Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 9

I suppose we were due for a little bad luck, and a little bad handicapping. Last night, the Houston play was clearly the wrong one. They just had nothing left in the tank in the second half, and I mis-read the situational angle on this one. I just really felt the Cavs were in a prime letdown spot, and I was wrong. The Denver game I think we got a little unlucky. No, it didn't go to OT, and neither team blew a 35-point lead, but I just can't remember the last time a team went into the Mile High City on no rest, outshot the Nuggets by 10% from the field, and got called for less than half as many fouls, at least until the final 3 minutes of an already-decided game. Just extremely weird, and with Carmelo getting in foul trouble courtesy of mostly Josh Howard's brittle carcass and Drew Gooden, we were, well, F'd in the A.

Sports Wagering

Bucks @ Bobcats
- Charlotte by 4.5 with a total of 185. Another of those home/road team matchups, this time the Bobcats are the good home team, and the Bucks are the terrible road squad. The question in these situations always becomes "can the home team cover?" Well, I'd say there's a reasonable shot at it, though obviously nothing is a sure thing. The Bobcats are an impressive 10-4 on their home court, winning games by an average of almost 6 points, and here they face a low/mid-tier opponent, the types of teams that Charlotte knows they can collect wins against in a potential effort to stay in the playoff picture. Looking at a few of Charlotte's recent home games, going backwards through the calendar, they covered in a victory against Detroit, lost to the Jazz, and covered against New York and Denver before that. They are 9-5 ATS in Charlotte, and they do a marvelous job of forcing turnovers at home and scoring points off of them. The Bucks, 3-9 on the road (7-5 ATS), lose on the road by just 4.2 points, on average, so this team does have a knack for keeping games close, but just haven't quite hit the shots to make them a team to be reckoned with when the 4th quarter winds down. Milwaukee has covered their last 3 road games, so going against them is definitely not an easy choice, and the line on this game seems somewhat low given the home/road splits of both teams. I lean Charlotte on the side, but even the slightest opposing line movement might be enough to keep me off the Cats. The low total suggests a defensive struggle, which also likely means neither team is planning on pulling away. I think this total just barely squeezes Under that mark, but it's an eerily low number, and the value is thin at this point.

Thunder @ Nets - Nets getting 6.5 points with a total of 196. The Thunder are really rolling, and I honestly thought they'd suffer a letdown hosting the Bobcats in Oklahoma City after playing such stellar basketball on the road against the Lakers and Suns (losing a heartbreaker to Los Angeles, but beating then-undefeated-at-home Phoenix), but they didn't! Oklahoma beat Charlotte, and covered, and they've now covered 3 straight games, and 4 of 5, and man, when this team gets hot offensively, they are tough to stop. The sheer number of scoring options with both inside and outside ability (Durant, Green, Harden, Westbrook) is generally enough to give the Thunder the advantage against weaker teams, but they're starting to put some pieces together against some of the better teams, too. This is the front end of a back-to-back for the Thunder, but the back end is against the Wizards, so it's not really a look-ahead spot, and for what it's worth, this team isn't much worse on the road than they are at home. I don't think I need to go into great detail about the Nets; they covered their last game against the Rockets (a winner we were able to cash on), but they're still just not a good team, and I get the feeling they may be a tad overmatched in this one. I lean Thunder, and I lean Under, though this total looks awfully high for the Nets. They just don't score against even marginal defensive teams, and I would put the Thunder in the category of half-decent defensive clubs.

Wizards @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 6 with a total of 203. Washington is really tough to figure out these days. They beat Philadelphia at home, then won decidedly in Milwaukee, but followed that up with an egg in Minnesota, losing by 12 to the lowly T'Wolves. Based on that effort in Minnesota, I'd have to consider this game a play on the home Grizz or nothing at all. Washington plays host to Oklahoma City tomorrow, as I mentioned above, so they may be looking ahead to getting home and playing in front of the friendly crowd, or hell, with their inconsistency, the third string shooting guard might have a mortal enemy in Memphis, and he will inspire the team to play their butt off. But seriously, if you see something in the Wizards that I'm missing, please toss it out there, because this team is just all over the map. The Grizzlies have been tearing teams apart in Memphis, 10-4 ATS at home, winners of 3 straight, and covers in 4 straight home games. They have shown the ability to beat both good and bad teams at home, and a team this young just doesn't seem likely to look past anyone, especially a bad team with good players. One area of concern is that Memphis has been getting caught up in high-scoring games, breaking 100 themselves in 4 straight, and that's why we're seeing this total up over 200. I think this game has a shot of being a poor-shooting contest, with Washington potentially ending near 90 again. I'm not saying I like the Under, but I'd be careful of the Over, if nothing else.

Lakers @ Suns - This line is OFF. You can bet the Suns are going to bring everything they've got in this one, and that's where we need to start when handicapping this game. They've been embarrassed by the Lakers twice, both games in Los Angeles, and both losses by roughly 20 points, and I have to believe they will not take kindly to that fact, nor will the fans. Phoenix is also fresh off a disappointment in Golden State, losing straight up to the Warriors, a taste that the public will likely not forget this quickly, and this actually does create a little more value for the Suns. Also, Kobe Bryant is likely to play through another injury, this time a slight elbow sprain. I just can't expect the Lakers to have the energy for this one after the 2-OT game in Sacramento, the loss of Ron Artest to a concussion, and Kobe's 3 nagging injuries piling up. I think the Suns come out and really give it the old College try. They're outsized by the Lakers, and outclasses, but the Suns are a tough bird at home, and if they can successfully push the tempo, I think they have a nice shot of winning this one. I expect to see the Lakers as 1-2 point favorites on the road with a total near 210, and I lean hard to the Suns and will have more feelings on the total when we see where it ends up.

