Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Bowling for Buckets, Frame 17

Talk about a clunker! Paid Play on the Nets never had a chance, and the Free Plays on the Kings and Magic weren't terribly close either. I don't know what to say besides "I'm sorry," as I was feeling pretty confident going into last night's debacle (hitting 4 straight Freebies, and 2 straight Paid Plays), and the effort tonight is going to be to scale it back again and make sure we're not spreading ourselves too thin.

To all my clients and friends, I hope you'll continue to ride with me, as, unfortunately, we all are prone to a down day every so often, and I think as a team we can separate ourselves from those that hit cold streaks by being ultra selective, especially the day after a tough one.

Sports Wagering

Wizards @ Cavaliers - Cavs by 13.5 with a total of 195. The Wizards roll into Cleveland off a tremendous comeback effort over the 76ers that really surprised the hell out of me. I mean, wow! The Wizards were down 14 at halftime, and outscored Philadelphia by 21 in the second half for an easy winner and easier cover. Now, Washington takes their operation into Cleveland to play a Cavs team that is coming off their first loss since December 20. Washington has, recently, played the Cavs extremely tough, covering all 4 meetings last year, and covering the home meeting with Cleveland this season. So 5 covers in 6 games, and because of the back-to-back, Washington is getting over a baker's dozen. I'm inclined to think the momentum of Washington's powerhouse second half last night will carry over into the first half of this game with Cleveland, and I'm also inclined to believe Cleveland's lackluster effort against the Bobcats is less a wake-up call than a streak-stopper. I think Cleveland has a great shot at winning this game, but I think it will likely be a second half surge when the Wizards start to tire. I see the Cavs winning this game by 8-12 points, and I lean Washington to cover. I also like the Under, since I fail to see either team really blowing the roof off the building in this one.

Nets @ Hawks - Hawks by 14 with a total of 197. Well farts to the Nets. I really felt they had a great shot to collect win number four last night against Milwaukee, and instead put forth an effort that makes me cower in embarrassment for thinking they ever had a chance. Well, putting my Nets-related ire aside, this is a big spread for two teams that have both been struggling. The Hawks have, for the first time this season, lost 4 straight games, and they know it's time to turn things around before the naysayers pick up in volume. Atlanta suffered an obvious letdown after two brutal games with the Cavs in a home OT loss to the Knicks before getting taken to school by the Heat in Miami. I think this is a nice spot for Atlanta to get fat. My guess, based on the ebb and flow of momentum and energy in the NBA season, is that the Hawks (who might normally suffer a letdown against a team like the Nets) will instead use this as an opportunity to pick up an easy win, and build some confidence against a team that not only stinks, but played last night. I hate to lean to a team giving away almost 10% of the final score, but that's just how it is with this one. Give me squareness or give me death. I also think this total stays Under - I simply can't see the Nets scoring enough to send this game over the total.

Raptors @ Magic - This line is OFF. What's going on with Orlando? Dwight Howard looks disinterested, and they've been outplayed in two straight games by the Bulls and the Pacers. Now, they head home after an unproductive 3-game road trip. I must admit, if ever there were a chance for a sluggish, unmotivated team to get things turned around, getting the meaty, defenseless Raptors in town is a pretty nice way. I rather equate this situation to a gazelle wandering into a hungry lion's den. The lion hasn't been fed in a while, it was a little under the weather, but man, that succulent gazelle is just sitting right there. Sometimes you just gotta feast. I think we'll actually get some value with the Magic here, since it is their first game home off a road trip, and they're coming off a loss. The Raptors beat San Antonio at home, but this team plays zero defense on the road, and I think we might get even more value with Orlando because the Raptors are coming off a pretty impressive win over a hot team. There are two ways to look at this game, and I must admit, I'm a little soured on Orlando, but sometimes the best way to make up ground is to back the same team two games in a row, because the oddsmakers adjust the line, and the folks that backed one team in game A decide to back the other team in game B and get the poor value both times. I also think Orlando is pretty due for a decent-shooting game, and we might get some value with an Over.

