Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Frye Me to the Moon

Maybe I should just stop betting against the Suns. If there's a team in the NBA that has fooled me repeatedly, it is definitely the Suns. Still, the Rockets were an easy winner, and combine that with the sorry loser on San Antonio, and I basically knew my evening's 1-1 fate by the end of the 1st quarter.

I won't pay it no mind, though, because picks have been rolling in on the good side way more often than not, to the tune of a 25-12 run since November 23. This is where I'd normally personify the books by telling the booking entity to perform some sort of grotesque act to my man-parts, but in an effort to keep the good vibes, I will merely launch into my usual prose on the monster Wednesday card.

Sports Wagering

Magic/Raptors
- This line is OFF. This is a flat-out awful spot for Toronto. The Raptors had a rare win at home against the Rockets before hitting the road and getting absolutely manhandled by the Miami Heat last night in another in a string of embarrassing defeats. This is one of those games that will likely be a 10-12 point spread, and there's just no good reason to take Toronto, even with this many points on your side. The Raptors, at this point, are artists at getting blown out on the road, and I'm thinking the Magic may take advantage. Orlando is going to be the public favorite, so this line will be inflated, but I'll be curious to see which way it moves off the opening mark on the late release. The Magic played 3 pretty pedestrian quarters in their last game against the Pacers, their first game home off a long road trip. Today, they'll have been in their own beds for a couple nights, have taken care of spending time with the wife and kids, and now can turn their attention on a blowout win. I lean Magic even without knowing the line, and I lean to the Under, if only because I'm not sure the Raptors can score enough to hit what's likely to be a very high total. I suppose I can also note that Orlando has gone to the Under in 3 of 4, and Toronto played a high-scoring game with Miami, so we might get an extra point of value on the opening line.

Hawks/Grizzlies - Atlanta by 9.5 with a total of 208.5. This seems like a lot of points, so let's take a look at how these teams have been performing. The Hawks have won, and covered 4 straight games, including 1 as a road dog, and 3 blowouts, so their value is very, very low right now. Sure, they are playing well, but in terms of the line, we can't collect much on that 9.5. Three straight blowouts really means this team is due for a close one. Legitimately, the Hawks are an excellent team, both 17-6 SU and ATS this year, but they can't blow out everyone, and racking up monster wins against the likes of the Bulls, Raptors and Nets gives us the perfect opportunity to take a look at the other side when they finally play a team that can give them a better test. Amazingly, and most people that read this column are among those in the know, the Grizzlies have been surprisingly effective lately, home and road. Memphis has won, and covered, 4 of 6 games this month, including 2 straight covers despite a straight up loss to the Celtics. What better way to get on board with a team than to catch them coming off a loss to a high profile team, but a cover ATS? This is a fine spot to back the Grizzlies, and with the Hawks shooting over 50% in three straight games, I think they're due to come back to Earth against a slightly better team --admittedly, Memphis doesn't play much defense, but this line will be hugely inflated due to Atlanta putting up 130 on the Nets, so there may be value in the Under, as well as the dog.

Sixers/Cavaliers - This line is OFF. Always love writing hypotheticals (sarcasm...). Anyway, the Cavaliers just finished beating the Nets last night, somehow only winning by 10 despite shooting 58% to the Nets 39% from the field. What does this tell you? Well, for one, the Cavs are clicking offensively and defensively, but at the same time, this was a winnable game for the Nets if they make a few more shots. I think Cleveland is ripe for an upset, though I'm not necessarily claiming Philadelphia is the team to do it. Philly did finally get a win in their last game over the road-weary Warriors, and we'll likely see the same screwball lineup from the Sixers with Elton Brand coming off the bench, and a vastly undersized backcourt of Holliday and Iverson. The win for Philadelphia snapped a 13-game losing skid, and I usually like to back a team getting a surge of confidence coming off a long stretch of tumult and loss. The adrenaline usually lasts through the first half, and I think Philly comes out of the gates strong. I'm a little concerned about them keeping it up against the Cavs suffocating defense, but if there is a potential play in this game, it has to be on what's sure to be a huge home dog. Cleveland is on a back-to-back, and they may very well take it easy in this one until they have to turn it on. I also think there's some value in a potential Over, if the Cavs are lackadaisical on the defensive end of the floor.

Pacers/Bobcats - How about this, the Pacers favored by 3 at home with a total of 194. This is an interesting line, as the Bobcats are coming off a tough win last night over the Knicks at home, so they should be a little fatigued, and we all know how awful Charlotte has been on the road, but a dog against the Pacers? Boy. Indiana, to its credit, has covered 3 straight spreads, including grabbing a pair of wins over the Nets and Wizards before falling late in Orlando. They have been vastly outperforming what I expected when Danny Granger went down, and I'm extremely curious who the public comes in on in this one. Neither of these teams draws much attention, but given Charlotte is coming off another fine home win, I think we see the public jump on who they perceive to be the better team getting points. I still don't trust the Bobcats on the road, where they remain a joke at just 1-10 SU. Somehow, they're 6-5 ATS in those road losses, but here with just a 3-point spread, if they're going to lose and cover, it's going to have to be on a last-second shot. I don't have a strong lean in this one, but I think the Pacers have some value as an underachieving team on a short hot streak. I also think the total of 194 could be a tad low, as the Bobcats don't play solid defense on the road, and lately they've been getting caught up in a slightly faster style of play.

