Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Truly Offensive Foul

Well, crap.

I don't want to call it a mis-read on my part, but certainly the game did not play out as expected. Sure, the Knicks held the lead for almost the entire game, fell behind late, then actually surged ahead by 5 points again, but 4 missed layups in the final 2 minutes, then a controversial offensive foul call at the buzzer really capped a strange game and an unfortunate loss for your pal Dan Bebe.

But we mustn't let this slow us down! It's a long year, and a long season, and there will be inevitable losses. If there's something to be learned, and I'll go into more detail on this on Friday's Podcast, it's that sometimes the betting percentage sites can actually tell us something WITHOUT telling us that thing. I realize that makes zero sense, and explaining it in the written word when I'm anxious to get started on the games makes even less sense, so please do listen to today's show when it comes out (noon eastern time), as I'll go into some heavy detail on the program.

Another thing that came up in yesterday's blog discussion is the concept of the inevitable loss. I was asked if I sell plays thinking I'm going to lose, and the short answer is actually "yes." I don't think I'm going to lose when I release the play, but I know that at some point I will lose. Sure as hell, it has happened the last 2 days, but I hope you guys trust that when I pick my Top Play, I don't think THAT play is going to be a loser. It's more than idea that if you expect to win every night, you'll be bald by 30; we have to be aware that losses will happen, and wins will happen, and as long as we can continue to go 55-45 out of every 100 games, then we're being realistic (expecting to lose 45 times), but also profitable (believing in the winners, which will come 55 times).

Sports Wagering

Cavaliers @ Pacers - Cleveland by 7 with a total of 205.5. Believe it or not, I actually think this line is fair. The Cavs beat the Pacers by 10 the last time they came into Indiana as a 3.5-point favorite, and oddsmakers have adjusted the line accordingly, as the Cavs are a very, very strong team, and the Pacers are floundering right now. In all, the Pacers have lost 4 of 6, with strange road wins in Detroit and Philadelphia. They are coming off getting blown the heck out of their own building by the Lakers, so they're not really playing good basketball right now, and I just wonder if this team is really showing all their faults against the better teams in the NBA. Still, I need a ton of proof to pass up on a home dog of 7 points when the team has the talent to win games, and I'm not sure this game provides me ample proof. The Cavs managed to squeeze out a 14-point win over the Timberwolves, a cover, amazingly, and that was another game ending that makes you think the refs might still be betting. The Wolves fouled twice while down 10 with under a minute left, inexplicably. Very weird; very weird, indeed. In any case, I don't like the idea that folks that won with the Cavs against the Wolves are going to double up here. Cleveland is in the midst of a stretch of games against truly subpar teams, and I just don't know if the focus is going to be there to win big every day. I suppose, with revenge, I lean Pacers, but this game is going to need some sort of ridiculous 2-point line shift for me to get down on it. I also lean to the Over, as I think oddsmakers are telling us not to trust the Pacers' defense to slow down anyone. The Cavs are going to get near 110, and my hope is that the Pacers can crack 90.

Lakers @ Sixers - Lakers by 6.5 with a total of 202.5. Steamtrain Lakers rolls into the City of Brotherly Love. Is anyone willing to step in front of them right now? I'm not sure. The Lakers have creamed the Wizards and Pacers on the road in their last 2 games, and now they turn their attention on the higher-flying Sixers. I'm intrigued by the consistency of the Lakers lines. They continue to be favored by between 5 and 9 points against mediocre teams, and they continue to clobber. It does seem like that loss in Toronto woke them up, and maybe Kobe is just getting healthier, but given the way the Lakers have been playing, I just don't think I can go against them. I'm not sure I can back them, either, since they've got a showdown in Boston coming up on the 31st, but man, this is some kind of crazy. The Lakers have played 4 straight Overs; the Sixers have played 5 straight Unders. Each team won the road game last year. Yeesh. There's almost too much going on here. I'm going to cut this write-up short, as I know rambling is on the horizon, and I'll just get right down to brass tacks. I like Philadelphia in this one by a hair, courtesy of the Lakers look-ahead spot, and I like the Under, as well, since I just don't see the Lakers shooting 58% again, and the Sixers won't play at the tempo the Pacers set. This is just one of those spots where the Sixers, a miserable 5-17 ATS at home, will get it done. No one is going to want to back Philly here, and that's the perfect time to launch a sneak attack on the Lakers. You can thank the Celtics when the Lakers play this one right down the wire.

