Sunday, January 31, 2010

Push You Around

Boy, with even a smidgen of luck, we would have had a 2-0 sweep on Sunday. Instead, we had to watch helplessly as the Magic made 4 straight free throws down the stretch to turn a 4-point cover into one of the worst "pushes" a man can stomach, and while we are still boasting a decidedly winning 1-0-1 record for the day, that game felt like it was taken away from us. It's not right of me to complain about a push, but you guys know me -- I'm a perfectionist at heart, and I go into every game expecting it to be a winner, even though we all know that's insane.

Whatever the case, we're still straight up rolling! Paid Plays are now 8-4-1 over the last 13, and the Lakers-Celtics Under pushed our Free Premium run to 8-4, as well! The 16-8 combined NBA run is nothing to scoff at, and we continue to produce winners on a daily basis. The weekend saw us fire off a 4-0-1 record, a great way to bounce back after the Thursday TNT debacle last week.

So, we move forward, and while less than half the games have lines, I already see a few situational spots I like quite a bit.

Sports Wagering

Celtics @ Wizards - Washington collecting 5.5 at home with a total of 191. Oh me, oh my. This one looks awfully tempting; let's see if the angles back the infamous home 5.5-point dog. At first glance, I would say they do, though the angles aren't terribly numerous. I'll try to break the game down in order of importance. The biggest issue in this one is the back-to-back. Boston has not played well on back-to-back games, as their old, tired legs have led to a 2-7 ATS record in the second half of such situations. This wouldn't be interesting, except that we know how good Boston is as a team (29-15 SU), but they're just 4-5 SU on the second half of back-to-backs, as well. That combination of numbers would seem to indicate that the Celtics are, in fact, effected by the schedule, and what's more, this will actually be their 4th game in 5 nights - not at all a good spot for them. If Boston can hold it together for 2 quarters, it will be a triumph. The next most important angle is the letdown. Boston, as many of you saw on ABC, gave up a 4th quarter lead to the Lakers, and were buried by a Kobe Bryant contested fall-away jumper with 7 seconds left. That looked awfully similar to the way Boston lost in Orlando a few days back, and they proceeded to get spanked in Atlanta the next night. I'm not arguing Washington is going to be doing any spanking (unless Boston's into that sort of thing, hah), but I definitely feel the Celtics emanating pain and despair. The third point, amazingly, is revenge, though for the Wizards, it's tough to argue that they are somehow "mad" at the Celtics. I think Sac made a better point in the forum that it's more about "retooling" and having another crack at a team that beat you earlier. So, we have the Wizards, who have been gameplanning for this contest, and the Celtics, who spent their recent games dealing with the Magic, Hawks and Lakers, and I would imagine, have gameplanned for the Wizards about as long as their practice hours are this coming afternoon. The Wizards, by the way, have won 2 in a row, so they're playing decent basketball, at least as far as "decent" goes. I lean to Washington; no lean on the total.

Bucks @ Heat - This line is OFF. This game is the second half of a Heat/Bucks home-and-home, with Milwaukee taking the game in Wisconsin 2 days ago, 95-84, easily covering the spread of 4 in a game that really wasn't that close from the midpoint of the 2nd quarter. It looked like Miami hadn't come to play, and by the time they decided to compete, Milwaukee was out ahead by 15 and had it on cruise control. Now, Miami gets a chance to avenge that rather lackluster performance by trying to drop the surging Bucks at home. I'm curious to see where this line opens up. The Heat were 4-point dogs on the second night of a back-to-back in the last one, so you'd figure if we drop 2 points out and rotate home court, Miami should be favored by 4. I would imagine the line will open up close to 4 or 4.5, and potentially move up a tick. Besides the revenge, though, this doesn't actually look like that great of a Heat wager. Still, these home-and-home situations are like their own special island in the middle of the NBA season. The Bucks have covered 7 games in a row, but that almost doesn't matter here, beyond the fact that they're making shots. The Heat have been a poor ATS team at home, but that, too, seems less important than usual because they are going to show they deserve to at least split 2 games with the Bucks. I think it's also important to note that because Miami was on that back-to-back in Milwaukee, they were inclined to play lackadaisical ball. Here, they're rested, and I expect a strong game from Miami; I lean Heat. The last game involved a total of 179, well beneath the 190 that was set. Let's react to this total when it comes out, because I think we might get some information just by looking at the line.

Lakers @ Grizzlies - Lakers by 2 with a total of 206.5. One more time, I'd like a ticket to Letdown City, please? I think there may be the misconception that the Lakers are just going to roll into town feeling damn good about themselves after that win in Boston and topple the Grizzlies, but I'm of the exact opposite school of thought. The Lakers have now won 4 in a row, and they, I'm sure, are looking pretty snazzy to the average bettor after the nationally televised win on Sunday afternoon. The Grizzlies probably don't look that snazzy, and really, it's amazing how quickly the public can forget. The Grizzlies covered 6 of 7 games before losing in San Antonio, and then at home to the Hornets, so suddenly the Grizzlies have gone from hero to zero. The Lakers have been just fine on back-to-back games, so that's not an issue here - LA is 9-3 SU (6-6 ATS), so we can throw that angle out the window. The more important one here is revenge. I think it's interesting how this revenge angle compares to the one we mentioned above in the Wizards game. In that one, we talked about how the Wizards don't expect to win, so it's really more of a "modified attack" game; this one, though, is more traditional revenge. The Grizzlies are an up-and-coming team, really enjoying the season and at 25-21 are in the thick of the Western Conference hunt. They came to LA, though, and got trounced by 16, and I believe this is a team that wants to show the "big dog" that they're good enough to compete. I also like that the Lakers are on the last game of a road trip, so at least, let's say, 15% of the team is probably going to be looking ahead to getting home and seeing children, their flat screen TVs, etc. I lean Memphis. I also think we might see some points scored in this one if the Grizzlies dictate the tempo - that being said, Memphis has seemed content lately to play a more defensive game. I actually lean to the Under, since the obvious choice here is to expect fireworks.

Suns @ Hornets - This line is OFF. Stupid Chris Paul is costing us a shot at a middle right now. The Suns playing an overtime game with the Rockets will likely move this line another point in favor of the Hornets, but without a line to begin with, this one is going to look awfully juicy for Suns-backers. And it may very well be just that succulent. If Chris Paul is forced to miss another game, I'm just not sure that we'll see another career night from Darren Collison, and we all know how poor the Hornets are at covering home favorite spreads. Since we really are going to be basing our views of this game largely on the presence (or lack thereof) of Chris Paul, it's tough to fully handicap it, but a few notes are worth mentioning. The Suns appear to be building momentum. The big question off the TNT Thursday win over Dallas was whether Phoenix would regress or come out strong in the next game, and we saw clearly that they're playing with a ton of heart with this overtime win in Houston. Obviously, there are going to be some tired legs with multiple Suns logging over 40 minutes, but I just don't trust the Hornets at home to cover what's sure to be a spread of ample size (if CP3 plays). The Hornets are a robust 16-5 SU at home, but 10-11 ATS; they are 15-6 SU as a favorite (7-14 ATS), and 11-4 SU as a home favorite (5-10 ATS). This team is a disaster as a home fave; they play close games almost every night, making them a wonderful dog (16-10 ATS), but a team that just cannot be trusted to put anyone away, at least no one with the firepower of the Suns. Plus, Amare Stoudemire fouled out of the game with Houston, so he won't be quite as fatigued as the others. These teams have split two previous meetings, with each club winning the home affair, and covering, but despite that, I lean to Phoenix on the side. The totals in the two prior meetings were 128 and 113. Let's see where this one opens up, and we'll take it from there.

Kings @ Nuggets - This line is OFF. The Nuggets return home off a fine road performance in San Antonio in the Sunday morning ABC game. I guess we know which team wakes up faster between those two. Now, we get to see if the Kings can ever get things straightened out. The Kings are tanking at an alarming rate; I mean, we're talking very, very ugly. The Kings went 2-13 in the month of January SU, and 3-11-1 ATS, so it has been an epic tailspin, and I just can't tell if we've hit rock bottom. It almost doesn't matter, and this may come as something of a surprise, but this is a double-revenge spot for the Nugs, who have lost twice to the Kings in Sacramento, with both games going Under. Now, Denver gets their chance to push the tempo and blow Sacramento out of the building. The real question in this game is whether Carmelo Anthony will play, because if so, this line might be pretty huge. I almost hope he doesn't play so we can deal with a line closer, to, say 10, instead of 12-14. Bottom line here is that I don't trust the Kings. They have lost every single road game thus far in 2010, and even if they manage to keep it close with Denver for a few minutes in this one, there's such a slim hope that they can compete for all 48 minutes. Denver is going to be on a back-to-back, which actually should work to our advantage, since we'll get a nice little 2-point line drop. I'm very interested in where this line opens up, as I lean just a bit to Denver, and I think there may be some value, once again, in the Under, since the Kings can't seem to score. They've played to 4 unders and push in their last 5, and I think Denver's involvement in this game should inflate the total just a hair.

Mavericks @ Jazz - This line is OFF. Will Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer play? Deron Williams is a "maybe", and Boozer is likely out. I certainly think Paul Millsap is about as capable a replacement as you can find, but another game with Ronnie Price running the point might start to take a little toll on Utah. The Jazz have been playing dominant basketball, winning 9 of 10 games, straight up, and going 9-1-2 ATS in their last 12, so this is not a team to be taken lightly. I do think, though, that they may be hitting that point where the team is starting to become overvalued against the line, and we can anticipate a few failed covers of large home spreads in the not-so-distant future. Hell, we might have seen the start of it with their home win over Sacramento, but failed cover. Now, they welcome one of the better road teams in the NBA, but a slumping version of the Mavs. Dallas's defense has been horrible lately, allowing over 100 points in 3 straight games, while playing to 4 straight Overs, and going 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games. I believe the most important angle in this game is revenge. Dallas beat Utah in the first meeting this year, but Utah came back to Dallas 3 weeks ago and creamed the Mavs by 18 as a 5.5-point dog. Dallas is going to want to go into Utah and get a win, or at the very least, we can expect a solid full-game effort. Despite the recent cold stretch, the Mavs are still 15-10 ATS on the road, so they can certainly compete, and if they're getting a few points in this one, I'm inclined to lean Mavericks. If the Jazz are healthy with Deron, I like the Over thanks to Dallas's awful defense this month, but if there are players missing, I might just dodge this total (and maybe the side, too) altogether.

