Friday, December 25, 2009

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 7

What a fine Christmas Day!

Before folks in Hawaii were awake, we hit the free 1-unit play on the Under in New York-Miami, then once everyone was starting to tune in, we nailed our FIRST 2-unit selection since becoming a Pro. All in all, a day I enjoyed very much, but now it's over, and we need to put those units/dollars in our pocket and get set for today. If we lost a million bucks or won two billion yesterday, it's irrelevant now, and we've got the 26th of December to look at now.

How about that Brandon Roy, too, eh? 41 points in his return from a shoulder injury to lead the Blazers to their 4th straight win against a quality opponent. Is this team finally figuring things out? Their defense has been outstanding over this short winning streak, and it does always seem to come back to that for Portland. I'll be honest, I'd love to see them lay a nightly beatdown, but I'm not sold on them just yet

Sports Wagering

Grizzlies @ Mavericks
- Dallas by 8 with a total of 200. I think this line underestimates the Grizzlies, as Memphis has actually been playing solid basketball. They are 7-3 this month, both SU and ATS, though admittedly, the great majority of the damage Memphis has done has come at home. Still, garnering 8 points is a nice chunk. Memphis matches up pretty well with Dallas, as the Grizzlies have a slew of wing scorers, and two decent big men that can, if nothing else, compete with Dampier down low and make Nowitzki work on the defensive end. Those solid match-ups showed themselves in a 16-point beating the Grizzlies laid on the Mavs when Dallas went into Memphis as a 6-point favorite. So now, a few weeks later, Dallas is just an 8-point favorite at home, and it's clear the Grizzlies are starting to get more respect, if still maybe not quite as much as they deserve. Dallas has a contest tomorrow in Denver, which can be interpreted a few ways. For one, they know how hard it's going to be to fly into Denver late and take on the Nuggets on short rest and will try to make sure they get a win the night before...OR...they might be looking ahead slightly. No matter how you cut it, I would need a few better reasons to take Dallas before I'd consider them. I lean Memphis on the side. For the total, I find it hard to believe either of these teams will be fully sharp coming off a day of gorging and family-time, so I lean slightly to the Under.

Hawks @ Pacers - Atlanta by 7 with a total of 203. The Hawks are going to be staring down the barrel of quite a few hefty spreads going forward, home and road, and if they're to continue pounding books at their current rate (a ridiculous 20-8 ATS), they're going to need to win in blowout fashion almost every time. Here, they're laying 7 points on the road to the undermanned Pacers, coming off a 20-point loss in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back. That, unmistakably, was a bad spot for the Hawks, and the road can only get easier from the altitude issues in Denver. Interestingly, the Hawks opened the season with an 11-point home win over the Pacers, so there may be some slight revenge in Indiana here, but I just can't trust the Pacers. They are without their top dog, and while they have covered 5 of their last 8 games, they've lost 4 consecutive contests straight up, and I just don't think they can compete at the same level as the Hawks. It's another after-Christmas game, so it's tough to know exactly how teams are going to respond to the Holiday off, but my guess is that the Pacers play a decent first half, but get run down late, and the game will end pretty close to that mark of 7. I lean slightly to the public darling Hawks, but doubt I'll have a play on this one. The total is high; Indiana is not running and gunning like they did with Granger, and they might fail to break 90, so buyers beware on that Over. I lean slightly the other way, to the Under.

Rockets @ Nets - Nets collecting 9.5 points at home with a total of 196.5. Amazingly, I really like Jersey here. This number is huge for a road team, especially a Rockets squad that has consistently struggled to cover against teams with skilled big men, and that is basically all the Nets have at this point. I think we see a monster game from Brook Lopez in this one, I think Devin Harris and Aaron Brooks do their fair share of sprinting, and I think Shane Battier will shut down Chris Douglas-Roberts. Still, a home dog of almost double digits, I have to look to that dog, even if it's the Nets. I admit, it isn't easy to suggest such a play, given Jersey's 8-21 ATS record, covering just 1 of their last 8 games, but that spiraling ATS record will only continue to add value to this team, and with both clubs coming out of the Holiday break (neither played on Christmas Day), I think the Nets can take advantage of some potential ham/jet-lag on the part of the Rockets and get out to a small lead, then hang on to cover late. The total looks pretty sharp to me, since the Nets will have to score a few points to cover, but I would lean just slightly to the Under, since I cap this game to end with Houston in the high 90's and the Nets in the low 90's for a total right around 190 points. More to come on this one as we see some line movement, and while I work on building up the courage to take a shot with the Nets. By the way, Houston has a game tomorrow in Cleveland with Lebron - look-ahead spot, anyone? Hah!

