnable games. No recommendations on this one.

Fantasy Sports

Luol Deng - Not that you could possibly pry him off of whoever drafted him, but Deng posted a 20-20 game yesterday. Keep an eye on him, wait for his value to DROP, then work on acquiring him. His scoring might drop, though, once John Salmons finds his stroke. He is another prime buy-low candidate, shooting just 28% in the early-going, so you know darn well his current scoring average of just over 10 should easily climb to 15 or 16 when he starts making his shots.

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