Thursday, January 14, 2010

78 Points Ain't Nothin'

All I can do is laugh, but at least today I can laugh because things turned out just fine!

Over the last week or so, the NBA has literally been FINDING WAYS to beat me, with late injury scratches leading to 20-rebound games, and 3 game-winning shots deciding the outcomes of my sides, but last night, the world, try as it might to take away my victory, could not. We got an easy cover with the Free Premium Play on the Bulls, and despite a 78-POINT 4th quarter in the Jazz-Cavs game, our Under 195 cashed, as well. A 2-0 night, and a much needed one, let's hope that is the start of something, and maybe not getting the shaft for once will start the next streak.

Also, I want to take credit for pointing out that the SIDE in the Jazz-Cavs game was a terrible bet. At about 3pm yesterday I woke up from a nap and I just knew that the side was going to be a mess, and wiseguys showed why they're called "wise" because the 1-point winner likely secured a nice middle for them. Let's dig into the 13-game schedule.

Sports Wagering

Spurs @ Bobcats - Spurs by 2 on the road with a total of 188.5. San Antonio is really starting to get a LOT of respect from the oddsmakers with a road line like this one. The Spurs have been winning lately, there's no way around that. They went 10-3 in December, 5-2 in January so far, and they're now just a half-game behind the Mavs for the Southwest division lead. Surging is an understatement, but oddsmakers are starting to catch up, and I think this line is a true indicator of that. Power rankings putting the Spurs 5 points better than Charlotte on a neutral court (or maybe even slightly more, given the Bobcats increased homecourt advantage) is really a hefty jump from when they were laying 2 points in Milwaukee just under a month ago. I'm hesitant to take either side in this game, as the Spurs are starting another back-to-back, and I imagine we'll see Duncan log a good 40 minutes (like he did against the Lakers), then probably rest in that second game (and 4th in 5 nights). My feelings on this game are that I actually hope the Spurs win, creating more value for a fade in tomorrow's game in Memphis. Charlotte is in game-3 of a 6-game homestand, so they're settled in right now, slipping by Memphis in the first game, and then storming back on the Rockets in the second game. There's zero doubt the Bobcats are playing solid basketball, especially in their building, but I feel like they're due to drop one, and this would certainly be that spot. I lean Spurs, amazingly. That total looks awfully low, but I don't expect either team to really push the pace, so I lean Under at first glance. The Spurs without Duncan got into a track meet with the Thunder, but I think they use their big man in this one and try to exploit their experience by keeping it close, then winning late in a low-scoring game.

Kings @ Sixers - Philly by 3 with a total of 207. The Sixers are coming off a tough loss to the Knicks, and this game has the potential to be a fun one. Sacramento will get up and down the floor, but they remain a different bird on the road than at Arco. Of course, the Sixers remain slightly better on the road than at home, so we're running into a rock, then a hard place trying to pick a side in this one. The huge factor here is that the Sixers rolled into Arco on December 30th and bopped the Kings by 10 points, one of Sacramento's most lopsided home losses in the last month (aside from the most recent game)! I have to think the Kings have spent all their time since getting embarrassed focused on getting revenge on Philadelphia. Without getting into too much detail, I like that Kevin Martin is due to come back, because he gives them one more scoring option in the 4th quarter, but I think his presence will disrupt the offense just a bit. I expect this game to be close from start to finish, which makes me like the team on revenge getting a couple points. My favorite play in this game, though, is on the total. Philadelphia has played 2 straight low-scoring games at home, and amazingly, Sacramento has played to 5 consecutive Unders, and with the readdition of Kevin Martin to the mix, I think he slows things down more than speeds them up, and obviously, long term he's going to be a huge help, but tonight, he creates a few missed shots, and enough to push this game Under the total.

Suns @ Hawks - Atlanta by 4.5 with a total of 217.5. I think the initial feelings on this one are to look to the home team. The Hawks absolutely demoralize teams in their building, and I'm not sure I've seen much from the Suns to think they can compete. The Hawks remain one of the best ATS bets in the NBA, now 14-5 ATS in their home building, and coming off a last-second cover against the Wizards in a game that, looking back, I have no idea how the Hawks lead jumped from 9 to 12 with the game seemingly decided. I can only think a Hawk hit a meaningless 3, and sharps on the Wizards crapped their pants. In any case, if the Hawks can handle the Celtics twice and not let down against Washington, I'm pretty confident they can play Phoenix tough. Phoenix did beat Atlanta by 5 in a similar spot last year, and that is my concern. Coming off a loss to the Pacers, the Suns value is at a nice spot to "buy", but our decision isn't whether there's value, it's whether there's enough to warrant a play, and my early feelings are that the Suns have been so terrible at sustaining 48 minutes of good ball on the road that I just can't trust them here. Weak, weak lean to the Hawks side, and a nearly-as-weak lean to the Under on the total. Phoenix is coming off an ultra high-scoring game with Indiana, but Atlanta has actually been ramping up their defense - I'm interested, more than anything else, to see how this one gets played. Both games went Under, last year.

