Sunday, January 10, 2010

Abort, Retry, Fail

Pregame? Hello? I know you're there, but why do you keep responding to my knocks on your door with "Website not found?"

Oh well, perhaps a day off from betting was just what we needed. A refresher day to catch up on work, watch some football without wringing our hands about the outcome, and a day to chat with friends about the upcoming week of action. If only half the players in the NBA weren't shelved by sprained knees and sore backs, we might actually have some lines to work with!

Sports Wagering

Hornets @ Sixers - This line is OFF. The Hornets roll into town on the second day of a back-to-back, and the Sixers come home off a road win in Detroit. I can't help but feel like this isn't a terribly impressive spot for either team. The Sixers have been just awful at home, now posting a 4-12 SU mark in their home building (2-14 ATS), and a still-mediocre, yet much better 7-13 road mark SU, 13-7 ATS. They score almost 4 points more on the road, and playing at home seems to create Under situations, for whatever reason, with this backwards club. The Hornets, on the other hand, started the season only winning games at home, where they're currently 14-3 SU (9-8 ATS), and only recently started winning a few on the road. The Hornets picked up a road victory yesterday in Washington, surging back from behind late in the 4th quarter, and with that win improved to just 5-13 SU, 8-10 ATS on the road. This win also gives New Orleans 3 straight wins away from home, so that 5-13 SU mark on the road was a real eyesore at 2-13 just over a week ago. The Hornets have been decent on back-to-back situations, going 3-3 on the second day so far this season, 1-1 when both the first and second games occur on the road. They have played to the Over 4 of 6 times on btb game twos this year, which unfortunately contradicts the Sixers home Under trends. I don't like much about this game, though I do like that the Hornets seem to really want every win right now. They know they need to beat the low-tier teams, and I think we'll get some value on them, being on the road and on a back-to-back. I expect this one to open up with Philly favored by a tiny margin, and I expect a total near 200.

Raptors @ Pacers - Pacers by 1.5 with a total of 217. Pacers favored? This requires extra attention. The Pacers, amazingly, have actually won two straight home games, mixed in between a bevy of road losses. 9 straight road losses, to be exact. Now, that being said, the home wins came by 11 over the Wolves, then by 7 over the Magic, a fairly impressive win. The Raptors come to town off a home loss to the Celtics yesterday, who just seem to have Toronto's number, and I wonder how much credit we should give the Raptors. They have been winning games, aside from those with Boston, and in fact are 8-0 in their last 8 games not against Boston, hah. They still haven't been too impressive on the road, though, winning in Orlando against the slumping-at-the-time Magic by 5 and in Philadelphia by 2. Let's dig deeper. The Raptors are 2-6 on the second half of back-to-backs, which this game is despite yesterday's game being played at 1 in the afternoon. They will have more time than usual to rest up, but I still expect a lax defensive effort. The Raptors are 0-3 in btbs that start at home and end on the road, losing by an average of almost 30 points, with all 3 games going Over the posted total. Losing by 30 here would be tough, considering the Pacers play very little defense themselves, but I would not be at all surprised to see the Pacers hit 115 points, and win this thing by 5-7 points with a total that eclipses 217 by that same number.

Hawks @ Celtics - Celtics by 3.5 with a total of 191.5. Revenge, anyone? What's that? Make it a double? Done. The Celtics get to host the Hawks in a situation where both teams are in a good value spot. Allow me to elaborate. The Celtics have lost to the Hawks twice this year, once in both Boston and Atlanta, most recently an 8-point road loss as a 4-point dog. Now, Boston comes home off a win in Toronto to finish this day-night back-to-back as a larger-than-expected favorite. Going off the fact that Atlanta was a 4-point fave, Boston should have been a 2-point fave at home, and the back-to-back should have brought this one closer to a Pick. I realize Atlanta is coming off getting embarrassed in Orlando, but I don't believe that one loss is moving the oddsmakers' line 3.5 points towards the Celts. This line is a tricky one. Boston remains a buck short without Kevin Garnett to keep the rage flowing, but the Celts have actually been decent on back-to-backs, going 4-2 thus far this year. My concern with backing the Celtics (and I do lean Boston) is that Atlanta is going to roll into town as irritated as they could possibly be, fresh off that 32-point debacle. It's a tough balancing act here, but I think Atlanta loses one more before getting things straightened out on a long homestand that begins on Wednesday. The total of 191.5 makes sense, as both previous meetings have gone Under totals slightly higher than this one - this is no oddsmaker trickery here, just a tightening of the line. I lean slightly Under, since I think Boston runs even less than usual on the btb, and I think the defensive intensity will be there because of the double revenge.