Celtics @ Hawks - Atlanta by 3.5 with a total of 190.5. Wow. You want to talk about situational angles? This game is a veritable treasure trove of "situationals" without any clear advantage. We'll just run through them quickly: Boston has double revenge (mind you, the Celts are just 3-10 ATS when avenging a loss), Boston is on a back-to-back (2-6 ATS on 0 days rest), and Boston has a showdown with Kobe and the Lakers coming up in 2 days. Boston suffered a demoralizing loss in Orlando last night, but did manage to cover to snap a 5-game ATS losing streak. What does all this mean? Tough to say. Atlanta returns home off getting throttled by the Spurs in their last contest for this one game at home, and they then head back out for 2 more in Orlando and Oklahoma City, so not the world's easiest spot for the Hawks, either. I just don't see a clear winner in the battle for better situational angles. The double-revenge and the back-to-back are almost both negatives for the Celtics, since it seems more like the Hawks are just a team that has Boston's number than anything else, but Atlanta might be a little fatigued, and I wonder if these teams can truly get excited about this one. I have no lean on the side, as of yet. The total of 190.5 is the lowest of the 3 games so far, and I think we're getting hinted at - if the public likes the over, and the line holds steady, I'd look at an Under as the best possible play in this one.

Wizards @ Nets - This line is OFF.

Heat @ Pistons - This line is OFF.

Clippers @ Timberwolves - This line is OFF.

Nuggets @ Thunder - This line is OFF.

Bulls @ Hornets - New Orleans by 4 with a total of 198. Can the Bulls keep up the bum rush? I happen to think this is another decent situational spot for Chicago, though not as good as the last one that I foolishly passed up because of a silly line move. Here, the Hornets are playing a home game in between road games. The Hornets have gone 3-1 SU and ATS in their 4 recent road games, but this home contest isn't the traditional "first game home" where we can expect some sluggishness, and the game tomorrow in Memphis isn't a traditional look-ahead spot, but at the same time, I'm not sure the Hornets are going to be in the perfect mindset for this one. They are coming back from Golden State, so a very long flight, and I wouldn't be surprised to see just a little sluggishness early that won't last as long as it might if the team was truly settling in for a homestand. They're playing damn good basketball, though, so it's tough to really turn your cheek to the Hornets success. I think the most important point to make about Nawlins (G, that was for you) is that this team, while 16-4 SU at home, is just 10-10 ATS. They do NOT cover as a home favorite (5-9 ATS), though they often win by a bucket. I can't even imagine a team playing more close games at home, and having such a quality player like Chris Paul basically ensures you'll win 60-70% of those close ones, but that's a much better ATS proposition when you're getting points. The big concern on the other side is that Chicago is finishing up their 7-game road trip, then taking 3 days off before a home game with the Clippers. Will they be as focused as they have been in the last few? Maybe. I lean slightly to Chicago, but this is another questionable game, in my opinion. The total of 198 looks wildly high, but the last time these teams played, it ended at 181 with a posted mark of 190, and oddsmakers felt the need to balloon this total by 8? A little fishy. New Orleans is on revenge, so my guess is that they win the game, but win by only 3 points. Too close to call, almost, but like I said, I lean a tiny bit to Chicago, and a tiny bit to the Over.