T'Wolves @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 8.5 with a total of 207.5. You want to talk about a team getting a ton of respect, the Grizzlies are nearly a double-digit favorite! Who would have ever thought they'd lay this kind of chalk with the way they started the season? The Grizzlies narrowly escaped the Clippers in the Great Water Pipe Debacle a couple days back, but bear in mind that was the first game of a long homestand for Memphis, and we'll likely get a much better wire-to-wire effort from the Grizz in this one. It's for just that reason that this number/game scares me just a bit. The Wolves are coming to Memphis off a 3OT loss to the Houston Rockets, an while they did get a day off to recuperate, I'm wondering if this line isn't just slightly adjusted to that long, tough loss. Still, I think we need to remember, that game only went to OT because of a half-court shot drained by Corey Brewer with the Rockets up 3 and time expiring, so I'm not sure it's a situation where Minnesota feels like they let an opportunity slip away. They had a very strong second half in that game, so I'm not sure they're all that down coming into this one. I have to lean just slightly to the Wolves, who have covered their last 2 road losses, and we might see the same type of game, here. Minnesota loses, but only by 4-7. I'm not all that confident, and we might see line movement that moves this game off my board, especially with Memphis in game-two of the homestand, an historically strong spot for home teams. Another "baby-lean" or "tilt" toward Minnesota, but I can be swayed, even though the Wolves are on a certain level of double-revenge. I'm just not sure I feel as strongly about double-revenge when it involves a team that doesn't ever win. I like the Under here, too, with folks looking at the 3OT game and thinking Minnesota is better offensively than they are.

Hornets @ Pistons - This line is OFF. Any why not, Ben Gordon is dead to rights, the Pistons got a win, and who the hell knows what's going on with these guys? In any case, the Hornets head back out on the road after dominating the Kaman-less Clippers in their home building, and I wouldn't expect anything less than a hotly contested game that the Hornets likely win late. That seems to be how every New Orleans game goes, but give them credit, they are playing defense and winning. The Pistons snapped a 13-game losing streak with a win over the hapless Wizards 99-90, a better-than-normal offensive display, and the most points the Pistons had scored since December 12th against the Warriors, the last game the Pistons won before this one. It's pretty clear, then, what needs to be done for Detroit to come away with a win, and that's put up more than 85 points. You just can't win NBA games missing that many shots, not when a defensive rebound can lead to a fast break and easy buckets. Funny, too, that the 99-point outburst was an Under for the Pistons that snapped a streak of 4 straight Overs. I expect this posted total to be extremely low, and I like a potential Over, since I think the Pistons try to continue with a slightly quicker tempo, trying to get a few easier shots, instead of constantly slowing it down and hoping Ben Wallace can swish a 15-footer. In terms of the side, I think we see the Hornets favored by a couple points, and I think we might see another decent effort from the Pistons - tough to pick a lean, though. I guess I like Detroit in a revenge spot (shudders).

Raptors @ Knicks - New York by 2.5 with a total of 207.5. Interestingly, this is the first of many meetings between these two teams, so we don't have any previous encounters to base our thoughts on. That's fine, we'll go with situationals. The Knicks return home for just this one game before facing the Pistons on the road tomorrow, and while it is the "first game home" off a road trip, they're going right back out, so I don't think we'll see that trademark letdown. New York is also returning home feeling better after losing in Houston and Oklahoma before finishing the short roadie with a win in Philadelphia. Now, the suddenly relevant Knicks, and suddenly better-at-home-than-road Knicks get to test their mettle against an improving Raptors club coming off back-to-back losses, at home to Boston and in Indiana. I actually believe this spread is pretty accurate. The Raptors have had 3 days rest heading into this one, and in the limited numbers we have, they're 2-0 on a ton of rest, so you have to like that angle. The Knicks got their revenge on Philadelphia, so we might not see the same focus as usual, and based on situationals and numbers, I like Toronto to get a road cover. I also really like the Under, though that line almost looks too tempting. Both of these teams have shown improving defenses, and I believe strongly that the Knicks don't want a track meet, the one type of game where Toronto can beat them. The home team tends to dictate the tempo, and I feel this one ends in the high 190's: I lean Under.

