Thursday, January 07, 2010

Just Shoot Me

We didn't make any plays yesterday, with the express purpose of full enjoying the BCS Championship Game. I must admit, the nearly 3 weeks of bowl games made for some easy blog-naming on my part, but now it's time to dig back into my bag of creative titling tricks for some quality puns. Today, I just had to get back into the swing of makes titles with a cheap shot (hah!) at Gilbert Arenas.

Sports Wagering

Magic @ Wizards - Magic by 7 with a total of 201. Wow. You want to talk about a mess, here's Washington. Just when we thought things couldn't get any worse, word comes out that now the guns brandished in the locker room were cocked and loaded, and the "practical joking" is now suddenly looking more and more like threats of bodily harm. It's all a "he said, he said" (being there are no "shes" involved), and it's not clear if Crittendon might have been the one with the loaded gun, but what is damn certain is that no one in Washington wants to be there right now, and Gilbert probably won't be anywhere near the NBA for quite some time. With all this controversy, Washington is ALMOST a perma-fade. Of course, just when I feel like we can find some value in going against the team in complete and utter disarray, they host another team that appears to be all out of whack. The Magic have lost 3 straight games, and they've looked pretty bad doing that, too. They lost in Chicago, in Indiana, and now at home to Toronto, so teams that Orlando should have gone 2-1 against, at the very worst. The Magic are shooting a terrible percentage from the field in this string of games, shooting 36%, 38% and then 42% against the no-defense Raptors. I hate both teams in this spot, and with Orlando potentially looking ahead to the Hawks tomorrow, that just gives me one more reason to avoid this side altogether. If Gilbert Arenas were pointing a gun at my head, I'd ask if it was loaded, then I'd lean Wizards, but I'd rather just run and hope his aim with a gun as similar to his aim from 3-point land (ooohh, burn!). I like the Under too - can either team really get excited enough to score points?

Raptors @ Sixers - Philly by 1.5 with a total of 208. I really like this game, not so much because I feel like there's a clear-cut advantage on the line, but because I think with the right amount of digging, we can turn something up. First, the Sixers - Philly is coming off a home loss to the Wizards, which occurred the day before the League took Arenas away from them. Still, I think this loss said a fair amount about Philly. They still can't seem to win at home, where they're 4-11 (2-13 ATS!). Philly is 6-13 on the road (12-7 ATS), so for Toronto to come to town, it's not necessarily a good spot for the Sixers. After this game, the Sixers hit the road for a game in Detroit tomorrow, which isn't a look-ahead spot, so I think we can throw that angle out the window. This is also the first meeting between these teams this season. Toronto is coming off a rare road win in Orlando over the slumping Magic, and they've quietly won 7 of 8 games, covering in 6 of those 7 wins. The big difference for Toronto? They're holding teams under 110 points. I realize that sounds silly, but during their losing skid in late November and early December, the Raptors lost 8 of 12 games, and allowed over 110 points in 7 of those 8 losses! In this nice little 7-1 run, Toronto has given up no more than 103 points (which they've done 3 times in those 8 games), and have held opponents under 100 in the other 5 contests. I can't help but think that Toronto getting a tiny spread is the better value here. They're playing good ball, and while it does concern me slightly that Philadelphia's loss came in their first home game off a long road trip, I think Toronto is playing better basketball, and Philadelphia's inability to succeed at home ultimately makes me think that any points they're getting for home court should be, at the very least, shaved by half. This game should be a pick, and I lean Toronto. I also lean Under.

Jazz @ Memphis - This line is OFF, and personally, I love Memphis here no matter how you slice the spread. I know, you're thinking how the hell can this guy want the Grizzlies after they just played Utah in Salt Lake City and lost by 23? Easy, that game was the ultimate stinker situation for the Grizz, and this one is the exact opposite. Memphis was playing the second half of a back-to-back in Utah (altitude) after a big win in Portland, so their value was low, they were tired, and playing a Jazz team that had been struggling a little bit, so their value was high. The only reason I did not have a play on Utah in that game was because of the late scratch of Deron Williams. Now, the situationals are reversed. The Grizzlies are setting up shop at home with their internal revenge-o-meters set to MAX. In fact, they've lost twice in Utah, both times on the tail end of a back-to-back, so you know Memphis has a ton to prove, especially as a team on the rise. Even more wonderful, the Grizzlies are not starting a homestand, so I don't believe they'll have the "first-game-home" hangover, as they head right back out on the road. Also, the Jazz play in Dallas tomorrow, so they may be satisfied with the 2 wins over Memphis already under their belt and will instead start thinking about landing the bigger fish tomorrow. The line on this game will be the ultimate indicator of what we can expect. Memphis is a great home team (10-5 SU and ATS), Utah is a poor road team (6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS), and if this line opens anywhere north of Memphis by 2.5, I think the oddsmakers will tell us enough, and it's reasonable to consider a play on the Grizz. I also think we may get an Over here, as Memphis will have some aggression to take out.

