Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 5

It took a little bit, but a good day was on the horizon. It's weird sometimes, that feeling you get. Monday, when I was passing out from exhaustion, and typing about how delirious I was, I said that I really felt good looking at Tuesday's card, and sure enough, the paid play on the Thunder was a winner, the free play on the Knicks was a winner, the podcast play of the day on BYU was a winner, and the Prop of the Day on Russell Westbrook was a supremely easy winner. Now, setting myself to proving it wasn't a flash in the pan in a cold streak, but instead, a sign that I'm settling back in after a few post-Pro transitional speed bumps.

My "water cooler" note for the day is that I think it's time the league cut bait with Nick Collison. His line last night: 1 point, 1 rebound, 6 fouls in 12 minutes. Shawn Bradley, anyone?

Getting a nice, early start on tomorrow's 10-game NBA card, as Pacific time basically precludes me from writing the blog in the morning. Of course, I can also stay up to watch the end of every game, which is a rare and unique pleasure that I have missed like crazy over the past year in the Mitton.

Sports Wagering

Rockets @ Magic - Magic by 8.5 with a total of 200.5. Look at all those points the Rockets are getting, and I'll tell you the reason why in two words: Dwight Howard. The Rockets do not guard big men well, at all, as Luis Scola is the team's best big, and he's not a back to the basket type of guy. This is one of the hugest swings you'll see in spreads all season long, I would think. The Rockets were 8.5 favorites to the Clippers at home in a 9-point win, and now 8.5 point dogs here, a swing of 17 points! Are the Magic 11 points better than the Clippers on a neutral court? I don't think so, which means either we're getting a monster value with Houston here, or we're trying to get decoyed into buying the Rockets and the points. I am a tad concerned that the Magic have a Christmas game lined up with the Celtics in Orlando, so they may be tempted to look ahead, and that makes this line seem large, but with the Rockets having to travel a fair distance off what turned out to be a pretty tough game with the Clippers, they will be more tired than usual, and looking forward to getting a few days off before a date with the Nets. I lean slightly to the Magic, since I think this line is this high for a reason, and I lean to the Under since I don't see Houston playing a good game, and Orlando has been getting caught in some slower games of late.

Wolves @ Nets - Nets by 3 with a total of 199.5. Well, if this isn't a stinkbomb in the making. The two worst teams in the NBA finally get to meet, and I only hope it doesn't tear a hole in the fabric of space and time. New Jersey is also a favorite for only the 3rd time all season long. They have a serious advantage in this one, though, as Minnesota had to finish up getting shellacked by the Hawks late Central time, then had to fly east into what may still be rather unpleasant weather, and face the Nets an hour earlier than they're used to. Still, how can you really make an argument for either team? The Nets are 2-26 this year, 8-20 ATS, and losers of 3 straight, both SU and ATS. The Wolves are 5-24, 14-15 ATS, and are 3-9 this month SU. That being said, the Wolves have covered a fair share of games in December, managing to keep a lot of their losses reasonable, and actually beat a hot Sacramento team back on the 18th. I'll be very curious to see where this line goes and which side the public takes, though given the track record, I simply have to lean to Minnesota, despite the fatigue. I also think this total looks extremely high, and even though I think the public will bet the Under, I lean that way as well.

Raptors @ Pistons - This line is OFF, and Pistons games might just stay off until someone gets healthy. In the meantime, they are just so horribly outmanned and outgunned that they make it awfully tough to consider a wager on Detroit. Of course, that being said, Toronto is a bad, bad road team, and their complete lack of defense might be just what the doctor ordered. The Pistons lost and failed to cover in Charlotte, so this is indeed the second half of a back-to-back, but I don't think there's much farther the Pistons can fall. They just need healthy bodies now, and they're not getting any. The Pistons have lost SU and ATS in, now, 5 straight games, so there is certainly some value with Detroit, and I would not be at all surprised to see early money come in on Detroit. The Raptors have won, and covered, 2 straight games, but those have been home contests against the Nets, and against the Hornets on Sunday morning, which creates some additional value with the Pistons. This is also a home-and-home, and if indeed Toronto plays Detroit tough in this one, we might see a letdown in the next one, though we'll deal with that if/when we have to. I expect to see this game as close to a pick, with a total in the mid-190's.