Bobcats @ Blazers - This line is OFF. I guess Brandon Roy has been upgraded from "out" to "questionable", though he wasn't supposed to return until the middle of the week. I guess time will tell. Assuming Roy is still out, this is a nice spot for the surging Bobcats. Charlotte lost the opener of their current 6-game road trip in Denver, but have since responded with 3 straight wins in Phoenix, Golden State and Sacramento. Now, they continue on their sweeping trip across the Pacific with this contest at the Rose Garden. This, guys, is one of those games where I think it's important to just try to simplify things. Sure, the Blazers actually beat the Bobcats in Charlotte earlier this year, so there is some revenge mixed into this little ATS cocktail, but for the most part, I think we're looking at a team where you just want to stay out of their way until they lose. So, either we like Charlotte or nothing. The Bobcats do play the Lakers on Wednesday, but I'm not sure this is a traditional look-ahead spot, since Charlotte is in a zone right now, focused on each and every game and working toward moving up in the Eastern playoff standings. I just love their recent ability to lock down on high-scoring, zero-defense teams, and I'd be willing to wager they have a decent gameplan for this one, as they certainly have game tape from the November meeting to work off. I lean Bobcats. On the total, well, this could be interesting. The last game featured 154 points, 17 under the posted mark of 171, but I actually think we'll see this one open up a bit higher than 171. The Bobcats have played to 5 overs and a push in their last 6, and the Blazers are on a streak of 6 consecutive overs. Another situation, I think, where we should just ride the wave and look at the Over, unless the line is so absurd or the movement so severe that we need to turn our heads.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Good Land

Courtesy of Alice Cooper in Wayne's World: "It's pronounced 'Mill-ee-wah-kay', which is Algonquin for 'the good land."

I will admit, I have fallen in love with the Milwaukee Bucks. This team has covered 7 games in a row, and we've been on board now for 3 of those 7 covers. What can I say? This team is the perfect blend of under-the-radar and ultra-competitive, much like the Kings earlier this season, but with more defense and consistency. But enough gushing over the Bucks. This Paid Play winner moves us to a solid 8-4 in our last 12 Paid releases, 15-8 in our last 23 Premium Plays overall (7-4 on Free Premium plays), and 3-0 in the last 2 days.

Moving forward, I think Friday's results are going to play a nice role in this upcoming Sunday card, so let's get down to it. It's just unfortunate that all the interesting early games are without lines. Still, we'll try to get a peek at some of the games and figure a few things out.

Sports Wagering

Nuggets @ Spurs - This line is OFF. I don't mean to be brief, but since this game starts ultra early, and by all accounts we'll probably only have a line on the game for about 2 hours, I don't think it's worth going into TOO much detail for a game that there's about a 1% chance will appear on my premium card. Still, I'll try to hit on the key notes, then power forward. Carmelo Anthony and Tony Parker are both doubtful as of late Saturday night, so handicap accordingly. The Nuggets are coming off getting pummeled by the Thunder, so they're giving their typical road performances without a healthy roster. Denver is playing the last game of a 3-game road trip, so they'll be looking to head home. San Antonio is playing the last game of a 6-game homestand, so they'll be looking to finish strong before embarking on an extended roadie. San Antonio lost to Denver by 7 earlier this year in San Antonio, so they are avenging a home loss, a situation that has seen the Spurs go 5-3 ATS. San Antonio has been terrible against the Northwest division this year at 2-8, and they are 1-7 in games following a divisional opponent (Memphis, Friday). I lean Spurs and Under, partially due to the early start and some sluggish legs.

Lakers @ Celtics - This line is OFF. I will be hosting the Live Chat on this game in the forum, so keep an eye out for our first NBA Live Chat of the season with your buddy Dan Bebe. Another line that ceases to be, though at least we'll probably get, I don't know, 3-4 hours to bet on this game. That's more than enough time to make my card, so let's break it on down. The Lakers roll into Boston feeling pretty good about themselves. They lost to Cleveland and Toronto on this road trip (with a win in New York in between), but since that loss in Canada, the Lakers have rattled off 3 straight wins and 3 straight covers. Now, we get to see how this team performs against tougher competition. I will admit, I was a bit concerned about backing the Lakers in Philadelphia with this game on the horizon, but Kobe and the gang showed they were not looking ahead, or at least not doing so to the point that it would cost them, and I expect another strong showing from the Lakers. Obviously, the big issue here is the health of Kevin Garnett. He's playing, but he's clearly not himself, and I just wonder if the Lakers size and skill isn't going to be a bit much for Boston to deal with. The Celtics are coming off losses in both Orlando (the demoralizer) and Atlanta, so they're not exactly flying high right now. Still, if there's ever a time we'll see the Celtics come ready to play, it's going to be against the Lakers. I am actually a huge fan of avoiding the side on this one, and using the results as a barometer for the Lakers game tomorrow in Memphis, but I do think this game gets played at a slower tempo than most casual fans will expect, and I lean Under.

Clippers @ Cavs - This line is OFF. Fortunately, we'll have this line for a while, but truth be told, I'm extremely curious where this one is going to open. The Clippers have been blown out by both the Nets and Timberwolves, the two worst teams in the NBA, and now they have to play arguably the best in the League, at least based on how teams are playing right now. The Cavs have won 7 games in a row (covering 4), so they're hot, and they're finding ways to win when games are close. Our issue here is to determine just how close we think the Clippers can make this one. I'm inclined to believe the Clippers' value is at an all-time high right now, but we have to determine if that's enough reason to take a risk and back them. Sure, they may be getting a wildly inflated line in this one, courtesy of the Cavs' win-streak and the Clippers looking like absolute turds in their last few games, but that doesn't mean the Cavs won't win this thing by 30. As a point of comparison, the Cavs were 8.5-point favorites when these teams met in Los Angeles, and the Clippers lost by 1 in a game they led almost from start to finish. That was an extremely strong effort by the Clips, and it raises two interesting points. One, does that game make LA believe they can compete with the Cavs? Two, does that game make LA feel like they can play one of their best games and still lose, and thus, what's the point? I'm inclined to believe that the value is strongly on the side of the Clippers, so I lean their direction, but the Cavs could indeed open this sucker up early and never look back. Based on that note, and given I think the Clippers could compete, the only way they're going to pull that off is to score some points, so I like at least a peek at the Over, though, again, that depends largely on where the line opens up.

Sixers @ Nets - This line is OFF. The one we've all been waiting for! Three interesting games, and now this crapper. The road warrior 76ers against the "we covered two-in-a-row" Nets! New Jersey is on double-revenge in this one, so there is certainly one decent reason to consider a play on Jersey, but I'm just not sure how far double-revenge extends when you're talking about a team that is every other team's inferior. It might not make a difference. What more can we say about the Nets? Nothing good, that's for sure. On Philly's side, there is actually some value here, too. The Sixers are coming off 3 straight losses and 3 straight failed covers, but they continue to be a much more interesting bet on the road. Philadelphia is 14-9 ATS away from home, 5-18 on their home court. I've gone into the final margin discrepancy many times in the past, so I won't bore you all with numbers here (if you're curious, ask, and I'll produce them in the comments section), but suffice it to say the Sixers need the 3 points they give away to the line at home, and don't really need the 3 they get from playing on the road. This is a good indicator of how well we can all perform at betting if we're constantly getting a 2+ point advantage on the line. The Sixers play in road venues like they're on a neutral court, and so, with 2-3 points of value on a daily basis, they're hitting the fantastic 14-9 mark we mentioned above. I have no leans on the side in this one, since both teams have a ton of value, and I think there's some value in the total, since these teams combined for 161 points the last time they played, 27 points below the posted total. Let's see where it opens, and if it's above 188, we might look at the over.

Pacers @ Raptors - Toronto by 9 with a total of 216.5. Fear the dino! Honestly, though, I'm not a huge fan of this game. Toronto and Indiana have each won a prior home game this season against one another, and each covered the spread in those games. Toronto is RED-HOT, posting, I believe (and feel free to correct me since this is going off memory) the 3rd best record in the NBA over the last month and change. They've won 4 straight, they've covered 3 straight, and they're actually starting to force misses at the defensive end. On the other side of the court, Indiana has looked awful lately, which makes this game all that much more nerve-racking for me. They could wake up at a moment's notice, and getting creamed in two straight games by the Lakers and Cavs is the fastest way to accrue instant value in the NBA. Most folks are going to look at the recent numbers for these teams and see the Pacers getting run out of their own gym and the Raptors winning both at home and on the road and figure this one is going to be a blowout, but I just don't agree. Toronto isn't playing their normal early Sunday game, so they don't have that sluggish a.m. time advantage here, and I actually think the Pacers wake up for this one. What's more, these two teams play again on the 2nd of February in Indiana, and while I know I've said before that our best course of action is to wait and bet the second game of the home-and-home, only to then pick a side I liked, I actually, truly, do believe that I'm going to wait this one out (barring a crazy line move or something jumping out at me), and take a position on the Tuesday rematch. I like the Under on the total, but BARELY, so take it for what it's worth.

