Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 6

I don't ask for much for the Holidays, and perhaps this was Santa's way of putting a little lump of coal in this little Hanukah-celebrator's stocking, but couldn't the Sacramento Kings score ONE point in overtime? Sheesh! Wednesdays might become my new Festivus Day of Rest, because they have just not been kind to me. Fridays, however, as we're looking ahead here, have been just fine and dandy.

Anyway, was a fun day of basketball, highlighted by J.R. Smith knocking down TEN 3's in the Nuggets rout of the Atlanta Hawks -- you want to talk about the definition of an explosive NBA player, that is your guy. If he has really calmed down and turned his life around following the tragic DUI-related death of his close friend, Smith could really be a huge piece for the Nuggets late in the season, and a prize on the free agent market when that situation presents itself. What can I say, though, I'm a sucker for a guy getting his life straightened out. It's what makes me wonder what might have been with Chris Henry, and celebrate the triumphant return of Ricky Williams.

Oh, and California Golden Bears, you have disappointed me once again. I didn't bet on you - I knew better with the way you've treated me ever since Aaron Rodgers left for the NFL. I know Cal is all about class and making the kids actually get an education and all that stuff that makes me proud, but after that clunker, the "Tedford's teams do quite well in bowl games" line has run its course. Win a big game next year WHEN IT COUNTS!

Sports Wagering

Heat @ Knicks
- Knicks by 1 with a total of 199.5. Christmas Day action gets under way with the less thrilling noon game in the Big Apple, with the suddenly decent Knicks favored by just a single point to the Heat. The Knicks are coming off a crazy cover against the Bulls, blowing a 22-point halftime lead before managing to shoot 4 free throws in the last 3 seconds to push their lead back up to 7 points for the cover. The Heat, meanwhile, are coming off one of the ugliest games I've tracked all season in a 80-70 win over the Jazz, a game that Utah clearly wanted nothing to do with. This is a tough spot to handicap, since both teams are coming off a cover, and it's important to see how the public reacts. My guess is that we'll continue to see the public enjoy the splendors of Dwyane Wade, and I think this line might very well flip sides. These Christmas games have lines out nice and early, and I think the public money should have a greater-than-usual impact on the line move. In terms of the side, the Knicks have rattled off 8 wins in December after just 3 wins the rest of the early season, and they're 4-2 as a home favorite (3-3 ATS), so not much to pull away there. I believe there will be very little home court advantage in this one; it's an early game, fans usually won't be as rambunctious at noon as they are in the evening, and I think the Knicks lose some of their home court edge. The Heat are also just as good on the road as they are at home, so I expect them to bring a solid performance. Just like I expect the public to do, I lean to the Heat. The total of 199.5 feels outrageously high with Miami coming off this 150-point disaster with Utah, but even with this Under, Miami has gone Over the posted total in 6 of 8. The Knicks have gone Under in 5 straight, and because I think this line is reliant on New York dictating a hyperactive tempo, I think the Under has some value, though I'm not happy the Heat played such a low-scoring game with Utah - that is going to drive some other bettors to the Under, and probably move this line accordingly.

Celtics @ Magic - Orlando by 2 with a total of 193. Boston gets their revenge...maybe. The Celtics as a road underdog is an interesting scenario that we haven't seen (and won't see) much of this year. They're 1-0 SU and ATS as a road underdog this year, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see that move to 2-0. There isn't really "value" in this game, per say, given that both of these teams are among the elite, and are probably among the top 2 or 3 in terms of marquee status. The public usually sides with the Celtics, and they may very well do so again. Boston has been the great destructor on the road this year, 12-1 SU to this point, and even though they're just 7-6 ATS on the road, a SU win in this game is an ATS win, by default. Orlando continues to be solid, as well, at 21-7 on the season, 11-2 at home, but they really haven't been covering much lately. Orlando is 2-4-2 in their last 8 games, playing a little sluggish before dunking on the tired Rockets in their last game. They'll certainly be awake for a game with Boston, and they have been playing the Celtics tough. I expect Boston to play their asses off in this one, and I expect a close game decided in the last 4 minutes. 5 of the last 7 games in this series have gone Under the total, and I think the misconception about this Christmas game is that someone is going to outscore the other, but these two teams almost always end up in slow, playoff type struggles. I think the best play on this game is on the Under, but I lean to the Celts, as well.

