Friday, December 11, 2009

Jazz and Booz(e)

There weren't any official plays yesterday, but if you read this blog, you knew damn well I had a love affair going with home dogs, and they did not disappoint. Two home dogs posted upset wins, and the Wizards covered. It was beautiful, beautiful basketball. Nice bounceback game for the Utah Jazz; nice winner for the podcast; all good.

Sports Wagering

Pacers/Nets - Here's a thriller in the making; Pacers by 3.5 with a total of 199. The truly amazing part about this game is that someone has to win. Inevitably, regulation or some number of overtime periods will expire, and one of the two teams will have more points than the other. Let's start by taking a look at Indiana. The Pacers have lost 6 straight games and 10 of 11, both straight up and against the spread. They are 6-13 SU and ATS on the season, so not only are they losing, but they're losing bad. Here, they're a small favorite, but only because they're taking on the dregs of the NBA. Indiana lost to the struggling Trailblazers in their last game, which kicked off the team's short 2-game homestand (that ends tonight). They were in a tough spot in the game against Portland, coming home after an awful road trip and also playing their first game (of many) without star Danny Granger, who continues to get hurt, and whose incredible skill is starting to become buried by injuries and underachieving teams. The Pacers also play in Washington tomorrow. New Jersey has traded off losses and wins in the month of December so far, accumulating a 2-3 record. They do seem to be playing a little bit better as Devin Harris gets fully healthy, and the whole "worst team ever" pressure was lifted by a home win over Charlotte. I really don't see how the Pacers are favored by more than the home-court 3 points, and it looks like the side has actually come down in this one. I don't believe Indiana can compete with the rest of the teams in the League, and they just don't appear to have anything in the tank. I lean Nets, and I lean just slightly to the Over.

Sixers/Rockets - The Rockets are laying 3 points on the road with a total of 193.5. Houston just continues to impress. I really thought we'd see this team regress by now, but at 12-9 SU and 13-8 ATS, Houston has outperformed expectations pretty consistently. They have won 3 of 4 in December, covered 3 of 4 in December (though a different 3 games), and are coming off a solid home upset of the Cavs. The Rockets were able to take yesterday to travel, and today take on a badly struggling Sixers club. The short side makes me a little hesitant to jump on either team, since it appears that the public money on Houston is having zero effect on the spread. I'm not seeing a great deal to make me think the Sixers play well in this game, but I'm also not going to purposefully butt heads with the sharp money by making a play on the Rockets, not unless I see something overwhelming. For instance, Houston is in a letdown spot, playing a terrible Philly club after the monster home win over Cleveland, a title contender. The Sixers don't play again for 3 days, so we'll likely see the starters get a few extra minutes, and they're coming off an ugly, ugly game against the Pistons, so we can expect Philly's best effort. This side just screams "no-play" from the top of every mountaintop. The total looks low, at 193.5, but Houston has played to 6 straight Unders, and the Sixers have played to 2 in a row. This is an Under lean, or nothing at all.

Raptors/Hawks - This line is OFF. This could be quite a game. The Raptors play host to the team that put up 146 points on them just over a week ago, and I'm very curious to see how the oddsmakers play their hand on this one. The Hawks were 9 point favorites in Atlanta in their last game, so standard adjustments would make the Hawks a small road favorite here. But given that the Raptors have 3 of 4 since that ass-kicking, and the potential revenge angle, I wonder if we won't even see a shorter spread. Time will tell. Still, Atlanta is clearly the better team, here. The Hawks are 15-6 SU and ATS, a respectable 6-4 on the road, and already have one quality win this month on the road against the Mavs. The Raptors bounced back from the embarrassing defeat to these Hawks by beating the Wizards, Bulls and Wolves before falling in Milwaukee in a stereotypically poor defensive effort. The public will almost undoubtedly be on Atlanta in this one, and if we see a line under 3, I'd call it a trap. I expect the total to be pretty high, given the way the last meeting went.

