Sunday, February 28, 2010

So Over Overtime

This is absolutely the best problem I've had since going Pro -- I'm running out of run ways to start a blog off a tough, hard-fought Paid Play winner!

All jokes aside, Sacramento seemed to have last night's game well in hand, but stagnated offensively late in the 4th quarter and allowed the Clippers to get to within 1 point! We got 2 big plays from Sacramento immediately thereafter, and managed to survive a pair of Clippers desperation three-pointers to get the win!

Our half-unit Free Play on the Bucks-Hawks Under got ruined by 5 extra minutes of basketball, but that's bound to happen. We had the right side, as regulation ended at 184 combined points, but overtime easily crashed through the posted mark of 190, and we just had to swallow that jagged little pill.

Sports Wagering

Mavericks @ Bobcats - Charlotte by 1 with a total of 191.5. The Mavericks are crazy-hot right now. But it's also pretty nuts to see a team as the final game on the card on one day, and the first game on the card the next. The Mavs played host to the Hornets on the late ESPN game last evening, ending around 11pm Central time, then had to hit the friendly skies for a quick flight to Charlotte, a 1-hour time difference, and try to get amped back up for this one with the Bobcats. This isn't a very good spot for either team, really. The Bobcats are coming home off a 4-game road trip that took them through the Midwest, the West Coast, and even down South. Luckily, they ended their trip close to home, so it wasn't as though they had to make the long flight back, and they ended the trip with a win, so they didn't mail it in. That being said, Charlotte heads to Boston for a showdown with the rival Celtics on Wednesday, and I worry that this home game might not inspire them, even though it's with a marquee opponent like Dallas. To the Mavs credit, they're winning games, and they're going it at both ends of the floor. Caron Butler returned to the lineup and had a great game against the Hornets, but on the season, Dallas is just 6-9 ATS in back-to-back spots. I'd be extremely careful betting this game, since both teams have some strong negative situational angles. If I had to pose a lean, I'd lean to the Bobcats, since this line is going to entice a TON of public money on Dallas, but it's more of a "tilt", as I've called them before. On the total, 191.5 might look low, but if the Bobcats half-ass it, or if the Mavs tucker out early, this could either turn into a fast-break game, or the Bobcats could slow things down to a crawl. I lean Under.

Magic @ Sixers - Orlando by 4 with a total of 195.5. The Magic are coming off an easy, cruising winner over the Miami Heat last night in an interesting double-revenge game for the Magic, and I think what that contest showed us was that Orlando is gearing up for the stretch. This team is definitely starting to play better, and I think we need to be very sure the other side has not just line value, but situational value as well before going against Orlando. For a marquee team, Orlando has been doing a very nice job against most competition -- the only issue, though, is that they seem to float out to lunch every once in a while, as evidenced by the late comeback they allowed the Mavericks, and then the awful 4th quarter effort in New Orleans. So, basically, if we can pinpoint the games where Orlando is going to be motivated to keep playing hard after 36 minutes, we're in business. Is this one of those games? I'm not so sure. These teams haven't played since late October, when the Magic blew Philly right out of the building, so I'm not really convinced this is a revenge spot. In fact, Philadelphia is in a pretty tough spot here, coming home from a West Coast road trip. The fact that Philly is going right back on the road to Atlanta likely means the "first game home" theory won't be quite as strong, but I still feel this is a sluggish position for them. The big problem is that Orlando is just 5-7-2 ATS on back-to-backs, so this is not a strong spot for the Magic either. I would be very careful with this one, but I do lean just slightly to the Magic in a positively square move. I like the Over as the better play, as I feel Philly is going to try to run, and the Magic on back-to-back end up in shooting matches.

Knicks @ Cavaliers - Cleveland by 12 with a total of 209.5. This is one of the rare games that doesn't include a team coming off a Sunday game, so we can throw fatigue out the window. The Cavs come home off a 2-games-in-2-nights road trip through Boston and Toronto, and it couldn't really have gone much better. Mo Williams woke up, Cleveland won and covered both games, including a wild 4th quarter rally and win in Boston. Cleveland is sort of "done" with big games for a short bit, as their upcoming schedule is this one with the Knicks, then Jersey, Detroit and Milwaukee before a home date with the less-than-impressive Spurs. Last time the Cavs had an easier stretch of games, they rattled off a 13-game winning streak, though to be fair, they didn't cover quite a few near the tail end of that streak, once they become overvalued again. Over on the Knicks side, they're coming off a game they lost late to the Grizzlies, and lately, it's just tough to know what you're going to get from New York. In terms of past games, these two teams played one another in Cleveland pretty recently, with the Cavs winning that game back on February 6th by a high-scoring final score of 113-106, an "over" and a failed cover. I find it intriguing that the spread in this game is exactly the same as the last one, though I rarely find premium-level value in games with spreads this large. Still, you have to think the Knicks wouldn't mind making the Cavs work, so I would have to lean to the road dog, but more than that, I like the Under. The Knicks and Cavs, in the last meeting, shot 52.6% and 50%, respectively, and the total hit 219 - they simply won't play that level of a game again, and I lean Under.