Magic @ Pistons - Orlando by 5.5 with a total of 187. Here are two teams going in completely different directions. The Magic have won 5 of 6, only losing in Memphis to the rolling Grizzlies, and after losing 3 straight on a recent west coast road swing, Orlando seems to have begun to figure things out. In fact, their last 2 wins have come over rivals Boston and Atlanta, and they also grabbed an impressive road win in Charlotte in this hot streak. The Pistons have lost 4 in a row, and they have failed to cover all 4, most recently getting held to 65 points by the Miami Heat after scoring 93 in each of the 3 other losses. These teams have played twice so far this year, and each has won the game home game. Here's the kicker, though. This line is either off by 3 points, or there's a sucker at the end of the rainbow. I'm inclined to believe, given the fact that most folks are going to be betting NBA this Sunday with ABC picking up morning games, and bettors trying to get their morning losses back on these lesser evening contests, that this game might very well be a trap. The road line of 5.5 is a dubious number, and while, unlike my buddy Mike Hook, I don't think it's an automatic fade, I do think that in the right circumstances it can be an indicator of how oddsmakers truly feel about a game. For instance, if the Magic were a different hot team like, say, the Raptors, and this line was at 5.5, I would actually say the line was fair. But here, with a marquee club like Orlando, rolling up into Motown on the back end of a back-to-back that started with a cruising win over the Hawks, this one smells somethin' fierce. I lean to Detroit, though I have to pop a Tums when I say it. I also lean the Under - Orlando is not going to bring their A game, so we're going to get a game with a winner in the 90's.

Knicks @ Wolves - Minnesota by 1.5 with a total of 211. You want to talk about another revenge spot? How about the Wolves hosting a Knicks team that dealt them a regal ass-whooping under a week ago in the Big Apple. The Knicks exploded out to an early lead and never looked back, winning by 27 and dealing the Wolves their second 25+ point loss in a row. Now, Minnesota gets New York on the second half of a back-to-back, and fresh off an ugly loss to the Wizards in Washington. I think it's safe to say the Knicks are bumbling just a bit here, going 2-3 on their recent homestand, and now starting this short 2-game road trip with a 10-point loss to the hapless Wizards. This situation is strikingly similar to that of the Clippers when they just came to Minnesota. LAC had been crushed by the Nets, then, while most folks were banking on the Clippers bouncing back the next day in Minnesota, LA came out flat, only waking up in time to cut the lead to single digits, then losing by plenty in the end. I would not be surprised at all to see the Knicks suffer the same fate. The Wolves have some solid rebounding big men, and if New York continues to rely solely on David Lee to collect every board, this could be a long night for the Knicks. Fact of the matter is that if the Knicks are forced to grind this game out, they're not going to be in good shape - David Lee is going to have to battle with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love all game, which should drastically cut into his ability to score. I like Minny on revenge here, and if the tempo of this game is anything like the tempo the last time these teams met, it should go Over again.

Warriors @ Thunder - Oklahoma City by 9.5 with a total of 214. I imagine the Warriors are wondering when they get to play the Thunder in Oakland, but it ain't today! The answer, actually, is February 6th. In any case, this is a tough spot for the Warriors, and I think that has been reflected in the huge line. This will be the Thunder's largest home spread of the season, so it's rarified air - they were a home favorite of 9 over the Pacers, and they were unable to cover that one. I'm not convinced we won't see the same results here. Still, the Warriors have lost 4 in a row, and they've been looking like a terrible, undermanned squad, and that's exactly why we would love to stay ahead of the curve. Truth be told, with the Warriors starting a 3-game road trip, I don't really believe either team is in a GOOD spot in this one. The Thunder are in the middle of a homestand, typically a time that I like to back a team, but not a team that has never faced this type of monster spread. The final reason that I don't really have a strong feeling about either the side or total in this game is the information we're getting from the last meeting. The Warriors are technically on revenge, though it was at 16-point loss here in Oklahoma City as a 7-point dog. And oddsmakers have adjusted the spread accordingly. Also, the total in that game was just 192, THIRTY points under the posted mark, and oddsmakers have set the total in this one 8 points lower, so the lines are working their way towards the results from the last game. This tells me that that the power rankings predict this game will go a lot like the last one, and I just don't like that at all. No leans here.

Suns @ Rockets - Houston by 3.5 with a total of 219. Double revenge for the Rockets here, including a home loss to the Suns back in know, when Phoenix was decent. More recently, the Suns beat the Rockets by 8 in Phoenix. Also, we've seen the totals bouncing back and forth between 216 and 228, and I'm thinking this total is spot on. If there's any value in this game, it's not in the total, so let's break down the side. I don't think oddsmakers truly believe the Rockets are a better team than the Suns, so we're seeing, likely, a larger-than-3 home court advantage for Houston, and also a preadjustment for the double-revenge. So, unless you strongly feel the Rockets are going to come to play, there isn't a ton of line value on the Houston side. There is the possibility of a letdown for the Suns, though. They finally snapped their TNT disaster skid on Thursday night with that emotional home win over the Mavericks, but lost in the big victory is the fact that Amare Stoudemire is starting to check out on the Suns. His size is a huge reason the Suns can run an effective offense against the Rockets, since we all know how much trouble bigger guys give Houston. This game is just making me wring my hands, and that's a good sign that the line is probably pretty accurate. It's tough to know if Phoenix will respond to that Dallas win with a letdown or with a surge of momentum, and it's tough to know if the Rockets finally getting a SU win will propel them to another. This should be a fun game to watch, and a terribly stressful game to wager on. I hate to say it, but I have no real leans in this one, either. Maybe just a teeny, tiny bit to the Rockets, thanks to the double-revenge, but there's about a 15% chance this game makes any kind of card for me, premium or personal.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bounceback Follow-Up, Anyone?

The announcement of a "Bounceback Day" never fails! Yesterday we got creamed, today we did the creaming. Perhaps I could have picked a better word there, but I really wanted to make a strong point.

Our Paid Play was an easy winner on the Timberwolves, who did let the Clippers claw back into the game just briefly, but got a few key stops in the 4th and covered by double-digits. That win moves our Paid Play run to 7-4, which, for whatever reason, looks a lot better than 6-4 to me!

We also nabbed a narrower victory on the Free Premium selection of the Spurs, who covered by just 2, but were "in the money" for most of the game. Free Plays also moved to 7-4 over the last 11, so despite a couple of less-than-stellar days in the middle of this week, we're still delivering a sound beating in the NBA, and I see no reason why it shouldn't continue with another solid day.

My favorite part about the Friday card, even beyond the 2-0 mini-sweep, is that the Friday games LED to angles in the Saturday and Sunday games. It's a great feeling when you can take results from one day, and immediately reapply them to the next. Let's get to it.

Sports Wagering

Hawks @ Magic - Orlando by 5 with a total of 192.5. The battle of teams that just played Boston! This will be the 3rd meeting of these teams this season, and Orlando has dominated each of the first two, winning in Atlanta by 17, then at home by 22. So yes, a few things come to mind: the Hawks are indeed on double-revenge, but I just don't know if this is the right time. Both teams are coming off emotional games with the Celtics, and the Hawks just completed a 4-game season sweep of Boston with a nice 4th quarter last night. But how strong is the double-revenge when Atlanta just powered out such a nice 4-game sweep and, I would say, accomplished one small season goal? I'm inclined to think not all that outrageously strong. Orlando has owned the Hawks so far, so it's also quite possible that the Magic just have Atlanta's number. Let's dig deeper. How have each of these teams played in the game immediately following a showdown with Boston? When Orlando beat Boston in Boston back in November, they followed that up with a road win over the Raptors (and a cover); when Orlando lost to Boston in Orlando, the Magic bounced back by throttling the Bucks. So 2 games after Boston so far, and 2 wins and covers. How about Atlanta? When they beat Boston in November, the Hawks were right in the middle of a 7-game winning streak, so needless to say, they won the next one; the most recent win over Boston was followed by a narrow home cover against the Wizards; that brings us to the 2nd game with Boston for the Hawks. They beat the Celtics by 8 in Atlanta, and had to play in Orlando the next night where they got manhandled by the aforementioned 22 points. So, here we are again, the same exact scenario, and the Magic are favored by just 5. This is scary, to me. I definitely think Orlando has a strong edge in energy and experience, but this line is enough to give a man fits. I don't like the side here, given all the information we have, but if I had to lean, I'd lean to the home fave. In terms of the tota, the first meeting between these teams went under 199, the second went under 196, and now this one is set at 192. We might very well be due for an Over, but let's see how this thing moves off the opening number, since I'm at a loss for what the public is going to think on this total.

Hornets @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 5 with a total of 206. Memphis and New Orleans BOTH playing back-to-back contests, so this is definitely going to be a battle of attrition, and courtesy of New Orleans losing in overtime to the Bulls, I would expect to see this line move to 6 before morning, so your best bet might be to grab Memphis right at this very moment (if the line hasn't changed before I finish typing this blog), then maybe hope for a move up to 7 and grab yourself a middle, since a 2-point middle, as you all heard on the podcast I'm sure (you best be listening!) is a very profitable endeavor in the long term, especially when NBA lines are getting nice and sharp. In any case, we know how tough Memphis has been at home, and we also know how New Orleans has a knack for playing close games. I think a lot of that has to do with having a leader like Chris Paul - he's so even keel that his team really feeds off that. They don't get up when they're ahead, and don't get down when they're behind, leading to a lot of games decided by a bucket or two. And just as we hope, we have an example! Wow, it's like we were taught in 9th grade - when you make a statement, back it up. How about the game between these same two teams just a week ago, which New Orleans won 113-111, failing to cover the home spread of -3.5, and easily clearing the posted total of 204. So, in a week and a half, the power rankings have changed 2.5 points? I'm not sure I buy that, and I'm thinking this line has been overadjusted for home court, and potentially preadjusted for revenge. While I definitely believe Memphis wins the game, I actually think New Orleans might be the better value, especially once this line adjusts for the Hornets going into OT last night. I lean Hornets if we can get this thing at 6 or 7. I think we'll see the total come down a tiny bit because of fatigue, but both teams have played to the Over on back-to-backs, and I lean that way.

