Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Good Land

Courtesy of Alice Cooper in Wayne's World: "It's pronounced 'Mill-ee-wah-kay', which is Algonquin for 'the good land."

I will admit, I have fallen in love with the Milwaukee Bucks. This team has covered 7 games in a row, and we've been on board now for 3 of those 7 covers. What can I say? This team is the perfect blend of under-the-radar and ultra-competitive, much like the Kings earlier this season, but with more defense and consistency. But enough gushing over the Bucks. This Paid Play winner moves us to a solid 8-4 in our last 12 Paid releases, 15-8 in our last 23 Premium Plays overall (7-4 on Free Premium plays), and 3-0 in the last 2 days.

Moving forward, I think Friday's results are going to play a nice role in this upcoming Sunday card, so let's get down to it. It's just unfortunate that all the interesting early games are without lines. Still, we'll try to get a peek at some of the games and figure a few things out.

Sports Wagering

Nuggets @ Spurs - This line is OFF. I don't mean to be brief, but since this game starts ultra early, and by all accounts we'll probably only have a line on the game for about 2 hours, I don't think it's worth going into TOO much detail for a game that there's about a 1% chance will appear on my premium card. Still, I'll try to hit on the key notes, then power forward. Carmelo Anthony and Tony Parker are both doubtful as of late Saturday night, so handicap accordingly. The Nuggets are coming off getting pummeled by the Thunder, so they're giving their typical road performances without a healthy roster. Denver is playing the last game of a 3-game road trip, so they'll be looking to head home. San Antonio is playing the last game of a 6-game homestand, so they'll be looking to finish strong before embarking on an extended roadie. San Antonio lost to Denver by 7 earlier this year in San Antonio, so they are avenging a home loss, a situation that has seen the Spurs go 5-3 ATS. San Antonio has been terrible against the Northwest division this year at 2-8, and they are 1-7 in games following a divisional opponent (Memphis, Friday). I lean Spurs and Under, partially due to the early start and some sluggish legs.

Lakers @ Celtics - This line is OFF. I will be hosting the Live Chat on this game in the forum, so keep an eye out for our first NBA Live Chat of the season with your buddy Dan Bebe. Another line that ceases to be, though at least we'll probably get, I don't know, 3-4 hours to bet on this game. That's more than enough time to make my card, so let's break it on down. The Lakers roll into Boston feeling pretty good about themselves. They lost to Cleveland and Toronto on this road trip (with a win in New York in between), but since that loss in Canada, the Lakers have rattled off 3 straight wins and 3 straight covers. Now, we get to see how this team performs against tougher competition. I will admit, I was a bit concerned about backing the Lakers in Philadelphia with this game on the horizon, but Kobe and the gang showed they were not looking ahead, or at least not doing so to the point that it would cost them, and I expect another strong showing from the Lakers. Obviously, the big issue here is the health of Kevin Garnett. He's playing, but he's clearly not himself, and I just wonder if the Lakers size and skill isn't going to be a bit much for Boston to deal with. The Celtics are coming off losses in both Orlando (the demoralizer) and Atlanta, so they're not exactly flying high right now. Still, if there's ever a time we'll see the Celtics come ready to play, it's going to be against the Lakers. I am actually a huge fan of avoiding the side on this one, and using the results as a barometer for the Lakers game tomorrow in Memphis, but I do think this game gets played at a slower tempo than most casual fans will expect, and I lean Under.

Clippers @ Cavs - This line is OFF. Fortunately, we'll have this line for a while, but truth be told, I'm extremely curious where this one is going to open. The Clippers have been blown out by both the Nets and Timberwolves, the two worst teams in the NBA, and now they have to play arguably the best in the League, at least based on how teams are playing right now. The Cavs have won 7 games in a row (covering 4), so they're hot, and they're finding ways to win when games are close. Our issue here is to determine just how close we think the Clippers can make this one. I'm inclined to believe the Clippers' value is at an all-time high right now, but we have to determine if that's enough reason to take a risk and back them. Sure, they may be getting a wildly inflated line in this one, courtesy of the Cavs' win-streak and the Clippers looking like absolute turds in their last few games, but that doesn't mean the Cavs won't win this thing by 30. As a point of comparison, the Cavs were 8.5-point favorites when these teams met in Los Angeles, and the Clippers lost by 1 in a game they led almost from start to finish. That was an extremely strong effort by the Clips, and it raises two interesting points. One, does that game make LA believe they can compete with the Cavs? Two, does that game make LA feel like they can play one of their best games and still lose, and thus, what's the point? I'm inclined to believe that the value is strongly on the side of the Clippers, so I lean their direction, but the Cavs could indeed open this sucker up early and never look back. Based on that note, and given I think the Clippers could compete, the only way they're going to pull that off is to score some points, so I like at least a peek at the Over, though, again, that depends largely on where the line opens up.

