Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's an Illusion

I didn't think the day would come when I could make a subtle "Arrested Development" reference, but it has, and I feel good about it. If you haven't had the privilege of watching that show (no longer on television), you missed 3 seasons of incredible hilarity, and this blog title makes zero sense to you.

Bottom line is that the Orlando Magic got spanked by the Heat, and seem as yet unable to defeat their intrastate rival. Huge card today, so no time to spare, not when today is my first day as a Pro!

Even if you're not planning on spending money, please do roll on over to my new Pro Page and let me know what you think!

Sports Wagering

Raptors/Nets - This line is OFF. I have to be honest, here on my first Pro blog. I have almost no clue where this line will open up. These are two of the most disappointing teams in the entire NBA, and both are just as bad as ever, lately. The Raptors have lost 4 of 5, failing to cover in all 4 of those losses, and picking up their lone win against the Rockets in Canada. The Raptors are 11-17 ATS on the season, but thankfully, they are 6-6 ATS at home, so they do have a prayer of covering here. The Raptors have played absolutely no defense all season long, but have had a tendency to go Under the total at home to the tune of 4-8 O/U in their building. These are both trends to consider when the line gets released. Toronto played two straight Overs down in Florida, so we might get a little line inflation here, and it's something to keep an eye on. For the Nets, well, they stink too. New Jersey is 1-15 away from home on the season straight up, and 5-11 ATS, so this team continues to be so awful that even the huge spreads aren't helping. Like the Raptors, the Nets are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games, though the Nets have lost all 5 of those straight up. My favorite edge for Toronto in this game is that Jersey hosts the Lakers tomorrow. Even a bad team can have a tendency to look ahead to Kobe, and I think the Raptors have a reasonable shot to win this game by 8 or 9 points. I think the line will open closer to 6 or 7, and I think we'll see a total just under 200.

Celtics/Sixers - Boston by 12 with a total of 196.5. Two teams under .500 ATS going head to head, with the clear "value" edge to the Sixers, but let's see if there's any real reason to hop on Philly. Philadelphia lost 12 games in a row between November and December before finally beating the Warriors 4 days ago. Then, as predicted in this blog, they played a great first 24-36 minutes against the Cavaliers before getting shut down in the 4th quarter, losing the game, and failing to cover as a dog. Can we really trust them to stay within 12 points against the juggernaut Celtics? Philly is just 4-9 at home, but this game is on the road, where they're even worse at 2-10 straight up...but wait...Philadelphia is an astounding 8-4 ATS on the road! They are actually BETTER away from home, the ultimate head-scratcher. Perhaps the hostile Philly crowd is taking its toll on this spiraling club. More likely, though, they suffered a few extra-embarrassing home losses that moved the average a few points, but when all is said and done, even if you move the numbers around a little bit, it's still safe to say that Philly either has no home court advantage, or no road disadvantage. The Celtics are actually roughly the same at home as on the road, as well, which means this 12-point spread might actually be factoring anywhere from 3-6 points that maybe it shouldn't. The Celtics are 4-7 ATS at home, 7-6 ATS on the road, so everything seems to point to a Philly lean. If Philly is going to compete, they're going to need to put up a few points, so a slight lean to the Over, but very, very slight.

Cavaliers/Bucks - Cavs by 10 with a total of 194. I may have to go square on this one, as the Bucks come to town in a most awful of spots. Milwaukee, as most remember, is coming off a debilitating overtime loss to the Lakers in a game that they led almost the entire way, and even held a 6-point edge in OT. When a team lays every last drop of strength on the line the way Milwaukee did, it's going to be awfully difficult to get up for the next one. I would be happier if the Bucks were playing a team more evenly matched, since I think we'd get better line value, but this will have to do. Cleveland, at 19-7, is among the cream of the NBA crop, and they're even better than that at home. The Cavs are 10-2 in their building, but have covered just 4 of those large spreads. That does indeed give me pause when considering a bet on this hefty spread, but with Milwaukee likely emotionally drained, I'm just not sure they can keep up. The Cavs beat the Bucks by 15 in Milwaukee, and normally I'd look at that as a revenge angle, but I think it might be an indicator that the Bucks just don't match up at all with the Cavs, and I would be afraid the Cavs might take this one by more than 15. I lean to Cleveland, and I lean to the Under since I'm not sure Milwaukee breaks 85 in this true letdown spot.