Heat/Mavs - This line is OFF, too. The Miami Heat kick off an epic 6-game homestand with this big one against the Mavericks. What that also means is that Miami is in their first game at home after a 4-game roadie that saw the team go a respectable 2-2, and was a Kobe Bryant miracle bank-shot away from 3-1 on a tough, tough trip. The question we have to ask, now, is whether the Heat can bring some of this solid play back home, and use the so-called bonding road trip as a springboard to playing some good ball at home. I am a tad concerned about it being Miami's first home game, but at the same time, I think we saw some very good things out of the non-Wade players on the Heat. Quentin Richardson, in particular, impressed me with his play against smaller guards. The Mavericks, meanwhile, have failed to cover 3 straight, though they did snag a win against the Suns in their last game. Before that, Dallas fell to Memphis and Atlanta, and it was starting to look like all the injuries they've dealt with (most notably both Josh Howard and Shawn Marion left the team without a decent SF) were catching up with the team. Josh Howard's return gives this team an enormous shot in the arm, and I'd be all over Miami, regardless of the spread, if Josh Howard wasn't working his way back. He is a huge piece of this team, the guy that gets them off to quick starts and causes turnovers that Jason Kidd can magically transform into dunks. I think we'll see the Mavs as tiny favorites with a total near 200.

Hornets/Knicks - New Orleans by 6.5 at home with a total of 208.5. This might actually be a good game, believe it or not. The Hornets have Chris Paul back and looking more comfortable every game. The Knicks are just 7-15 on the season, but have won 4 of their last 5, with the only loss coming in Orlando. Those 4 wins have come over Phoenix, Atlanta, New Jersey and Portland, so it wasn't a cake-walk schedule, either. I've been extremely impressed with how the Knicks are playing right now, getting easy shots, and suddenly getting some leadership from guys like David Lee, Larry Hughes and Chris Duhon. The Knicks also don't play again until the 15th of the month, so they should be more than willing to lay it all on the line tonight before a long layoff. The Hornets have a couple days off after this one, too, before a game in Dallas, so neither team should really be in a look-ahead spot. If anything, we might see both teams come out a little apathetic, thinking more about getting a day or two to watch some television and relax than the game at hand. New Orleans has won all 3 games since Paul returned to the team, but they have failed to cover all 3. A very interesting phenomenon that I think the books are enjoying, since most folks are throwing their money at Chris Paul when the Hornets are playing, say, the Wolves twice. Today, though, we may see the public come in on New York because of their hot streak and because, well, they're from New York. I think the line is this big for a reason, and I lean to New Orleans to win by 8. I also think this one has a decent shot of going Under the total, with the Hornets on a string of Unders, and the Knicks playing a little defense lately.

Bulls/Warriors - Chicago by 4 with a total of 213.5. I have to admit, I'm a little surprised by this line. Aside from the 76ers, the Bulls might be the team in the NBA struggling more than any other. They've lost 9 of 10, with their most recent home defeat coming at the hands of the Nets. I really would have expected this line to open closer to a pick, since Golden State is coming off a 16-point win in New Jersey, and despite a pretty ugly record on the season, the Warriors have been finding ways to cover at a 12-9 clip ATS. The Warriors play in Detroit tomorrow, which is hardly a look-ahead spot, while the Bulls host the Celtics tomorrow. I don't like that the public is looking at Golden State, but we can hope that the numbers even out a bit over the course of the day, and if they do, I smell a play on the Warriors. Not yet, though, we must keep our patience. The value couldn't possibly be higher with Chicago than it is right now, but at the same time, if a team can't win and they're a favorite, I'm not really sure how much stock we can put into "value."

Cavaliers/Trailblazers - Cleveland by 9 at home with a total of 184. Very interesting to see the Cavs laying 9 points coming home off back-to-back losses in Memphis and Houston. This isn't a great spot for Cleveland on paper, and the Blazers finally got a win in their last game, but we're still seeing this jumbo-sized line. At the same time, Portland has been in an extended funk that has seen them win just 2 of their last 6 games. Also, to see the Blazers go from a 3 point favorite in Indiana to a 9 point dog in Cleveland is just a monster swing, and for that reason, this is just the sort of game I prefer to avoid. I'd lean to the Cavs, since the line feels too large, which means they likely beat the pants off the Blazers, but at the same time, I'm not sure how I can bet on either team.

