Monday, January 04, 2010

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 16

We didn't have any official plays yesterday, but posted two strong leans in the blog (Thunder-Bulls Under, and the Clippers -4), and both of those leans were winners. Obviously, neither will be counted in my record, but it sounds like a few folks were able to match those leans with some leans of their own and cash a few tickets, and that's what this is really all about.

In terms of what's going on in the NBA, Gilbert Arenas released a statement that his unloaded weapons were in his locker to keep them out of his home and away from his kids, and that they were removed from his locker as part of a practical joke. And really, who doesn't think having a firearm pointed at them is funny? Show me that person, and I'll show you one dead man with no sense of humor. Not laughing? I'm coming for you, next.

Sports Wagering

Magic @ Pacers - This line is OFF. As are many of the lines on this card, but I'll do my best to break down the teams, situationally, and see if we can't try to predict a few things. Orlando concludes their 3-game road trip to start the new year with a game in Indiana against the utterly hopeless Pacers. The Magic are 1-1 on this trip so far, posting a strong 2nd half in a victory in Minnesota before struggling against a surging Bulls club (that suffered a letdown tonight against the Thunder, but that's a story for another paragraph). Now, the Magic, who appeared to be sleepwalking through the first halves of a few of their recent games, will take the floor against a team that wouldn't strike fear into an army of parakeets. This is why, without seeing the line, I think Indiana actually has a decent shot of covering what I believe will be a hefty, hefty, hefty spread. Orlando should be favored by a ton (~7-8 range, I'd imagine), and the best part about this situation is that Orlando is finishing up a road trip, so they're in a letdown spot, and the Pacers are coming off a 43-point loss to the Knicks, so they've hit rock bottom. There is rarely a better time to play a terrible team than the game after they bottom out, because oddsmakers are going to give them a ton of points, and I'd be surprised to see 12% of the public willing to back such a horrid club. I expect a total over 200, as well, and I don't have a strong lean until I see where this thing starts out.

Wizards @ Sixers - Sixers by 3.5 with a total of 207. Philadelphia comes home after a long, 6-game road trip that hit almost every nook (and cranny) of the US. This is a tough, tough spot for Philadelphia, as that first game back is never easy, even after a 3 or 4-game trip, but after a grueling 6-gamer, we are almost definitely going to see the Sixers playing in molasses in the first quarter, or potentially the first half. To their credit, though, they have been playing better basketball lately, picking up 3 wins in those 6 tough road games, and are suddenly exploiting the fact that they have fast, athletic players that can score quickly. Another positive for Philly fans is that the Sixers lost to the Wizards to open up that 6-game road trip, and now, one would think, this revenge spot will wake them up on the homestand a little faster than if they were playing, say, the Bucks. And don't get excited and go running down the comments section to remind me - I know, this is double revenge, as the Sixers lost both games with Washington this year, both on the road. Also working against the Wizards is the presence of the fuzz in their locker room, investigating Shotgun Gilbert and his "Delonte West act." Washington also has a game in Cleveland tomorrow night with the Cavs, a team they generally give a tough time. This is a look-ahead spot for Washington, a team with full-on dysfunction and facing a Philly club on double revenge; I lean Philly. The total looks high, but I think Philadelphia pushes the pace and runs Washington out of the building, I lean Over.

Bulls @ Bobcats - Bobcats by 5 with a total of 188. This side is tip-toeing that fuzzy line between a good value on the underdog, and a trap. The Bobcats return home off a short but wildly successful road trip, going 2-1, with wins in Miami and Cleveland. This team is rolling, and they have, to this point in the season, played extremely well at home, especially forcing turnovers. Is this a letdown spot? Maybe, but I think this team has high expectations, so big wins are more likely to fuel them than slow them down. On the flip side, the Bulls were a hot team, but a pretty bad club, so when they beat Orlando, that was almost like a playoff game for them, at least at this point in the season. So, right on cue, Chicago came back with a dud last night, and got walloped by the Thunder. I believe oddsmakers feel these teams are fairly evenly matched, with the Bobcats getting 2 extra points because of the back-to-back situation for Chicago. The Bulls, by the way, are a perfectly horrible 0-6 on the second night of back-to-backs, and are 0-4 when that second game occurs on the road, losing by an average of 20 points. I think Chicago has a little value as a dog, coming off the home loss, and I think Charlotte might get off to a slow start, coming home off a big win, but when push comes to shove, I'm not sure I can advocate betting against the Bobcats at home. The Bulls are 4-10 ATS on the road, the Bobcats are 10-5 ATS at home, and I'm actually a little glad Charlotte is playing their first game home off a road trip, because otherwise, every stat would point to the Bobs. The total is painfully low, and I can't help but think it stays Under, as Chicago won't break 90.