Knicks @ Wizards - This line is OFF. And this is not the world's greatest spot for either team. The Knicks just finished up a 5-game homestand with that brutal loss to the Raptors, and will be playing their first road game since January 16th! How will the Knicks respond to being back out on the road? If recent road games are any indicator, the answer is "okay" -- they took 2 of 3 road games near the turn of the decade, then took 1 of 3 in Houston, Oklahoma and Philly, then lost their most recent road game in Detroit when the Pistons were actually playing decent ball for about 3 games. So, based on those games, 2 weeks ago, we have to try to figure out how they'll play in this one. My guess is, well, "okay." As for the Wizards, they managed to squeak out a narrow win in Jersey last night, 81-79 (I leaned Under in that one pretty strongly, for what it's worth), and now they come home to host the Knicks. This is a Wizards team that really needed a win, but they're just not showing any kind of spirit over the last few games. They've failed to cover in 4 straight, and it just looks like they're hitting that wall that I spoke of at great length on the podcast with respect to yesterday's play. This game feels like the spot where Washington bottoms out. This is the first meeting between these two teams this year, and if indeed Washington continues to play without spirit, this should be a nice line for New York. For what it's worth, the Wizards, one of the worst ATS wagers in the NBA (17-27-1 ATS), are 3-8 ATS on the second half of back-to-backs. Yeah, I know, not surprising. I lean to the Knicks even though they burned me on Thursday. I have very weak feelings on the total, and given the teams involved, I have to take a teeny tiny lean to the Under, but for flimsy reasons, at best.

Heat @ Bucks - This line is OFF. And, while Dwyane Wade played last night in Detroit (and was able to rest quite a bit), he was seen in visible pain, and I'm just not sure that anyone, even oddsmakers, know where to open this one up. These teams haven't played this year, so there's no prior meeting to base numbers upon, and we have no idea if Dwyane Wade or Michael Beasley will play, two guys that could create about a 4-point swing in the spread, depending on health. You guys know how I feel about trying to throw darts at a game that involves crucial injury issues, but I'll break this thing down, anyway. The Heat, as we just saw, are coming off annihilating the Pistons in Motown, embarrassing Detroit by 27 points while holding them to just 65 points in the entire game. You guys know how I enjoy looking at teams that got shown up at home, but that's when we look at Detroit; this is our look at Miami. The Heat snapped a 2-game losing streak with this easy win, and now they turn their attention on a very strong home team in Milwaukee. The Bucks, a team we've been playing quite a bit lately, have covered 6 straight games while going just 3-3 SU but outperforming the line each and every night. Conveniently, they lost the 3 of those games played on the road and won all 3 at home. The Bucks are 13-8 ATS on their own court, where they shoot the ball from outside very, very well, and that could really come in handy in this one. If the Heat have tired legs and can't quite get out to cover shooters, someone like a Carlos Delfino could potentially have a field day. I lean Milwaukee until they look like they're slowing down. We must be careful, though, as these teams play one another again in Miami in 2 days. Maybe it's best to just wait and play the opposite team in the second game. Still, I like the home teams to win both games in this home-and-home, and I lean Bucks and Over.

Blazers @ Mavericks - Dallas by 8.5 with a total of 193. That's a lot of points for the Mavs to give away, considering their home situation. I realize that Portland beat Dallas here earlier this year, so there is going to be some revenge of a home loss for the Mavs, but Dallas has just not shown me anything on the defensive end lately, and with Portland on a back-to-back, I think this line is getting needlessly inflated. The Blazers covered in Houston last night, as I suspected they would, and now they can flex their back-to-back muscles, a situation that Portland has not been opposed to this year. In fact, the Blazers are a strong 7-3 ATS in these spots, playing roughly the same on day 1 as day 2, and thus the 2 bonus points given to them by the oddsmakers end up giving the Blazers all kinds of line value. Now, don't get me wrong, Portland has lost 3 straight, and they've looked outmanned doing it, but the Roy-less Blazers are suddenly a gold mine for line value, assuming they put together even 36 minutes of decent basketball. Dallas is a miserable 5-16 ATS in home games, and giving away almost 10 points is just no way for the Mavs to get a cover. And no, I don't think this is a trap to take the road team, since nobody wants to take Portland without Brandon Roy. I lean Dallas to win, and Portland to cover. I also like the Over - these teams played to just 166 points the last time they met on a total of 187.5, and oddsmakers bumped this number UP to 193; if that's not fishy, I don't know what is.

Bobcats @ Kings - Charlotte by 1 with a total of 196. As I begin typing this paragraph, Charlotte is engaged in a 4th quarter battle with the Warriors, and leading Golden State by a healthy margin. It makes a man think, really. Both teams in this game are going to be on the second half of a back-to-back, with Charlotte going road-to-road, and of course, Sacramento going road-to-home. Sacramento is 3-6-2 ATS on the tail end of back-to-backs, but are actually 3-2 SU when going away-to-home in these situations. Still, the narrow cover in Utah is a huge rarity for this team. The Kings are now 3-10 ATS in January, and 1-8 ATS against Southeast division opponents, so this does not shape up well for them. I keep waiting for the Kings to "bottom out", but I'm not sure that situation has presented itself yet. They didn't look good at all against Utah, allowing Paul Millsap to thoroughly dominate the game, and while Kevin Martin is back, Jason Thompson has hit something of a wall. I'm not sure I can legitimately tell anyone to back the Kings here, even though they're probably the sharp choice. Charlotte is 9-3 ATS on back-to-back game twos, so they're a strong choice for this situation, too. Most people thought they'd be in a letdown spot against Golden State last night, but clearly that was not the case. This is a team growing together by the day, and they're learning how to play on the road, suddenly making them a very dangerous team. Charlotte got out to a huge lead over Sacramento when they played a couple weeks ago, and nearly blew it, and that game does throw a wrinkle into things, here. Sure, the Kings are on revenge, but at the same time, I think Charlotte is going to want to prove that they're better than they showed in the second half of that game at home. I lean Charlotte, despite the difficulty of playing in Arco and revenge, and I lean Under on the side, as I see the Bobcats trying to slow things down, and I don't see the Kings energized enough or cogent enough to push through the Bobcats strong defense.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Truly Offensive Foul

Well, crap.

I don't want to call it a mis-read on my part, but certainly the game did not play out as expected. Sure, the Knicks held the lead for almost the entire game, fell behind late, then actually surged ahead by 5 points again, but 4 missed layups in the final 2 minutes, then a controversial offensive foul call at the buzzer really capped a strange game and an unfortunate loss for your pal Dan Bebe.

But we mustn't let this slow us down! It's a long year, and a long season, and there will be inevitable losses. If there's something to be learned, and I'll go into more detail on this on Friday's Podcast, it's that sometimes the betting percentage sites can actually tell us something WITHOUT telling us that thing. I realize that makes zero sense, and explaining it in the written word when I'm anxious to get started on the games makes even less sense, so please do listen to today's show when it comes out (noon eastern time), as I'll go into some heavy detail on the program.

Another thing that came up in yesterday's blog discussion is the concept of the inevitable loss. I was asked if I sell plays thinking I'm going to lose, and the short answer is actually "yes." I don't think I'm going to lose when I release the play, but I know that at some point I will lose. Sure as hell, it has happened the last 2 days, but I hope you guys trust that when I pick my Top Play, I don't think THAT play is going to be a loser. It's more than idea that if you expect to win every night, you'll be bald by 30; we have to be aware that losses will happen, and wins will happen, and as long as we can continue to go 55-45 out of every 100 games, then we're being realistic (expecting to lose 45 times), but also profitable (believing in the winners, which will come 55 times).

Sports Wagering

Cavaliers @ Pacers - Cleveland by 7 with a total of 205.5. Believe it or not, I actually think this line is fair. The Cavs beat the Pacers by 10 the last time they came into Indiana as a 3.5-point favorite, and oddsmakers have adjusted the line accordingly, as the Cavs are a very, very strong team, and the Pacers are floundering right now. In all, the Pacers have lost 4 of 6, with strange road wins in Detroit and Philadelphia. They are coming off getting blown the heck out of their own building by the Lakers, so they're not really playing good basketball right now, and I just wonder if this team is really showing all their faults against the better teams in the NBA. Still, I need a ton of proof to pass up on a home dog of 7 points when the team has the talent to win games, and I'm not sure this game provides me ample proof. The Cavs managed to squeeze out a 14-point win over the Timberwolves, a cover, amazingly, and that was another game ending that makes you think the refs might still be betting. The Wolves fouled twice while down 10 with under a minute left, inexplicably. Very weird; very weird, indeed. In any case, I don't like the idea that folks that won with the Cavs against the Wolves are going to double up here. Cleveland is in the midst of a stretch of games against truly subpar teams, and I just don't know if the focus is going to be there to win big every day. I suppose, with revenge, I lean Pacers, but this game is going to need some sort of ridiculous 2-point line shift for me to get down on it. I also lean to the Over, as I think oddsmakers are telling us not to trust the Pacers' defense to slow down anyone. The Cavs are going to get near 110, and my hope is that the Pacers can crack 90.

Lakers @ Sixers - Lakers by 6.5 with a total of 202.5. Steamtrain Lakers rolls into the City of Brotherly Love. Is anyone willing to step in front of them right now? I'm not sure. The Lakers have creamed the Wizards and Pacers on the road in their last 2 games, and now they turn their attention on the higher-flying Sixers. I'm intrigued by the consistency of the Lakers lines. They continue to be favored by between 5 and 9 points against mediocre teams, and they continue to clobber. It does seem like that loss in Toronto woke them up, and maybe Kobe is just getting healthier, but given the way the Lakers have been playing, I just don't think I can go against them. I'm not sure I can back them, either, since they've got a showdown in Boston coming up on the 31st, but man, this is some kind of crazy. The Lakers have played 4 straight Overs; the Sixers have played 5 straight Unders. Each team won the road game last year. Yeesh. There's almost too much going on here. I'm going to cut this write-up short, as I know rambling is on the horizon, and I'll just get right down to brass tacks. I like Philadelphia in this one by a hair, courtesy of the Lakers look-ahead spot, and I like the Under, as well, since I just don't see the Lakers shooting 58% again, and the Sixers won't play at the tempo the Pacers set. This is just one of those spots where the Sixers, a miserable 5-17 ATS at home, will get it done. No one is going to want to back Philly here, and that's the perfect time to launch a sneak attack on the Lakers. You can thank the Celtics when the Lakers play this one right down the wire.

