Tuesday, January 19, 2010

39 Refs

Tuesday's outrageously small card of mostly uninteresting match-ups left us with poor value. We liked the dogs and we liked the Overs, but in the end, no matter how things turned out, I think we made the right choice by going light and waiting for this mega NBA Wednesday to really lay it out there.

What did we learn from yesterday? Well...we learned that Miami remains one of the biggest hit-or-miss teams in the League, and that Toronto is good enough to hang with the Cavs until the last few minutes. I like what this Raptor team is becoming, and that's the perfect time to fade them, because others are catching on, too, and the oddsmakers' power rankings are about to adjust.

Sports Wagering

Heat @ Bobcats - This line is OFF. Tough spot for Miami. The Heat beat up on the Pacers at home last night, and with that easy, cruising victory under their belts, they have to take on one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Charlotte is on a long homestand at the moment, they've won all 5 games on it so far, and after this one, the Bobcats head out on the road for a big game in Atlanta. Still, I don't think this is a look-ahead spot, not with the type of adrenaline Charlotte seems to get at home. I am concerned a bit with how Charlotte played in that second half against the Kings. They got out to a big lead then really took their foot off the gas, finally eking out a narrow victory against one of the League's poorer road teams. I doubt that the lackluster effort carries over into this one, but at the same time, Charlotte clubbed Miami down in Florida, so I feel like we might actually be getting a value on the Heat in this one. A road team on revenge on a back-to-back; it's beautiful, actually, since Miami is going to get 2 extra points because of the fatigue factor, but the Heat starters only played about 25 minutes each yesterday in a blowout of Indy. I don't usually like to back a team off a huge win like the one Miami just had since the value is often diminished by the public's sudden improvement of perception, but here we might actually have some Miami love - I lean slightly to the Heat. I think this total opens up extremely low, and for that reason, I like the Over. Bettors are going to see two defensive clubs and look at the Under without stopping to see that Charlotte has played 3 of 4 Overs, and if Indiana weren't so terrible, Miami would have had one of their own - as it is, Miami went Over in 3 of 4 before last night.

Pacers @ Magic - Orlando by 10.5 with a total of 210.5. This line just jumped to 11.5, as the Pacers-Heat game ended before I could write my synopsis. And I'm going to just treat this game like the line opened at 11.5, because I do not believe the line shift was the result of early money, I think it was books realizing they could inflate this line off the result of Indiana's game in Miami, a 30-point blowout loss. It might surprise you to note that these two teams have played twice already this season, and Indiana has covered both, including an outright win at home as an 11-point dog. Still, we can't take much from that line, since both Granger and Murphy were out for the Pacers. This game in Florida, though, is strikingly similar in situation to the last time these teams met there, with some minor changes. Allow me to elaborate - for one, the Pacers were 12.5-point dogs last time they played in Orlando, now just 11.5, as Indiana has been playing better ball than Orlando lately, and the rankings have adjusted. Also, Orlando was playing their first game home off a 4-game road trip then, and they're going to be doing it again, imitating the previous trip even down to the ATS push in the final game! Very, very weird. If history does indeed repeat itself, I have to lean Indy, even though that team showed me nothing against Miami to make me think they'll compete in this one. Also interesting, the last time in this same spot, the total was at 209, and the game ended at 187. Oddsmakers don't seem to think history will repeat itself, and I suppose I have to lean Over.

Mavericks @ Wizards - Dallas by 4.5 with a total of 198. I know this might sound nuts, but this is "technically" a revenge game for the Mavericks. Yep, I forgot about that game, too. NBA Opening Night, Wizards smacked the Mavs upside the head in Dallas, and I distinctly remember Jason Terry saying that they may have "taken the Wizards lightly." Athletes have a lot of pride, and my guess is that despite all the crap taking place in the Wizards' camp, Washington has won both of their home games on the current 6-game homestand, so it's not as though this team is a total pushover, beating the Kings and Blazers. Still, the road Mavs are a different bird. If not for the revenge factor, I'd call this game a letdown spot for Dallas. They certainly had the look-ahead in Toronto on Sunday, played their asses off in Boston on MLK Day, and now another game with an opponent they might normally overlook. I am of the opinion that the win over Boston, combined with the revenge factor angle outweighs the potential look-ahead issue, and Dallas's strength on the road will continue to shine. I lean Dallas. On the total, I really like the Over. Both of these teams are on an Under trend, yet oddsmakers set this line 5 points higher than the total these teams played to in their first meeting. If the public is on the Under here, which I believe they might be given the recent string of low-scoring games for both teams and the previous Under they played, I might very well hop on that Over.