Spurs @ Hornets - San Antonio by 2 with a total of 195. Two more teams playing in a back-to-back, and by now you probably know how these two teams perform in these spots. If not, quickly, the Spurs old bones are 3-6 ATS in back-to-back games, kind of amazing, if only because they've only been involved in 9 back-to-backs. That's about 3 or 4 fewer than most other teams in the NBA. I'm not calling "shenanigans" just yet, but I have to wonder if San Antonio put in a request to the League office to play an inordinate number of games on 1 day of rest, and just bail on 0, 2 and 3+ rest situations. Whatever. Not important. The Spurs are a bad tired team, that's what we need to know, and they struggle to compete, playing to a 1-8 O/U mark, as well. I think that's why we're seeing such a low total in this game, despite the fact that New Orleans has been playing an extremely fast-paced game. New Orleans and Dallas played to the Over last night, and while the Hornets are just 7-5 ATS in back-to-back spots, they have played to the Over a bit more than the Under. I don't like when two teams have competing trends in a particular spot. I guess I just wonder which team is going to tire first, especially with the Hornets starters playing big minutes in last night's ATS push, straight up loss in Big D. I just can't trust San Antonio, though, and I lean Hornets to get it done at home. I also think the Spurs under trends are bringing this total down nice and low, and there may be some value with an Over.

Hawks @ Bulls - This line is OFF. This game didn't have much going for it until the Hawks-Bucks game went to Overtime last night (and ruined our Free Play on the Under). Now, suddenly, we've got the non-covering Hawks coming off a huge OT win over the Bucks, who, really, should have won last night's game. So, if this line comes out a little screwier than you would have expected - that is, Chicago as a short favorite, a great deal of that can be attributed to fatigue. The Hawks have been an even 7-7 ATS on back-to-back situations, so they are, for lack of a better term, mundane in these spots, but we don't have quite the same breadth of information to study when it comes to games off OT. I tend to like fading a team off an emotional OT win, since usually the next game comes with a letdown. The Hawks have been somewhat back and forth since starting the year with a flourish, so there's not much to take away from them in terms of ATS streaks. On the Bulls side, Chicago has been playing great basketball, but clearly had nothing in the tank in their loss at Indiana. They have been playing swarming defense, which basically means the Hawks are going to need to hit outside shots to win this game, and that's a tall order. As far as the series history, each team has won their home game(s), with the Hawks beating the Bulls senseless way back in early December. The Bulls came back with a win at home a few weeks later, and the teams didn't meet again until early in February, when the Hawks picked up a 10-point home win. The Bulls have some measure of revenge here, and don't play again until hosting Memphis on the 4th. I lean Chicago. I have no idea what to expect on the total, though, as the Hawks don't have any strong totals-trends when on back-to-back, and I believe the Bulls fast-break offense will be counterbalanced by their swarming defense. No lean on the total.

Blazers @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 1 with a total of 195. I'll come right out and say that I'm not a fan of either side, so don't get excited that I'm going to break down this one and we'll have an epiphany part way through. Bottom line is that Portland is playing very strong basketball right now, but they're on the final game of a 5-game road trip, and they're coming off an easy winner over Minnesota in their 4th game in 5 nights. You have to believe Portland is going to be a little bit fatigued. But then, you've got the revenge factor. Portland won the first meeting this year, in Memphis. Since then, the Grizzlies have won 2 straight meetings, both in Portland, and have shot 54 and 52% in those two games. I simply can't imagine Memphis putting that kind of hurt on the Blazers again. One of those wins was something of a surprise; the other came when Memphis was rolling, and the Blazers were scuffling a bit. With Brandon Roy healthy again, Portland is suddenly among the top Western Conference teams, and they're showing it on this road trip, winning and covering 3 of the first 4 games. See, Portland is one of those teams that has actually closed out trips strong, so I'm not sure if this is necessarily a true "fade" spot for the Blazers. They seem to be gelling nicely, and Marcus Camby is starting to work himself into the rotation, as well. The Grizzlies aren't playing all that inspired lately, so it's tough to find a reason to back them, though they are coming off a decent road win in New York. I suppose I'd lean just slightly to the Blazers to finish their trip strong, but again, I don't like either side. I happen to like the Under, as I think this one is going to feature some tough defense and missed shots.