Celtics @ Hawks - Atlanta by 2 with a total of 196. First thing you have to consider in this one is revenge, above all else. Back in mid-December, the Hawks rolled into Boston and bopped the Celtics over the head with a decisive 97-86 victory as a 9-point underdog! I'm saddened that KG won't be around to help Boston get its revenge, because his intensity is what would push this game from "lean" to "play," but perhaps we can find enough in this one to make it tantalizing, anyway. The Hawks are coming off a murderous beatdown of the Nets, a 30-point win that snapped a 4-game losing streak for the Hawks. Now, they can try their luck against a better team, and one that just got Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo back from injury and picked up a miracle win in Miami. I believe we are in a rare spot here in that we can actually get VALUE on the Celtics. It won't happen often as one of the League's marquee teams, but right now Boston is not quite the public favorite they had been, and are an underdog, a spot I just adore. Boston as a dog this year is 3-1 SU, so they're actually winning games while getting points, and the one loss came in Phoenix with 3 starters out due to injury. I can't help but think this line looks way too easy for the Hawks at home, who also play in Orlando tomorrow, so there may be a little incentive to try to beat Boston using the least strength possible. I am concerned, though, that Atlanta snapped that losing streak with a "get fat" game against Jersey, and that momentum might carry over. Still, I lean Boston, and I lean Over - the Celts just aren't the same team defensively without KG.

Nets @ Hornets - New Orleans by 10.5 with a total of 192.5. Ugh, I really hate that I'm about to say this, but this is actually a good value play with Jersey. On my recent 3-1 Paid Play stretch, the stupid, stinking Nets were the only loss, and it causes me great nauseating distress to even think they may be a good bet, but let's take a look at the numbers and situation. The Hornets return home off a short, but extremely productive road trip that saw Chris Paul lead his buzzing insects to wins in both Utah and Oklahoma City. The Hornets have won 4 straight games (over the Heat, Rockets, and the two road games), and they've covered the spread in all 4. There isn't a man alive who could convince me this isn't a letdown game. It's not so much that New Orleans has big games coming up; they most certainly do not, with a road contest in Washington next on the docket, but after 4 big wins in a row, 3 against teams that the Hornets can use as barometers to gauge their own skill, this game looks like cake. Conversely, the Nets couldn't look much worse to the average bettor after getting slapped around at home by Milwaukee (by over 20), and then the aforementioned 30-point road stinker in Atlanta. Given the way I personally feel about Jersey, I can't imagine the public could take them (though they may be a Morrison play, and that does concern me with the potential for a loss of line value), but in terms of one team peaking and another team in a deep valley, the Hornets couldn't be any less valuable. I lean Jersey, and I lean Under, since I think there is the potential for a low-scoring game that the Nets lose by 8 or 9.

Pacers @ Wolves - This line is OFF. The only way the NBA could have scheduled a less interesting game would be to eliminate the shot clock and make this a throw(way)back game. That being said, we're seeing an Indiana roster of scrubs that heads to Minnesota off another improbable home victory. Indiana has alternated wins and losses in their last 4 games, and none of the spreads have even been remotely close. As a 3-point dog, they lost by 11 to Memphis; as a 4.5 point favorite, they beat these Wolves by 11; as a 9 point dog, they lost to the Knicks by 43, and as an 11-point dog, they beat the Magic by 7. Oddsmakers, I guess, felt they needed a little more time to figure out what the heck this team is going to do, and it also can't hurt the books to wait and see which, if any, of Indiana's injured might give this one a go. Word is that Granger is close to returning, but really, we won't know more until closer to game time, and honestly, I don't really care. This is a revenge game for Minnesota, and I think we'll see the Wolves favored in this one by around 2 points. The Wolves are coming off a home loss to the Warriors, who surprised me with a high-energy effort after a devastating loss in Denver. If nothing else, we learned Golden State has some heart, bouncing back after having a win over the Nuggets snatched away by some questionable officiating. What we learned of the Wolves is that they're not very good, bottom line. They've lost 5 straight to fall to 7-29 on the season, and they're 1-4 ATS in those losses. I think we should get some marginal value on the Wolves in revenge spot, and we can worry about both of these teams playing back-to-back games when we get there. The last game between these two teams hit 233 points on a total of 208 - oddsmakers might give us a play on the total depending on where this one opens.