Blazers @ Sixers - This line is OFF. Will Brandon Roy play? That's the real question here. And unfortunately, the handicapping of this game is completely different with or without him. Word on the street is that Roy is going to play, so let's approach the game as if he's going to be a part of it. Good timing, too, considering the Sixers are one of the recent teams that came into Portland and just manhandled the Blazers, outscoring Portland (if my memory serves) by almost 30 points in the second half. You have to believe there is going to be some Portland revenge here. I also like the fact that the Blazers lost in Washington without Roy, giving them some motivation to step up and play a better game. I also like the fact that the Sixers haven't been terribly successful at home this year, where they're 4-15 ATS, almost an automatic fade in their building. And honestly, if it weren't for the OT loss in Minnesota, I'd think this one would be a play even before the line came out. Instead, Philly returns home looking to bounce back, which does provide just a small anti-Portland angle. I lean Blazers, but not strongly. I'm interested to see where this total opens, as both of these teams have been playing to the Under lately (aside from the Sixers OT game with Minnesota), yet the previous meeting between these two clubs went Over the posted mark of 192 by 5 points. If this total opens under 192, I'd grab the Under right then and there - you just don't argue with the oddsmakers when they hint at a pick.

Kings @ Hawks - Atlanta by 10 with a total of 205. I know this is a little nutty, but that looks like too many points to me. It isn't going to be easy for the Kings, and I have very little doubt that they lose this game, but the Hawks are coming back to Earth as oddsmakers are finally starting to have a decent read on this team. They are 7-8 ATS in their last 15 games, but 26-14 ATS this year, so that's a fine example of how underrated they were for the first 2 months, but how perfectly ranked they've been lately. In fact, over those 15 games, the Hawks have not won or lost more than 2 straight games ATS. Unfortunately for me, they've lost 2 straight, which means they're due to get the ship righted, and I lean the other way. That might be reason enough to pass on this side. Still, while we're breaking this game down, it's important to note how the two teams involved have been playing. The Hawks, as we noted, have lost 2 straight ATS (they've won 3 of 4 SU, for what it's worth), and they've played to 5 of 6 Unders. The Kings have lost 4 straight games, but covered their last one with a mighty second half comeback against the Bobcats only to fall short in the end. Something about the Kings makes me think they're due for a couple of ATS wins, but that's not reason enough to place a bet. The previous meeting between these two teams was an 8-point Atlanta win in Sacramento, 113-105, a game that went well over the total of 207. So, one, we have revenge, and that's worth factoring into the equation, since that game occurred well before the Kings started playing better. And two, the total on this game is set at 205 despite that first meeting featuring 218 combined points. I like Sactown, and I like the Under.

Celtics @ Pistons - This line is OFF. Going to be a tough game if Rip Hamilton can't play, that's for sure. Doesn't make life any easier that Boston is 5-1 ATS in the last 6 games in Detroit. The Celtics do not fear Motown, and they are, of course, the vastly superior team with or without Kevin Garnett. It is interesting, though, that these teams have not yet played this year. So we have very little to go on, in that there's no revenge angle, both teams are playing on 1 day of rest, both teams have played to 2 consecutive Unders. It almost feels like we're handicapping some other sport besides the ultra-volatile NBA. It almost seems too cookie-cutter to make sense! The Pistons had bottomed out in Chicago, as you all remember, won 3 straight, then lost a morning game in New York on MLK Day, but you have to like the confidence this team is showing lately. The Celtics have lost 2 straight, both home games (no surprise there, given Boston's make-up so far this year, 11-7 at home, 16-5 road), and now go on the road to a city where they've had a ton of success, as noted above. I'll lay it out right here, I don't like this game one bit, unless you're considering the total, and even then, I almost don't know what to expect. Detroit and Boston both like to play games decided in the 180's, and I'd expect to see this total in the high 180's as a result. Let's just play this one by ear -- I hate to just bail on a game like this, but this one is just such a shot in the dark, especially without a line on it.