Raptors @ Rockets - This line is OFF. Welcome to the infirmary. The Raptors and Rockets are both missing key pieces, particularly offensively. The Raptors have been playing without Chris Bosh, and had been doing a decent job of competing prior to last night, when they got absolutely throttled by the Thunder, to no one's surprise. These young guys just can't get it done on the road, especially against an extremely strong Oklahoma City club that not only scores prolifically but also plays lockdown defense. This is a more interesting match-up than yesterday's, since the Rockets are an undersized, outclassed team that overachieved for the first 3 months of the season and only now it seems their lack of size is catching up with them. I suppose my concern here is that Toronto really couldn't look much worse to bettors than they do right now. They are coming off that demoralizing OT loss to the Cavs, then getting killed last night, so there really isn't much line value in going against them, even though the Rockets look almost as bad. Houston is coming off a 23-point loss in Utah, and they seem to bounce between losing a few in a row, then getting an odd win. Is this the odd win game? I'm inclined to think so -- I just don't see how Toronto can get anything done on the road without Bosh. He is the guy that can not only get his own shot, but make it, and make it at a nice clip. Without him, the Raptors are stuck firing up contested long range jumpers, and while those drop at home, they clank wide on the road. I lean Houston, and I lean Over, since this game has all the makings of a streetball style, up-and-down, chaotic mess.

Nuggets @ Suns - Phoenix by 2.5 with a total of 223.5. This line was actually OFF as of earlier today, but once oddsmakers saw who was healthy and playing in the Suns and Nuggets games yesterday, it seems like they had no problem bringing this line out. I suppose the thought, and why we're seeing the Suns ranked as high as we are is that books feel the Nuggets are going to be on a letdown after their game with the Lakers. Still, I don't like picking a side in this one. The Nuggets are 5-8-2 ATS on back-to-back games, but the Suns are no better at 5-9 ATS. The difference here is that Denver is playing a 4th in 5 nights. Both of these teams played afternoon games yesterday, so I suppose they did have some time to get to Phoenix and get a little rest, and for that reason, I would be very careful before touching a side in this one. On top of all those ugly back-to-back game numbers, the Nuggets are actually on revenge, with Phoenix beating them 109-97 in Denver near the start of February. Too many competing angles here, in my opinion, and I have no lean on the side. On the total, both of these teams have given up a ton of points on back-to-backs, but there's clearly no value on the Over in a game with the Nuggets and Suns. I happen to think this one gets played at a very high tempo, so I do, in fact, lean to the Over, but it's a zero value play - more a hunch than anything else, and based on the fact that the previous meeting was somewhat low-scoring, I think this one goes back to the traditional type.

Jazz @ Clippers - Utah by 6.5 with a total of 203. Utah has dispatched of the Clippers twice already this season, winning by double digits once in both Utah and in California. So, what's different about this meeting? The answer: not much. The Clippers are coming home off a narrow defeat in Sacramento, and to their credit, they are a MUCH better team at home than on the road, but they're just 6-8-1 ATS in back-to-back spots, and Utah is not a team that you can play a fatigued style of game against. I know the so-called "value" is with the home team getting a bunch of points, but other than the double-revenge angle, there just isn't anything supporting a play on the Clippers here. The Jazz are definitely overvalued, I wouldn't argue with anyone about that, but this is a largely lopsided match-up, and the one spot where the Clippers SOMETIMES have an advantage, at the point, the Jazz are even stronger. Chris Kaman can also be kept in check by Utah's rough and tumble bigs like Boozer and Millsap. I happen to think that the Jazz don't play quite as well as they did a month ago, the last time they came to Staples to play the Clippers, and in that regard, I believe this line is pretty accurate. No leans on the side. The Clippers appear to be in no hurry to run the ball lately, and while the Jazz have indeed played to 4 straight overs, they are definitely a slower, more methodical team on the road, and I lean Under.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Melo Out, Dude

Nothing like starting Sunday by heading down to the "General Store" and picking up a broom!

Last night we capped off another powerhouse week with an NBA sweep, nailing our Paid Play on the Indiana Pacers, and grabbing a Free Play winners on the Golden State Warriors! There isn't a ton to say about either game, as both basically went according to plan, with two tired ballclubs (Chicago and Detroit) running out of gas in the second half, and our home teams taking advantage.