Celtics @ Hawks - Atlanta by 3.5 with a total of 190.5. Wow. You want to talk about situational angles? This game is a veritable treasure trove of "situationals" without any clear advantage. We'll just run through them quickly: Boston has double revenge (mind you, the Celts are just 3-10 ATS when avenging a loss), Boston is on a back-to-back (2-6 ATS on 0 days rest), and Boston has a showdown with Kobe and the Lakers coming up in 2 days. Boston suffered a demoralizing loss in Orlando last night, but did manage to cover to snap a 5-game ATS losing streak. What does all this mean? Tough to say. Atlanta returns home off getting throttled by the Spurs in their last contest for this one game at home, and they then head back out for 2 more in Orlando and Oklahoma City, so not the world's easiest spot for the Hawks, either. I just don't see a clear winner in the battle for better situational angles. The double-revenge and the back-to-back are almost both negatives for the Celtics, since it seems more like the Hawks are just a team that has Boston's number than anything else, but Atlanta might be a little fatigued, and I wonder if these teams can truly get excited about this one. I have no lean on the side, as of yet. The total of 190.5 is the lowest of the 3 games so far, and I think we're getting hinted at - if the public likes the over, and the line holds steady, I'd look at an Under as the best possible play in this one.

Wizards @ Nets - This line is OFF.

Heat @ Pistons - This line is OFF.

Clippers @ Timberwolves - This line is OFF.

Nuggets @ Thunder - This line is OFF.

Bulls @ Hornets - New Orleans by 4 with a total of 198. Can the Bulls keep up the bum rush? I happen to think this is another decent situational spot for Chicago, though not as good as the last one that I foolishly passed up because of a silly line move. Here, the Hornets are playing a home game in between road games. The Hornets have gone 3-1 SU and ATS in their 4 recent road games, but this home contest isn't the traditional "first game home" where we can expect some sluggishness, and the game tomorrow in Memphis isn't a traditional look-ahead spot, but at the same time, I'm not sure the Hornets are going to be in the perfect mindset for this one. They are coming back from Golden State, so a very long flight, and I wouldn't be surprised to see just a little sluggishness early that won't last as long as it might if the team was truly settling in for a homestand. They're playing damn good basketball, though, so it's tough to really turn your cheek to the Hornets success. I think the most important point to make about Nawlins (G, that was for you) is that this team, while 16-4 SU at home, is just 10-10 ATS. They do NOT cover as a home favorite (5-9 ATS), though they often win by a bucket. I can't even imagine a team playing more close games at home, and having such a quality player like Chris Paul basically ensures you'll win 60-70% of those close ones, but that's a much better ATS proposition when you're getting points. The big concern on the other side is that Chicago is finishing up their 7-game road trip, then taking 3 days off before a home game with the Clippers. Will they be as focused as they have been in the last few? Maybe. I lean slightly to Chicago, but this is another questionable game, in my opinion. The total of 198 looks wildly high, but the last time these teams played, it ended at 181 with a posted mark of 190, and oddsmakers felt the need to balloon this total by 8? A little fishy. New Orleans is on revenge, so my guess is that they win the game, but win by only 3 points. Too close to call, almost, but like I said, I lean a tiny bit to Chicago, and a tiny bit to the Over.

Grizzlies @ Spurs - San Antonio by 4 with a total of 199. The Spurs got a smooth, creamy win over the Hawks in their last game, and the big question in this one is "can they keep it going?" The Spurs have had a ton of success over the Grizzlies historically, but then, can we really use that information? It's not like they've been evenly matched and the Spurs just "have Memphis's number" - the Spurs have been a vastly superior team to the Grizzlies over the last decade-plus, and it's no surprise they've beat up on one of the bottom-feeders of the NBA. But such is not the case this year - Memphis already beat San Antonio once this season, a collected 92-86 win over, at the time, a road-weary Spurs team on a back-to-back. Come to think of it, both teams were on a back-to-back there, but the Spurs were coming off getting manhandled by the Bobcats, and the Grizz were coming off playing 3 strong quarters against the Wolves, and then resting the 4th. So if the Grizzlies were a 1-point favorite in that one, and a 4-point dog here, the power rankings would tell us that the Spurs have dropped about a point over the Grizzlies, and these teams are inching closer to being equal on a neutral court. This is another nearly impossible game to pick - the Grizzlies have covered 6 of 7, so they're hot. The Spurs just finally snapped a 3-game home losing streak, so they're trying to get it turned around. I actually like the Spurs here to get a little revenge, though the expected lack of Tony Parker is a bit of a blow to this team. I would wait on this one, then probably pass, but if you're a total action junkie (and I would tell you to quit gambling before telling you to make the bet), I lean Spurs, and I lean Under.

Blazers @ Rockets - Houston by 5 with a total of 194. This will be the 4th and final meeting between these two teams this season, so we have a lot of data to work with. Let's see what we've got. Game one, the Blazers beat the Rockets 96-87 as an 8.5-point favorite with a total of 188.5 (game went under); game two, the Rockets beat the Blazers 111-107 as 3-point home dogs with a posted total of 187.5 (whoops on that total!); game three, back in Portland, the Blazers squeaked out a 90-89 victory as a 5-point favorite, and a second "under" with a total posted at 193. So, here we are, sans-Brandon Roy, and the Rockets, apparently, with their strongest power ranking against Portland to this point. Just look at the swings we've seen, even in the home games for Houston. They were a 3-point dog at home in late October, and now a 5-point favorite? Even with Brandon Roy healthy, this would likely be a 2.5-point home favorite line, 5.5-points difference from that first home game. I think this is a pretty good situational spot for Houston, but this team has just been awful, lately. The Rockets have lost all 3 games on their current homestand, though the surging Bulls, Hawks, and Nuggets aren't any slouch teams, either. Is this one of those spots where taking 5 points with even an undermanned Portland team is a trap? Definitely makes you wonder. I don't have a strong feeling on the side, but it is important to note that Portland plays again tomorrow in Dallas, so this is the start of a very tiring back-to-back in Texas. I think Portland has shown this year that they do not fear the back-to-back scenario, but Houston wants to get that season series even. I just think we're paying a premium to take the Rockets here, potentially because of the revenge and because Roy is out. I can't advocate taking a line with little value just because I think the Rockets are going to win. Houston is playing zero defense right now, so I don't see them pulling away - if the Rockets win this game, it's going to be between 1 and 7 points. I lean to Portland, and I lean to the Over, since this is now officially the highest total set in any game between these two teams this year.

Kings @ Jazz - This line is OFF.

Bobcats @ Warriors - Bobcats by 1.5 with a total of 208. Another difficult situational game here, with the Bobcats starting a back-to-back that concludes tomorrow in Sacramento. They picked up a nice OT win in Phoenix in their last game, and I think the one huge question that needs to be answered is whether the Bobcats will suffer a bit of a letdown after that powerhouse road victory in the Valley of the Sun. They are laying a very small number on the road, and this is just the sort of line that sharps love to toy with. We might very well see this thing flip favorites before the day is done, but I would say pay very little attention to that. You can consider all the other factors in this one: that Golden State is playing their second home game, then heading on the road, so they should be motivated to get a win, here; that the Bobcats have to contend with Sacramento, Portland and the Lakers before heading home, so their focus might be a bit screwball; that the Bobcats just snapped a 3-game losing streak with that win in Phoenix; that Charlotte is still just not that strong on the road...the list goes on and on, but the big question, listed above, is still whether this is a letdown spot. If you think it is, this a prime spot to back the Warriors, and potentially an over, since Charlotte's defense will weaken before their offense; if you think it isn't a letdown spot, Charlotte should roll. I happen to think it is a little bit of a letdown, and I lean Warriors, but I actually think the total is inflated from the Warriors style of play and Charlotte coming off an OT game, and I kinda, barely, sorta like the Under.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Finally, Some Televised Games

Well, it was bound to happen at some point, and it did: a bad call. There isn't much else to say about the Warriors yesterday. They showed up late in the 4th quarter, but that was about it. That loss drops our Paid Play run to 6-3, still solid in my book.

We did, however, nail Toronto as our Free Premium selection, and Free Premiums moved to 6-3, as well, so we're very consistent, and this should serve as a reminder that ALL of my plays are Premium Plays, and that the Free selections are often within a fraction of a percentage of being as good as the Paid Plays. They're a group, and they should be taken together!

Sports Wagering

Raptors @ Knicks - New York by 3 with a total of 214. This one's got a couple situational angles worth exploring. First, and perhaps most importantly, the Knicks will be looking to get some sweet revenge on the Raptors, as the Raptors rolled into New York just under 2 weeks ago and beat the Knicks by 8 as a 2-point dog. So, looking at today's game, your first thought might be, "well, if they can do it once..." but not so fast. The Raptors were playing that game on 3 days rest, and they'll be playing tonight's contest on a back-to-back, where we've seen Toronto is less than perfect. Those crazy Canadians had to play a hard, drawn-out game against the Heat, truly using every tool in the bag to defeat the Heat and cover, and then immediately had to hit the road for this one. For those numbers guys out there, the Raptors are 2-8 ATS on the back end of these b2bs, 1-8 when the second game is played on the road (as is the case in this one). The Raptors defense also seems to suffer a great deal when they're tired, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Knicks really pour in an absurd number of points, especially in the second half. New York is in the final game of a current 5-game homestand, so I expect them to bring a nice effort, what with wanting to hit the road on a positive note, and the obvious revenge factor. The Raptors shot 53% in the last meeting between these teams and exploded out to a 24-point lead at halftime, so I expect the Knicks to remember these games, and I expect them to come out with a greater sense of purpose. Do not be surprised if Toronto takes an early lead, since teams on back-to-back often have some adrenaline going early, but once that wears off, Toronto should fade, much like their game in Milwaukee last week. I lean Knicks, and I lean Over.