Sixers @ Nets - This line is OFF. The one we've all been waiting for! Three interesting games, and now this crapper. The road warrior 76ers against the "we covered two-in-a-row" Nets! New Jersey is on double-revenge in this one, so there is certainly one decent reason to consider a play on Jersey, but I'm just not sure how far double-revenge extends when you're talking about a team that is every other team's inferior. It might not make a difference. What more can we say about the Nets? Nothing good, that's for sure. On Philly's side, there is actually some value here, too. The Sixers are coming off 3 straight losses and 3 straight failed covers, but they continue to be a much more interesting bet on the road. Philadelphia is 14-9 ATS away from home, 5-18 on their home court. I've gone into the final margin discrepancy many times in the past, so I won't bore you all with numbers here (if you're curious, ask, and I'll produce them in the comments section), but suffice it to say the Sixers need the 3 points they give away to the line at home, and don't really need the 3 they get from playing on the road. This is a good indicator of how well we can all perform at betting if we're constantly getting a 2+ point advantage on the line. The Sixers play in road venues like they're on a neutral court, and so, with 2-3 points of value on a daily basis, they're hitting the fantastic 14-9 mark we mentioned above. I have no leans on the side in this one, since both teams have a ton of value, and I think there's some value in the total, since these teams combined for 161 points the last time they played, 27 points below the posted total. Let's see where it opens, and if it's above 188, we might look at the over.

Pacers @ Raptors - Toronto by 9 with a total of 216.5. Fear the dino! Honestly, though, I'm not a huge fan of this game. Toronto and Indiana have each won a prior home game this season against one another, and each covered the spread in those games. Toronto is RED-HOT, posting, I believe (and feel free to correct me since this is going off memory) the 3rd best record in the NBA over the last month and change. They've won 4 straight, they've covered 3 straight, and they're actually starting to force misses at the defensive end. On the other side of the court, Indiana has looked awful lately, which makes this game all that much more nerve-racking for me. They could wake up at a moment's notice, and getting creamed in two straight games by the Lakers and Cavs is the fastest way to accrue instant value in the NBA. Most folks are going to look at the recent numbers for these teams and see the Pacers getting run out of their own gym and the Raptors winning both at home and on the road and figure this one is going to be a blowout, but I just don't agree. Toronto isn't playing their normal early Sunday game, so they don't have that sluggish a.m. time advantage here, and I actually think the Pacers wake up for this one. What's more, these two teams play again on the 2nd of February in Indiana, and while I know I've said before that our best course of action is to wait and bet the second game of the home-and-home, only to then pick a side I liked, I actually, truly, do believe that I'm going to wait this one out (barring a crazy line move or something jumping out at me), and take a position on the Tuesday rematch. I like the Under on the total, but BARELY, so take it for what it's worth.

Magic @ Pistons - Orlando by 5.5 with a total of 187. Here are two teams going in completely different directions. The Magic have won 5 of 6, only losing in Memphis to the rolling Grizzlies, and after losing 3 straight on a recent west coast road swing, Orlando seems to have begun to figure things out. In fact, their last 2 wins have come over rivals Boston and Atlanta, and they also grabbed an impressive road win in Charlotte in this hot streak. The Pistons have lost 4 in a row, and they have failed to cover all 4, most recently getting held to 65 points by the Miami Heat after scoring 93 in each of the 3 other losses. These teams have played twice so far this year, and each has won the game home game. Here's the kicker, though. This line is either off by 3 points, or there's a sucker at the end of the rainbow. I'm inclined to believe, given the fact that most folks are going to be betting NBA this Sunday with ABC picking up morning games, and bettors trying to get their morning losses back on these lesser evening contests, that this game might very well be a trap. The road line of 5.5 is a dubious number, and while, unlike my buddy Mike Hook, I don't think it's an automatic fade, I do think that in the right circumstances it can be an indicator of how oddsmakers truly feel about a game. For instance, if the Magic were a different hot team like, say, the Raptors, and this line was at 5.5, I would actually say the line was fair. But here, with a marquee club like Orlando, rolling up into Motown on the back end of a back-to-back that started with a cruising win over the Hawks, this one smells somethin' fierce. I lean to Detroit, though I have to pop a Tums when I say it. I also lean the Under - Orlando is not going to bring their A game, so we're going to get a game with a winner in the 90's.