Onward to the Sunday card!

Sports Wagering

Suns @ Spurs - Spurs by 4 with a total of 209.5. This is a tough game to find value, if only because the clear "hotter" team is Phoenix, but the clear "line value" team is the Spurs. Here's what I mean by this: the Suns have won, and covered, 5 consecutive games, so they are straight up rolling. Since Alvin Gentry started putting a slight priority on defense, the Suns have been stepping up their game all around. They're winning at home AND on the road, and as we've all seen a thousand times, winning on the road comes with playing some defense. Hell, on this 5-game winning streak, the Suns have held 3 of those opponents under 100 points! When was the last time you heard about Phoenix pulling that off? We're talking about a team that allows 106.3 ppg to its opponents, on average, and to hold 2 of those 3 teams under 90 is just remarkable. I think anyone that watches Phoenix has to be impressed with what they're showing right now. They're playing with purpose on both ends of the floor, even winning the "Injured Star" game without Steve Nash, and snapping the Thunder's 9-game losing skid in the process. Unfortunately, though, a red hot team like Phoenix doesn't have a great deal of line value anymore. They're a hugely public team in general, and couple that with the winning streak, and unless you really feel the Suns are playing so well that line value doesn't matter, they're a tough bet to make in this outrageously early game. On the Spurs side, San Antonio has been flat-out stinking, covering only 1 of their last 5 games. This is a nice chance for them to make a statement, especially against a team that, prior to the one meeting this year, they had dominated. Of course, Phoenix beat the Spurs 116-104 back in December. Tony Parker is a huge key to this game, and he's questionable from food poisoning, and especially with this early game, the Spurs need to get out to a good start. Very, very tough call on the side, but I have to lean to the red hot team, square as it may be. I also have very weak feelings about the total, but if I had to choose, I'd take a stab at an Under, if only because these teams played to 220 in their only meeting, but the total is right where it was last time.

Nuggets @ Lakers - Los Angeles by 6.5 with a total of 208.5. This is the true monster on tomorrow's card -- the Western Conference Finals rematch, version 3. So far, this year, the Nuggets have dominated the series, showing that the playoff revenge factor is powerful. However, based on what we saw over in the Eastern Conference, with the Cavs smacking the Magic around twice, but Orlando getting a key win in the 3rd meeting of the year, maybe we can expect the same from the Lakers? I'm not sold, but I'm willing to lob a guess out there, that given the way the previous meetings have gone, and given that the Lakers are rolling along to the tune of an 0-5 ATS streak, they aren't looking quite as snazzy as, perhaps, a couple weeks back. Over on the Nuggets side, Denver is sort of bouncing between a couple ATS wins and a few losses. What that means is that this team has officially entered the realm of the elite, another of the teams where bettors would have to pay a premium to bet on them. I have to say, when I first looked at this line, I thought it was a little off-kilter, especially since the last time these teams met in LA, the Lakers were 8-point favorites, the Nuggets were playing without Carmelo, and Chauncey went nuts. Now, as 6.5 point favorites, what we're being told is that Carmelo is playing, and the Lakers actually got 1.5 points stronger in the power rankings since then. I just don't believe that. This line is either off by AT LEAST 1.5 points, or is suckering folks into taking the Nuggets, who are due to drop one to their rivals. It certainly is tough to fade the Nuggets, considering how strong they've been against the best teams in the NBA, but I just can't see them shooting 57% again for the game against a big, strong team like LA. Believe it or not, I think the Lakers win this thing by 8, and I lean to Kobe and his band of maniacs. I think the total is spot on, too, with maybe a slight lean to the Under, given the early start and huge stage.