Celtics @ Magic - Orlando by 3.5 with a total of 187.5. Another game with all kinds of wacky angles. These teams have played twice this year so far, and in each game the road team has been the victor. I actually believe that trend changes in this one. When Orlando beat Boston in the first meeting, that virtually ensured the second game would be won by Boston, in Orlando. Now, it's almost as though we have a clean slate. Looking at some recent games, it's tough to see either of these teams with a clear advantage, though I do find it interesting that the Boston has failed to cover 5 straight games...BUT...with Kevin Garnett getting stronger and healthier now, every game, the Celtics are going to get that road warrior fire back. I said it on the podcast, and I typed it in here, the Celtics will only go as far as Kevin Garnett can fuel them to go. He is the anger that makes them such a good road team, and here they are, back in Orlando, looking to win 2 straight over the Magic in the Magic's building. This is a tough one, that's for sure. Can we trust that the Celtics aren't getting too much credit just because KG is back? Can we know for sure that this line hasn't been preadjusted to account for the fact that Orlando is avenging that home loss to Boston back on Christmas Day? My take on this situation is that Orlando had one of the worst single quarters/halves in the history of their franchise in that Christmas Day game, leading to a 38-27 halftime lead for the Celtics, and I just don't see that happening again. This game might very well be low-scoring and a defensive struggle, but Orlando will at least break 30 points in each half of the game, and they'll shoot better than 33% from the field. I lean Orlando on the side, and I lean just slightly to the Under on the total, though I think this posted total is finally reflective of how these two teams play their games.

Dallas @ Phoenix - Phoenix by 2.5 with a total of 216. Dallas has forgotten how to play defense. Now, does that mean that Phoenix wins this game? I don't know for sure. I do know that I can't really trust the Suns right now, as they've covered just 1 of their last 7 games, including blowing a relatively large home lead over the Bobcats, letting Charlotte take that game to overtime, and then letting Charlotte win outright in OT. Yikes. The Suns still have the potential to win some games at home, but given Dallas's recent run of poor defense and the Suns recent run of poor everything, this is looking more and more like a side I want nothing to do with. Phoenix is on something of a revenge spot, as Dallas beat Phoenix by 1 back in early December, in Dallas, though Phoenix did cover the +4.5 spread they were graciously awarded in that one. My main concern with this game is that somehow, by setting this line at Phoenix -2.5, oddsmakers are either saying that there's a greater-than-7 home court adjustment between these two teams (which makes no sense, given Dallas can't cover a toast with butter at home), that Phoenix has moved up in the power rankings, compared to Dallas, or that they are almost "taking a position" that the Suns are the stronger bet in this game, and want to put a premium on them so that sharps don't get too succulent a line. I'm inclined to believe it's the latter of those three options, because watching these teams is definitely an indicator that Phoenix has not gotten better, they're tumbling like crazy. Because oddsmakers are giving us a hint of who is going to play the stronger game, I'm backing off my initial lean to Dallas. I'm not sure there's enough information here to make me like Phoenix, but if I had to lean in any direction, I'd go with the Suns to capitalize on a team that just isn't stopping anyone. It would then seem like if the Suns dictate the tempo, this game could go over, but I wonder if books are expecting a relatively weak performance from Dallas. I lean slightly, barely, maybe not even enough to call it a lean, to the Under.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scott Skiles, Bookie Killer

Another trip to the Milwaukee-well, another winner! That'll teach us to ever go against the Bucks. I do find it interesting, though, that we've made 3 plays on or against Milwaukee of all teams, and we're 2-1, winning both times we backed the Bucks, and losing by a nose when we faded them. As a man originally from Los Angeles who spent 6 years in the Bay Area, 2 in California's San Joaquin Valley, and now a year in Michigan, there is very little explanation for my affection for Bucks games, but the bottom line is that they're a consistent performer right now, and a team that the world generally ignores, so we're cashing in! My only regret from yesterday is cutting the Knicks as the potential Free Premium play. They won easily, and we missed it. No worries, a 1-0 day is always fine with me!

That Paid Play winner with the Bucks moves our current run on Paid Plays to 6-2 over the last 8. Over that same stretch, Free Premium selections are 5-3, for a total run of 11-5, good for a nice little chunk of change. Let's keep the good times going after that early-2010 hiccup.

Sports Wagering

Heat @ Raptors - Toronto by 3 with a total of 204.5. Letdown spot for Miami, anyone? My only concern going into this handicapping procedure is that I have an initial lean to Toronto, and I haven't even looked at the stats yet! The important notes on this game are obviously the emotional spot, mentioned above, with the Heat coming off a disappointing loss to the Cavs in a game that they truly should have won if not for a few key flubs at the free throw line. It's just impossible for me to come to terms with the idea of the Heat failing to hang on to that late lead over Lebron, then getting excited to travel quite a distance north to Toronto, dealing with customs, and playing a non-divisional opponent for the 3rd time this season. These teams have split the first 2 meetings, with the home team covering relatively easily in each game so far. Interestingly, Toronto was favored by 3 the last time these clubs met north of the border, and they won by 7. Also interestingly, that total was set at 200, and the teams scored 233 combined. The second game saw a total of 206 and that game went over as well, to 210, and now here in this one the total is posted 1.5-point lower! I'm inclined to believe we see a strong defensive effort from the Raptors - yes, you heard correctly. I really like how Toronto is playing at home, and I think Miami scoring in the 90's is quite probable. The Raptors have won 4 of the last 5 meetings with the Heat in Canada, and this spread is the oddsmakers' way of telling us these teams are evenly matched. Noting that fact, the Raptors are damn tough at home at 15-6 SU, 12-9 ATS. The Heat have been a strong road proposition, but they're very streaky, and that loss to Cleveland is a pretty obvious catalyst for a potential exothermic reaction (yeah, I know, I stretched Physics 101 here). Still, my point is that I think Miami is going to give off energy, and I think Toronto is going to collect it; I lean Raptors and Under.

Lakers @ Pacers - Lakeshow by 6 with a total of 208. This number is dangerously close to that dubious 5.5, but let's see if it's a trap or if this line truly is accurate. Based on the line we just saw for the Wizards game last night, I'm actually inclined to believe this line is fair. There are a ton of times where lines in this neighborhood are trap situations from road teams, but I just don't know for sure on this one. Perhaps if the Lakers were playing a big game tomorrow or the next day I might be more inclined to think we're getting suckered here, but as it stands, the Lakers play the Sixers next, on Friday, so it isn't really a look-ahead. I suppose the initial concern is whether the Lakers can continue to play solid basketball on the road. The Lakers put together a nice road game, finally, in Washington, with contributions from a number of players, and a nice bounce-back game for Pau Gasol after a couple of less-than-stellar performances. We predicted in yesterday's write-up that the Wizards would have absolutely no answer for Pau, because of the size issue when you get past Brendan Haywood. The Pacers are a bit longer than the Wizards, so I don't know if Pau is going to dominate quite as much, and Indiana can try to annoy Kobe Bryant with Dahntay Jones, but it's hard to know exactly what to expect from this Pacers club. They're so frightfully inconsistent, and a lot of that is due to the fact that they're a jump-shooting club. Troy Murphy and Danny Granger make this team go, and when they're hitting outside shots, the Pacers are very competitive; when they're not, it gets ugly fast. The Lakers are better this year at defending the 3 than in years past, but the Pacers are so hit-or-miss, that it almost doesn't matter. I'm inclined, despite the line, to once again lean slightly to the Lakers, since they seem to find the gusto to cover multiple games in a row when they do actually bother to cover. This is a Lakers team that got irritated by a loss in Toronto, so against all previous indicators, I lean slightly to LA, since I think the losses to Cleveland and Toronto actually make the Lakers accurately valued for one of the very few times all year. The total is a complete crapshoot.

Wolves @ Cavaliers - Cleveland by 14 with a total of 200. This is the kind of game where someone wouldn't pick a side with someone else's money. You want to talk about a mis-match, how about this bad boy? The Wolves got clobbered by the Knicks last night, and now they have to go to Cleveland? This is bad, bad, bad. The Cavs come home after an emotional win over the Heat in Miami, and the Mo Williams-less Cavs continue to get it done. Here's the issue, though. The Cavs have won 5 straight, but they've covered just 2 of those 5 wins. Thanks to Lebron and their colossal record last year, the Cavs have entered the marquee stratosphere with Boston and LA, and the bottom line is that betting on Cleveland long term (as in, over the course of a season), is going to be a 50/50 proposition, at best. Oddsmakers are going to inflate these lines because they know everyone is going to bet on Lebron. So when we see a line like this one, which leaves a back door wide open, there is just zero chance I would advocate a play on the home team. Sure, there are the odd situations where a home team can be favored by double-digits and it's a smart play (see: 2nd half of back-to-back in altitude), but this is a Cleveland Cavaliers team in a bit of a letdown spot after the Dwyane Wade showdown game in Miami "dropping in" for a home game, then heading back on the road to play the Pacers. Really, when you break it down, Cleveland's next 7 games, minus a rematch with the Heat, are with teams that they really don't care about, and my guess is that the Cavs try to win these games with their collective transmission stuck in 2nd gear. I would offer a lean to Minnesota, but the Wolves stink, so my lean is to a no-play. I also think Minnesota will score maybe 85 points in this one, so my total lean is to the Under. I know the Wolves gave up an outrageous 132 to the Knicks, but that should only drive this total up, and we can probably get some value with the Under.

Clippers @ Nets - This line is OFF. As we've noted before, no point total seems to be enough for the Nets, and this game is, in the grand scheme of things, a BAD spot for Jersey! They're coming home off a 4-game road trip that saw the team lose to these Clippers by 11, to the Suns by 24, to the Warriors by 32, and the Jazz by 33. It just doesn't look like it could be any worse for Jersey, this team that has a few decent pieces, but is floundering. The Lebron sweepstakes is going poorly, since you have to believe James isn't terribly attracted to a team that can only win 6 games a season without him. On the flip side, the Clippers in a bit of a bad spot, as well. They're coming off a strong performance against the Celtics that netted them a cover but a straight up loss. The Clippers remain a much stronger team at home than on the road, and I'm actually quite interested to see where this line opens up. If the 8-point home favorite line is any indication, the Clippers should be just a 2-3 point road favorite, but somehow, with the way Jersey has been playing (see ridiculous losses noted above), I wouldn't be surprised to see this thing a little higher. I usually like to make guesses at where a line is going to open, but this is a game where I legitimately do not know what the oddsmakers' power rankings are going to show. The Clippers may be without Eric Gordon again, and if that is indeed the case, this game is a trademark no-play. However, if Gordon returns and this line opens up with a clear bias, we might be able to squeeze something out of it. The last matchup went over the posted total of 195 by 6 points, so watching where the total opens is also going to be somewhat telling. I lean Under, given both teams in letdown/sluggish spots, and I think we'll see a total close to where we saw the last one, even though it went over in LA.