Nuggets @ Kings - This line is OFF. Presumably, we're working line-less because of Chauncey Billups, clearly a vital cog in the Nuggets offensive machine. And as evidenced last night, if Chauncey is out and Carmelo Anthony gets into foul trouble, the Nuggets are in big, big trouble. Unfortunately, I bit the bullet on that one, but, lesson learned, and on we move to this contest. The Nuggets will likely open close to a Pick, potentially a tiny favorite, and their dismal road run is to blame. Denver has lost 6 straight road games, and no Championship caliber team will ever encounter that sort of stretch when healthy. However, this team is not healthy, so I'm giving them a temporary reprieve. Still, from a handicapping standpoint, this game is a real pickle. The Nuggets are going to be irritable coming off the home loss to Dallas last night, and my greatest fear is that they will finally wake up on the road just in time to take our their aggression on the Kings. Anything more you need to know about Denver, you can pull from yesterday's extensive blog write-up on Denver-Dallas. For Sacramento, they are coming off two of the most heartbreaking losses that I can remember. They took Cleveland to OT, and got skunked 13-0 in the extra period, then they took the Lakers to 2-OT, and got outscored by a hefty chunk in that one. The only way things could get more ridiculous would be a 3-OT loss to Denver, and the odds of that happening are somewhat slim. Still, I think this team is ripe to bounce back. They showed good fortitude bouncing back from the Cavs loss, and I think they'll show good fortitude bouncing back from the Lakers loss. I lean Sacramento to keep playing good ball at home, and I think they win this game straight up, in regulation. I also think we might see a potential Under situation, since these two high-scoring teams will likely get a slightly inflated line from name alone, forgetting that without Billups the Nuggets don't play quite as fast.

Sixers @ Blazers - Portland by 7.5 with a total of 189. I can almost say right here that I won't have a play on the side in this one. Portland is suddenly surging, the Sixers remain a terrible team that actually plays slightly better on the road than at home, and it just doesn't really matter the situation, playing Philly is almost always a recipe for disaster. They are 11-18 ATS this season, and have lost and failed to cover 3 straight games, as well. I believe they are a Morrison "C" bet, as well, so we're likely to lose a full point of value, at least right up until game time. I would not be surprised to see this line make an initial move down from 7.5 on the favorite, then work its way back up as the Morrison bet barrage dwindles in the afternoon. Boy, I'll tell ya, if 'capping wasn't hard enough, they throw these crazy systems in our way, and now we have to worry about how the books are preparing for the influx of money as a result. If we happen to like the same side as the system (like we did yesterday on the Rockets loser), we have to be extra cautious not to get trapped in a bad line. If we like the other side, which I have a very tiny, microscopic lean to in this game, we might be able to snatch the play with an extra point of value! In any case, this line right now is not cheap enough for me to bite on the Blazers, but if the system plays get us down to -6 or so, I might be persuaded into making it a free play, just because we'd be getting 15-20 cents of value, and basically giving ourselves better than 50/50 odds in the long term on similar play. I just can't pass that up, especially if it's a team I like. We shall see. The total looks pretty low, but Portland has been D'ing up like you wouldn't believe. They have gone Over in 2 straight games, but oddsmakers have dropped the totals for the Blazers by a good chunk in this stretch. I lean Under, but only barely.

Celtics @ Warriors - Celtics by 6 with a total of 212.5. How about those scrappy Clippers? If you read through yesterday's blog, you saw how when all signs point to one team, that's usually a good indicator that you should pass on that game. The Celtics were such a powerhouse, and the line move climbed 2 points for them, and the Clippers were coming home off a 6-game trip and they had just lost by 30 to the Suns, and...voila! The Clippers come up with the outright, upset winner over the toughest road team in the NBA. Now, that toughest road team heads to Northern California to tackle a Warriors club coming off a win over the Suns. You just have to wonder how much the short Christmas rest actually did for this severely undermanned team, slowly getting some healthy bodies back, and trying to work them into the rotation. I'm a bit concerned the Celtics use this second half of the back-to-back to take out some aggression, but that 6-point line seems pretty low, given the disparity in skill. The Warriors were 16-point underdogs when they played in Boston back in November, and they covered by a bucket, so a 10-point home/road swing is pretty stark unless the Warriors have improved that much in the oddsmakers' eyes or the Celtics have fallen off, and I don't think either of those claims is true. This line is either too low for Boston because it's packed with value, or it's too low because oddsmakers have a stronger feeling for the Warriors than I do. Golden State plays the Lakers in LA tomorrow, so they're gearing up for a brutal 2-day stretch, and I'm not sure they've got the gusto to hang with either of those teams. Still, there's something awfully fishy about this line, and I intend to get a good, hard look at which way it moves off the opening number. The total of 212.5 should draw public action on the Over, courtesy of the Warriors 250+ point combined effort with Phoenix, but I'm taking a long look at the Under -- I just don't see Boston getting sucked into that sort of game, but hey, I've certainly been wrong before. There are a ton of games on tomorrow's card that just really need further review, which likely means the Top Play will be for 1-unit, and another freebie for a halfer.

Fantasy Advice

Tyrus Thomas - He's back, baby! Grab as fast as you can!

Kirk Hinrich - Supposedly will be playing starters' minutes with John Salmons coming off the bench. Potential to really rack up the steals, 3's, and assists.

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