Grizzlies @ Spurs - San Antonio by 4 with a total of 199. The Spurs got a smooth, creamy win over the Hawks in their last game, and the big question in this one is "can they keep it going?" The Spurs have had a ton of success over the Grizzlies historically, but then, can we really use that information? It's not like they've been evenly matched and the Spurs just "have Memphis's number" - the Spurs have been a vastly superior team to the Grizzlies over the last decade-plus, and it's no surprise they've beat up on one of the bottom-feeders of the NBA. But such is not the case this year - Memphis already beat San Antonio once this season, a collected 92-86 win over, at the time, a road-weary Spurs team on a back-to-back. Come to think of it, both teams were on a back-to-back there, but the Spurs were coming off getting manhandled by the Bobcats, and the Grizz were coming off playing 3 strong quarters against the Wolves, and then resting the 4th. So if the Grizzlies were a 1-point favorite in that one, and a 4-point dog here, the power rankings would tell us that the Spurs have dropped about a point over the Grizzlies, and these teams are inching closer to being equal on a neutral court. This is another nearly impossible game to pick - the Grizzlies have covered 6 of 7, so they're hot. The Spurs just finally snapped a 3-game home losing streak, so they're trying to get it turned around. I actually like the Spurs here to get a little revenge, though the expected lack of Tony Parker is a bit of a blow to this team. I would wait on this one, then probably pass, but if you're a total action junkie (and I would tell you to quit gambling before telling you to make the bet), I lean Spurs, and I lean Under.

Blazers @ Rockets - Houston by 5 with a total of 194. This will be the 4th and final meeting between these two teams this season, so we have a lot of data to work with. Let's see what we've got. Game one, the Blazers beat the Rockets 96-87 as an 8.5-point favorite with a total of 188.5 (game went under); game two, the Rockets beat the Blazers 111-107 as 3-point home dogs with a posted total of 187.5 (whoops on that total!); game three, back in Portland, the Blazers squeaked out a 90-89 victory as a 5-point favorite, and a second "under" with a total posted at 193. So, here we are, sans-Brandon Roy, and the Rockets, apparently, with their strongest power ranking against Portland to this point. Just look at the swings we've seen, even in the home games for Houston. They were a 3-point dog at home in late October, and now a 5-point favorite? Even with Brandon Roy healthy, this would likely be a 2.5-point home favorite line, 5.5-points difference from that first home game. I think this is a pretty good situational spot for Houston, but this team has just been awful, lately. The Rockets have lost all 3 games on their current homestand, though the surging Bulls, Hawks, and Nuggets aren't any slouch teams, either. Is this one of those spots where taking 5 points with even an undermanned Portland team is a trap? Definitely makes you wonder. I don't have a strong feeling on the side, but it is important to note that Portland plays again tomorrow in Dallas, so this is the start of a very tiring back-to-back in Texas. I think Portland has shown this year that they do not fear the back-to-back scenario, but Houston wants to get that season series even. I just think we're paying a premium to take the Rockets here, potentially because of the revenge and because Roy is out. I can't advocate taking a line with little value just because I think the Rockets are going to win. Houston is playing zero defense right now, so I don't see them pulling away - if the Rockets win this game, it's going to be between 1 and 7 points. I lean to Portland, and I lean to the Over, since this is now officially the highest total set in any game between these two teams this year.

Kings @ Jazz - This line is OFF.

Bobcats @ Warriors - Bobcats by 1.5 with a total of 208. Another difficult situational game here, with the Bobcats starting a back-to-back that concludes tomorrow in Sacramento. They picked up a nice OT win in Phoenix in their last game, and I think the one huge question that needs to be answered is whether the Bobcats will suffer a bit of a letdown after that powerhouse road victory in the Valley of the Sun. They are laying a very small number on the road, and this is just the sort of line that sharps love to toy with. We might very well see this thing flip favorites before the day is done, but I would say pay very little attention to that. You can consider all the other factors in this one: that Golden State is playing their second home game, then heading on the road, so they should be motivated to get a win, here; that the Bobcats have to contend with Sacramento, Portland and the Lakers before heading home, so their focus might be a bit screwball; that the Bobcats just snapped a 3-game losing streak with that win in Phoenix; that Charlotte is still just not that strong on the road...the list goes on and on, but the big question, listed above, is still whether this is a letdown spot. If you think it is, this a prime spot to back the Warriors, and potentially an over, since Charlotte's defense will weaken before their offense; if you think it isn't a letdown spot, Charlotte should roll. I happen to think it is a little bit of a letdown, and I lean Warriors, but I actually think the total is inflated from the Warriors style of play and Charlotte coming off an OT game, and I kinda, barely, sorta like the Under.

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