Monday, December 28, 2009

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 10

I wasn't able to watch any of the games last night, as I was due for a prior engagement, but it looks like our Free Choice on the Suns was an easy winner for a half unit, but the Paid Play on the Blazers was a disaster. They led by 6 at halftime, and just stopped defending afterwards, a complete and utter shock. I figured if they didn't suffer a letdown from the Nuggets game that it would show up early, but this was a mind-bender, and I am willing to admit I just mis-capped that one. So, down 1.1 units on the Top Play, up 0.50 units on the Freebies, and we'll just keep rolling along, despite a week of mostly breaking even!

One thing I did notice looking at the box scores is that Jared Dudley is turning out to be the MAN in Phoenix. I thought for sure he'd cool off, but this kid is playing unconscious every single night it seems, and Phoenix management looks brilliant for stealing him from the Bobcats. He's not going in the fantasy notes section because he doesn't play enough minutes to warrant it, but his development as well as that of backup point guard Goran Dragic have been the two biggest reasons the Suns are able to win consistently despite not really adding any especially prominent pieces this offseason.

Sports Wagering

Cavaliers @ Hawks - Hawks by 2 with a total of 193.5. I have this sneaking suspicion that both of these teams win the road game. My capping doesn't come out that way, but sometimes you just get that gut sensation of what's going to happen. In any case, here comes Cleveland, on a truly colossal roll, having won and covered 4 straight games, starting with a victory in Phoenix, then wins in Sactown and LA, and at home over the Rockets in a potential letdown spot. It's not often we get to see Cleveland as a dog, but it has indeed happened a few times lately, and as an underdog the Cavs are a perfect 4-0 for big-time money line ticket-cashing, and I really see very little to make me think that won't become 5-0. I'm obviously not sold that Cleveland wins this game, but Atlanta is coming home off a 4-game road trip where they went a fairly pedestrian 2-2. They're certainly a much better team at home (almost 10 points better in final margin, in fact), but I think this team is showing some signs of slowing just a tad. I still think Atlanta is a very strong club, but Cleveland is playing inspired basketball, especially on the road, and I lean to the Cavs for an outright win. I also think this total could go up and Over, as the Hawks really push the tempo at home, and shoot the ball extremely well in their building. I'm going square beyond square here, but that's how it is, sometimes.

Thunder @ Wizards - Wizards by 2 with a total of 202.5. Two teams coming off a game the previous night. The Wizards lost in overtime in Memphis to the red-hot Grizzlies, and the Thunder dealt out a 16-point ass-kicking to the Nets. The Thunder continue to succeed at both home and on the road against low/mid-tier teams, and the Wizards continue to bounce between looking good one quarter, and looking bad the next. I think this line is pretty sharp in a lot of respects. Both teams are going to be tired, so that cancels out, and the Thunder are the better team, so after factoring in the home court, the Wizards are just barely the fave. I can't help but think the much more stressful OT loss is going to take its toll on the Wizards, who got another monster effort out of Gilbert Arenas, and again couldn't win a close game. If Washington can't win a close game, how are they going to win this one? That's the bottom line; sure, they can keep it within striking distance, but just check out the track record. The Wizards have won 10 games all season long, 3 of them by 5 points or less. The Wizards have lost 19 games, 8 by 5 points or less. That is an extremely telling stat, to go 3-8 in games decided by 5 points or less!? As a point of comparison, the Thunder are 3-4, so they're not playing in nearly as many, but they're close to a coin-flip in a close game. For my money, I'll take the better team with the points in a game that's basically a pick. I like the Thunder to keep rolling, and the Wizards to look tired. I also think this total is too high - I really like Russell Westbrook to give Arenas a harder time than did Mike Conley last night, and I think the Wizards are going to struggle to keep up.

Knicks @ Pistons - Pistons by 5.5 with a total of 188. Do my eyes deceive me? This line looks like the biggest Knicks-trap in the history of mankind. Are books truly telling me that the Knicks are 2.5 points worse than the Pistons on a neutral court? I don't buy that, not even for a second. Something is fishy here, and it smells like snapper. Just look at the numbers. The Pistons have lost 7 straight games; they have failed to cover in 7 straight games; they shot under 30% from the field in one of those games, I repeat, under THIRTY percent! Meanwhile, the Knickerbockers are 3-4 in their last 7 games, and while that doesn't sound all that good, they've been playing some tough competition, and have really upper their defensive intensity. Neither the Knicks nor their opponent have scored over 100 points in any of those 7 games, and this team is showing the ability to score and defend in the half court. Well, the Pistons have some pieces back, so they won't be afraid to play some half-court basketball, and I think this line is a trap. Let's wait and see where it moves off the opening number, but my guess would be we see the public going absolutely nuts for New York, and we'll watch, lie in the weeds, and jump when the getting's good. If this line isn't a trap, this is the greatest value I've ever seen on the Knicks. So really, if we can determine one way or the other, this game is either a Play of the Month on New York, or a one-unit wager on the Pistons to deal the trap-game blowout. I also think this total finally goes Over for the Knicks, now that the public is starting to adjust.