Bucks @ Hawks - Atlanta by 7 with a total of 191. I'll tell you, I would absolutely LOVE to take Milwaukee and the hefty chunk of points in this one, but one bright red, glowing angle is telling me to stay far, far away from Milwaukee for just one night. And that angle is the fact that they've played on the 24th, 25th, 27th, and now today. And what's more, Milwaukee is on a sick 6-game straight up winning streak, and they have been no worse than 5-0-1 ATS, and as good as 6-0 if you got the line at a good time. So, really, there is no team hotter than the Bucks, yet here they are, rolling into Atlanta, the victim of an overtime rally by the Mavericks, and a team that has failed to cover both home games on their current short, 3-game stint in Hotlanta. I just wish I had any sort of clue which way the public was going to bet on this one. Every once in a while a game comes along where you just don't know what the betting public is going to value more: the name, which would be the Hawks, or the vicious hot-streak, which would be Milwaukee. And generally, when I encounter a spot like this, I just assume that the action is going to be fairly split. I guess we'll know better by morning. In any case, this is another extremely tough spot, and I hate to lean to the favorite yet again, but I just can't back the Bucks on a 4th-in-5 situation, even though Milwaukee is a ridiculous 11-3-1 ATS in back-to-backs. This game feels like a PASS in almost every respect, but I promised I'd at least give a TINY lean for folks to work with, and I just have to look at the home team that isn't completely fatigued. Milwaukee, amazingly, is an Under team on back-to-backs, so I think we're getting some value on the Under, especially with both teams playing a few high-scoring games recently.

Wizards @ Nets - This line is OFF. New Jersey brings their circus home off the huge road upset of the Boston Celtics. And that game alone makes this game a tremendous spot for the Wizards. I suppose my biggest concern here is whether Washington is starting to run a little lower on energy. They rattled off 6 straight covers before dropping home games to the Grizzlies and Knicks, and while those 2 losses only increase Washington's value in the short term, I'm not sure how confident I am that they'll bounce back so quickly. Also, Washington has knocked off Jersey twice this year, once in both locations, so while that is indeed evidence that they can win in Jersey, it's also evidence that Jersey is on double-revenge. I've mentioned in the past that double-revenge doesn't really matter with terrible teams, but I think Jersey takes this one personally given that Washington is in the same "weight class" as they are. Yet another reason the side on this game becomes incredibly difficult to call. When push comes to shove, though, I just can't advocate backing Jersey at home. They have no fans, and when they're going against another low to mid-level opponent at home, and not getting a ton of line value, that lack of any true home court prowess means that those 3 points a home team gets adjusted are probably a waste. So, really, playing low-level teams against the Nets when they're at home is a pretty good bet. I lean Washington. The total is off right now, but I still believe the Nets Over is one of the sneakiest bets in the NBA. Plus, these teams played a 160-point hideous affair in January, and I just can't imagine they drop another of those stank lumps.

Heat @ Magic - This line is OFF. Alright, technically, by the time I'm doing this write-up, there IS a line on this game, and I'll be sure to work those numbers into the write-up. Interestingly, this game is double-revenge for Orlando, so what we have to balance is the Magic's desire to make a statement against the fact that without Dwyane Wade, the Heat are just not a very exciting team to play. Orlando is expected to win this game in blowout fashion, but it's just tough to see the Heat completely rolling over on an ESPN televised game, even without Wade. My goodness, though, this is an awful spot for Miami. They got whooped at home last night by the Bucks, losing to Milwaukee for the third time this year, and now have to play again today, slightly earlier than usual, without Wade and on a 3-game losing streak. It's funny - most times I tell you guys to look at the huge dog and try to find reasons to move over to the favorite, but this one might be the other way around. That spread that the books just released, though, is simply way too high to really be confident taking either side. Without beating around the bush any longer, Orlando's strong 5-1 ATS record on Sundays and the fact that they're annoyed with the Heat from two losses back in the '09 half of the season, I have to lean to the ultra-square Magic, but not nearly enough to warrant a play. On the total, both of these teams have been playing to the Under pretty regularly, but I think someone comes out and runs - there is value on this Over.

Raptors @ Thunder - This line is OFF. This is another game where, for whatever reason, the favorite looks like the better bet on paper. The Thunder are coming off an easy home win over the Wolves to snap a short 2-game losing streak and get back on the winning side of things. I have to admit, I was pretty damn impressed with the way Oklahoma City lost in San Antonio, and when it looked like they might run into some trouble off the long winning streak, they put together a full game and absolutely dominated Minnesota. So, now, the question for Oklahoma is whether that game took away whatever small amount of value they were getting back, or if this team has re-lit the fire within, and is ready for another winning stretch. For Toronto's sake, they're not in an enviable spot. The Raptors are coming off a truly impressive performance against the Cavaliers, sending that game to OT before falling by 8 in bonus time. Toronto would seem to be in a bit of a letdown spot, still playing without Chris Bosh, giving their collective "all" in that home game against Cleveland, and now trying to get amped back up for a road game in Oklahoma. Toronto is 0-4 ATS against Northwest division opponents this season, and the Thunder are 16-7 out of conference, so a great many angles point to the Thunder, and I have to lean that way, as well. On the total, I can't see Toronto scoring like they did against the Cavs, who seemed to have zero interest in playing defense, and this one has a great chance of going Under.

