Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Knick of Time

The Way of the Pun.

Yeah, I know, a terrible title, but the Knicks have suddenly won 4 straight, and a few of those wins have been impressive. Who would have thought that moving Al Harrington into the starting lineup and putting a little 5-Hour Energy into Chris Duhon's Red Bull would work out so well? They're still just 8-15 on the season, but a 4-game win streak is a 4-game win streak, and they could certainly put together a nice little 7-3 or 8-2 stretch to claw back into the Eastern Conference's mid-section.

We made just one official play last night on the Philadelphia-Houston Under, and we cashed it, bringing the current NBA play run to 18-10. Today's card looks outstanding, and even now, in the early a.m. I feel like I'm seeing some key values. Let's get down to business.

Sports Wagering

- Washington by 8 with a total of 205.5. I'll tell you, if either of the teams in this game was a public favorite, I'd call this the ultimate trap line, but given that it's the Wizards and Pacers, I'm jut not sure. That right there is one vote for a no-play, but let's see what we can figure out. The Pacers played last night, picking up a rare win, at home, against the pathetic New Jersey Nets. The Pacers outscored the Nets by a few points in every quarter, and before they knew it, they were up double digits. Life will not be quite so easy for Indiana tonight. Generally, I like to back a team that picks up a win to snap a long losing streak, but even with 8 points, I'm not sure I can get behind the Pacers. Over the last couple weeks, the Pacers lost 4 straight, won 1, then lost 6 straight before grabbing the "w" last night. This team is clearly not built to go on a winning streak, and getting 8 points feels like way, way too many, which makes me think the Wiz blow them out of the building. Washington is coming off a narrow loss to the Celtics on TNT, so they have had a day to rest up for this very winnable match. The Wizards have lost 3 straight, overall, and the other two came at the hands of the Pistons and Raptors. It really makes you wonder how oddsmakers could give this team an 8 point advantage, another tally in the "trap" column. Washington is definitely a better team than Indiana, especially with the injuries the Pacers are dealing with, but 8 points? I lean Washington because something smells fishy. In terms of the total, it seems like we have some value with the Under, given the Pacers fatigue and injury list.

Pistons/Warriors - This line is OFF. Damn unfortunate, too, because the moment the Warriors game went into OT last night, we had some value with the Pistons that we can't capitalize on thanks to the line being unavailable. Golden State continues to play serviceable basketball, beating the bad teams at home with a rare solid home win, and then generally losing on the road. The Warriors are just 3-10 away from home this season, and last night's road loss to the slumping Bulls was a decent indicator of how important playing in Oakland can be for this team. The Warriors score a ton of points, but they seem to have some issues forcing the tempo on the road - not sure if it's an energy thing or what, but last night's OT game in Chicago still ended with a total of 187. The Pistons, meanwhile, are coming off a gutsy win over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday. Detroit has won 4 straight, and somehow, even without Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon, this team is only 2 games under the .500 mark. The Pistons are 13-8 ATS, and are 7-4 SU on their home court. With Golden State likely tired from last night's game, and the situation exacerbated by the Warriors short bench, the Pistons are in position to grab another home win. My one concern with this one, and it does become a factor because I think we'll see the Pistons laying 6-7 points, is that Detroit may be in letdown mode after the big win over Denver. I'm not saying they'll lose the game, but the effort might not be what we need for a cover. Very curious where we see the total open, too, since I think there may be some value on another Under.

Bulls/Celtics - Chicago is getting 11 points at home with a total of 187. This is bordering on obscene, and I have to think this line is inflated a bit. Laying 11 points in a road venue is almost unheard of, because this basically means if the home court was reversed, the Celtics would be a favorite of at least 17 points. Yes, Chicago played an overtime game last night, putting them in a fatigue spot, but you can bet someone like, say, Derrick Rose, is not going to back down from the Celtics. Still, Chicago has made it about as tough as humanly possible to back this team. The win last night was only the Bulls' second victory since November 19, a stretch over which the team has gone 2-9. They have lost to Toronto and New Jersey at home over those few weeks, inspiring little confidence despite the team's 6-3 home mark SU coming into this game. Still, you know the team will be juiced up for this game, especially after the ass-whooping the Celtics laid on Chicago back in the first week of the season, in Boston. Boston, on the other hand, has won 9 games in a row. They have failed to cover in the last two, though, and oddsmakers are in a nice spot where they can continue to inflate Celtics lines (the team is winning, after all), but still collect the public's money when Boston loses the cover. I lean Chicago on the side, and I simply have to lean to the Under, since Chicago has zero prayer of outscoring Boston, and this should be a grinder.

Bobcats/Mavs - This line is OFF. This should be an interesting one, if only we could get a line to work with. The Mavs, at 16-7, are clearly one of the elite teams in the NBA, and they're only getting better. The return of Josh Howard (even in limited minutes) is helping this team with their depth, and once he gets strong enough to start, look out. Dallas beat up on Miami last night on the road, so there is certainly a letdown situation on hand here, but I still think we see Dallas favored by a small margin. They've shown the ability to win on the road (9-4 SU and ATS), winning by an average margin of over 5 points. I don't know what the people of Charlotte put in the water, though, because teams just don't seem to play well in this building. The Bobcats are a miserable 1-8 on the road, but 8-3 at home, one of the most pronounced home/road splits in the NBA. They win by 6.2 points on average at home and lose by over 8 on the road. If oddsmakers truly adjusted the line for Charlotte based on their performance, we'd see a home/road line move of well over the normal 6-7 points. That being said, I still think the Bobcats are a small home dog, and I would love to back them here. They are coming off a rather dominant home win over the Nuggets, and there's very little reason to think they can't do it against another good team today. They've also played 4 straight Overs, so that's something to think about, as well.