Pacers @ Bulls - Chicago by 5.5 with a total of 190. THIS 5.5-point home favorite line actually looks fair to me. Chicago, going back to the 17th of December, has actually looked like they give a crap, and aside from a 48-minute segment of time that started in the second half of the game with Sacramento and lasted until halftime of the game the following night in New York, the Bulls have played very well. Chicago beat the Knicks, Hawks and Hornets at home, covering the spread in all 3, and the return of Tyrus Thomas is going to drastically improve this team's defense, both on the exterior and near the bucket. This kid is an athletic freak, and truth be told, he's the only really solid high-flying type on this team, so he adds a new dimension to the offense, as well. This team is also a defense-first club, and against a lackluster team like the Pacers, I would expect a nice effort on that end, as well. The Pacers have lost 6 straight games, and they simply look unable to score without Danny Granger to help attack the rim with his athleticism, and fire from afar, too. Indiana, supposedly a fast-paced team, hasn't broken 100 points since December 16th, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them come in with a mid-80's performance again here. I lean to the home team to cover, and I lean to the Under in what should be another opportunity for the Bulls to flex a little muscle and try to salvage the the first half of this NBA season.

Hornets @ Rockets - Houston by 5 with a total of 193. The Rockets return home off a fairly unproductive road trip, losing big in both Orlando and Cleveland, and coming away with a hard-fought win in New Jersey. Make no mistake, this isn't a terribly good spot for Houston. They have played to the Under in all 3 road games, which isn't surprising, as the Rockets are 7-12 O/U on the road, 7-5 at home O/U. So, be careful before jumping on the Under here just because Houston's games have been a little lower-scoring than you may expect. The Hornets have played to 6 consecutive Unders, and if you don't think oddsmakers and bettors are going to catch on, well, wake up. I'm not saying this is the one that goes Over, but just be careful before blindly following trends. The Hornets have really worked hard to slow games down under their new head coach, and they've only broke 100 points this month was a home win (ATS loss) against the Warriors. So, let's say the Hornets do not break 100 -- what are the odds this game stays Under 193. I'd say decent, but I also think this number is fairly accurate. The difference in this game is going to be whether Houston suffers the trademark first-game-home sluggish quarter. I lean to the Hornets despite their road issues, as they are going to be well-rested, and I think they can take an early lead, and keep this game close until the end.

Timberwolves/Spurs - Spurs by 12 with a total of 198.5. That is a sizable chunk of change right there, 12 points, though the Spurs really seem to be playing good ball lately. The Spurs won both games on their recent road trip, displaying solid offense, and even more impressively, solid defense, always the key to a San Antonio surge. However, this is a pretty easy spot for the Spurs to kind of overlook their competition. They host Miami next, so that's a slightly bigger game, and I'm just curious how the Spurs handle a Minnesota team that strikes fear into one club in the NBA, the Utah Jazz. To their credit, the Wolves have won, and covered, 2 straight games, winning on the road in Jersey, and then at home over the Wizards, once again dominating the glass in both wins. That is always the key for the Wolves - can they outrebound their opponents? When they do, they're generally pretty successful, and I think this game will be a test for them. Kevin Love and Al Jefferson do a great job in the paint, but Tim Duncan is the master of getting position underneath, and I worry that he may get one of Minnesota's two big men in foul trouble. Bottom line, I think the Spurs win this game, but I'm just not sure that they can do so by 13 points. There is definitely value on the Minnesota side, but these huge spreads usually get dismissed pretty early in the day. That total looks extremely high for the Spurs, but I think we might actually see this one go up and Over, with the Wolves pushing the pace, and the Spurs a very solid home-shooting club.

Warriors @ Lakers - Lakers by 11.5 with a total of 220.5. A high-octane contest here, to say the least! You think the Warriors aren't happy to have some healthy bodies back in the mix, how about back-to-back wins over the Suns and Celtics. Those were at home, though, and the Warriors are a different bird, a poorer-shooting bird, on the road. This side is just too huge, and I'm not sure I can advocate a play on either side, given the Lakers are coming home off a loss, but with momentum on the side of the Warriors, and the Lakers biggest star battling 3 nagging injuries, and a few other Lakers battling slumps, I just have to lean to the Warriors without getting into all the details. Something to be aware of, though, is that the Lakers have owned the Warriors, going 6-3 ATS against the speedsters from the North. This side feels like a no-play. Then, check out that total. It looks awfully high, and there should be some fatigue in this one with both teams playing the night before and both teams traveling. I lean to the Under, though I often find it tough to play totals when teams like these go head to head. They have a history of Overs, slightly, but this is the lowest total these teams have had in the last 5 meetings, and that has to mean something. Oddsmakers don't make mistakes very often, not on games featuring such a high profile team as the Lakers, and hence my lean to the Under.

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