Hawks/Jazz - Atlanta by 6.5 with a total of 206.5. This game has the potential to be a good one, with two hot teams going to head to head. Unfortunately, that also means that it's going to be tough to find the value. Of course, the first inclination is to look to the good team getting 6.5 points on the road, but we must remember who we're dealing with. The Jazz are indeed coming off a 16-point win in Jersey, but they're just 4-6 on the road this year, both straight up and ATS, so they have not impressed away from home. I think we've lost the value we may have had with Utah earlier this year, as they've played an absolute ton of home games over the last 3 weeks, and have laid the beat down in almost every one of them. Here, they hit the road to take on one of the other nearly unbeatable home clubs, the Hawks. Atlanta is 11-2 at home, 10-3 ATS, and have won and covered 5 straight home and road. I think this is a spot where you either have to ride the Hawks' hot streak, or make no play at all. They're scoring at an amazing rate over the last 4 games, and even though the Hawks defense hasn't been all that impressive, they're scoring so easily that it hasn't mattered. I think the best bet in this one could be on the the total, and I like the Over. The Hawks defense has been able to get by, but the Jazz have been excellent on offense lately, and I think this one has a nice shot of going Over. I lean Over and to the home team.

Timberwolves/Kings - The Kings are laying 1.5 points on the road with a total of 210. I may have to advise going back to the well on this one with the Wolves. Minnesota laid an egg in their last game against the Clippers, but believe it or not, this game might actually be a better spot for them. The Kings are just 1-10 away from home, and while they're 6-4-1 ATS on the road, all of those covers have come as a huge dog. This will be the first time the Kings have been favored on the road, and I'm not sure it's warranted. I think we're getting great value with Minnesota here, as they have been playing better, and just caught the Clippers on a day when everything they threw up in the air, landed within the confines of the hoop. I don't think the Kings can make this work just yet. They're a decent team, and fairly exciting to watch, but Sacramento still doesn't hit the big shots on the road, and I think the Wolves take this game outright. The total looks very high, but these two teams combined for 220 when they played in Sacramento. I would look at the Under due to line inflation. Are the Wolves starting to get some credit? Yeah, probably, but I think we're still getting value seeing them as a dog at home to a team that has a home/road scoring difference of 13 points.

Hornets/Nuggets - A pick in New Orleans with a total of 202.5. This line is screaming "TRAP"; someone is seriously trying to tell me that the public is going to even consider the Hornets when they can just pick the Nuggets to win outright? No chance. If we're not seeing 75-80% of the public on Denver, I will be floored. I am a bit deterred by the fact that this line actually opened with the Hornets as a 1-point favorite and immediately dropped a point. I get the feeling the sharps grabbed the Nuggets right off the bat knowing full-well the public would slam the Nuggets all day, maybe move this line to Nuggets favored by 1 or 1.5, and they can then buy it back to set up a sweet middle. Which side would the sharps like more, is the real question? This line, to me, suggests that the Hornets are the sharp play. It's not a bad spot for Denver, really. This is the first of just two road games for the Nuggets, as they come off a 3-0 homestand (just 1-2 ATS). It's not a particularly great spot for the Hornets, either, as they're coming off a home win over the Pistons, then travel to Toronto for a game on Sunday. I think the real key here is that this game means more to the Hornets than it does to the Nuggets. New Orleans is 11-13 on the season, in 4th place in their division, and desperately in need of starting some kind of climb if they're going to weave back into the mix. They are 9-3 at home, where the Hornets simply find ways to win, not usually by many points, but they get the W. This hasn't been a particularly good matchup for the Hornets over the last year, but I just don't feel like the Nuggets are applying the kind of pressure they need to to win on the road consistently, and I like Chris Paul and company, here. I think we may see this game stay Under, as well, if indeed the Hornets can succeed in slowing down the Nuggets.

Knicks/Clippers - The Knicks laying 3 with a total of 200. Believe it or not, this is actually a decent spot for the Clippers. The Knicks are coming off another late-game collapse last night, as every game the Knicks lose lately seems to be because of a 4th quarter scoring draught when those long 3's stop falling. New York, after winning (and covering) 4 in a row, have now lost (and failed to cover) 2 straight on the road. I think perhaps the most interesting thing about the Knicks is that they're not much better at home than they are on the road. They're 4-8 at home, 4-9 on the road, with a point differential of just 2.2. Tonight, they play the second half of a back-to-back against a Clippers team coming off a furious beating of the Timberwolves in Minnesota. Interestingly, the Clippers are actually significantly better on the road than at home. Record-wise, they're 1 game under .500 in both locations, but they lose by 4.4 points on average at home, and actually average more points than their opponent on the road. The ATS record might be more telling, as LA is 4-10-1 ATS at home, and 5-4 ATS on the road. The Clippers have won 2 straight, and certainly have the pieces to compete with the up-tempo Knicks. Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby should be able to give David Lee some trouble inside, and I think LA matches up pretty well at most other positions. I'm also looking at a potential Under, since most folks think New York is all about scoring, and the Clippers are coming off a high-flying game their last time out, which should inflate the line just slightly.