Pacers @ Nets - Pacers by 3 with a total of 208.5. Hefty total for a Nets game, eh? Well, let's start by looking at Indiana to see if we can't pinpoint why. The Pacers are hitting the road off 2 nice home wins over the Raptors and Suns, and 3 straight covers, overall. They have played to 3 of 4 Overs, but let's look at why -- Indiana has gotten their key players back, and when healthy, this team loves to get out and run. They had turned into a bit of a slow team without Murphy and Granger, but with them back, both Indiana and their opponent have scored over 100 points in all 4 of those recent games to which I was referring. Also, this is a double revenge spot for New Jersey, with the Pacers beating them once in each location this year, 91-83 in Jersey, and 107-91 in Indiana. If the fact that neither of these games hit 200 doesn't immediately jump out at you, adjust your bifocals. This total really feels like a trap early, considering the way the two previous games have gone in this series, and it seems like either oddsmakers have purposely made a 9-point error, or they're trying to tell us something -- I lean to the latter. Neither team shot the ball well in those games despite a pretty good pace, especially in the second game, which featured over 90 shots in each. Another game like that one, and with both teams shooting in the mid/high-40% range, and this one should hit 215. Also interesting is that Jersey hasn't broken 100 since December 30, so if this game isn't telling us to give Jersey and the Over a long, long look, I don't know what is.

Wizards @ Bulls - Chicago by 6 with a total of 199. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Letdown City! If anyone else on this planet is willing to join me in a lean to the Wizards, speak now. Guess I can't gauge audio levels on a blog, but this is a great situational spot for the Wizards. Some day in the future I'm going to want to illustrate the "perception vs. reality" that I talk about with Mike Hook on the daily podcast all the time, and I'm going to point at this game. The Wizards come into Chicago looking like the worst team on the planet. I mean, come on, a home loss to the Pistons, who had themselves lost 13-straight games before beating the Wizards looks pretty awful to the public, many of whom were backing Washington in that game because of how bad Detroit looked. Then, on the other side, Chicago avenged two blowout losses to the Celtics earlier this year with one of their most sustained and impressive defensive efforts all season long. No matter how you section this match-up, Chicago is going to let up. I don't know if it's going to be early or late (or both), but Washington will have a great shot not only to cover, but to win outright, and the question is whether they can capitalize. I'm inclined to believe they can, as the Wiz are 3-1 ATS against the Bulls over the last couple seasons, so they match up well. Antawn Jamison's odd release should also help neutralize all the Bulls shot-blockers. I also like the Under here, since I think Chicago is out of gas from last night, and I don't think they break 100. Washington might, but that still means we need high 90's from the Bulls. Wiz and Under.

Heat @ Rockets - Houston by 4.5 with a total of 194. I'm actually a little surprised by this spread, though I'm not sure why. I know that doesn't make sense, but I guess I just expected one either higher, indicating Houston's home court edge, or lower, erring towards caution with the Rockets coming off the 3OT win over Minnesota. It's pretty clear when Houston does and does not cover, and I very much like their chances in this one based on a match-up level. Shane Battier will be deployed to guard Dwyane Wade, I have to believe, and he can't stop these superstars, but he certainly does a superior job of slowing than almost anyone else in the League. I admit, I can't stand how Shane Battier is always ranked #55 in Yahoo Fantasy NBA because he does nothing offensively, but he is huge when handicapping Rockets games. I like Houston to win this game by 6-8 points, as they remain one of the strongest home teams in the NBA (12-4 SU, 11-5 ATS), and even though D-Wade has a strong game against the Warriors, those nagging injuries will reveal themselves when he's expending ridiculous amounts of energy to put up numbers against one of the best defenders in the NBA. On the total side, I need to feel square and like the Over. Houston scores in waves at home, and I think Michael Beasley steps up and has a nice game.