Bulls @ Bucks - Bucks by 3 with a total of 193. A battle in the midwest of two teams that are more or less power-ranking equals. That, of course, means we need to figure out which team is playing the better basketball. Milwaukee comes back home after a 1-game trip to Jersey and an easy win. They have won (and covered) 2 straight, immediately after losing and failing to cover 4 straight. The streakiness of the Bucks can be both a good and bad thing, as they often follow up one ATS win with another, and vice versa on losses. Interestingly, there was a stretch in mid-December where the Bucks went 2-3 SU, but a perfect 5-0 ATS, so this team had a knack for keeping games close as a dog. Not all that relevant here as a small favorite, a situation where the Bucks are 9-3 (home fave) straight up, and 7-5 ATS. An interesting note about this series so far this year is that the teams are 1-1, and both teams were decided by 2 points. The Bucks were an 8.5-point dog in Chicago, and a 3-point favorite at home, so that spread is being repeated. I think this line is pretty sharp on the side, and the oddsmakers are showing confidence by putting out the same line as last time. The Bulls are coming off a loss in Charlotte after a loss at home to the Thunder, but really, this team is playing "okay". They've covered 5 of 6 ATS, so they're outperforming the oddsmakers' expectations, and I think that's why they're only 3-point dogs against a Milwaukee team in a confident spot. I lean slightly to Milwaukee, but I think this game ends with one team winning very late. I also lean to the Under, as I feel the last total went Over by 3 points in Milwaukee, and oddsmakers left the total at the same 193 mark, as well. Milwaukee hasn't shot the ball well, and the Bulls haven't impressed on the road, which also lends a little credibility to a potential Under. Still, bottom line is that the spread/total on this game is pretty accurate.

Mavs @ Spurs - San Antonio by 4 with a total of 195.5. Are we at that point where we can just back the Mavericks in every road game? This team is showing that they're a big-game club this year, and that they're not overly concerned about winning by a ton of points, but racking up plenty of victories is a-okay. To illustrate this point, the Mavs are 12-5 at home, 12-6 on the road, both numbers straight up, but 5-12 ATS at home, 12-6 ATS on the road. They are 0.6 points better on the road than at home, and with the typical 6-point swing in the spread, you can see those 6.6 points of value have made the Mavs a 67% betting proposition on the road. Here they are again, as a small road dog to an intrastate rival, and one that is currently playing their best basketball of the season. Should be a damn good game, but our main concern is finding value, and clearly the value is with the road team. My biggest concerns about this game, though, revolve around the fact that the Mavs lost by 9 to the Spurs in San Antonio earlier this year, then got their revenge with a 5-point home win. So it almost feels like this game starts the season series over, and the clean slate means that you have to give the motivational edge to the home team. I still lean slightly to the Mavs despite their game tomorrow against Utah, but that lean is not ultra-strong. Looking at the totals of the previous match-ups, the first game went 20 points Under a mark of 196.5, and the second game went 3 points Under a total of 196. Interestingly, this total is still awfully close to those earlier marks, and it makes me think that this number is pretty accurate. I like the Under just slightly, as I think both teams get up on defense, but we may see another game end near 193.

Heat @ Suns - Phoenix by 6.5 with a total of 213.5. This spread is fairly large, given the Heat are just embarking on a fairly long road trip. We often see decent teams get the energy level up at the beginning of 6-game roadies like this one, then see that team peter out later on the same voyage. That scares me here, since my initial lean was to the Suns. I'm not sure I can convince myself that either side is a safe play in this game, even though Miami is coming off back to back tough losses at home, and the Suns are coming off two tough wins on the road at Sacramento and at home over the Rockets. It's just so difficult to fade the Suns in their own building against mid-level competition. Phoenix lost at home to the Cavs, they lost at home in a letdown to the Thunder, and then more recently to the red-hot Grizzlies. If you're not shooting over 50%, you're not beating the Suns in Phoenix. Of course, that's why betting Phoenix on the ML would cost you dearly, and why we have to determine if there's any value to this line of 6.5 points. I don't think there is, at least on the favorite. Phoenix scores the ball so easily at home, and to see this line indicate the Suns are just 3.5-point superiors to the Heat (maybe even less if the home court edge was more than the standard 3 points) just doesn't feel right, especially given the Suns beat the Heat, in Miami, by 8 as a 4.5-point dog. I lean to Miami to get some revenge in the only shot they get to get even with Phoenix. I also find it intriguing that the game in Miami had a total set at 215.5, and only got to 200, yet this line is still in the teens. I lean Over, as I think we get a couple of monster games from some marquee guys.