Grizzlies/Thunder - Memphis by 2 at home with a total of 200. How about those Grizzlies? This team has quietly won 3 straight games, including victories over both the Mavericks and the Cavaliers! Now, they play host to the Thunder, who have been flip-flopping between great and terrible games, and are hunting for consistency. This is a tough game to pick a side, as Oklahoma City has shown the ability to win on the road, going 5-4 away and 6-5 at home. The difference is basically negligible. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, are a much, much better team at home, going 6-3 in Memphis and 3-9 on the road. The average final margins for the Grizzlies are +2.3 points at home, and -9.0 on the road, a ridiculous difference of over 11 points. So the home court advantage is definitely there. The Grizzlies also play decent defense at home, maybe better than most would expect. Still, betting on public perception is one of the best ways to make money in this business, and the public is going to be loving Memphis after that big OT win over the Cavs. This is the type of game where the Grizzlies might take their foot off the accelerator, beating both the Mavs and Cavs, now trying to get up to play the Thunder. I think the best value in this game may be in the total. The Thunder can definitely score, and I expect the tempo of this game to be very quick. If both teams shoot a decent percentage, we should see this total fly over 200. I lean to the Over.

Spurs/Bobcats - The Spurs by 8 at home with a total of 187. The Bobcats simply are not that great on the road. For all the time I've spent talking about how this team is money in Charlotte, they remain a pitiful 1-8 on the road. Perfect example, look at the team's last 3 games. Charlotte won both home games, and lost on the road to New Jersey. Can we really trust this team to get it done against the Spurs, who appear to finally be developing some team chemistry? I'm not sure. Charlotte loses by 8.3 on the road, average, which bodes well in this one, as they play a Spurs club that wins by 7.5 at home. Also, the Bobcats have another one tomorrow in Dallas. We have seen some teams really crank it up for this particular back-to-back, but I'm just not sure the Bobcats have the firepower to get it done against a veteran club like San Antonio. Still, San Antonio is beatable. They had lost 3 straight before knocking off the Sacramento Kings in their last one. Yes, a win is a nice way to stop a skid, and they'll probably beat the Bobcats, but can they win by 9 or 10? This is another game that freaks me out just a little.

Lakers/Wolves - Good lord, another stinker on our hands? Lakers by 15.5 with a total of 200.5. Flat out, this game is a bet on the Under, or nothing at all. There's about one chance in a hundred that I'd ever advocate a bet on a team laying 15.5, that's just too many. Of course, that doesn't mean I trust the Wolves to actually play a decent game. It just seems that with the Lakers' current level of interior defense, and Ron Artest making life miserable for opposing wing players, the Wolves will be lucky to break 85. I think the Lakers win this one 105-90, which means we have a little value on the Under, but boy, I don't know...

Suns/Magic - This is a good one. Phoenix by 1.5 with a total of 215.5. This line is on the move, and it looks like it's going up. If you're wondering why, take a look at Orlando's last game. The Magic rolled into Utah having won 6 straight, stormed out to a double-digit lead, then watched as the Jazz cranked it up 3 or 4 notches and dominated the second half of the game. The Magic lost by 9, and the very next day have to jet to Phoenix for a game against a team that's going to try to run them right out of the building. The Suns had 2 days off to gameplan for the Magic, and I'd say put money on Phoenix right now, except Phoenix's schedule makes me stop and rethink. The Suns play in Denver tomorrow, a terrible situation, and one can only hope that they focus all their efforts on winning this one at home, since they don't have a very good shot of flying into the mountains late, late at night and trying to tackle the Nugs. I have to admit, I'm a little surprised to see the Suns as an increasing favorite, really. I know Orlando is coming off a sulfur-bomb of a game in Utah, but Phoenix is 1-4 in their last 5 games. Sometimes the public is very easy to predict, and sometimes they catch you by surprise. Let's watch this line, and see where it bounces, but right now, I have to lean Phoenix's way, and also to the Under.

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