Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chuck Mangione Hates Camping

I guess we learned an interesting biological note about the great Canis lupus. It was one of my fears going into last night (and why I ultimately suggested no play on the Utah-Minnesota game) that the Timberwolves just match up really well with the vastly superior Jazz. Two of the Wolves four wins this season have come at the expense of Utah, so make of that what you will, but certainly don't bet on the Jazz as 13-point favorites against a division rival. Also, if you happen to come face to face with a timberwolf, keep your saxophone well-hidden.

Sports Wagering

Cavaliers/Nets - This line is OFF. It will soon be on, and will be quite large. And really, this game could get ugly. The Cavs return home off a 13-point victory in Oklahoma City, and they've bounced back nicely after losing 2 straight on a recent road trip. Sure, they play tomorrow in Philadelphia, but this is a dangerous team, and Lebron is waking back up after not playing All-World basketball for about a game and a half. The Nets have been blown out in 3 straight games, and are dealing with an injury to Chris Douglas-Roberts now. It doesn't matter, really, they're terrible and not getting any better. This spread is going to be up near 15, I imagine, and while I'd normally try to find a way to take the dog, the only real value in this game will be in the total. Cleveland has been scoring around 100, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Nets score in the 80's. Let's see where this total opens up.

Bobcats/Knicks - Bobcats by 5 with a total of 197.5. This is not a game I'm particularly fond of, as we have a red-hot Knicks club coming into Charlotte, where the Bobcats are quite good. Charlotte is 8-3 at home (1-10 on the road), and have beaten the likes of Cleveland and Denver at home over the last couple weeks. They have also been hitting Overs at an alarming clip, now 6 in a row, and I think we're finally seeing the books adjust the line. The Knicks have won 4 straight games, and have covered all 4. Three of those victories have come as an underdog, the situation we're seeing here tonight. Fact of the matter is that the Knicks are too hot to bet against, and the Bobcats are too good at home to bet against. Unless we see some stark line movement that leads us in a particular direction, this is another game where we'll take a long look at the total instead of the side. The Knicks have been shooting the ball very well, and actually playing decent defense; the Bobcats have been playing a slightly more up-tempo style of game as their offense has come together. They play better defense at home than on the road, but I can see this game being a relatively high-scoring tilt. I lean Over.

Heat/Raptors - This line is OFF, while we wait to hear which Raptors aren't playing. Toronto is coming off a nice home win over the Houston Rockets, as they finally put a few of the pieces together and got a nice 13-point victory. If this team could play any defense at all, they might be formidable, and you have to wonder if the absence of a few players might have actually helped the Raptors play a little better on the defensive side of the court. We all know they can score, but this might be a hint to play some Unders, if indeed they are recommitting themselves to trying to get some stops. In any case, they travel to Miami as part of a grueling back-to-back that continues tomorrow in Orlando. This is a very tough spot for Toronto, and I can't legitimately say I know how an athlete approaches this type of scheduling scenario. Miami has been blown out at home by both Dallas and Memphis in their last two games, which should adjust the line slightly, but I need to see what the oddsmakers think about this one before I offer a true opinion. Miami has played to 4 straight Overs, as well, so that will bump the total up a tad.

Bulls/Lakers - Chicago is getting 10 points at home with a total of 193.5. This is a monster number to lay on the road, but if anyone can get blown out by double-digits in their own building lately, it's the Bulls. Chicago is 8-14 on the season, 5-15-2 ATS, making them one of the worst bets in all of basketball. They have lost 5 of 6 both SU and ATS, their last 2 wins have resulted in ATS pushes, and the most recent loss, to Boston, was by 26 points. Everyone and their mother is going to be on the Lakers tonight, and unfortunately, while I normally like to advocate betting on the underdog, everyone and their mother might be in the right. I just don't trust the Bulls to do anything good these days, and if they can't get up to play Boston, I'm not sure how we can believe they'll get up to play the Lakers. Quietly, the Lakers defense has been one of the best in the league, and while they are indeed coming off a loss in Utah that snapped an 11-game winning streak, it was really a situational loss, with LA getting no rest, and traveling into altitude on the day after they ended a 6-game homestand. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I lean to the giant road favorite. Where I'm a little less nauseous is with the total. The public is going to go nuts for the Over, seeing a Lakers game with a total in the low-190's, but fact of the matter is that the Bulls might not break 85. I think the Lakers are due for a poor shooting night, especially with Kobe trying to deal with a busted finger, and there may be some value in a late-afternoon play on the Under.