Grizzlies @ Hornets - New Orleans by 3.5 with a total of 203.5. This one is surprising to me, as it seems like with the way Memphis has been playing, taking points against a fairly evenly matched team is a no-brainer. But let's make sure we're not getting suckered. Memphis has won 4 straight games, all at home, and covered all 4 victories, so this team is red hot, and my huge mistake on Monday was giving the public too much credit in believing that they would start to strongly favor the Grizzlies on their hot streak. Is today the day, now? Tough to say. The Hornets were our losing play on Monday as they came out hung over against the Spurs and just didn't really show any effort until late in the 4th quarter. This second game at home should feature a much better effort from the Hornets against an up-and-coming team that they've beaten senseless over recent years. This may be the changing of the guard, or this may be a Chris Paul show, since you have to believe the Hornets are disappointed in their effort in the loss to San Antonio, the second loss this year to the Spurs. This is a tough game to read, since it looks like Memphis should be the easy play, as New Orleans wins at home, but they don't cover as a home favorite (10-3 SU, 5-8 ATS). I lean to Memphis, unless this spread jumps up to 4 or 4.5. The total looks a little high to me, though we know Memphis can get hot and score a ton in a hurry, but let's be real, the Hornets are 6-13 O/U at home - this is an Under until proven otherwise, and for me, it's probably neither...

Raptors @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 2.5 with a total of 204. I can write definitively that the best bet on this game is to wait, see how it goes, then play the second half of this home-and-home, as these two teams play in Toronto on Friday. Still, if you're an action junkie (and I'd recommend stopping that habit right now), there is something to be said for this game. The Raptors played last night in Cleveland and lost to the Cavs by 8 (covering the spread). We all know about the Raptors woes on back-to-backs -- they are 2-7 on the back end, and that's including the 1-0 record when the second game is played at home. Here they are, on the road again, playing against a Bucks team that beat them by 22, also in Milwaukee, back at the beginning of December. Yes, there is a slight revenge angle, but I think that would/will be stronger when Toronto plays host to Milwaukee, instead of going back into Wisconsin, tired from a tough game with Cleveland. Everyone knows how well the Raptors have been playing lately, and the cover against Cleveland gives Toronto 11 covers in their last 14 games, and 2 of those losses came to Boston. This might be that game where the public finally catches on. I lean Milwaukee, even though the Bucks are coming home off a 6-game road trip. The better bet, once again, is Raptors in the first half, Bucks in the second, and lay off the game as a whole. Or hell, bet Raptors for the game, then try to set up a middle at halftime if Toronto can keep up the energy for 24 minutes. I hate the total. Milwaukee is going to be sluggish early, and even though Toronto's defense is improved, they tend to get lax on defense on back-to-backs - too many competing factors.

Thunder @ Wolves - This line is OFF. Letdown spot for the Thunder? Maybe, but this is a tough team to fade right now. The Wolves are likely without Kevin Love in this game due to an illness, and he was really the piece of their puzzle that helped them start covering ATS. They still aren't winning, though to their credit they did beat the Sixers in OT in their last game, but the Wolves have something of a knack for covering underdog spreads without winning the game. Maybe not all the time, but some, and enough for us to at least pause before going against them. Still, there isn't much of a situational edge for either team. The Thunder are on the 2nd game of a short 3-game road trip, and they've covered in 3 straight, and the Wolves are in the 2nd game of a 3-game homestand, and they've covered 3 of 4. So, we have two teams that are paralleling one another, in terms of ATS activity, but two teams with different objectives for the season. I expect to see the Thunder as a 5-6 point favorite, a dangerous number for a team coming off a huge road win in Atlanta. I realize this write-up is bouncing between positive and negative notes for each club, and that's precisely why I think this side is a tough one. The Thunder are 14-6 ATS on the road, and so on and so forth. I pass on this side, unless the line that comes out is just too ridiculous not to jump on. I think this one could go Over, too, since Minnesota is going to push the tempo, and we know how the Thunder can score when they want to.

Jazz @ Spurs - San Antonio by 6.5 with a total of 194. Our very first TRIPLE REVENGE spot! The Jazz have won all 3 meetings with the Spurs, and have covered all three spreads. This is just a great game to try to handicap - so much going on, and when I see a spot like this with a ton of information, I get all excited. The Jazz won the first meeting this year, in Utah, 113-99, easily covering a pick'em spread and flying Over the posted mark of 198. The second meeting was Utah's first win in San Antonio in about a decade, a 90-83 defensive slugfest as a 5-point dog, and a total well below the posted 196. The third game was a showdown, a 104-101 Utah victory in the SLC, barely covering a 2-point home favorite spread, but again going Over the total (194.5) in Utah. We can learn an awful lot by just looking at the numbers. San Antonio is favored by a ton, the largest spread all season long despite the Jazz, arguably, playing better basketball than the Spurs of late. Utah is a powerhouse 5-0-2 ATS in their last 7, and the Spurs are just 2-2 in their last 4, and start a 6-game homestand in this one. So, there is certainly the potential for a sluggish start for San Antonio, and the question is whether they'll be able to crank it up fast enough to make sure the Jazz can't open up an early lead. There is certainly a premium being placed on the Spurs here as the triple-revenge club, and the total being the lowest of any of the 4 games leads me to believe this one is going to be another defensive struggle. I believe the triple-revenge outweighs the first-game-home sluggishness, and for that reason, I lean to the Spurs to win this game outright. My concern is whether they can cover that chunky spread. It's most likely set that high for a reason - I lean Spurs on the side, and I think they dictate the tempo, and this one stays Under.

