Monday, December 21, 2009

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 4

What can I say, gents? I feel like a real putz. Once again we go 1-1 in the NBA on Paid/Free plays, once again missing the mark on the side by a wide gap. It's probably unprofessional to complain when we've actually gone 3-3 in the NBA since I made the jump to Pro, since 3-3 really isn't bad, but I expect more of myself, and I want to make sure your expectations are similarly high.

In any case, we certainly learned that the Suns can't handle the Cavs. We may not get to use that information until Fall of 2010 unless by some wild stretch these teams meet in the Finals, but I think we can apply the concept to matchups with other teams. For instance, you have to like the Cavs chances against other zero-defense, high-flying, high-profile teams, and you have to dislike the Suns ability to handle teams that play solid defense with a reliable scorer. We'll talk more about that when the situation presents itself. Now, on to another day where we go against the grain with NBA plays during bowl season.

Sports Wagering

Sixers @ Wizards - Wizards by 3 with a total of 204. Washington returns home off a 4-game, grueling 1-3 road trip for, that's right, one freaking game. Then, Washington heads back out for a 3-game roadie that starts tomorrow in Milwaukee as soon as this game ends. There are a couple ways to look at this spot. Washington's first game at home after a long road trip might lead to some lax play, but the fact that they're not really settling in at home might mean that this handicapping angle goes out the window. The Wizards snapped a 6-game losing streak in Golden State on that recently-completed road trip, but then got positively pummeled in Phoenix in their most recent game. In terms of value, we're getting a decent one with the home team, though the expectations of both of these teams are that they should be better than they are. I actually think the Sixers are playing better basketball lately than the Wizards, and given that Philly is actually a better road team than a home team, this might be a spot where they can take advantage of the Wizards fatigue. I think there's some value on the total, as well, as Washington's liable to take a quarter off, or two, so I think the Under might be in play. Leans to Philly and Under.

Pistons @ Bobcats - This line is OFF. Can't help but look at the Bobcats right off the bat. We all know Charlotte's home/road split, and unfortunately, oddsmakers know it, too, so we need to be careful when this line comes out. Also, while the Pistons won and covered 5 straight just a week ago, they've now lost and failed to cover 4 straight, so the value is going to be on the Pistons side, we just need to decide if they actually have a shot of competing. One of these days Detroit will get some of their players back, but until then, they're going to have an awfully tough time competing, especially on the road. Detroit is 3-11 away from home, 6-7 ATS, and I would expect to see them as a 5-6 point dog in this one. Charlotte continues to stink on the road, and they're coming off another road loss, this time in New York. That being said, they did lose their last home game, so my hope is that the public sees Charlotte's home loss as a trend and not an aberration. I'm inclined to lean Charlotte, but of course, we need to see if we can get any value on the line. The total will be relatively low, and I'd look at a potential Over.

Pacers @ Celtics - Celtics by 13 with a total of 203. Well, Boston surprised the heck out of me by covering in their last home game against the Timberwolves, but is that the start of an at-home romp for the Celtics, or was it just that Boston felt the need to show naysayers that the Wolves' keeping their previous meeting close was because Boston wasn't taking them seriously. These two teams have played before, too, and Indiana beat Boston in the Midwest, 113-104. You can bet Boston will not be pleased. Indiana is coming off a low-scoring clunker of a loss at home to the Bucks last night, so they're going to be fatigued, and even though in games with enormous spreads like this one I always look to the dog first, I don't think I can find enough reasons out there to take Indy. It's Celtics or nothing on the side. For the total, I like the Under, but I'm also concerned by the total coming out this high. Boston scored 122 in their last game, so perhaps we're getting an inflated line, but in an effort to make sure we're not going to get suckered, I'll keep my eyes on this one.

Bulls @ Knicks - New York by 5.5 with a total of 197. Tough spot for Chicago, coming off a colossal meltdown last night. The Bulls led the Kings by over 35 points, and got outscored 33-10 in the 4th to cap off one of the most disappointing losses for any team this year. That sort of reverse momentum has a tendency to carry over, and I want to make sure we don't get too caught up in semantics. Sometimes we need to make sure we simplify handicapping, and here, you have to look at New York unless something convinces us otherwise. The Knicks have quietly gone 7-3 this month (6-4 ATS), and are coming a win over the Bobcats that just didn't quite cover. I also like the fact that the Knicks lost in Chicago less than a week ago. It just isn't easy to beat the same team twice in such short proximity, and Chicago will definitely have their hands full. I only hope the Knicks can sustain effort for more than their customary 2 quarters. This total should see plenty of public action on the Over, but I'm not sure Chicago breaks 92 points. Decent lean to NY, smaller lean to the Under.