Rockets/Pistons - This line is OFF, too. A lot of injuries, and it's only going to get worse as we get closer to the new year, then closer to the All-Star break. Though really, today is something of an anomaly, in terms of how many lines are missing. This line is unavailable due to Detroit's complete lack of healthy bodies. Rip Hamilton is coming back, and word on the street is that Ben Gordon and Will Bynum are due back soon, so you have to wonder if one of those gentlemen will participate in tonight's game in Houston. The Rockets are in the midst of an extremely odd schedule which has seen them play 4 games on the road, 1 at home, 2 more on the road, 1 at home (this game), then 2 more on the road before finally starting a true homestand. It makes it very tough to know how this team will respond, but I think in such a spot you have to treat these lone home games almost like a road game with a very kind crowd. It eliminates, somewhat, the lack of focus you sometimes see with a team returning home. The Rockets are coming off a loss in Toronto where they shot just 37% as a team. Couldn't get much worse than that, so you have to believe they'll bounce back. The Pistons, meanwhile, have won and covered 5 straight to get to 11-12 on the season, pretty impressive for a team that's been without almost all of its scorers since early November. They are finding ways to win, pushing the tempo when they need to, and you have to give credit to Detroit's new coach for keeping this team together. I think we're actually going to be getting some value with the Rockets in this one, given Detroit's winning streak and poor road performances. I also think we might see some value in the Under, with Houston now having played 8 straight Unders.

Suns/Spurs - Phoenix by 3 at home with a total of 210.5. This is the game of the night, to be sure, and we'll offer some thoughts on it during the podcast. In terms of the written word, I think we need to remember that no matter how Phoenix is playing, where the game is held, who is healthy, etc., the Spurs just seem to be in the Suns' head. The Spurs won both games in Phoenix last year, and I believe we might just see it happen again. The Suns are a perfect 8-0 at home, and that's why we're seeing the short favorite line, which looks too good to be true, really. When a team has not lost at home and they're laying just a 3-pointer, my guess is we'll likely see the public going with the home favorite. Well, despite San Antonio's road woes where they're just 2-5, I think they not only cover the 3 points, I think they win this game outright. The Spurs have won 3 in a row, including a blowout win against the Clippers in LA, and as this team has gotten healthy and started to develop a chemistry, they've become more and more dangerous. They've gone 8-3 since November 21 to improve to 12-9 on the season. They have historically scored at will against the Suns, and I think we'll likely have more of the same. I'm not sure of the tempo of this game, but I'd be inclined to lean to the Under, since I think Popovich has a plan for slowing the Suns down, and the final total will be in the 205-208 range.

Trailblazers/Kings - Portland by 7 with a total of 199. Early hard lean to the Kings, and I'll explain why. First, this is a lot of points to lay as a team that's been getting its ass kicked all over the league. Portland has gone 2-8 over its last 8 games, losing to the likes of Memphis, Miami, New York and Milwaukee (to name a few). They just concluded a 4-game road trip through the Eastern conference by losing the final two games, meaning the confidence is low as the team tries to adjust to being back with family and the pressures of playing in front of a home crowd. I believe we'll see a performance similar to what Orlando offered last night. Portland will coast through a few quarters, letting the Kings take a small lead late into the game. The Blazers may very well lock down and win it late, but covering 7 points will not be easy. The Blazers continue to deal with an absurd injury list, but at this point, it's more about team chemistry than lack of healthy bodies. Portland's defense has been suffering, as well, as they've played to 3 straight Overs, and are also coming home off a double-overtime game. Of course, it does raise the question of why the Blazers are laying 7 points. Perhaps a little fishy. Either way, the Kings are coming into Portland off a 20-point home drubbing of the Timberwolves, a win that snapped a 4-game losing streak. I generally like backing young teams getting their first win in a while, since the adrenaline and "good vibes" tend to flow for more than just a quarter or two. Sacramento is also 15-6 ATS, so even when they lose, they have a nice knack for covering. I think this total is pretty close to accurate, no leans on the total.

Fantasy Advice

Chris Andersen - I recommended grabbing him a couple weeks back, and he hasn't disappointed. Last night, the Birdman double-doubled to go along with 3 steals, 3 blocks, 9/10 at the free throw line, and zero turnovers. Basically, a perfect game for a big man. Enjoy!

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