Nets @ Suns - Phoenix by 12.5 with a total of 218.5. The game we've all been waiting for. The lowly Nets try to get a win on the road, and they'll have the money of all the JM-B players behind them in this one. Phoenix has just been terrible lately, and they're playing the first game of a 5 of 6 at home stretch here, so sluggishness is a definite possibility. Still, this also shapes up as a "get fat" game for Phoenix, a team that I'm sure is looking to run up the score and get a little confidence back. The Suns lost all 4 games on their road trip, covering just 1 of 4, and they're actually a fetid 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games. Jersey isn't much better, losing 8 straight games overall, and covering just 2 of those 8 losses. This is one of those spots where you have to look at the road dog just because of the monster spread, but at the same time, this is also one of those spots where you've got a road team that is almost impossible to back at this point against a home team that's been struggling, and is in a bad situational spot -- I know I've said it about other games on this schedule, but I hate the side in this one. There is just no clear edge. The total is more interesting than the side, I feel, as the Suns score around 8 ppg more at home than on the road, but allow 4 points less, maybe the strongest home/road split left in the NBA in terms of point differential. I think most folks are going to see this game and think Under because New Jersey can't score, but I think the Nets put up some points on the Suns, and I think Phoenix is due to shoot about 60% for a half. I lean Over.

Nuggets @ Warriors - Nuggets by 6 on the road with a total of 230. A colossal total of 230 points, but I feel like oddsmakers wouldn't set one this high without good reason. Let's dig. The Warriors are a worthy competitor for the Nuggets, in that both teams score at will, and the Warriors shouldn't have much issue with letting this game get to a completely hectic tempo. Both previous meetings this year were won by the Nuggets, though the most recent one was courtesy of the referee crew, who called a shooting foul on Monta Ellis with 2 seconds left and J.R. Smith literally 38-feet from the hoop. Terrible call, makes you think, at least briefly, that the game was fixed, except the Nuggets still didn't cover the spread. Truthfully, when the Warriors aren't on a back-to-back, which they're not, they can probably hang with the Nuggets. No one on Denver can stop Monta, and Andris Biedrins, if he stays out of foul trouble, could be a bit of an annoyance near the rim. I'm just not sure Golden State has the energy to withstand Denver's intensity for all 48 minutes. I suppose time will tell. I do like the double-revenge angle, but the Warriors are such a tough team to handicap right now with their 6 healthy bodies. Guards are playing the entire game right now, although there are about 4 guys that might play in this one, currently listed as questionable. I have to lean to the home dog, which is often the case when a home team is getting this many points, and when the road team is just not that successful on the road. I'm just not confident in this total - both games have hit 240 so far this year, and I'm wondering if oddsmakers might be right on the money with this one.

Bulls @ Clippers - Clippers by 3 with a total of 197. I actually believe this line is accurate, in terms of splitting money, though I still lean Clippers, and here's why: the Clippers are coming off their first SU win after 4 straight losses. I tend to like backing decent teams coming off a losing streak, just the way I like to fade decent teams off a win streak. The Clippers have covered 2 straight, and they continue to put together solid offensive efforts. Chris Kaman is going to make a monster difference, and I'd love to have him back in there to tackle Chicago's bigs, but even if he's not, this is a nice spot for the Clippers. The Bulls began their 7-game road trip with a silly loss in Golden State against a team that they just should not have lost to. The question mark for me is whether the Bulls bounce back, or whether we saw the peak in Boston, and the home ATS loss to the Wizards, followed by the epic fail in Oakland was actually the start of this team suffering a bit of a letdown for a week or two. I'm inclined to think the latter is true. The Bulls had a fantastic ATS surge from December 15 to January 14, but the oddsmakers caught up, the Bulls got that huge win over the Celtics, and now they're getting too much credit. The Clippers are a better team than Chicago, and the only reason I'm not more confident in this lean is because we might get a late-breaking injury announcement, and you guys all know how I feel about those. I think this total goes Over, too, as the Clippers have been pushing the pace and they've played to 5 straight Overs.

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