Jazz @ Heat - The Heat by 2 with a total of 200.5. The Heat come into this one off a very surprising 7-point less at the hands of the Trailblazers, in Miami. The Heat had actually pretty decent basketball the previous two games, but just didn't bring any defensive intensity as the Trailblazers shot 51% for the game, and covered the dog line by quite a sum. The Jazz come to Miami after losing a good game with the Magic on Monday, losing by just 5 points as an 8-point dog. Amazingly, the Jazz have actually covered in 3 of their 4 games on this road trip so far, but this one has a weird feeling about it. Utah getting just 2 points in their final game before a short Christmas layoff, and you just don't know how particular teams are going to respond to the prospect of a few days of rest. Jerry Sloan is easily one of the finest coaches of all time, so my guess is that he'll get his guys ready to go, and given Miami's sloppy defense in the game against Portland, I just don't see how the Heat are really going to slow down the Jazz, unless Utah slows themselves down. The Heat play on Christmas Day against the Knicks, so they're in less of an emotional letdown spot, and they have a little value coming off that loss to the Blazers, but when Miami's defense goes back, everything goes bad. I lean to the Jazz to win this game outright, and I lean to the Over, since that last game could very well be a sign of things to come with this Heat D breaking down for a more extended stretch than just one game.

Warriors @ Hornets - Hornets by 9 with a total of 212. This number feels really, really high, but then, the Warriors seem to have completely run out of steam, their better players already looking forward to the All-Star break. This is what happens when you run your top 3 or 4 guys for 46-48 minutes every game - they get tired. Golden State is on the second half of a back-to-back, so the line has been adjusted the requisite 2 points, or so, and the Warriors also cruise into town off a SU and ATS loss to the surging Grizzlies. I have zero faith in the Warriors on the road, and I have to believe this line is this high precisely because the Warriors are in a tailspin of fatigue and apathy. I hate to lean to a favorite of this magnitude, but I do, as I really like what Chris Paul's been doing since his return from injury, and his teammates have begun to make shots. Hence, they win games at home, and are 10-3 in N'awleans. Can they win by 10? I'm not sure, and when all is said and done, the likelihood I have a play on this side is somewhat slim, but I do lean Hornets at first glance. The total looks way too high for a Hornets team that has been slowing things down and running their offense through CP3, and a Warriors team that just can't keep the tempo up for all 48 minutes, not when they're this shorthanded and jelly of leg, and losers of 6 straight (0-5-1 ATS).

Wizards @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 7 with a total of 198.5. This seems like too many points, flat out, and my concern is that I'm overlooking something obvious. The Wizards had a monster 4th quarter to knock off the Sixers, and indeed there is some travel for this one after a tough struggle the night before, but 7 points is just a ton for two teams where neither is all that good. My guess is that the Bucks are getting more than 3 points for home court, then the additional 2 for facing the Wizards on a back-to-back, so that these teams are within 1 point of each other on a neutral court. My feelings are that the back-to-back is being overemphasized, and that the Bucks team defense is slightly overrated right now, as well. The Bucks have been playing some low-scoring, poor FG-shooting contests, and as a result have played to 3 straight Unders. Is this the one where they finally get into a shoot-out, because you just know one is coming. Michael Redd isn't going to stay cold forever. I lean Washington on the side, and just a teeny, tiny bit to the Under, since I'm not sure the Wizards have the gusto to maintain a 100-point pace on the back-to-back, and the Bucks will be fine with a slower game.