Clippers @ Kings - Kings by 3 with a total of 202.5. This is a game I've got my eye on, believe it or not, as these two teams met just a week ago in Southern California, with both teams getting used to their new players, and the Clippers beat the Kings handily, 99-89. Since that game, the Clippers won home games over the Bobcats and Pistons before losing in Phoenix, and the Clippers continue to be a very poor road bet, and a decent home wager. On Sacramento's side, the Kings continued to lose, and pretty badly before putting together a very strong home showing on Friday night in an outright home win over Utah as a 7-point underdog. Is that game a sign of things to come? I believe so, actually -- the Kings have some nice pieces in Evans, Casspi, a now-healthy Francisco Garcia, and the recently acquired Carl Landry. They have two solid big men in Hawes and Thompson, and while they're not going to be taking down all that many strong teams, they should be able to compete with the likes of the Clippers. This is an interesting game in that the Kings should be dealing with a certain amount of revenge. In addition, the last game's total was set at 201, and went Under by over 10 points, yet this total opened up a shade higher, and has seemed to make a move to an increase off the opening number. If this is indeed an Oddsmaker Hint, we may be in line for a potential look at that Over. Both teams are scoring the ball better now that the new pieces are starting to fall into place, and I definitely lean Over. I also lean Sacramento on the side, as I believe revenge will play a role, and they really couldn't play a whole lot worse than they did when these teams met a week ago.

Hornets @ Mavericks - Dallas by 8.5 with a total of 200. This game, unlike some of the previous ones, is definitely a spot where you want to begin by looking at the big underdog, and then try to talk yourself out of it. The only issue here is that BOTH teams are very strong right now. The Hornets have covered 7 of 9 games, and while they're not necessarily winning all of those contests, they just continue to push the pace and get open looks. I'm not sure there's a ton of value on either side, though, with the Hornets coming off the home outright winner over Orlando, and the Mavericks on a nice 6-game winning streak. They've covered the last 2, a big home win over the Lakers and, arguably, an equally large OT win on the road against the Hawks. I'm not sure it's necessarily in anyone's best interest to try to decide if you want to back the red-hot Mavericks, who are playing some incredible basketball right now, and beating everything in sight, or back the Hornets, who continue to find a way to keep games close. They are outclassed in talent in most games, so the Hornets tend to fall back in the 4th quarter (aside from the big win over Orlando, of course), but when you have two teams that are both playing well, and neither really has a ton of value, that's when you need to step back and take a pass. No lean on the side here. I like the Over on the total, since I believe the Hornets just keep running, and folks still haven't completely caught on.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Some Tired Teams

Deeee-Troit Baaaasket-baaaall!

Yes, I played that PA Announcer's voice in my head every time the Pistons managed a defensive stop against the Nuggets. There weren't many late in the 4th quarter, but we had the line advantage all night long, and the Pistons were NEVER behind by more than the 9.5 points we had on the spread.

We should thank our lucky stars, though, that the Nuggets are run by two CLASSY superstars. With 35 seconds left in the game and Detroit trailing by 8, the Nuggets got a steal from the Pistons, and could have easily pushed for an easy layup. Instead, Chauncey Billups held up the break, ran the clock down, handed the ball to Carmelo, who flat-footed a jumper as the shot-clock expired. Detroit got the rebound and hit a meaningless 3-pointer, but thanks to the Nuggets trying to end the game and not worried about embarrassing anyone, we got the cover.

I know what you're thinking -- can we handicap "class?" Honestly, I'm not sure, but you can bet I'll be keeping an eye on similar situations going forward.

Enough silliness - let's handicap.