Celtics @ Heat - This line is OFF. Finally a game where neither of the two teams involved played yesterday! The Heat are in an exciting stretch of games that began 2 days ago with a 17-point home drubbing of the spiraling Atlanta Hawks, and will continue with a game in Phoenix on Friday. This team remains wildly inconsistent, and therein lies the problem with handicapping Miami. They won, and covered, 5 of 6 games between December 15 and 27, then lost 3 straight games SU and ATS before the win/cover against the Hawks. On that notion, you have to think Miami gives another solid effort in this one. The last 3 times this team posted an ATS victory, they followed it up with another. Boston beat the Heat in Miami at the end of November, too, so there may be a little revenge stew a-cookin' in this one. The shorthanded Celtics beat Toronto at home, and I really couldn't be happier, because this team was quickly losing the public's faith after a dismal end to their road trip out west. Now, they embark on another short trip, and while I realize the opener of a roadie will often get us the Celtics' best effort, I don't think they'll score enough to stay in this one. Miami's defense, which is either outstanding or terrible, will likely lock down in this revenge spot, and they can really focus on Ray Allen with the other members of the big 3 out, as well as Rondo; I heard rumors Pierce may return in this one, and that will only mess with the line even more. I lean Miami, but this game is going to be a tough one to call. This total may come out pretty low, too, so let's keep an eye on that one. I lean to a pretty low scoring game, but that darn Miami defense has confused me before by failing to show up.

Hornets @ Thunder - Thunder by 4.5 with a total of 192. Two teams playing their strongest basketball all season, which makes this game perhaps more entertaining than valuable to a bettor. Oklahoma comes home to start a real homestand for the first time in ages in this one, so I would imagine they may come out of the gates a little sluggish. This team had a 5-game homestand to end November and start December, but since that stretch ended, the Thunder have seemingly alternated 2-3 road games and 1 home game all month long. Still, this team just keeps rolling along, 21-13 ATS, and plenty of success both at home and on the road, and clearly the issue here is whether they'll be able to get their motors going fast enough against a Hornets team starting to make a little noise, too. These teams have not faced one another yet this season, and I think that favors the surging Thunder, who are playing a different brand of basketball this season, while the Hornets seem to mostly still be a Paul-centric club with a slightly stronger focus on defense. New Orleans completes their short 2-game road trip here in Oklahoma fresh off a hard-fought win in Utah against the heavily favored Jazz. The Hornets may be trying to shake that poor road team moniker, and a win here would certainly go a long way. Still, I'm not sure I can trust this team to go all out 2 games in a row like that, and I'm also not convinced they can defend the Thunder as well as they did the suddenly struggling Jazz. I lean to Oklahoma, but I could be pushed the other way with the right shove. I also like the Under, with the Hornets playing such slow basketball and the Thunder likely a bit jetlagged coming home.

Warriors @ Timberwolves - Wolves by 2.5 with a total of 224. The Warriors are in a difficult spot here, coming to town off a long battle with the Nuggets last night, and a 1-point loss to the undermanned Nuggets. I wouldn't be surprised to see this line move to 3 just because of the intensity of the Warriors game in Denver. Golden State is the better team between these two, but the situation dictates the line. Golden State on a back-to-back, tough game the night before in the altitude, so on and so forth, but to their credit, the Warriors did cover yet again. They've covered 5 of their last 6 games, but I fear this one might not be the right spot. Monta Ellis played over 45 minutes of the game with Denver and came up short, and I think getting the juices flowing again so quickly with road frustrations mounting every day is going to be tough. On the Minnesota side, the Wolves have lost 4 games in a row, so they're no spring chicken, but I think they'll be happy to be home, and I think their significant size advantage might be the difference in this one. The Wolves have that pair of big boppers cleaning the glass, and I truly fear that even when Minnesota misses shots, they'll grab so many offensive rebounds that it might not matter. I lean Minnesota on the side, and I lean Over on the total, since I think the Warriors still make some shots, but fail to defend and give up a ton of points to the Wolves, who do like to get out and run when they can.

Pistons @ Spurs - Spurs by 9.5 with a total of 186. The Pistons covered! There were all kinds of indications that it would happen last night with the way the Mavs win but don't cover at home, and the Pistons slowly getting healthier. Now, this game is one of those contests where my first move is going to be to look at the line movement. I know how I feel, but this is a rare case that doesn't happen often - a team that had lost and failed to cover more than 5 games in a row, starting a tough back-to-back with a cover. I believe that teams generally show how they're going to handle the Texas Two-Step in game one, and that often seems to continue in game two. If that indeed holds, then Detroit might put up another good fight in this one. The Spurs are coming home off a loss in Toronto to end a short 1-1 road trip, so I don't think there's going to be a great deal of sluggishness. The Spurs also remain a strong 14-5 at home SU and 11-7 ATS in their own building, and the strong play of Manu Ginobili has really fired this team up. It's interesting to think that this line would have been only 7.5 if Detroit hadn't played last night, lower than the line against Dallas. I'm not necessarily saying the line is fishy, but if last night's line wasn't fishy, than this line isn't fishy, and I think last night's spot was fair. The Pistons may be a little tired, but playing a little more basketball might actually be good for some of these guys that are trying to work their way back into a rhythm - Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva all had better games against Dallas than almost any point over the last month. The Spurs also host Dallas on Friday, so we're not talking about a look-ahead, but it's certainly in the back of their mind with the lowly Pistons coming to town. I lean Detroit on the side, and the Spurs recent run of impressive defense makes me think this game ends in the high 170's.