Hornets @ Bulls - A pick'em in Chicago with a total of 188.5. Christmas is over so I can say "oy veh" to the Bulls. They are really a head-scratcher. A team will all kinds of talent, coming off a fantastic run last year, and even a decent start to this season, has just imploded, and the most recent tragedies are the blown 35-point lead to Sacramento (at home!), then going into New York and scoring 30-someodd points in the first half there. So over 4 quarters, the Bulls scored under 70 points. They did put together a better second half in New York, and that, believe it or not, is why I'm actually giving Chicago a second look in this one. They're still 8-6 at home even with the recent struggles, so the Bulls could potentially show up and play, and I would think we see a nice effort from Derrick Rose in this one, going against the best point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul. Will that be enough? I'm not so sure, given the way the rest of the Bulls have been competing (with the possible exception of Joakim Noah), but I think Chicago will at least put some effort out there. The Hornets come to town off two straight ATS losses, but they have won 3 of 4 games straight up, so they may be at a slight betting premium courtesy of Chris Paul's return from injury. I lean slightly to the Bulls, since the Hornets are garbage on the road, just 2-11 this year away from home. Also, take a look at that total; it's down in the 180's, which tells me oddsmakers are finally starting to adjust to the Hornets lower-scoring games under their new head coach, and the Bulls, well, just can't score. I still lean Under, and when we find out where the public is going with this one, that lean might very well get stronger.

Wizards @ Wolves - This line is OFF. Let's use this one as a testing ground. First, taking a look at Washington, the Wizards have actually been playing much better, and it comes back to Gilbert Arenas. People have forgotten that before this kid missed much of the last few seasons, he was one of the most electric, dangerous scorers in the entire NBA, and it's starting to look like Agent Zero is getting his legs back. Of course, just when he was starting to dominate, he had to leave the last game with a bruise, and apparently unloaded firearms were recently discovered in his locker. These distractions definitely concern me. Still, Washington SHOULD be better than they've been, so keeping an eye on this team for value is the way we should operate. I think this game opens as close to a Pick, with the Wolves coming off a road win over the Nets, and the Wizards coming off a road win over Milwaukee. I lean Washington, but let's wait and see the line on the side. I think we'll see a relatively high total, and I still lean Over, as both of these teams are scoring the ball better, and the Wizards only recent Under came in the second half of a back-to-back when they got positively run out of the building down in Phoenix.

Bobcats @ Thunder - Oklahoma City by 5.5 with a total of 188.5. Charlotte puts their awful road record on display in a trip to the surprisingly tough confines of the Thunder. I'm not sure I can make a strong argument to take the Bobcats, but I can sort of try. Charlotte is a disastrous 1-12 on the road, and while they have covered a few road spreads (8-5 ATS), I believe you are playing with a bit of fire to constantly take a team that is going to lose SU, but barely cover. Those are coin-flips to me, and a 50/50 proposition will eventually lose you money. The Bobcats are coming off a home beatdown of the injury-plagued Pistons, and have actually covered 5 of 6, but this feels like a rough spot for them, coming off a Christmas Day off and having to travel. I suppose we'll see how they handle this type of situation, and truth be told, this game is a tough one to take either side. I can't in good conscience say the Bobcats are going to play well on the road, and I can't in good conscience say the Thunder won't have a bit of a letdown after playing the Lakers and Suns extremely tough on the road, and coming away with a 1-1 record in those two games. The "value" is with Charlotte, but man oh man. I GUESS I lean to Charlotte, and slightly to the Under, since the Bobcats aren't going to be winning an offensive battle with the Thunder.

Spurs @ Bucks - Spurs by 2 with a total of 193.5. Tell me this line doesn't look too easy for San Antonio? Still, I'm not sure a Spurs/Bucks game is going to be set up for a trap, but tiny home dogs like this are often letdown spots for road teams. So, then we look to the situational spot for San Antonio. They play tomorrow in New York, which isn't really a look-ahead spot, but the back-to-back scenario might be in the back of the Spurs mind, and Popovich may have to play his older guys a little less in the first game to keep them fresh for the latter half. Also, we know all about the Spurs' road woes; they're 12-5 at home, just 3-6 on the road, and yes, that's something of an imbalance of games, so the Spurs are due for some tough road games. If this was that long road trip, I would be more hesitant to fade them, since teams usually find a way to bond on long road trips, but this is just a 2-gamer, and I think the Spurs might look past both games because they can. I lean to Milwaukee, who continues to impress at home, and have some value because they got whooped by the Wizards in the game before Thanksgiving. I'm not sold on either team, so don't get me wrong in the confidence on this one, but the Bucks have been covering (6-2 ATS) games lately, and I think we have some value fading the public, likely backing the superstars in this one. I also like the Under, as with a full compliment of players, the Bucks are settling back into a half-court style of game, and the Spurs can't shoot to save their lives on the road.