Cavaliers @ Lakers - Lakers by 4 with a total of 195. I might very well piss myself waiting for this game to get going. How can you not be excited by this action? How can you really handicap the madness, too? Fact of the matter is, the Lakers are the better, deeper team, with a young big man named Bynum that is going to be all amped up to play against the real Diesel, and I think he's going to be the X-factor in this game. Lebron is probably the toughest man to guard on the floor, Kobe is going to score like crazy, Mo Williams has a clear advantage over Derek Fisher, but Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Bynum should really help limit the Cavs easy buckets. Let's be honest here, J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao don't stand a chance against the Lakers frontcourt. Situationally, though, you know the Cavs aren't going anywhere, and that's why I think Bynum could be the difference. He can get make Shaq work at both ends of the floor, and he can protect the rim with Gasol from everyone except Lebron. His length should be an outstanding tool, and the Lakers have been winning lately without Bynum playing very well. His resurgence in this game, inspired by playing against one of his idols, Shaq, will be just what the Lakers need to pick up a 7 point win. I also think this game stays Under the total - no way the Cavs try to force the tempo, or they'll get slaughtered. Cleveland is going to try to keep this thing as a possession game, and with the giant, powerful Lakers playing stout defense this year, I don't think they'll be all that opposed to a slower game.

Clippers @ Suns - Suns by 9.5 with a total of 210.5. This is a pretty bad spot for the Clippers, coming to town following the Suns losing at home to both the Cavs and the Thunder. I just don't think the Clips have the firepower to keep up, not when Phoenix is going to be gunning for a win with all of their might. Phoenix fell to 10-2 at home after the loss to Oklahoma City, but they are still a force to be reckoned with in their own building. The Thunder had the pieces to play with Phoenix -- left open, Kevin Durant is a machine, and Jeff Green, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are all ultra-athletic and just the type of players that give the Suns fits. I wrote in the blog entry that the Thunder are going to switch on defense constantly, which is precisely what gives the Suns trouble, since they rely on Steve Nash running pick and roll situations on almost every play that isn't a fast break. When the defense can just toss another 6'4" monster on Steve, and move another 6'6" forward onto Amare Stoudemire, it really forces the Suns to work extra hard to get an open shot, and have less energy for defense. More than anything else, all those switches usually lead to offensive rebounds for the Suns (when a tiny guard gets stuck on a big man), but with the Thunder and their seemingly endless supply of wingmen, they were able to continue boxing out and limited the Suns to just 8 offensive rebounds. Now, in this game, the Clippers don't have that luxury. If Baron Davis gets caught on Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash can run circles around the likes of Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby; if Nash kicks to Jason Richardson and the Clippers run a man at him, the basket is likely to be left mostly unguarded. I think we see Phoenix shoot over 50% in this game, more than good enough for a win, and I think they cover if but barely. Probably not a strong enough to lean to make it a play, but I do like that Phoenix is coming off a pair of losses and might not be such a darling. That total, by the way, is awfully high considering the way the Clippers score -- they average just 95 ppg, but let's see how this line moves before taking a stand, we might see some run n' gun out of LAC.

Nuggets @ Blazers - This line is OFF, and the people of Portland are throwing themselves off of ledges in disgust. I hate to say it, because I'm not usually the type to call for someone's head, but the lead Athletic Trainer in Portland may want to consider stepping down. I don't know if he's not feeding his guys their requisite portions of matzah ball soup, but both of the Blazers centers are down for the count, Brandon Roy's shoulder is in a bad way, Travis Outlaw is still out, and the injuries have just piled and piled. Give the Blazers credit, though, they battled, and won the last 3 games of a grueling road trip, including the 4th game in 5 nights in San Antonio, the day after winning in Dallas. I don't like that they have a day to think about this one, though, since the loss of half their roster might have time to sink in. I am a bit afraid to make a play in this game, given that we may see Portland rally around some youngsters and win with defense for a few nights, but the total will likely intrigue me, as the Nuggets' high-fly act might push the number up a few notches, and we might be able to get some value on the Under. In fact, without knowing the number, I can already say I like the idea of an Under. Portland knows that without all their pieces that have zero chance of winning a shoot-out with Denver, so every possession in this one is going to be excruciating, and if Portland can keep the total possessions in the 60's or 70's, that would be optimal, relying on a lot of isolation plays with Aldridge to get some buckets. It's going to be a tough game, but I think we'll get some value with the Blazers and Under, and we can certainly discuss this one more as the time approaches. It is, after all, the night game, and it's not even Christmas Eve on the West Coast yet, as I type this!


1 comment:

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