Grizzlies @ Pistons - This line is OFF. Ben Gordon remains questionable, so we get to break down this life-changing matchup without a line. You guys know how I feel about these injury situations, so again, tread lightly. In terms of how these teams are playing, I think the keys to note here are that the Grizzlies have won 6 of 7 games, covering 5 of 6, and the Pistons have lost back-to-back home games to the Pacers and Blazers, and the oddsmakers are definitely going to tell us something with this line when it comes out. Detroit got things together for a few games, mostly at home, a week ago, but they've slowed again, and really, if this team can't get healthy and STAY healthy, they're just flat-out too thin to compete. If they can get their scorers in there, and get Tayshaun back for a little wing presence, they might be able to play with the mid-tier teams, but as it stands, they're too inconsistent to deserve a backing. Still, Detroit gets a lot of credit at home, and I wouldn't be surprised to see this game open near a Pick. We may then see sharps start toying with the line, since I don't believe there is a clear winner in this contest. I would lean to Detroit if indeed the line is that close to a Pick, but I think the best option might be to let sleeping dogs lie in this one. The Grizzlies have actually lost their last 3 road games, amazingly, but they've played so many home games this month that it almost seems like they haven't lost in weeks! It's very important to remember that this team overvalued right now, so it's not a good time to back them. We're looking for long-term value in this blog, and betting Memphis in this spot repeatedly would probably be a sub-.500 deal. Still, amazingly, this is a revenge game from when Detroit beat the piss out of the Grizz way back in the first week of the season. Which angle outweighs which? I don't like the side, and we'll see about the total when it comes out. I think there may be some value in an Under, but only time will tell.

Bulls @ Thunder - Oklahoma City by 5.5 with a total of 196. Here come the Bulls. Chicago started their monster road trip (7 games) with losses in both Golden State and LA (to the Clips), but have since rattled off 3 straight underdog outright wins against Phoenix, Houston and San Antonio. Where the hell did that come from? Well here, Chicago is actually in a favorable spot. Oklahoma City comes home to start a homestand of 4 games off a 2-2 road trip that ended with a heartbreaking loss in Cleveland. So, we have the Thunder on a letdown spot AND a sluggish spot, and we have the Bulls playing outstanding team basketball, scoring on the offensive end, and defending just as well. This is also a revenge game from just 3 weeks ago when the Thunder came to Chicago and slapped the Bulls with a 13-point home loss. We're getting huge value on Chicago here with the public falling in love with Kevin Durant, especially with the way the Thunder have covered 5 of 6. This is that moment where we can stay ahead of the curve, and watch for the Thunder failing to cover a few. I wouldn't call this game a trap, but I would call it a clear line value for dog backers. I'm also interested in the high total of 196. The previous meeting featured just 183 combined points, 9 under the posted total, and yet this one is opening 4 points higher. I like the Bulls and I like the Over, since I think we see Chicago score the ball and the Thunder try to force the tempo after falling behind early. Oh, and Chicago has covered in Oklahoma the last 2 times they've been there, but the Thunder weren't as good, so take this with a grain of salt.

Sixers @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 2.5 with a total of 199. I know many of you are wondering how I feel about this game, given that the Bucks are one of just a couple squads that played last night and are forced to go at it again. The Sixers are rested, and one of the best road ATS wagers in the NBA. The Bucks are RED hot, not necessarily winning every day, but playing each and every game close, and as a large underdog in most of their road games, that bodes very well for those of us that back the Bucks on a consistent basis. This one is a confusing one, though. It is a revenge game for Milwaukee, if you can really call it that. The Sixers beat the Bucks back in October, winning by 13 in Philadelphia as a 6-point favorite. Now, a few months later, the Bucks are slight favorites (it would have been more, remember, if the Bucks weren't on a back-to-back), at home, where Milwaukee can be quite tough. A few key records: Milwaukee is 10-6 ATS as a favorite, 12-8 ATS at home, and has covered 5 straight. I think there is something of the perception that this game might be a trap, but I think that if we remember that the Bucks would be 4.5-point favorites without the back-to-back situation, the line looks pretty fair. Another interesting stat: the Bucks are 7-2 ATS on the second day of a b2b, so let's not rush to putting a ton of stock into the fatigue factor. This game is literally yelling at me to avoid it, with a very good road team playing a very good home team, and no clear value. The revenge angle might be somewhat nullified by the emotional nature of the Bucks loss to Dallas, and really, when everything is summed up, it's basically break even. "Pass" on the side. I like the Over on the total, as the Bucks are really shooting the ball well, and I expect their team defense to suffer on the back-to-back. They're a deceptively good-shooting team at home in particular, and with Philly's tendency to play close games on the road, I think we'll get a nice boost of points down the stretch, and certainly OT is a possibility.

Hawks @ Spurs - San Antonio by 3.5 with a total of 195. Something foul is going on in San Antonio. Admittedly, I missed seeing firsthand what's been going on with this club, but they're struggling mightily right now, and I was extremely surprised at how poorly they finished that game with Chicago even after finally getting 2 days of rest between games. My original thought was that the Spurs were tired, but now I'm wondering if they just played above themselves for a couple weeks, and this is the rubber band-like regression. They've lost all 3 home games thus far on their current 6-game homestand, which concludes with contests against Memphis and Denver, so it doesn't get any easier. The Spurs are just not playing defense, and we all know that as San Antonio's defense goes, so goes the team. This is not a club built to outscore opponents on a nightly basis. They have a quality big man, a solid point guard, and a superb 6th man, but beyond that, Richard Jefferson is either hurt or underachieving, Dajuan Blair has been a breath of fresh air as a rebounder, but they're just not a team with a ton of weapons. The Spurs are at their best when they can use Duncan in the half-court set, but can get a few easy buckets, courtesy of Tony Parker's speed and Manu Ginobili's aggressive nature. When they're not getting stops and defensive rebounds, they have to rely too heavily on the half-court offense, and eventually Duncan will tire, or his teammates will miss jumpers. Based on the way we've seen things going, this looks like a rough spot for them. Atlanta is coming off a nice road win over the Rockets (another slumping Texas team), and now they come to San Antonio as a small favorite. I must say, the line almost looks too good to be true for Hawks backers - this team has been one of the better ATS wagers this season, but they had leveled off a bit on December and most of January. That is, until a week ago -- Atlanta has covered 3 straight (all straight-up wins), and they're 7-2 ATS this season as an underdog. Dare we take the bait? I'm concerned that the Spurs are still favored by this many points, but I get the feeling oddsmakers feel San Antonio is just one of those teams that won't stay down forever, and that they'll bring a top quality performance against the Hawks, but let's not sell Atlanta short. They can score, and they're learning how to defend. I think Atlanta can get San Antonio into a faster game, and I think they can win. I hate to do this, but I lean to the Hawks, and to the Over. Just draw a box around me lately, there's some square creeping in! One number to fear, San Antonio is 10-2 ATS against the Hawks in San Antonio over the last decade...

Nuggets @ Rockets - This line is OFF. The Nuggets on the road, eh? Not where they tend to excel. We don't have a line to work with, yet, and that would be the result of our buddy Carmelo's injury, but honestly, I would almost prefer that he plays. Fading the Nuggets on the road has become rather profitable endeavor. The Nuggets have won 7 straight games, but 6 of those have come at home, and the only road win was an OT victory against the undermanned Warriors. All those wins have more or less destroyed any value the Nuggets might have had, so this game is a play on the Rockets or nothing at all. Unfortunately, given the Rockets distinct lack of January success, "nothing at all" is looking better and better. Yes, the Nuggets are a terrible 9-11 SU on the road, 7-12-1 ATS, but the Rockets are 2-9 ATS in January, so they're not exactly a strong play right now, either. Their team FG% is down, the team defense is just as bad as usual, and things are getting ugly, but the question is whether they're bottoming out. Lines should start to get a little more tasty for Houston if they keep up this style of play, and as usual, it is our goal to be right there waiting when the value peaks. For what it's worth, the Rockets are indeed 12-9 ATS as an underdog, a perfect 4-0 as a home underdog, and this game might very well fit that category. In fact, I'd be surprised if it didn't. On that note, I lean slightly to the Rockets, and slightly to the Over, courtesy of the Rockets devolving defense.

Jazz @ Blazers - Utah by 2.5 with a total of 195.5. This is an odd one, but I think the line is pretty fair, given the Blazers injury issues. The Jazz are playing their best basketball of the season, maybe their best in the last few seasons, having won 8 of 10, and actually going 8-0-2 ATS over that same stretch. They are consistently outperforming expectations, as you can see from the strong ATS mark, and while 6 of those 10 games have come at home, this typically-strong home team has actually played well on the road, as well. The Rose Garden is not a place to take lightly, but the Blazers appear to be a buck short without Brandon Roy. This is a revenge spot for Portland, as they dropped a contest in Utah by 16 back in late November, but again, they're a different animal without their leader. I'm just not sure that the team will "get up" for the revenge angle with the same severity, and you guys know how I love to try to think about the psychology of motivation. Bottom line is that I think this line is accurate. Utah should take this game by a very small margin, and both teams have a decent shot to get up to the high 90's in points. In fact, Utah has scored over 100 in 5 straight games, just a microcosm of how dangerous this team has been on the offensive end. Neither team is really in a letdown or look-ahead spot, so I have to take a fat "pass" on the side, as I believe this line is within a point of where it should be. Perhaps we'll get some line movement that gives us an indicator of what books are expecting, but given that this game has the potential to be quite close, and given how the Jazz have been shooting and Blazers defending, I lean Over.