Hawks @ Wolves - Minnesota getting 8.5 points with a total of 203. I love watching the Hawks, they are an extremely entertaining team, and they're also generally a solid ATS bet. Of course, that means the books are going to continue to slowly adjust, and continue to give a point or two of value to the Hawks opposition, since they're going to be getting the bulk of the public dollars against every team in the league, besides perhaps the Lakers and Celtics. This is definitely one of those spots. I would not be surprised to see the sharps bet this line down to 7 or 7.5, and then have the public bet it back to 8. The Hawks are coming off a straight up and ATS loss their last time out, in Chicago, as they now have a target on their backs being one of the NBA's better teams. Atlanta is going to get Minnesota's best shot, and with the Wolves coming off getting their clocks cleaned in Boston, I expect Minny to come back with a vengeance tonight. Another note worth mentioning is that the Hawks play tomorrow in Denver, so this game becomes something of a look-ahead spot. Strong lean to the home dog, and I like the Under because I do not see Atlanta bringing their A-game, not even their B+ game.

Warriors @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 7.5 with a total of 219.5. This game has the distinct possibility of being a 240-point game, but that's just what they want us to think. Sometimes things are simple, and sometimes they are far, far from it. I believe this game is far from it. The Grizzlies play surprisingly decent defense at home, and they are coming off holding Indiana and Denver under 100, two teams that can certainly put up points, or at the very least shoot the ball without wasting any time. Now, the Grizz get another fast-paced team in town. I think for the side, the Grizzlies have officially gone from underrated to overrated. True, Memphis is 8-5 at home, but they are also 5-8 O/U, so when they win at home, they win with better-than-expected defense. For Golden State, after a nice little run post-Stephen Jackson, they have dinked their way to a pathetic 1-9 record this month (3-6-1 ATS). They have the value, getting 7.5 points in this one, but I'm not sure I can trust them. The Warriors are 3-12 on the road, and lose by an average of over 8 points. This side smells funny, but I lean to the Grizzlies to deal the Warriors a beating. I also think this game goes Under, as Golden State continues to tire out, having no bench and only one good option on offense.

Clippers @ Rockets - Rockets by 9 with a total of 194. You guys know how I feel about Rockets games. When Shane Battier can guard the opposing team's best player, the Rockets cover; when he doesn't, they usually struggle to meet the spread. I'm not saying the Clippers are going to win this game; that's just a level of ballsiness that far exceeds my own, but I do think that the combination of Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon on offense might be enough to keep LA in this game. Battier might get put on Gordon if he heats up, but the Clippers have a solid 3 in Al Thornton who can also cause some match-up issues, and if Baron Davis has a non-mediocre game, his strength should be an asset against the quicks of Aaron Brooks. That being said, the Rockets are 16-11 (17-10 ATS) this year, so they continue to overperform, but coming off a monster OT win against the Mavs, then a narrow cover against the Thunder, they might be a tad overvalued, if only for one game. The Clippers are on the second half of a back-to-back, so fading them looks and feels way too obvious, especially with today's game as more of a warm-up than a full 4 quarters. I lean to the other LA team, and I also lean to the Under, since I think the Clippers catch Houston thinking about their next game in Orlando, tomorrow.

Blazers @ Mavs - This line is OFF, and for good reason. Medical professionals are taking dental records of Dirk Nowitzki's elbow. Half of Carl Landry is going to be in Dallas, though his gap-mouthed body will be in Houston battling the Clippers. In any case, Dallas managed to rally together to beat the Cavaliers, catching Cleveland in a look-ahead spot, and successfully covering for their wounded leader. I am extremely curious to see where this line opens up, and I'm even more curious to see if Dirk is going to play. My best recommendation on this game is to re-evaluate when the line comes out, check on the status of Dirk, and see if we can't find some value in the line. In terms of matchups, the Blazers are coming off a rare road win in Miami, and they gear up for their 3rd game in 4 nights. Tomorrow is a true fatigue game for Portland in San Antonio, so we might actually see a solid effort in this one. No leans, as yet.

Thunder @ Lakers - Lakers by 10 with a total of 195.5. I cannot back the Lakers, here. I just can't. I know they're probably the best team in the NBA, winning 9 of 10 games this month, but they are an ATS mess. The straight up 22-4 record belies how many double-digit spreads the Lakers have come within 2-3 points of covering, but as they say, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The Lakers are 12-14 ATS this year, and return home in this one off a solid 4-1 road trip, the perfect time to bank on a letdown. There is just one problem in this nearly perfect scenario. The Thunder play tomorrow in Phoenix, so their attention might be split, if only a tad. They also haven't done much against the best teams in the NBA, beating up on lesser foes. The Lakers have also owned the straight up battle against the Thunder, beating the franchise repeatedly since the move from Seattle. Still, all that taken into account, giving 10 points in the first game home is a pretty hefty sum. I would expect to see this line dip to 9.5 before anything else takes place. I know Kobe wants to show Kevin Durant that he's still the man in the NBA, but the Thunder have the athleticism to draw fouls, and they'll certainly be more fired up for this game than LA. I like the Under, as well, since LA's defense is better than most people realize, and Oklahoma City is going to have to keep LA under 100 if they want to win or cover.

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