Sports Wagering

Nets @ Celtics - Boston by 11.5 with a total of 188.5. Well, this is a downright ugly game, and under most circumstances, I would say you absolutely, positively have to start with the huge road dog, but I'm not so sure in this one. We have two of the worst ATS bets in the entire NBA in this game -- you could have played against Jersey and Boston in every game all season long, and you would be 69-42. Put that in your pocket. So, when these two miserable ATS teams go head-to-head, how do you pick a side? Well, in this case, I believe it's important to note how the teams have been playing. The Nets, after seemingly turning a corner from about January 27th to February 17th, have regressed badly. Why? Well, I contend it's because they don't deserve a home court advantage of any kind, yet continue to get the full 3 points. New Jersey has been playing a ton of home games lately, and will play quite a few more, and while losses of 8, 9, 10 points are covers on the road, they're only getting 4-6 points at home, and those 10-point losses are all ATS losses, as well. Back on the road now, the Nets are getting those bonus points, and it'll be very interesting to see if that'll be enough. On Boston's side, the Celts are coming off a total 4th quarter meltdown to the Cavs on Thursday. I suppose the question is whether they bounce back from the demoralizing loss or let that failure snowball. I know Boston is supposedly a strong-willed team, but they're just not the same. They're just 8-18 ATS against losing teams this year, a strong indication that Boston is always going to cost you a premium, and even moreso against the League's worst. In terms of the season series, Boston has won all 3 games, one in a huge blowout, and two where they just missed the cover. The most recent meeting was a 96-87 Boston win about 3 weeks ago, here in Boston. There really isn't a good side to take in this game, but the Nets on the road have a good shot to lose by 9-10, which would be a cover, so I lean Jersey. I also think most people are going to feel these teams are going to win with defense, but Boston has been running the ball quite a bit, and I think Jersey is pushing the tempo a little, and the Over in Jersey games is still one of the sneakier bets in the NBA.

Bucks @ Heat - This line is OFF. Dwyane Wade is doubtful for this one, so we'll handicap as if he's NOT playing. If that changes, we'll adjust accordingly. As for where we sit now, it's hard to see the Heat really playing up to the current level of the Bucks without their big dog. Miami is on double-revenge here, but I just wonder if Milwaukee once again has a particular team's number. The Bucks beat Miami by 11 at home, then came right back 2 days later, and crushed Miami on the road by 16. My immediate concern here is how this line is adjusted. Is it going to be preadjusted for the Heat's double-revenge, or is it going to be fair? I suppose a lot has to do with how the public feels about these two teams. Milwaukee should be getting more love than they have been, although they were the public choice against Indiana, to no one's surprise. The Bucks have won 5 straight games, and have been covering machines, and the Heat were really doing the same before Wade got hurt. That's what makes this game so tough to call. The obvious choice is to just jump right back on Milwaukee until Miami shows they can top the Bucks, but at the same time, the obvious choice is often wrong. When these teams played two straight games against each other a month ago, Milwaukee was laying 4 at home and catching 6 on the road in a monster home/road swing. I would expect to see Milwaukee still catching a point or two in this one, though Miami plays in Orlando tomorrow against one of the East's marquee clubs in ESPN's early-evening NBA tilt. So, does Miami look ahead? Does Milwaukee go easy on them without Wade? Too many questions in this one, though I don't really see how you can avoid a tiny lean to Milwaukee. Maybe the better bet will come on the total. If this line comes out below 186, I believe the total to be pretty accurate. Above 186, and I think we might be seeing a tipped hand. No lean on the total yet, but when we get a number to work with, I might develop one.

Bulls @ Pacers - A Pick with a total of 211. If the first thing that pops into your mind is "these teams JUST played," you are absolutely right...doubly so, in fact. On the 9th, Chicago went into Indiana in the Pacers final game before the All Star Break, and beat them with a very strong 4th quarter, 109-101; less than a week ago, Indiana paid a visit to Chicago, and lost 120-110. Both games were covers for Chicago, and both went over a posted mark right around 205. So, now, oddsmakers finally adjusted, and I think this number is pretty accurate. Really, it could still go Over, but we'll get to that. As far as the side is concerned, Chicago has won all 3 meetings this season by 9, 8, and 10. Could Chicago really be just a Pick here? Something seems a little funny on the side. Chicago is coming off a ridiculous overtime victory over Portland that really took every ounce of strength to get that cover. This is a bit of a letdown spot for Chicago, a team that has not been terribly strong on back-to-backs this season, at just 6-9 ATS, and 2-5 ATS when they go home-to-away in back-to-backs. In addition, Chicago is coming off a 58% shooting night against the Blazers, and if that's what it takes to squeeze by Portland at home, it seems like this might be a tough spot for them. I like that this line appears extremely easy, in terms of taking Chicago, and since Indiana is coming off that loss to Milwaukee, I don't think they'll get much public love. There is definitely some line value on the side of the Pacers, and don't be concerned if this line dances around the centerpoint while sharps set up a middle. Lean to Pacers, and Chicago plays zero defense on back-to-backs, so I think this one might go up and over one more time.