Bucks @ Nets - Milwaukee by 2 on the road with a total of 190. This should be a real fun one. Tell you guys what - if I actually get through this synopsis, I expect at least one post from each of you readers on how awesome I am for not passing out part way. The Bucks, a majestic 3-11 on the road, take their thrilling act into Jersey, 2-14 at home. Who will win this epic battle of futility? Well, the Bucks are coming off an OT win, and cover at home against the Thunder, but they lost their previous 4, so it sure as hell isn't easy to force a play on them. They are 7-7 ATS on the road, so they're losing inconsistently, in terms of final margin. Obviously, the Nets are not the formidable opponent of, say, Orlando (the Bucks most recent road loss), but Milwaukee has yet to be a road favorite this year, so this is uncharted territory for a crummy team. If you want to talk about a team inspiring almost zero confidence, this could be it...but wait! The Nets might even inspire less! They're 6-10 ATS at home, though it was 4-10 before back-to-back covers against the Knicks (a SU win), and a 60%-effort Cavaliers club. This might be as much credit as the Nets are going to get all season, but they're still an underdog. I think, rather than trying to determine who's going to win this grudge match, we should take a peek at the total. I think the initial impression is to think that these two teams, neither of which can shoot the ball, are destined to go Under, but I'm a little wary of that assumption. The Bucks are due for a breakout offensive game, and the Nets have shot the ball fairly well, with the exception of the Cavs game. I lean Over, amazingly.

Pistons @ Mavericks - Mavs by 9 with a total of 187. This is a screwy one, too. The Mavs return home off getting creamed by the Lakers, and their first home game after 4 on the road. The Pistons head to Dallas as the first half of a back-to-back here and in San Antonio, losers of 9 straight games, and without even one, single cover in that entire stretch. I'm not sure life could get much worse for Pistons fans, though I guess I might eat those words if they lose and don't cover in this one, too (and we can repeat ourselves every game on such a streak). Still, you all get the picture - this team is in the toilet, mostly due to injury and illness, and guys are just now starting to work their way back into gameshape, and the question is the same for this game as it was for their last one, "Is this the one where Detroit finally plays healthy?" And unfortunately, I just don't know for sure. Until Rip Hamilton starts nailing those curling baseline leaners, and until Ben Gordon consistently hits the pull-up 3, and so on and so forth, this team is going to continue to lose, and truthfully, I'd rather back Detroit AFTER they show me some sort of improvement. That's not to say I want to back Dallas in this one, because the Mavs aren't much for playing lesser teams, especially at home, where they're just 5-10 ATS. I would have to lean Detroit in this game if they weren't such a mess, so for now, let's say no real lean. The total looks awfully low, but I think this game stays Under, as I believe Dallas plays sluggish, and Detroit plays like Detroit.

Warriors @ Nuggets - This line is OFF. And I can say right now that I would need a pole of at least 20-feet to touch this one, even once the line comes out. When there are huge injury question marks like the ones on the Nuggets, until we know for CERTAIN who's in and who's out, there is zero reason to take shots in the dark. The Nuggets are pretty bad without Chauncey and Melo, and they're pretty damn untouchable at home with them, so the difference in this game could very well be night and day. It's silly to break it down without knowing which guys are going to play, but I suppose we can peek at the Warriors, if nothing else. Golden State is coming off a rough game in Portland after covering 4 straight spreads. There's no question this team is playing a little better lately, but they may have begun to get a little credit just in time for the beatdown at the Rose Garden. I think Golden State may lose this game no matter who plays for the Nuggets, but again, it's just so risky, and the whole point of handicapping is to isolate value and limit risk. The Warriors lost by 28 in Denver last time, so they'll be a little upset going into this rematch - that previous game, mind you, was the latter half of a back-to-back, so fatigue was a bigger factor than it will be in this one. Let's wait on this game a bit, and attack the line once we see it.

