Sunday, January 03, 2010

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 15

I don't know about you guys, but I'm suddenly a huge fan of the New York Knicks. This team took our -9.5 Paid Play yesterday and demolished that spread by about the 7 minute mark of the 1st quarter, and never looked back. They were up 22 after the first, 32 at halftime, 45 after the third, and despite entering garbage time exceptionally early, still maintained a 43-point victory for an easy, no-sweat cover. Grab that 1* and stuff it in your pocket.

And while you're at it, grab that 0.5* Premium Freebie on the Spurs-Raptors Under, a winner that appeared to be in hand midway through the second quarter. I really can't complain - while everyone was trying to guess which Pro Bowlers wouldn't play the second half of every NFL game, we just picked apart another NBA card to move Paid Plays and Free Plays each to 2-0 thus far in the year 2010. We've collected 3.25 units of profit in this little mini-run (4-0), and I just feel like the pep-talk from the team of sharp, sharp NBA minds that shows up at this blog every day has really jump-started my handicapping. It doesn't hurt that a few of my strongest leans got steamed like crazy a few hours before gametime!

Sports Wagering

Hawks @ Heat - Miami getting 1.5 points at home with a total of 196.5. I'll tell you right now, looking at this card, with two games of a 1.5-point spread, I would not be surprised at all to see the sharps try to set up a few middles. I think the initial move on this one is that the line gets positively crushed towards Miami, possibly even making its way all the way to -1. If not this game, then the next one, which you'll be reading about momentarily. Generally, it's pretty easy to get that move, too. Sharps will bet it down to a pick, and steamchasers will do the rest of the work. From a handicapping standpoint, I don't feel like either of these teams has much in the way of momentum. The Heat have lost and failed to cover 3 consecutive games, and the culprit has clearly been poor defense. Miami gave up 95 to the low-scoring Hornets, then 108 and 107 to the Spurs and Bobcats, respectively. Miami isn't going to win any games when they give up 100 points, not to teams that defend well (like Charlotte and San Antonio), that's for sure. Poor defense against the Hawks will be curtains, as well, since we all know how Atlanta can score. That being said, the Hawks have not responded well to the back-to-back losses to the Cavs, as a lackluster defensive effort led to a Knicks OT victory over Atlanta on New Years Day. As a result of both teams' cold play, I think the side is a little low on value, though if you want to "bet like a Pro", you could probably grab the +1.5, and then wait and see if the line flips favorites. In terms of the total, I think it's a tad on the low side. Miami's defense, as we've seen, is suffering lately, and when Atlanta has any sort of say in the tempo, they prefer games up over 200. I lean Over.

Thunder @ Bulls - Bulls by 1.5 with a total of 194.5. Just as we saw two teams in the first game on the docket scuffling with a 1.5-point spread, here we see two teams playing good basketball with a 1.5-point spread. Once again, I imagine there's a decent shot that the +1.5 team gets steamed first for the potential two-dog middle, and once again I think the side isn't huge on value. The Bulls have won, and covered, 4 straight games, including their last victory, an 8-point thumping of the Orlando Magic. So, dare we say the "value" is down on Chicago, and fade them, or do we "ride the wave" while this team continues to win? I'm inclined to say that in most cases, I like the fade in this particular situation. Chicago is coming off a huge win over Orlando, as noted, and they're ripe for a small letdown. But, on the other hand, the Thunder had their own 5-game winning streak snapped by an OT loss in Milwaukee, and you guys all know how I feel about a young team coming off a win streak. I hate to do this again, but I'm running squarely into another game where I think neither side is sitting on an advantage on the line. You could try to play a middle again, but my attention is going to be mostly focused on the total. Before I break down the number, I should also note that if either this game or the one above starts moving violently to the favorite (such as the Bulls suddenly being favored by 2.5 or 3), that might be good enough reason to consider a play on that team, since both of these clubs are in position to play a good game, I just don't have strong feelings for either. The total of 194.5 feels just a shade high, as the Thunder are starting to cool off, and I like the way the Bulls have been playing defense on their current win streak.

Hornets @ Jazz - Utah by 8 with a total of 196. Here's a slightly more significant spread, up over that 7-point barrier that separates a game decided late from one that, well, may not be. This is a line based largely on home/road splits. Quickly, the Jazz are 12-5 at home, 6-10 on the road, +9.3 home vs. road final margin numbers. The Hornets are even more severe, 13-3 at home, 2-13 on the road, -10.2 road vs home final margin. So we're looking at two teams that appear to deserve 4-5 points when playing at home over a neutral court. I believe that's why we're seeing such a steep line for this game. It certainly isn't based on the last few games for each club. Utah has lost 2 in a row, a 1-point defeat in Oklahoma, and a 10-point home loss to the Melo and Billups-less Nuggets. New Orleans has won 2 of their last 3 games, both home victories to no one's surprise. So then, my initial impression is that this line is strikingly similar to the Knicks game yesterday. 8 points looks like a ton for a cold Jazz club taking on a hot-at-home Hornets club, but at the same time, Utah might very well wake up and deliver a beating in this one. Let's keep an eye on the line. The total of 196 looks extremely high with the way the Hornets have tried to slow games lately, but we have to remember that New Orleans' defense is dismal on the road. They allow just 96.7 points at home, but 105.1 on the road, and I'm not sure this game doesn't hit 210. I lean Over, but I need some line movement confirmation on this one, as well, since I'm not quite sure how well Deron Williams is, and his health is a huge factor in Utah's ability to not only score, but score quickly.

Trailblazers @ Clippers - Clippers by 3 with a total of 188.5. What the hell? The Clippers are favored to the Blazers? What has become of this world? Let me make sure I'm getting this right -- the Clippers, 14-18 on the season, underdogs of 6.5 points in Portland less than a week ago, are now considered (more or less) the Blazers' equal on a neutral court. Something is funny around these parts, and I intend to find out what it is. To the Clippers' credit, they have covered their last 3 games in a row, and this game will be their first since December 31. They have also shot 51%, 49% and 55% in their last 3 games, so the offense is "clicking" about as well as it can for LA. They also unleashed a furious fast break attack on the Sixers in the New Years Eve win that led to a monster second half and a 16-point thumping of a hot Philadelphia club. Once again, this team seems to be a total enigma. I hate inconsistency, as it is truly the bane of an NBA handicapper. Portland beat Golden State on January 2, so they won't be quite as well-rested, but after the loss to Philly, Portland has again won 2 straight. Lamarcus Aldridge is a concern, and his potential absence may have something to do with this odd line. Also, historically a much better home team, the Blazers have won their last 3 road contests, all as underdogs, so we can't discount them just because they're not giving away points. This is a tough one to make a call on, but I have to think that the Clippers get it done. If this game goes ANYTHING like the one up in Portland, the Clippers win easily. LA was the more aggressive team, and only lost that game because of Portland's ability to make tough shots in front of their home crowd. I also like the Under, since the game up in Oregon hit 202, yet oddsmakers have set this line almost 14 points lower than that total, and 1.5 points lower than the 190-point total we saw in the last game.

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