Blazers @ Spurs - San Antonio by 8.5 with a total of 187.5. Another game with one team on a back-to-back and the other camped out waiting for them. The Blazers come into San Antonio fresh off a hard-fought road win over the Mavs, who did indeed have Dirk Nowitzki back. The Blazers slowed the game to a snail pace, and it worked like a charm, as the Mavs managed just 81 points, failing to get the Jason Kidd trademark easy buckets, and forcing the Mavs into a half-court only situation. Sure, Dirk is fine in the half-court (10/13 shooting), but his team went 21-for-67, not good enough by any stretch. Portland is starting to lock down a bit on defense again, and that's when they're most dangerous, going 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 games, but this is a tricky spot. Not only are the Blazers on a back-to-back, but this is also their 4th game in 5 nights on a road trip, and they host the Nuggets on Christmas, a tough, tough stretch for Portland that just doesn't get any easier. Give Nate McMillan and co. credit, though; they've used this as a bonding experience, and they've played solid basketball on this trip. Still, I can't back a team in this sleepy of a spot -- it's San Antonio or nothing on the side, and the total should be pretty low in this one, as well.

Hawks @ Nuggets - This line is OFF. The Hawks come to town off a clubbing of the Minnesota Timberwolves, looking to try to make a statement in the altitude, but it's rarely easy, especially on a back-to-back. The other side of this coin is that the Nuggets really have looked pretty poor of late, losing in both New Orleans and Memphis, and not really playing with any sort of purpose. I don't know if Chauncey being out/less-than-100% is having this type of effect, or if Denver just thinks they can coast this regular season, but I'm not sure they're worth betting on until they show they're ready to play hard for all 48 minutes again. They have covered just 1 of their last 7 games, and if we're getting a reasonable number of points with the Hawks, we might be inclined to take it, since I think we'll see Denver overrated because of home court, altitude, and the Hawks being on the back-to-back. Let's wait and see how this line opens and moves, since it has the potential to be a very fun one with, perhaps, fewer points than people expect.

Thunder @ Suns - Suns by 8.5 with a total of 208.5. The first thing I notice here is that the Thunder are coming off a tough cover against the Lakers, and that the total looks ridiculously low for a Suns game with anyone, let alone a team with scorers like the Thunder. That total looks like it's trying to sucker me into the Over, and I'll be quite curious to see how the public bets this one, because I'd be willing to bet a small sum that they come in on the Over; hell, with the way the Thunder-Lakers game went, the public on the Over is almost a certainty. In any case, the Suns suffered their first home loss of the season to the Cavs on Monday, so they'll likely be looking to bounce back and get some revenge, and the pooped out Thunder might be just the ticket. It's really amazing how many 8.5-point favorites we're seeing, and most of them are rested home teams taking on road teams on the second half of a back-to-back. We really need to be careful with these games, because the Suns is the obvious play, but it looks that easy for a reason; it isn't. Maybe look at the total instead, and take a peek at the Under, since the Thunder know they're not going to win a shootout, and I expect to see Russell Westbrook do a better-than-average job staying at least near Steve Nash, and the Thunder's athleticism should allow them to switch on defense. Time will tell!

Cavs @ Kings - Cleveland by 6 with a total of 202.5. Make no mistake, the Kings are flying high, fresh off a 35-point comeback against the hapless Chicago Bulls. The Cavs are feeling pretty good about themselves, too, dealing the Phoenix Suns their first home loss of the season, so neither of these teams is really the value play. Of course, you have to look at the home dog, first and foremost, with Cleveland potentially gearing up for their Christmas Day game with the Lakers. Sacramento actually plays the Lakers next, too, but they get them the day after the Cavs, and they host LA. We'll cover that game soon enough, since I can almost guarantee the Kings will have some value on the ML. Anyway, back to the game at hand. I like the Kings' positive momentum coming off that huge comeback, but I do think they might have some trouble with fatigue. Emotional comebacks like that don't usually carry you full another entire game, and I'm concerned that we might see one very good half from Sactown, and one very bad one. As for the Cavs, they might give us a similar effort of 24 solid minutes, which makes me wonder if indeed they can cover those 6 points on the road. I think the Under's got a nice shot if Cleveland can impose some sort of tempo on the Kings, who should find scoring a bit more difficult than when they faced the Bulls.

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