Grizzlies @ Jazz - This line is OFF. You want to talk about a tough spot, the Grizzlies are hurled into it here. They played the ultra-late game in Portland, which to their credit featured a strong 3rd quarter performance and a win, then had to fly into the altitude in Utah for a game with the Jazz, who were left scratching their heads after a home loss to Chris Paul. Utah, despite their recent struggles, is a very tough home team, and this may be one of the scariest spots to play them. The Jazz are going to be hungry and this is the start of a home-and-home with the Grizzlies. I believe, unlike the Cavs-Hawks home-and-home, the HOME teams will win the games in this series, and likely cover, depending on the lines. The Grizzlies may look forward to trying to get the win at home on Friday against Utah, and I would not be at all surprised to see the Jazz take advantage of a fatigued Grizzlies team that may be satisfied with wins in Phoenix and Portland on this trip. The Jazz haven't looked strong thus far in 2010, expensive contracts are being shopped, but Jerry Sloan won't let that crap stand for long, and I lean Utah in this one to pick up a win in a good situational spot. Let's wait on the line, though, since a large spread might drive us away. I also think we may see some points in this one, if the Grizzlies are unable to move their feet on defense.

Rockets @ Suns - Suns by 5 with a total of 217. This line looks insane to me, but as it stands, I can't help but think the Suns have an advantage on the line. Both teams are coming off road games last night, the Suns a tough win in Sacramento and the Rockets a tough loss in Los Angeles to the Lakers. Something worth noting is that the Suns are 1-6 (2-5 ATS) on the second day of back-to-back games, and they don't generally look young and spry in these spots, BUT, like the Raptors over the weekend, this is the first back-to-back that will conclude for the Suns at home. All the previous 6 b2b's ended at road venues, and I think we may actually get some added value from bettors that see the Suns terrible record in back-to-backs and just figure they'll lay an egg in this one, too. We mustn't forget, either, that the Rockets are a powerhouse 6-3 on the second half of a back-to-back, BUT they are 3-3 (2-4 ATS) in the second halves played on the road, so much like most teams, the fatigue factor plays a much larger role on the road. This will be the first meeting between these two teams this year, and Shane Battier can't be deployed on any truly dangerous wingmen. As I've stated before, the Rockets have a tough time defending opposing big men, and I think we may see a strong game from Amare Stoudemire. I also rather like that the Suns are coming off a win on the road, and momentum does seem to carry over just a bit on these closely scheduled games. One dangerous spot that I simply must point out is that the Suns beat the Rockets in Houston earlier this year, and the revenge spot might be enough to nullify almost everything else.

Lakers @ Clippers - This line is OFF. It's funny to think of one of these teams as the home club, and I would imagine oddsmakers won't necessarily give the Clippers the requisite 3 point advantage. And also, how about Lamar Odom? LO had a monster game against the Rockets with 17 points, 19 rebounds and 9 assists, and the Lakers used suffocating defense to beat a Houston team that had historically given them a tough time. Will the Lakers take the Clippers seriously, though? The Clippers have covered in the last 3 games with LA, but I almost prefer when the Lakers are listed as the home team, since the points they'd lay in a "home" game would make the Clippers a better value. I have to admit, though, the Clippers are playing good basketball, covering 4 straight games and shooting over 50% in 3 of those 4 games. Hell, they've WON 3 of those 4 games. Is this a sign of things to come for the Clippers? Marcus Camby posting 3 steals, 3 blocks, and nearly a triple-double in points, boards and assists, while Baron Davis kicks it to Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon; the honest answer is that I just don't know. The Clippers are still the best bad team in the NBA, and maybe the looming return of Blake Griffin is giving these guys a little kick. Whatever the case, I think they're the hungrier of the two teams in this game, the goofy little brother that wants to show their taller, wealthier older bro that they can compete. The Lakers got their revenge on both the Mavs and Rockets, and now they get to take their foot off the gas pedal against the Clips. The return of Ron Artest inspired the Lakers to play better defense, but the Clippers have significantly more size than the Rockets, and I think they'll find a way to score a few points. This should be one of the more interesting Battles of LA NBA teams in recent memory. I lean Clippers, and I lean Under.

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