Lakers @ Blazers - Lakers by 3 with a total of 193.5. The Lakers head to the Pacific Northwest for a battle with one of their rivals, and a team that tends to give them fits in the Rose Garden. An interesting spot for LA, coming off a disappointing loss to the Clippers in a road game at home (you guys know what I'm talking about), and I'm curious to see how they bounce back. That game with the Clippers was a trademark letdown spot after avenging two earlier home losses to the Mavs and Rockets, and really, the entire team looked tired. The big question in this game is whether the Lakers get the energy back up, or if the sluggishness carries over for one more game. Looking back over the last 20 games, an ATS loss that follows an ATS win has been followed by another loss every time (4 times), and after the Lakers covered against the Mavs and Rockets, they suffered an ATS loss to the Clips, so perhaps we see some continued poor play from LA in this one. Also, it's worth noting that the Blazers have knocked off the Lakers in Portland 4 straight times, and are actually a robust 24-10 SU against LA at the Rose Garden since 1996. I realize there have been countless player changes since then, but it's a solid illustration of just how amped up the Blazers get to play the Lakers at home. I'm strongly inclined to lean Blazers, and I think the line is a monster indicator of how badly books want LA money. And really, I almost don't care that Portland is coming off 2 losses - this is the game they care about, no question in my mind. I think this game stays Under the total, too, as I see Portland really coming out with crazy intensity on the defensive end.

Kings @ Warriors - Golden State by 3.5 with a total of 227.5. The Warriors have been covering like crazy lately, only failing to do so in their contest at the Rose Garden in Portland over the last 7 games. That 6-1 ATS mark moves them to a respectable 18-15 ATS on the season. Now, after a 4-game road trip, the Warriors return home, where they're generally a solid opponent, but might suffer some first-game-home sluggishness against a quick and somewhat powerful Kings team. Sacramento has hit a short rough patch after exploding onto the scene back in November, losing 6 of their last 7 games, and covering just 2 of those 7 games. Are they slowing? Maybe a tad, but the brief loss of Tyreke Evans to injury may have played a large role in the Kings recent sluggish play. Evans is back now, but doesn't quite have his legs underneath him, and I'm a little nervous about backing this team on the road. They are 9-5 ATS on the road, but just 3-12 SU, so a lot of those ATS wins have come against huge underdog spreads. Here, the Kings are getting just 3.5 points against the surging Warriors, and truth be told, I don't like either team in this one. The Warriors are going to come out slow off a decent road trip, and the Kings just aren't that scary on the road. I lean slightly to the Warriors to wake up and simply outscore the Kings, but it's a weak lean, at best. I think it's also interesting that the Kings beat Golden State in Sacramento earlier this year as a 3.5-point dog, and now in Golden State we have the same line, but the Warriors on revenge. That game also hit a total that is almost spot on the 227.5 listed in this one. I lean slightly to the Under.

Cavs @ Nuggets - This line is OFF. The late game, and you just HAVE to think the Nuggets injured stars will make an appearance in this one. I already heard whispers that Chauncey was expecting to play on Friday (this game), and how bad do you think Melo wants to get a shot to go toe-to-toe with his buddy/nemesis Lebron James? The answer is very bad. Obviously, books want to limit their exposure, so there's zero point in them releasing a line on this game before they have to, and given the way these two teams have played lately, this was an easy decision. The Nuggets have been piss-poor without their big dogs, picking up a marginally impressive road win at Utah and an absolute gift at home over the Warriors in between 4 losses. It's really no surprise that this team can't get much done without Melo and Chauncey, but they are still a home team to fear. The Cavs, after running a handful of the NBA's best right out of whatever building they were playing in, have regressed slightly, maybe a little emotionally pooped after all those big games. Cleveland beat the snot out of a pathetic Wizards club in their last game, but had lost 3 straight ATS before that. They kick off a 5-game road trip with this game in Denver, and I'll be quite curious to see how the entire trip turns out, with Cleveland playing a handful of mid-level Western Conference teams. Cleveland won, and covered both games against the Nugs last year, so Lebron appears more than capable of handling the altitude, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a short spread on this game (if the stars play), and a game decided by some late heroics. I want to watch this game, badly, but I'm not sure I want to bet on it. Let's wait and see about a total before taking any side there.
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