Sixers @ Jazz - Utah by 8 with a total of 205. I look at this matchup, and I see a few reasons to like the Sixers, believe it or not. First, the Jazz return home in this game from a 5-game road trip through the East, so there is definitely going to be a road-trip hangover, as well as a Christmas hangover. Second, the Jazz are coming off one of the ugliest games I can remember, an 80-70 loss at the hands of the Miami Heat. Third, the Sixers are one of the rare teams in the NBA that is actually better on the road, and by almost 2 points, amazingly. Philadelphia is bad, make no mistake, and the 7-21 record on the season is a fairly reasonable indicator of that; but we're a gambling site, and we care about handicapping this team for this game on this day, and a few numbers jump out. Philly has basically the same record at home as on the road (off by just one outcome -- 4-10 vs. 3-11), and as mentioned above, this doesn't appear to be a fluke. Because of this strange home/road split anomaly, this team is a great home fade and a perfect road back. They are 2-12 ATS at home, 9-5 on the road! I simply cannot advocate backing the Jazz in this letdown spot, facing a team that should probably be getting fewer points from the Jazz in Utah than they would in Philly. The total also looks too high to me, with the Christmas layoff playing a role in this outcome, as well.

Lakers @ Kings - Lakers by 6 with a total of 207. I'd almost tell folks to look at the money line in this one, except that the damn Lakers had to go and get blown the hell out of their own building by Cleveland last night. I was really, really hoping to see the Lakers beat the Cavs, and cruise into Sacramento riding high, and instead they head North embarrassed and irritated; not a good combination for those of us looking to fade Kobe Bryant. I still think the Kings are the value play here, as the Lakers almost always (at least when the Kings were even marginally talented, which they were not the last 2 years) have trouble in Sacramento, and in Portland. Those have historically been the places where the Lakers have to really work to get it done, and here we see the exact same line as the Cavs' game in Sacramento. Yes, the Cavs won that game, and covered, but it took an absurd 13-0 OT skunking to somehow ruin the night for Kings-backers such as myself. I know sometimes it's tough to go back to the well, but this may be one of those times. The Kings, despite the OT meltdown to Cleveland, are still one of the most dangerous home teams that folks still aren't talking about. Hell, the Kings are 10-4 at home, 9-5 ATS! This team is skilled, and in the absence of Kevin Martin, Tyreke Evans has stepped up and shown that not only is he in the running for Rookie of the Year, he's also a born leader, and I expect Sacramento to be amped up for this one. My biggest fear as a Lakers fan is that they will forget about the defense that got them to where they are just because they lost one game, and I think Sacramento scores the ball at will, and I think this game has a great chance to go Over.

Suns @ Warriors - Warriors getting 3 at home to the oddly well-rested Suns with a total of 234. You are absolutely seeing that number correctly: two-hundred and thirty-four total points. I advocate a play on NEITHER the Over nor the Under. This game has the potential to hit 260, but it might very well show both teams getting tired and end at 225. I really could not come up with a consistent value for the total no matter how many ways I looked at this game. The Warriors are certainly the lesser team, but the concern here is that the spread is awfully low for a Suns team coming off a drubbing of the lowly Clippers, and clearly playing with an extra purpose after suffering back-to-back home losses to Cleveland and Oklahoma City. I fear the Suns right now, flat out. They're still just 8-9 on the road, which does leave me a bit confounded on picking a side in this one, and the total may be a tad inflated because of the two teams involved. Phoenix also has a date with the Lakers, this time in Phoenix, on Monday. Meanwhile, the Warriors have lost 7 straight games, covering just 1, the most recent game in New Orleans, and it looks like the short bench and is starting to come into play. The starters look gassed by the 3rd quarter for the boys from Oakland, and this game in particular is going to really test their energy level. The Warriors host the Celtics next, but when you're a team this bad, you're not really in a position to "look ahead" to anybody besides the team you're about to play. My concern with leaning Phoenix is that the side looks too easy, and my concern with leaning to the Under is that it looks too easy, as well. More to come on this one, but you can see my ultra-weak leans on this game that might feature 2 stoppages of the action, 4 foul shots, and 250 points.

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