Nets/Jazz - New Jersey is getting 9 points at home with a total of 198. A truly compelling matchup of the Jazz, still somewhat unproven on the road, and the Nets, terrible everywhere, and on the second half of a back-to-back. I almost don't know where to begin with this one. The Nets covered in Cleveland last night, hanging within 10 points of the superior Cavaliers. They've lost 4 straight games, and the cover last night was the only win ATS in that 4-game stretch. I just can't figure how this team can't seem to beat anyone. The Jazz embark on a monster 5-game road trip through the Eastern Conference that continues through Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando and Miami, so they've got their work cut out for them. They also begin this trip immediately following a disappointing home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team they've now lost to twice this year. The last time the Jazz lost to the Wolves, they responded with a win over the Spurs, but that was at home. The Jazz are a stellar 11-4 in Utah, but just 3-6 away from home. I usually like a team in the first game of a long road trip, especially one that's going to increase in difficulty, since I imagine the Jazz are going to make sure they get a win in this one before the games get tougher. Unfortunately, Utah's road struggles make them a painful pill to swallow. Let's get a look at the line. On the total, I like the Under, since the Nets are going to be a little tired, and Utah doesn't shoot the ball as well on the road.

Timberwolves/Clippers - Minnesota by 1.5 with a total of 191.5. The Timberwolves are a favorite! This is only the second time all season Minnesota has been favored, and in the last one, when they were faves of 2 against Milwaukee, they lost by 15 points, so the track record is brief, but poor. Still, I like the way the Wolves have been playing lately, and I don't think it's any coincidence that the return of Kevin Love has drastically improved this club. He is a skilled big man, good passer, and an outstanding rebounder, maybe one of the best in the league. Just taking a quick overview and not getting into the nuts and bolts too much, but looking in mid-November, you can see a ton of Minnesota rebounding numbers in the 40's, and over the last few weeks, those 40's are turning into 50's. More second chance points, and limiting the opponents have allowed the Wolves to cover 8 of 9 games, and while they're just 4-21 SU, they're 13-12 ATS. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually like the Wolves as a favorite. The Clippers have been beating the teams they should beat, and the Wolves fall into that category, but I'm just not sure I can trust them heading out on the road after a 6-game homestand. This is a 6-game road trip for the Clips, and I'm not sure they're mentally ready yet. I lean Minnesota and I lean Under.

Bucks/Lakers - Lakers laying 6.5 on the road with a total of 197.5. The Lakers looked pretty bad for 3 quarters last night, but then we saw them wake up in the 4th, and it's awfully tough to fade a team that can get THAT good, THAT fast. Still, on the tail end of a back-to-back on the road this would certainly be the spot where they might fall flat. I just don't much care for fading the Lakers unless it's the perfect situation, as it was against Utah a few nights back. Now, admittedly, LA failed to cover the large spread against Chicago last night, but it was only by a hair, and the number shrinks to just 7 to cover this one. The Lakers are 19-4 on the season, 10-13 ATS so the spreads are generally inflated a bit, but I'm going to need to see some serious positive line movement to make me overlook the fact that the Lakers are superior at every spot but point guard. The Bucks have covered in 3 straight, beating Toronto and Portland at home, where they remain a tough opponent, now 9-3 at home. The situation favors the Bucks, the skill level favors the Lakers. I will always look to play the big home dog, but like I said, I need some better confirmation than just "Milwaukee is good at home" before I pull the trigger on anything in this one. The total LOOKS low for a Lakers game, but we need to remember how well this team is playing defense this year. They're on a 5-Under run that no one is noticing.

Hornets/Pistons - Hornets by 5.5 with a total of 190. Can Detroit get the energy back up for another game this quickly? I'm not sure. They got beat pretty good by the Rockets, but watching that game on TV, Houston really didn't miss many shots. The Detroit defense was not as good as it should be, but they would have had to play a perfect game to beat Houston last night. The loss snapped a Pistons 5-game win streak, and I usually like to fade a team coming off a win streak, especially a team that hasn't done much on a road, is on a back-to-back, is not playing a team they know well, and coming off a win streak. The value is almost always with underdogs, but I think the Hornets recent 2-game losing streak might have actually created a little value for us, here. This is a very winnable game for New Orleans, but my concern comes from the fact that the Hornets have only covered 1 of their last 5 games, and that was in the most recent defeat in Dallas. When they've won, they've won by tiny margins, so covering 5.5 might be a taller task than it initially appears. Still, I have to lean to the Hornets, since I think the Pistons will sputter, and fall to 3-10 on the road, while Chris Paul should have a field day against a Pistons defense that gives up 7 more points on the road than at home. In that same vein, there may be some value in a road Over, though the Hornets aren't shooting the ball that well, so my lean on the total is exceedingly weak.