Suns @ Kings - Phoenix by 2.5 with a total of 226. I can't help but laugh, because once again, the Kings look like a good bet. Phoenix, clearly not the same team on the road that they are at home, is laying points in another very difficult place to play. My one concern is that the Suns are coming off getting clobbered in their own building by the Memphis Grizzlies, and may be looking to bounce back after a pair of off days. That being said, on a numbers-only basis, I have Sacramento capped to win this game outright. The Suns beat the Kings by 8 in Phoenix, but the Suns are over 12 points better at home than they are on the road. The Kings, losers of 3 straight, are over 8 points better at home than on the road, and their value is relatively high in this game. With Sactown losing a few games in a row, this is just the time we might see the public jump off the bandwagon, and when we can continue to grab this team in the right spots. This feels like one of those spots, but of course, we're not making any plays until we can see some favorable (or at the very least, not unfavorable) line movement. The Kings are 11-7 at home, the Suns are 8-10 on the road, and Phoenix heads right back home tomorrow to host the Rockets. I like the revenge angle for the Kings, I like that Tyreke Evans has had one game to get his legs back underneath him (a loss to the Mavs), and I like that the Suns just simply do not play as well on the road. I lean Kings on the side. The total looks pretty high, at 226, but I think it's pretty close to the final number. The Kings are an Over team at home, but the Suns are an Under team on the road. I lean just a teeny, tiny bit to the Under, but as I've said before, more of a "tilt."

Grizzlies @ Blazers - This line is OFF, presumably because the Blazers are 40% street-clothed. Portland is also coming off a loss to the Clippers in LA. I can't help but think that this is going to be viewed as the ultimate public fade of Portland, but then, maybe I'm expecting too much, too fast. Here's where I'm coming from: the Grizzlies beat the pants off Phoenix on the road, so in the eyes of the public, I would think this team would be extremely favorable. The Blazers are not only on a back-to-back, they're coming off a loss to the Clippers, and are without, as mentioned, a great portion of their team. If indeed these parameters are met, I lean Portland. Believe it or not, I think there's a decent shot oddsmakers use these key (and somewhat obvious) factors to deflate the value on Memphis, but I suppose only time will tell. That's what makes the line on this game hard to predict. In the event we get a fair line, it's important to point out a) the Blazers have shown the ability to score with their players hurt but not really defend, b) the Grizzlies have been scary-good over the last month (10-4 L14 games), and c) very few handicapping tools are more important than public perception. Let's wait and see on this one, but I have a little feeling in my stomach that the Over might also be an option.

Rockets @ Lakers - This line OFF. Pau Gasol is questionable (and my fantasy team is a wreck if he doesn't come back soon). And as you guys may or may not recall, the Lakers are not the same team without him. Pau Gasol missed the first 11 games of the season, and while the Lakers went a solid 8-3 SU without him, they were just 4-7 ATS, a clear indicator that missing such a reliable rebounder and scorer was key in their inability to "bury" the competition. Now, they may be without Gasol and Artest, two of the Lakers 3 best defenders. Of course, this team still has Kobe Bryant, but I think it's hugely important to note the competition here. The Rockets give the Lakers fits! Houston beat the Lakers in LA by 10 earlier this year after losing by just 1 point to LA in Houston, covering both games. And the Shane Battier Doctrine rules again. Now, without Gasol, and if Battier can do his usual job on Kobe (that is to say, slow him down just enough), I wouldn't put it past Houston to come away with another upset victory. Unfortunately, oddsmakers know what we know, and I think this line comes out shorter than most would expect. Still, that might almost be a good sign that we're not alone in our feelings on this game. I think Kobe plays with every ounce of strength he's got, but I think the Rockets make a great game of it. I have a weird feeling pointing me towards a potential Over play, since I think folks overreact to injuries on the Under; the most common result of an injury to a big man is a series of smaller guys getting to the rim easier rather than just the straight loss of that big man's production.

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