Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 1

With most bettors focused on the start of bowl season, there's no better time for us to take advantage of the slightly softer lines in the NBA. Thus begins our metaphor-filled romp through the next few weeks, as we Go Bowling for Buckets!

Sports Wagering

Sixers/Clippers - This line is OFF (and I hope it stays that way). This is, flat out, a game where I'd have to see a line that was so far away from where I expect to even consider a wager on the side that I was almost tempted to just not do a write-up on it. But no! I have a sworn duty. Both of these teams are on the second half of a back-to-back situation, with the Clippers coming in from New York, where they lost by 4 (and failed to cover by a hair), and the Sixers return home from Boston after an outright upset of the Celtics. Now, the obvious conclusion here is that the Sixers are the hotter team, but let's remember how the public perceives value. The Sixers just beat the Celtics, and now they get to play at home? Well, we might very well see a slightly inflated line on this game, and get a little value with the visiting Clippers. Those of you that read yesterday's blog already know the notes I have on these teams in the home/road spots. The Sixers are actually better on the road than at home, and the Clippers aren't far behind in that category, so now, Philadephia is in the letdown spot after knocking off a title contender, and the Clippers are going to have the value. Still, the back-to-back makes me nervous. Philadelphia hasn't really had time to let the luster of a big win wear off, so they might very well come out and pummel LA. Precisely why, unless we see a monster line discrepancy, this game might best be avoided. I expect a fairly low total, as well, given the fatigue factor for both clubs.

Magic/Blazers - Orlando by 9 with a total of 194. Portland embarks upon a road trip that could either define them as a decent team, or set them back 4 games in the Western Conference standings. They play in Orlando tonight (as you can see), in Miami tomorrow, and then have a back-to-back in Dallas and San Antonio on Tuesday and Wednesday. So, we'll keep a close eye on Portland, since fatigue may set in over the course of the week. Still, this is a ton of points to give a visiting club on the first game of a road trip. Admittedly, the Blazers have been less than stellar away from home (6-7 SU), but they are above .500 ATS on the road, and they actually still have a positive end margin (+0.9) for road games. This tells us they've been able to cover as a road favorite, and as a big road dog, but not as a small road dog, since the losses are of smaller numerical size than the wins. So, how do we address this? Well, getting 9 points is a lot, so I have to look for a great many reasons to look at the favorite in a spot like this one. Orlando returns home after getting manhandled by the Heat, so they are going to be in an angry mood, and that certainly contributes to the large line. The Magic are also 9-2 at home, beating their opponents by an average of 10 points, so you can get an idea of how this line came to be. Still, this reasons aren't good enough for me, and yes, the line looks too good to be true for dog-backers, which makes me lean to, well, nothing, until we see some line action. Orlando also plays to the Over quite a bit at home, but I think this total is sharp to the mark.

Bobcats/Jazz - Bobcats by 3.5 with a total of 190.5. This is a bad spot for the Jazz, flat out. They come to Charlotte after getting knocked all over the arena in Atlanta last night in a blowout loss to a superior team. The bottom line is that the Jazz just do not play well on the road, and they're starting to settle back into their same old m.o. They are 4-7 SU away from home, and 4-7 ATS, so they continue to do all of their damage, SU and ATS, at home. We all know how Charlotte seems to spike the visiting clubhouse water (or something similar), because teams come into Charlotte and look like they're playing under water, and this might be an opportunity to capitalize. I absolutely love the fact that the initial move on this line was from 2 to 3 despite public action on Utah, though I must admit, I'm a tad surprised the public likes the Jazz so much after they got pummeled last night. Bottom line is that the public still doesn't respect the Bobcats, but Charlotte wins games at home (they're 9-3 SU in their own building), and they're 5-2 ATS as a favorite this year. I also like the Under in this one, as I see Charlotte imposing their tempo on the Jazz, and this one should be decided by a final score of Charlotte 95, Utah 87, though I'm not Miss Cleo or anything.

Nets/Lakers - This line is OFF. You can be damn sure that this is going to be a hefty sum. Arguably, the league's best team taking on the league's worst, though it is, at least, on the road. I expect we'll see a line of 9-11, or thereabouts. As you guys know, I'm not about to jump at the chance to take a road favorite of double digits, which I think this one will touch. The Lakers are coming off an emotional win over the Bucks, and while many folks think that might be a momentum boost going into the next game, I actually feel it may have the opposite effect. The Lakers know they can give half-effort and still find a way to win. They aren't going to take the Nets seriously, but then again, who does? Still, the Lakers are 5-2 SU on the road, but a miserable 1-6 ATS, so they're not really going for the jugular away from home, and it may have something to do with the fact that they haven't played that many road games, and hence haven't really gotten comfortable on the road. Whatever the case, the value is going to be with the big home dog, but unless we get some nice line movement, this is probably a side I'd avoid. I don't trust the Nets against anyone, not with a 6-game losing streak and an 8-18 ATS mark. I will consider an Over, since the Lakers defense isn't quite as strong on the road, but this game could be ugly.