Thunder/Mavericks - Thunder getting 1.5 points with a total of 193. My first impression is to love the Thunder, but let's take a closer look. I know my forum pal Denmarkok has some keen thoughts on the Thunder involving home games against lesser opponents, but here we've got them smack in the thick of a battle against a good team. Most of the Thunder's recent losses have come against the elite of the NBA. In fact, while they've gone just 3-3 in their last 6 home games, the 3 losses have come at the hands of Houston (Shane Battier guarding Kevin Durant, anyone?), Boston, and Cleveland, team that should beat Oklahoma City. The three wins in those 6 games have come against Golden State (by 16), Philadelphia (by 11), and Milwaukee (by 18). So, the Thunder aren't really getting caught in too many close games, and this spread seems to indicate that they might be due. Of course, that's assuming the Mavs can get their heads out of their collective recta. Dallas has won 4 games in a row, but they've covered in just 1 of those 4. Unfortunately for those of us leaning Thunder, which I was, the one game Dallas covered was the one road game. It was against the slumping Heat, but it was a road cover, no less, and much like this game, it came as a 1.5-point favorite. I still think the Thunder put on a nice show, but to bet Oklahoma is to basically bet that they're going to win this game, and I'm not sold just yet. The total of 193 looks low, but Dallas has been playing outstanding defense, and have gone Under in 4 of 6 games. The Thunder have been Under in 4 straight, and the books have started to adjust. The Thunder can get moving pretty quick on their home floor, and with the deflated total, I might even lean Over in a surprising twist.

Nuggets/Rockets - Denver by 7.5 with a total of 206.5. This is an awfully tough spot for the Rockets, flying into Denver after knocking off the Pistons in Houston last night, and covering the spread in a fine winner for Houston, and us. Now, the Rockets roll into the mile high city collecting 7.5 points, just over that magic number. I must say, I like the fact that Houston shot the lights out and won last night, because it creates just enough value for me to lean to the Nuggets. Denver has won 2 straight, but has gone 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games, and my biggest concern here is that they're just not suffocating teams the way they did a week ago. They're playing better defense than earlier in the year (5 of 7 games have gone Under), but they're also not shooting the ball all that well, posting FG percentage numbers of 39, 45, 44, 41, 40 over the last 5 games. The Nuggets head back out on the road after this game, so you know they'll look to conclude the homestand with an authoritative win, but can they stop the Rockets cold enough to win by 8? I do definitely lean to the Nuggets in this bad situational spot for Houston, but we'll definitely need some line confirmation to make it any sort of play. I also think we'll see the public hammering the Over, and I like the Under with Denver's stretch of poor shooting and the Rockets likely a tad weak in the legs.

Kings/Wizards - Sacramento by 2 with a total of 214. This line seems awfully low, and it's my sworn duty, as of this moment, to figure out if it's this low because oddsmakers truly feel the Wizards can keep up, or if it's this low because I'm being baited into liking Sactown as much as I am. The Kings return home for this contest after losing a tough battle up in Portland last night, so they may be just a tad fatigued, but that's really the only negative in this matchup. The Kings are an outstanding home team, posting a 9-3 home mark against a dismal 1-9 road record. They are a perfect 5-0 SU and ATS as a favorite, all of those games coming on their home floor, where they score an average of 109 points per game. The splits are really remarkable, and I'm not sure oddsmakers gave the Kings a large enough home edge in this line. Sacramento's home final margin is at +5.8; on the road they lose by over 7, a whopping home/road split of almost 13 points! The Wizards have lost 5 games in a row, though they pushed ATS in their most recent defeat to the Clippers, and I still can't quite figure why they're getting just 2 points, and it scares me. Is this such a bad spot for the Kings, and we're overlooking something obvious? The Wizards just aren't very good, 7-15 on the season, and 3-8 on the road. Again, everything in this game other than the back-to-back points to the Kings laying waste to Washington, but like so many other games where I'm forced to scratch my head about a line, I will wait until the afternoon to make anything official. The total is far too high, with the Kings having played last night, and the Wizards scoring just 93 points on the road, average.

Warriors/Spurs - Warriors collecting the magical 5.5 points against the Spurs with a total of 214. This is an awful spot for San Antonio, but it's not that great of a spot for the Warriors, either. Golden State returns home after a 1-4 road trip through Oklahoma City and then the dregs of the East, and we all know how the first game back can cause a bit of an adjustment period. Golden State does have a nice knack for beating teams in Oakland, but they're not perfect there, not by any stretch. They have, however, covered in each of the last 3 home games, despite going just 1-2 in that stretch straight up. San Antonio comes to town fresh off last night's demoralizing beating at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. The Spurs are an old team, and generally do not fair well on back-to-backs, nor do they play well on the road. Incredibly, the Spurs are 10-4 at home, but just 2-6 on the road. What's more, they're 2-6 ATS on the road, so not only are they losing, but they're either losing big, or losing as a favorite, which could be the case here. We may also be able to get some value in the total, which feels a tad high given the Warriors are playing their first game back, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Spurs poop themselves out by the second half. If you do take an Under, don't be discouraged by a fast first half, as I think the scoring will drop substantially after halftime, but of the leans in this game, the stronger one is to the Warriors.

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