Bucks/Blazers - Milwaukee by 3 with a total of 189.5. This one is a strange line, and at first glance, I would love to take Milwaukee in a monster win. I'll tell you why. The Blazers continue to get public love despite their recent stretch of rather pedestrian basketball. Portland played a tough game against Cleveland last night and lost by 5, meaning this team should be pretty tuckered out heading into Milwaukee for the "less interesting" half of their back-to-back, and I'm not sure how much Portland will have in the tank. The Blazers have covered their last 2 games, so that's something, but they are easily the worst 14-10 team in the NBA right now. The Bucks, on the other hand, are one of the league's toughest 10-11 teams. Milwaukee is 8-3 at home, and coming off a furious beatdown of the lowly Raptors. I think Milwaukee catches Portland in a bad spot, here, and I think the Bucks can win this thing by 6-8 points, well over the current listed spread. If this line moves the way I want it to throughout the day, and we can fair money coming in on both sides, this could very well be a play. The total of 189.5 feels awfully low for a Bucks game, and the Blazers have played 2 straight Overs, as well, and I feel the value here is in the Over.

Nuggets/Suns - Denver by 8.5 with a total of 227. This couldn't be a worse spot for the Suns. Truthfully, the only way this could be a poorer situational spot for Phoenix would be if their game last night went into some number of overtime periods. As it is, the Suns played a hotly contested game with the Magic, pushed on the spread of 3 points, had to win with late heroics, and then had to rush like hell to the airport, fly to Denver in the wee hours, try to adjust to the thin air, and take on the Nuggets tonight in what could have been a great game if the Suns weren't flying into that silly-looking Denver airport off a late-night contest with the Magic. Fact of the matter is, this line is high for a reason. The Nuggets are lethal at home, and the Suns might hit "E" on their gas tank by about the 9 minute mark of the 3rd quarter. Denver, by the way, is coming off back-to-back losses on the road to finish a 4-game road trip, so they're not in the world's best spot here, but their situation is certainly better than that of the Suns. I lean Denver on the side and the Under on the total, with fatigue playing a factor, and the Nuggets first game home should mean at least one quarter of less-than-stellar focus from the home team.

Jazz/Lakers - The Jazz are underdogs of 1.5 points with a total of 203.5. Seriously, try to convince me that the Lakers laying just 1.5 points doesn't feel like far, far too few. We're talking about a team from LA that has won ELEVEN straight games. There is no hotter team in the entire NBA than the Lakers, who are playing the best defense we've seen in LA, well, maybe ever, and beat the Jazz by 24 just three days ago. That being said, the Lakers have not been covering all of their spreads, and there is no better time to fade a team than when they're winning SU and losing ATS. The public's memory isn't that great, and when they look at the last few weeks and see W11 next to the Lakers, they're going to jump all over this tiny spread. I'll tell you right now, Utah wins this game. There is zero question in my mind. The Lakers finished their 6-game homestand last night with a win (loss ATS) against the T'Wolves, and Kobe Bryant broke his finger in the process. That maniac will continue to play through it, but he won't be at full strength, and the Jazz are going to be in revenge mode. The Jazz are 10-3 at home (9-1 in their last 10 home games), and Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are playing some of the best basketball of their careers. The Jazz are coming off a monster second half in their game against the Magic, and I think with the Lakers getting into Utah late (a city with some mild altitude, as well), we may see another Jazz attack in the second half. I lean hard to Utah. I also like the Under, as I see the Lakers falling apart offensively when fatigue sets in.

Kings/Timberwolves - Kings by 7.5 with a total of 206. Bad spot for the Wolves, not a very good spot for the Kings, but someone's got to win, so...Anyway, the Wolves come to Sactown after a loss late last night in Los Angeles. To their credit, Minnesota did cover, and despite being 3-19 SU, the Wolves are 11-11 ATS, so oddsmakers have had a nice handle on this team so far. They've actually covered 7 straight after a terrible ATS start to the season, and have been the quietest cash cow over the last 2 weeks for underdog bettors. This might be another chance to grab some points. The return of Kevin Love has made this team much more formidable on the inside, and with both Jefferson and Love on the glass, the Wolves have outrebounded 5 of their last 6 opponents. If they could shoot the ball, they might win a few games. Still, they've been able to keep games close with the low and mid-tier teams of the League. My obvious concern in this one is fatigue, coming off the game with LA. The Kings come home after a short 2-game road trip, so the "first game home" capping angle shouldn't really come into play. What might come into play is the fact that the Kings have lost 4 straight games, and they've let their last 3 opponents all shoot over 50%. This poor defense has led to 2 of 3 games going Over, and it has also led to the aforementioned losing streak. This is a nice chance for the Kings to get back in the win column, but the large spread is a little bit too much to chew on. I'd lean to the Wolves just slightly, no lean on the total.

Fantasy Advice

Chris Duhon - I mentioned him back at the top of this write-up, and I noted him a week ago, but he's coming out of his coma, and has the potential to be a 15-point, 8-assist point guard that hits a few threes, putting him as roughly the equivalent of a 4th or 5th-round draft pick. Pick him up, and trade him after he puts together 4 or 5 straight good games.

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