Bulls/Hawks - Bulls getting 4.5 points at home with a total of 197. Looks a little too good to be true for the Hawks, doesn't it? Atlanta has won, and covered, 6 straight games, they are a ridiculous 18-6 ATS this season, and they're laying just 4.5 points against the 9-15 Bulls. The Hawks are winning at home and on the road, and the oddsmakers feel they're due for a clunker. I'm not sure I have the stones to go against Atlanta right now, since they most likely will equilibrate towards .500 ATS at some point this year, but trying to pick the day when it starts is, perhaps, asking a bit much. Given the line coming down from 5, though, despite nearly every member of the betting public putting their life savings on Atlanta. This game means more to the Bulls than it does to the Hawks, that's for sure, what with Chicago finally playing decent basketball in a 9-point win over the Knicks on Thursday. They're still just 3-6 in the month of December, and the 7-15-2 ATS mark dictates just how much of a group of underachievers this team really is. I lean to Chicago given the line and the movement and motivation factor, but it's tough to find fault with Atlanta's recent run of beatings. Atlanta did beat Utah soundly last night, so there may be some slight fatigue involved, but I can't imagine much, as the starters mostly played 25 minutes. I think this game could stay Under, as well, if Chicago can effectively slow things down.

Bucks/Kings - Milwaukee by 6 with a total of 207.5. This seems like a fairly large spread, given the situation. Both the Bucks and the Kings played last night, and both lost, though Milwaukee played better than expected in a low-scoring narrow defeat at the hands of the Cavaliers. Of course, we hit our first Pro Play on the Under in that game, after shying away from the side during the afternoon. Now, the Bucks come back home, where they play significantly better, as evidenced by their 9-4 home record and 2-9 road mark. Still, it's tough to know how they're going to respond after such a grueling, defensive game yesterday. I obviously prefer to take the home team when both squads played the night before, but I'm not sure I'm fully convinced either way. The Kings are pretty sad on the road, which certainly assists the Bucks cause in this one, as Sactown is still just 1-11 away from home and coming off a 16-point loss in Minnesota last night. They do not appear ready to make shots and handle the pressures of playing on the road, so I do lean to the home favorite in this one, and I like the Under, with both teams a little jelly-legged.

Spurs/Pacers - San Antonio by 12 with a total of 204. I can already tell everyone there's about a 2% chance I take a side on this game. The undermanned Pacers, on the road against a veteran Spurs team that plays very well at home. I think this spread is probably pretty accurate. The Pacers are coming off a 13-point loss in Memphis last night, and now have to try to get the energy back up for a weekend tilt in San Antonio; this does not look good for them. Indiana has indeed won 3 of 5 games, but the loss of Danny Granger will likely catch up with them in these tough buildings on the road. They just can't compete with these better teams, and that's that. San Antonio has won 4 of 5, and is coming off a nice road win in Golden State as part of a 2-1 road trip. Obviously, the one negative for the Spurs is that this is the start of a homestand, but they're 10-4 at home, 3-6 on the road, so you can see that the Spurs at home are not a good fade. In terms of the total at 204, I think we might be able to get some value with an Over. The Spurs seem to enjoy making buckets when they're at home, but I'm not sure I fully trust the Pacers to keep up enough to push it over. Probably a no-play, here.

Rockets/Thunder - Houston by 4.5 with a total of 193. I realize this game is a double-revenge spot for the Thunder, and getting points makes them look like a potential play, but I have an initial small lean to the Rockets. Both teams are coming off games last night, though the Rockets won an overtime tilt with the Mavs in Dallas, and the Thunder had a relatively easy win over the Pistons at home. So, given the fatigue issue, you have to give just a slight edge to the Thunder, since their game was less intense, emotionally. Still, you guys know how I feel about the Shane Battier rule -- when he can guard the opposition's best player, the Rockets have a nice knack for covering. The line has held fairly steady between 4 and 4.5 so far, and I think that's fairly reasonable, given just a slight public lean to the Rockets, as well. I'm not a huge fan of riding with the public bettors, but I happen to think they may be right in this one. Even if the Thunder are the "value" play, the value goes down the drain if that team isn't going to play that well. Yes, the Thunder snapped a 3-game losing streak with their win last night, and again, the Rockets long, tough game last night does give me pause, but I do lean to the home fave. In terms of the total, I have to lean Under, once again due to the fatigue factor and that I think the Rockets gameplan extremely well for the Thunder.

Suns/Wizards - This line is OFF. The Wizards snapped their 6-game losing streak last night with a win over the Warriors, and now they have to head to Phoenix to try to handle the Suns. This could be a fun one if the Wizards have anything left in the tank. Gilbert Arenas put on a show last night in Golden State, as he continues to get closer and closer to full strength, and Caron Butler had maybe his best game of the season, but Antawn Jamison showed some clear signs of getting tired, and I'm not hugely confident that the Wizards have the gusto to keep it going. Unfortunately, the oddsmakers are most likely going to feel the same way, and I think we're staring down the barrel of an 8-10 point spread, with the Suns being rested and ready to attack. We might have a better shot at trying to make some coin on the total, which will probably open in the 2-teens. I expect most of the public to bet the Over, because, well, it's Phoenix, but I'm not all that sure Washington's got enough in the well to break 100. Should be an interesting game to track late tonight.

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