Grizzlies/Pacers - This line is OFF. When we don't have a line, we can just look at each team individually and get some ideas. Memphis returns home after a one-game foray out into the world that didn't go very well. The Grizzlies got spanked by the Hawks, but who hasn't? Memphis continues to be a very tough place to play for opposing teams, as the Grizz are 6-5 at home, 7-4 ATS. I'd almost say they're deceptively good at home. Memphis has played to 3 consecutive Overs, as well, so let's keep an eye on a potential high line for this not-so-great team that has actually won 4 of 7 this month, with the losses coming to Boston, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City. The Pacers, continuing to piece together a team without their leading scorer, begin a back-to-back tonight with tomorrow concluding in San Antonio, so this is not going to be an easy journey. Indiana has been bouncing between home and road games lately, so the travel shouldn't be an issue. What should be an issue is that this team is somehow managing to stay in games without Danny Granger, but the luster is going to come off very soon. They've covered in 3 of 4 games, and they've really been pushing the pace, but I think Memphis can lock them down. I lean to what's likely to be a home favorite of 4 or 5, and Over a total that's likely to be near 206.

Thunder/Pistons - This line is OFF, but I can already tell you I have a lean to the Thunder. The Pistons are garbage on the road, and the Thunder can really beat up on lesser teams at home. The Thunder have lost 3 straight games, so we might actually get some value with them in this one, but those 3 losses have come at the hands of Dallas, Cleveland, and Denver, so the elite of the NBA. Now, Oklahoma gets to take aim at a team that is a terrible 3-10 on the road, and have lost and failed to cover in each of their first 2 games on this current road trip that ends tonight. My biggest concern is that Houston comes to town tomorrow, so the Thunder might be thinking a little about beating the Rockets (who have already defeated Oklahoma City twice this year). Otherwise, the Pistons are ripe for the picking, and they've been getting more credit than they deserve on this road trip because of a 5-game win streak that ended in Houston. I believe we'll see the Thunder open as 5-point home favorites with a total near 190, and I lean to the home favorite and to the Under.

Mavericks/Rockets - Mavs by 5 with a total of 194.5. This should be a good one, an intrastate rivalry game between two of the leagues finer clubs; not to mention the fact that they've already played twice this year, and Dallas has wiped the floor with Houston both times. I think the Rockets will continue to have trouble with teams that focus on getting the ball to a skilled big man. Shane Battier can't guard Dirk Nowitzki, so they have to hope that Carl Landry and Luis Scola can at least slow him down, and, well, they cannot. Admittedly, the Mavs had two of their best shooting nights all year against the Rockets, and I think some of that is good matchups, but a good deal of it is also luck of the draw. Tonight, Dallas will play more like what we expect: a very good team that has won 5 games in a row, but has only covered 2 of those 5, and both of those were road games. This is certainly a smaller home spread for Dallas, and that is giving a ton of credit to the Rockets, and perhaps they deserve it. Houston is 14-11 this year, somehow, 15-10 ATS, and a very impressive 9-6 ATS in road games. I think this smaller-than-expected line is in indicator that this game is going to be well-fought, and while Dallas may indeed win, I lean to the Rockets to keep it close. I also think that there's a misconception that a Houston cover means the game will go Over, but that's not necessarily the case. Dallas plays a possession-style game, and if they don't shoot 55%, games should end with a total very close to the listed mark, here. I lean slightly to the Under.

Warriors/Wizards - Golden State by 1.5 points with a total of 219. The poor, poor Wizards just cannot get over the hump. They are now among the NBA record-holders for anti-clutch, as Washington has now lost six straight games by 4 points or fewer, and now they're presented with a line that would seem to indicate it might happen again. I would beg to differ. This is a very bad spot for the Wiz, as they're now in their 3rd game on this road trip, starting to tire slightly, and they have to play tomorrow in Phoenix. This is a trademark look-ahead spot for Washington, though on their current streak of ineptitude, I'm not sure how far ahead they can really look. Another reason I like the home club is because the Wizards got mammoth efforts from Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison in their last game (in Sacramento), and still lost, and my guess is that at least one, maybe both of those guys will not bring full effort tonight. That's not to say that there's inherent value with Golden State, since Washington is getting creamed lately, but when the line is this short, I'd lean to the team that I expect to win the game. Golden State has lost 4 straight games, as well, but 3 of those 4 were on the road, and the 4th came in their first game home off the trip against the Spurs. The Warriors don't play again until the 22nd, so they're going to lay it all out there tonight, and now with a day of rest in their own beds, I think we'll see a nice 4-quarter effort from the Warriors, who are actually not that bad at home. Golden State will win this game by 7, breaking the Wizards streak of close losses, and snapping their own losing skid. The total of 219 looks too high, as I don't think the Wizards break 105.

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