Pistons @ Bulls - This line is OFF. The Bulls, the covering machines! ATS records often find their way back towards the .500 mark, and after one of the worst stretches in the NBA against the spread, the world's perception of Chicago bottomed out, and their value peaked. Chicago turned a corner, started picking up some wins, and they've rattled off a 10-3 ATS record since mid-December. Make no mistake, the Bulls are a tough nut, capitalizing on the return of Tyrus Thomas from injury, and the move of Kirk Hinrich into the starting lineup. Still, Detroit is not going to be a group of happy campers here, losing both of the previous meetings with Chicago this year, by 7 on the road a month ago, and by 11 at home just before the turn of the decade. Detroit is finally getting healthy, and to say they're playing good ball would be a disgusting overstatement, but they're certainly not as terrible as when they were without scorers Ben Gordon, Rip Hamilton and Charlie Villanueva. Bottom line is that Detroit is getting to that point that Chicago hit a month ago. They hit rock bottom, and the time is coming when this team starts covering a few spreads. Will it be today? Potentially, but we won't know for sure until a spread comes out. Knowing what we do about the previous meetings between these two teams, we may be able to draw some conclusions about the intent of the oddsmakers. For what it's worth, Detroit has lost 12 straight, and the two previous totals of these squareoffs were 177 and 185.

Knicks @ Thunder - This line is OFF. Wonderful, another game without a line. Can't stand this time of year with all the injuries. Let's get healthy guys! The Knicks continue their short 3-game road trip that began with a SU and ATS loss in Houston, and concludes Wednesday in Philadelphia. In between, as we're seeing, the Knicks have to take on the surprise of the season Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC is coming off a SU win over the Pacers but a failed cover, and it's starting to look like the hot run the Thunder went on to end 2009 has left them slightly overrated by oddsmakers. They are 21-15 ATS, and a regression isn't necessarily imminent, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one. They've covered just 1 of their last 5 games despite going 3-2 SU in that stretch, so this team just isn't that comfortable demolishing teams as a heavy favorite. They've covered plenty of games as a 1-4 point favorite, but it's interesting to see how they handle seeing -6 and -7 next to their team name. I think we'll likely get a spread in that neighborhood on this one. The Knicks were 6.5-point underdogs in Houston and lost, and oddsmakers will have the Thunder just a shade behind the Rockets in power rankings. So, my guess is that the Thunder will have to cover a spread of 5-6, not a simple task against a Knicks team that is showing pretty good resiliency. New York covered 3 straight before the loss in Houston, so they're playing good ball, though the number of scores in the 100's is creeping back up again after a long stretch of Unders in December. New York seems to have started focusing on offense again in 2010, shooting over 50% in each of their games this year, but playing poor defense against the Thunder just won't cut it. Still, I lean to the Knicks, and I might take a peek at the Under, with the Thunder focusing more on defense at home than on the road.

Bucks @ Suns - Phoenix by 9 with a total of 212.5. Very tough spot for the Bucks, as Milwaukee got straight whipped in LA, snapping a string of covers against the Lakers. They also lost Michael Redd to what appeared to be another injury on that surgically repaired knee. I hate to say it, but maybe if Redd lost some weight, his knees might be in better shape, or at least stay in one piece for more than 8-10 games at a time. In any case, Milwaukee looks horrible these days. I know they won a couple in a row, but watching this team live made me realize just how overmatched they are against any team even a little better than them, especially on the road. Obviously, this game will be less of a toll on them than the fight against the bigger, stronger Lakers, but I still think it's going to be brutal. Phoenix is coming off a loss at home to Miami, who always play the Suns tough, so the immediate thought is that the Suns are going to be pissed going into this one. This is the first meeting this year between the two teams, so we can look at some of the matchups. First, Milwaukee's fatigue factor: the Bucks have been quite good on the second night of back-to-backs this year, incredibly, going 5-1 ATS. Phoenix, though, has given Milwaukee a tough time historically, going 21-4 against the Bucks SU over the last 13-14 years. The question is whether the Suns can cover the hefty spread. I'm inclined, against my better judgment, to think that they can. I also enjoy the fact that Milwaukee is a Morrison system play, and we might get this line dropping by morning. I expect to see the line dip to Phoenix -8, and I might suggest a play on them then, if I still like them. I also think this total stays Under, as I'd be surprised to see Milwaukee score enough to clear the bar.