Hornets @ Warriors - This line is OFF. I'm really looking forward to the All-Star break, so some of these injured players can take a few days to get healthy, and we can start working with lines on most games again. This game looks like an awful spot for the Warriors. They return home off a loss in Sacramento (but a cover), without their star Monta Ellis, without a viable bench, starting mostly NBDL guys, and playing a back-to-back. The Hornets, meanwhile, come to town off a strong comeback win in Portland, and looking to build on a pair of ATS wins, and a 10-4 SU month of January. The Hornets are definitely improving on the road, the spot where they were nearly an automatic fade earlier this year. They've managed to push their ATS mark on the road to 11-13, not nearly as bad as that number at the beginning of the season. At the same time, though, this is one of those games where it looks like everything should fall to pieces for the Warriors, and I, once again, think playing the side is a recipe for disaster. Yes, I realize we don't have a line yet, and we might see one that looks like a colossal trap, in which case we might push for a play, but if this line comes out where I believe it should (with the Hornets favored by a small margin), that's a perfect "avoid." I know, we're seeing a ton of games today that have competing angles or bad situational spots, but it's always important to play only the games with value and not force it. I'm also intrigued by the total - the Warriors shot a season-low 31% from the floor in Sacramento last night, and I'm very, very curious to see if oddsmakers adjust in a big way overnight, in which case we might get value back on the Over, or if they keep the Warriors as a wild, up-tempo team, and the Under comes into play again. Time will tell.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Earning a Tommy Point

For those not familiar, "Tommy Points" are awarded by former NBA player and Celtics TV analyst Tommy Heinsohn for performing admirably the fundamentals of basketball.

The guy is easily one of the most obnoxious personalities involved in NBA broadcasting, but last night the Miami Heat showed why missing out on a "Tommy Point" might be a bigger deal than we thought. The Lebron-Dwyane shoot-out ended at the free throw line, and the King got himself some Tommyness.

Sports Wagering

Lakers @ Wizards - Los Angeles by 8 with a total of 199. Here's a stupid stat to get us started. The Lakers are 1-6 ATS on Tuesdays this season. Play the Wizards. Haha, but I kid. Let's break this thing down. The Lakeshow heads to D.C. off a 1-point loss in Toronto, somehow postponing the after-Cleveland letdown by a game after covering against the Knicks. I would expect the Lakers to really take it to the Wizards -- we know Kobe's not going to be happy, and it's tough to argue with the match-up at power forward. There's really nothing the Wizards can do to slow down Pau Gasol, and if they do try to move Brendan Haywood over, the Lakers have Odom and Bynum who can get a bevy of jams since the rim would be more or less unprotected. I very rarely talk about a potential play on the Lakers, especially as a huge road favorite, but situationally, they're in a decent spot. It's the middle of a long road trip, so they're likely to at least settle in a little bit (especially now that they probably have their luggage, which didn't make it to the first couple cities on this road trip). Also, the Wizards might be starting to hit the wall. We knew that this team would try to step it up when Arenas was shipped off, and the adrenaline-fueled play of Randy Foye was a monster pick-me-up for the Wiz, but the team is slowing, unable to keep that level of energy up for all 48 minutes. They've lost 3 straight after winning 2, and after playing the Mavs tough, they've been killed by both the Heat and the Clippers. It just looks like they're running out of gas. This game might look "too easy", so maybe it's best to avoid the side, but I lean a TINY bit the square way, to the Lakers. In terms of the total, Washington hasn't cracked 100 "for real" since the 10th (they had that mega-OT game with Chicago mixed in there), so I'm inclined to lean Under, though the Lakers could very well put up 110, so that does concern me a little.

Wolves @ Knicks - New York by 5.5 with a total of 207. This one is a little confusing, and some of that might be due to the fact that I spent most of Friday and Saturday in a stupor so I'm a little behind, but when I went out of town, I could swear the Knicks were more than 2.5-points better than the Wolves on a neutral court. This game is a great spot for BOTH teams, and I am just angry beyond angry that we're getting screwed like this. Let me explain: the Knicks are coming off a 50-point loss at the hands of the Mavs, failing to cover by, yes, 49-points. The Wolves are coming off a 33-point loss to the Bucks, failing to cover by just 25. You guys know how I love to back teams coming off embarrassing losses, and it's just a damn shame that these two teams had to be playing one another, severely limiting our ability to mine both clubs for value. I do, however, feel that the Knicks are in the truer "chip on the shoulder" situation. They're the better team between these two, and got crushed in front of their own fans. If that isn't reason to come back the next game and really play angry, I don't know what is. I know Minnesota has a knack for covering while losing the game, but I believe the Knicks lay a furious beating in this one. Maybe playing New York in the first half is the best bet, but with the JM play on Minnesota driving the line down off the opening number, I lean Knicks for the game. The total of 207 relies heavily on both teams really putting the ball in the hoop. I don't think the Wolves score the ball well, but I do think the Knicks put up a nice 3-digit number. I think the total is pretty sharp, but I lean just slightly to the Under, since these teams have only been playing to the over lately because of the strong competition. This game does not feature strong competition.

Bucks @ Mavericks - Dallas by 7.5 with a total of 197. And now we get to deal with the two darn teams that DELIVERED the aforementioned butt-kickings. I just wish so badly we could rearrange the teams involved in the games today and really milk some of the screwy perceptions floating around out there. But, here we are, Milwaukee off the 33-point win, and Dallas off the 50-point slaughtering at MSG. I think the key here is that Milwaukee has actually covered 4 straight games, and is quietly starting to shoot the ball better. We got a little screwed on Friday when we took Toronto on the second game of their home-and-home as Andrea Bargnani was the typical Bebe-late scratch, but ignoring for a moment the fact that Toronto might have covered with him, the Bucks are competing right now, finding a way to stay in games, especially when they're a marginal dog. It really seems like the blowout loss to Orlando a couple weeks back woke this team up. Bogut has been using a plethora of inside moves, and you just have to love the ease with which Carlos Delfino is putting in shots from long range. Dallas is a terrible 5-15 ATS at home, and I just have to believe they're overvalued in this one just because of that one huge win over the Knicks. If we forget that 50-point drubbing, Dallas had covered just 1 of their previous 7 games, so this wasn't exactly a team on the rise. I lean to the Bucks to stay within striking distance and lose late. The total looks too high at 197, though Dallas did just snap a string of 4 straight "unders" with the victory in New York, and Milwaukee has played in 4 of 5 "overs." The question is whether Dallas will shoot the ball well. Milwaukee plays middle-of-the-road defense, so this one, to me, is a toss-up. I lean Under, but only enough to just slip beneath the limbo stick.

Bobcats @ Suns - Phoenix by 5.5 with a total of 210. Another situation where, despite the rather medium-sized Monday card, both teams are in a similar situation, with both having played last night. The Suns are coming off a 4th quarter meltdown to the Utah Jazz, taking a decent lead into the final 12 minutes before getting outscored by over 10 points and losing by 9 while failing to cover. The Bobcats opened up a 5-game road trip with a difficult voyage into the altitude of Denver, and after falling behind relatively early, the Bobcats just sort of stayed behind by 10 most of the game. This is a weird game to handicap because the Bobcats, who had won 6 in a row just less than a week ago, have now lost 3 straight, each by double digits. Also worth noting, this game is a revenge spot for the Suns. Phoenix got positively manhandled by Charlotte 10 days ago on the road as a 3-point underdog, and I think it's quite interesting how large of a shift we're seeing on the line for this one. There is definitely a premium being placed on the Suns here, but I think it's a spot where the line is high because it needs to be. Phoenix has been struggling, but they're still a vastly superior team at home as opposed to their awful road woes, and even though both teams on a back-to-back most likely favors the younger legs of the Bobcats, I think Phoenix gets it done in this one, and we might be able to snag a tasty line at BetUS, thanks to a JM play on the visiting Bobcats. The total is interesting, too, given that these teams played to a 224 final score in Charlotte on a posted "over" of 208.5. I think it's pretty normal to see the line jump a couple points here, but I'm inclined to think we don't get quite the same tempo with both teams on a back-to-back. That makes me think the total is pretty sharp, though I do lean just barely to another Over, if perhaps by only a point or two.

Warriors @ Kings - This line is OFF. Yikes, if you're a Kings guy. This team is just 2-9-1 ATS in the month of January, and just 1-11 SU, falling precipitously out of contention in the Western Conference, and the return, loss and re-return of Kevin Martin seems to have done very little (or nothing) for their fortune. I am curious, though, to see how they play back at home. This is only the 5th home game in January for Sacramento, despite 8 road games, so it's been a difficult month schedule-wise, as well. They're also coming off getting positively spanked by the Heat in Miami, losing by 31 while scoring in the mid-80's for the 5th time in the last 7 games. This team is right at that point of bottoming out, and I wonder if we're not going to be able to juice some value out of them right about now. The Kings have been shooting the ball consistently in the 37-44% window, not nearly good enough to get it done, not with their porous defense, and you just have to believe the Martin is getting closer to getting his legs, and this team is getting closer to learning how to play with a full roster. The Warriors are on a short 2-game road trip that began with a loss (but a cover) in Phoenix, and Golden State has quietly covered 4 games in a row. We have to remember, though, that this team is just not that successful on the road - they rely heavily on jumpshots, and role players tend to struggle knocking down J's away from home. They're just 4-18 on the road this year, SU, and while they've been able to cover some large underdog spreads in that role, this game is going to feature a much smaller spread. Both teams are on 2 days of rest, and both teams have won and covered the previous home meeting in this season series, so you have to favor Sacramento based on the above notes. I'm also very curious where this total opens up. The first game went way over the posted mark of 216.5; the second game went way under the posted mark of 229.5. We should see a total back near the 216 we had earlier this year, and I lean to the Under. My biggest concern, and it should be all of yours, as well, is that Monta Ellis is doubtful for this one, and that's why we're being forced to wait on a line. Be careful.
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