Knicks @ Wolves - Minnesota by 1.5 with a total of 211. You want to talk about another revenge spot? How about the Wolves hosting a Knicks team that dealt them a regal ass-whooping under a week ago in the Big Apple. The Knicks exploded out to an early lead and never looked back, winning by 27 and dealing the Wolves their second 25+ point loss in a row. Now, Minnesota gets New York on the second half of a back-to-back, and fresh off an ugly loss to the Wizards in Washington. I think it's safe to say the Knicks are bumbling just a bit here, going 2-3 on their recent homestand, and now starting this short 2-game road trip with a 10-point loss to the hapless Wizards. This situation is strikingly similar to that of the Clippers when they just came to Minnesota. LAC had been crushed by the Nets, then, while most folks were banking on the Clippers bouncing back the next day in Minnesota, LA came out flat, only waking up in time to cut the lead to single digits, then losing by plenty in the end. I would not be surprised at all to see the Knicks suffer the same fate. The Wolves have some solid rebounding big men, and if New York continues to rely solely on David Lee to collect every board, this could be a long night for the Knicks. Fact of the matter is that if the Knicks are forced to grind this game out, they're not going to be in good shape - David Lee is going to have to battle with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love all game, which should drastically cut into his ability to score. I like Minny on revenge here, and if the tempo of this game is anything like the tempo the last time these teams met, it should go Over again.

Warriors @ Thunder - Oklahoma City by 9.5 with a total of 214. I imagine the Warriors are wondering when they get to play the Thunder in Oakland, but it ain't today! The answer, actually, is February 6th. In any case, this is a tough spot for the Warriors, and I think that has been reflected in the huge line. This will be the Thunder's largest home spread of the season, so it's rarified air - they were a home favorite of 9 over the Pacers, and they were unable to cover that one. I'm not convinced we won't see the same results here. Still, the Warriors have lost 4 in a row, and they've been looking like a terrible, undermanned squad, and that's exactly why we would love to stay ahead of the curve. Truth be told, with the Warriors starting a 3-game road trip, I don't really believe either team is in a GOOD spot in this one. The Thunder are in the middle of a homestand, typically a time that I like to back a team, but not a team that has never faced this type of monster spread. The final reason that I don't really have a strong feeling about either the side or total in this game is the information we're getting from the last meeting. The Warriors are technically on revenge, though it was at 16-point loss here in Oklahoma City as a 7-point dog. And oddsmakers have adjusted the spread accordingly. Also, the total in that game was just 192, THIRTY points under the posted mark, and oddsmakers have set the total in this one 8 points lower, so the lines are working their way towards the results from the last game. This tells me that that the power rankings predict this game will go a lot like the last one, and I just don't like that at all. No leans here.

Suns @ Rockets - Houston by 3.5 with a total of 219. Double revenge for the Rockets here, including a home loss to the Suns back in November...you know, when Phoenix was decent. More recently, the Suns beat the Rockets by 8 in Phoenix. Also, we've seen the totals bouncing back and forth between 216 and 228, and I'm thinking this total is spot on. If there's any value in this game, it's not in the total, so let's break down the side. I don't think oddsmakers truly believe the Rockets are a better team than the Suns, so we're seeing, likely, a larger-than-3 home court advantage for Houston, and also a preadjustment for the double-revenge. So, unless you strongly feel the Rockets are going to come to play, there isn't a ton of line value on the Houston side. There is the possibility of a letdown for the Suns, though. They finally snapped their TNT disaster skid on Thursday night with that emotional home win over the Mavericks, but lost in the big victory is the fact that Amare Stoudemire is starting to check out on the Suns. His size is a huge reason the Suns can run an effective offense against the Rockets, since we all know how much trouble bigger guys give Houston. This game is just making me wring my hands, and that's a good sign that the line is probably pretty accurate. It's tough to know if Phoenix will respond to that Dallas win with a letdown or with a surge of momentum, and it's tough to know if the Rockets finally getting a SU win will propel them to another. This should be a fun game to watch, and a terribly stressful game to wager on. I hate to say it, but I have no real leans in this one, either. Maybe just a teeny, tiny bit to the Rockets, thanks to the double-revenge, but there's about a 15% chance this game makes any kind of card for me, premium or personal.

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