Heat @ Jazz - Utah by 7.5 with a total of 192. Tough spot for the Heat; letdown spot for the Jazz. Miami flies into the altitude off a loss to the Clippers in LA, and Utah returns home (with a day of rest) off a big 18-point road win over the Mavericks. This is a very difficult game to get a read on, since the line seems to take into account Miami's fatigue spot. The line looks gargantuan, especially since the Heat were only 5.5-point dogs in Phoenix. That one might have been a bit of a trap, though, since we saw the real Heat in their 10-point loss in LA, and that game wasn't nearly as close as the final score would indicate. I think the team traveling into the altitude is certainly the impossible back, so it's Utah or nothin', here, on the side. Oh, and Miami beat Utah by 10 in the ugliest game of the century in Miami 2 weeks ago, so the revenge might get the Jazz up just enough to push this thing to a 10-point win. Be warned, though, that the Heat have had almost zero trouble covering against the Jazz in recent years, covering the last 5 in a row, and that's as far back as my records go. We can't tell much about the total, since the last one hit 150 points on a total of 200, and not surprisingly, books adjusted this one down by 8 points. I think we might very well see another tough game, since the Jazz are actually playing some defense over the last couple games. My concern is that Miami doesn't have the leg strength to play much defense on their side. I can't help but think folks will remember the 150-point game and play the Under, and this game will squeeze Over to 194, or so.

Wolves @ Nuggets - This line is OFF. Sigh. Every day, half the card is without a line. But, we can continue to practice our skills at trying to figure out how the books are thinking, and every day we get a little bit smarter. Here, the Nuggets return home off a tough loss in Sacramento, and there's little that warms my heart more than a team suffering a buzzer-beating end. Most cappers believe that bad momentum will carry over, but with a day off, I think the Nuggets come out refreshed and looking to show they've got what it takes to win. This will be the 3rd game this year between these two teams, and so far, both teams have won on the road. I'll be curious to see if the Wolves have that same confidence in Denver again this time, or if the Nuggets treat the loss in their building as a motivational tool. It's tough to know for sure, since Minnesota is simply so terrible that most teams don't get up to play them -- hell, that's probably the reason for Denver's home loss to these guys. The Wolves have been struggling, losing 6 of 7 games SU, and going 1-4 in their last 5 ATS. The Nuggets have shown the ability to win without Carmelo Anthony, but only at home, it seems. They've won 3 of 5 so far this year, in somewhat inconsistent fashion. I think we might be able to pull some facts out of the total, when the line comes out. The first game of this series went Over 204.5; the second went Under 213.5. If this line doesn't come out in between those two numbers, we may have ourselves a little "hint" play.

Cavs @ Warriors - Cavaliers by 6 with a total of 214. This isn't a terribly fun spot for Cleveland, especially coming off a powerhouse performance up in Portland, and I get the feeling the Warriors will be underrated in this spot. Golden State is coming off a dandy of a 4th quarter against the Kings, turning a large deficit into a decisive win. They have also, it seems, been playing just a shade of defense, leading to a 7-1 ATS run. I love catching a hot unmarquee team against one of the big dogs that hasn't been playing that well but is coming off a televised win. This is a fine spot for the Warriors, and I lean hard to Golden State without digging all that deep. But hey, you guys don't come here for the coffee, so let's dig. The Cavs are on a back-to-back, a situation that has seen them go 8-4 SU (pretty good), but only 5-7 ATS (not so good), so they're winning games, but they're doing so without their usual flair. Surprisingly, it's not really the defense. The Cavs give up just 95 ppg on the road in all games, and that grows to ~97 in back-to-back road situations, not a huge difference. In fact, the Cavs really haven't performed all that differently in back-to-backs, yet their ATS record is as stated above. They average about 2 points less on offense, and as we stated, allow about 2 points more on defense, and while those both look pretty small, together that's the difference between a cover and a missed cover. They'll steal beat the Warriors, but they'll beat them by 4 instead of 8. When these teams met in Cleveland earlier this year, the Cavs beat the Warriors by 6 on a spread of 14, and the total of 222 went well over the 216.5 mark. It's interesting to see this spread at -6 on the road, and a LOWER total. I lean to the Under, and the home team.

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