Thunder @ Mavs - Dallas by 5 with a total of 195.5. This should be a fun one, but I wish I had stronger feelings about the side. Dallas has been a terrible home team, so I think with a game like this you have to start by looking at the road club, but at the same time, the Mavericks have to be feeling a little silly after getting pounded by the Lakers, and a version of Kobe Bryant that could barely bend at the waist. Still, the numbers are pretty severe: the Mavs are 13-6 ATS on the road, 5-14 at home. You just can't take the Mavs unless the match-ups and situational angles are overwhelming, and to me, this just isn't that overwhelming. Oklahoma City is coming off an OT loss to the Spurs, so their value isn't outrageously low, and I like that the Mavs are still the marquee team, even though they're a permanent fade at home, and permanent back on the road. I am also a fan of the revenge angle, as (not surprisingly) Dallas beat the piss out of the Thunder in Oklahoma City. That game was actually the first ATS win for the Mavs over the Thunder in the last 4 meetings, so Oklahoma City generally matches up pretty well. I lean to the Thunder, and I also like the Over, since I feel the road team will force Dallas to match them bucket for bucket. Also, the first meeting went Under a total of 193.5, yet this one moved up 2 points. Very intriguing, tread with caution on that number.

Bucks @ Warriors - Golden State by 4.5 with a total of 216. Revenge! The Warriors lost an outlandishly high-scoring game with these Bucks in Milwaukee by 4 points, as a 7.5-point dog. So, in the interim, the Warriors have gained a little respect, and the Bucks have lost a fair amount. My initial feelings are that the Warriors will win this game. The Warriors have lost back-to-back home games to the Cavs and the Heat, but this is more of a chance to get fat than any of those. The Bucks do not shoot the ball wall, and you can't make open looks, the Warriors will run you right out of the building. That is a distinct possibility here. Milwaukee has lost all 3 games on their current road trip to the West coast, and I just don't see it getting any better. The Warriors are a match-up nightmare for a team that can't "impose" any sort of will, though I think Brandon Jennings might have one of his stronger games in what's sure to be a back-and-forth affair. I lean to the Under on the total, since I don't see Milwaukee putting up their share of the necessary points to get up over that 216 mark. Golden State wins this one 108 to 99, that's my best guess. Let's take a peek at the line movement before we nail anything down, but I definitely like the revenge, and I like that two home losses have made some folks forget how tough Golden State is in Oakland.

Magic @ Blazers - This line is OFF. Is this a revenge game? Maybe, though when the Magic beat the Blazers by 9, it was right on the spread -- no one got embarrassed and no one took the other lightly, so while I think Portland has the very slight motivational edge, I really don't like to fade a team coming off a big loss, and that's exactly what the Magic suffered in Denver. Still, 18-point losses are not as stomach-turning as 30-point losses, and given Orlando's fatigue, losing by 18 wasn't all that bad. So, we come back to a straight-up match, with situationals not all that relevant. The Blazers have been alternating wins and losses on their home court during a 5-game homestand, and that puts them on pace for a loss in this one. And truth be told, I actually like Orlando here. I think they play better coming back down to sea level, and Portland, without their true big men, has no one that can even come close to slowing down Dwight Howard. The Magic can't really slow down Roy from the perimeter, but Howard inside is certainly an enforcer. I think folks might overestimate the revenge angle, since Portland just keeps getting more and more hurt, and Brandon Roy, who I just mentioned, is the reason for this line being OFF. He pulled a hamstring,and if he's out, Portland is going to have to rely on Jerryd Bayless for their offense. You guys know how I feel about betting on games with a key injury, it's Portland or nothing if Roy doesn't play, and I'd lean towards the nothing. I tend to like Over bets when a star goes down, too, since the remaining guys usually play too quick, and the opposition takes them lightly.

Clippers @ Lakers - This line is OFF. Now the Lakers are the home team. The last time these clubs met, I was all over the Clippers, but this time, I'm not as convinced. Without Chris Kaman, the Lakers Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest might actually snap Marcus Camby in two pieces. Obviously, the big issue here is Kobe Bryant, who seemed to loosen up nicely when his personal masseuse was flown in from LA and massaged his back at half-time. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kobe skip a game, though. Is there really any reason for him to play? It's not like a road game where he's basically trapped in a city he doesn't like either way. Here, he has nice home cookin', and can show up to the arena, get his treatment, put on a pinstripe suit and watch his boys try to take down the other LA team without him. I guess we'll see - he IS Kobe, after all, and wants to play in every game. The Lakers come home after getting destroyed in San Antonio and picking up a tough win in Dallas, though this is just a short homestand, the Lakers have a few days off between games, so we might very well see a little sluggishness on their part. The Clippers continue their "road trip" after losses in both Memphis and New Orleans, but it's tough to know how they'll perform in this home/road venue. I will admit, I don't really have a lean on this game, though I guess I think we'll see a stronger game from the Clippers, that might not be enough. My favorite play is on the Under.

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