Grizzlies @ Knicks - A Pick with a total of 210. These are going to be two tired-ass teams! The Knicks played on Feb 22, 23, 26 and now today, and are coming off an overtime win in Washington last night. The Grizzlies played on Feb 23, 24, 26 and today, so they're on their 4th in 5 nights, and coming off a home loss to the Bobcats last night in a rather low-scoring affair. So, the question becomes "which of these teams is MORE fatigued?" I honestly just don't know. The Knicks are playing at home, which certainly gives them a little adrenaline boost, since MSG will bump no matter how bad the Knicks are, so maybe there's a slight edge there. Both of these teams have been terrible on back-to-back days, so we can't really take a great deal from that information, and really, I'm inclined to think this game ends up being pretty close. Memphis needs to win every game they can, especially after dropping another close one at home last night, and the Knicks have played a bit better the last two games, so perhaps they're turning a corner and are in line for a few ATS victories. This line is likely going to jump hard based on New York's OT affair last night, but don't be completely fooled into thinking they're immediately going to be the more exhausted team. At the same time, New York has a date with the Cavaliers on Monday, so there is the potential for a Lebron look-ahead. I mean, you know the talk in New York is going to be around the game with King James, if only because they want him on their team next year. I really don't have any strong lean on the side, though I made a deal with myself never to back a team on a 4th in 5 nights, so I have to lean NY in that regard. I still think the sharper play in this game is the Over. Memphis has been playing a ton of low scoring games, but New York is going to get out and run, and both teams are going to be too exhausted to play defense. This first half has 110 points written all over it.

Blazers @ Wolves - Portland by 4 with a total of 195.5. How often does THIS happen? BOTH teams in this game are playing their 4th in 5 nights! This has the potential to be one of the most lackluster efforts all season long, but how will the game play out? These two divisional opponents have played 3 times this year, and Portland has blown Minnesota out of the county in all 3 games. I mean, we're talking about two 23-point wins and a 28-point victory. Ouch. Interestingly, though, this is the shortest spread of any of the meetings, so I think oddsmakers might be tipping their hand just a little bit. When you talk about a series that has been as one-sided as this one, for books to come out with a rather short line like the one we're seeing, I think it's safe to assume that the general consensus is that Minnesota is going to compete, at least a little. Still, Portland has shown to be one of the best teams in the entire NBA on short rest -- they are 11-3 ATS on back-to-backs, and I think some of that energy just simply has to carry over into the 4th-in-5 spot we see tonight. The Wolves are just 8-8 ATS on back-to-back games, so no real information there. I do, however, rather enjoy the idea that the Wolves are 11-5 O/U on back-to-back games, and the Blazers are 8-5 O/U on theirs, so the Over, once again, looks like the more interesting play. Bottom line, I'm not sure I can back either of these teams on the side - Portland is off an OT loss in Chicago, while Minnesota got crushed in Oklahoma, so they both have a little value. Portland is playing way better basketball with Brandon Roy back, and Minnesota has just been a nice ATS team in 2010. Tiny, microscopic lean on the side to the Blazers, but it almost can't even count, and lean to the Over.

Rockets @ Jazz - Utah by 10 with a total of 202.5. This is a hefty spread, considering the circumstances. Two more teams playing on back-to-back days, but no 4th-in-5 spots to worry about here. Instead, we have another angle, and I'm weighing just how important it is. That key angle is the altitude. Both of these teams are coming into Utah off a game the night before, and Utah is actually the team coming from the West Coast, so they might actually be more exhausted than the Rockets. Still, Utah has been significantly better on back-to-back spots than Houston. Utah is 7-4-1 ATS, though just 1-2 when going away-to-home, and Houston is a dismal 5-10 ATS, and really equally bad in every back-to-back location, home or road. This line looks high, because, well, it IS high. Let's take a recent example. Both of these teams have played in New Orleans over the last week and change. Utah was laying 4, and Houston, on a back-to-back, was catching 2.5. So, let's adjust that Houston line by 2 points, and they're basically a pick. So, based on these meetings with a common opponent, we should have Utah as a 4-point favorite over Houston a neutral court. Please explain, then, why Utah is favored by 10 with BOTH teams on a back-to-back? Has Utah really improved by 3 points over Houston in one week? Not likely. So, the question is, is there really 3 points of value on Houston slapping us in the face, or is this a spot where books adjusted the line knowing full well that Utah was gearing up for a blowout win? Looking at the public betting numbers is a little helpful, since Houston appears to be the slight public choice here, and that makes me think this line is "high for a reason" - I lean Utah. And, if Utah is going to blow someone out, Houston is going to need to score under 90. I like the Under.

Pistons @ Warriors - Golden State by 4 with a total of 208. The Warriors get a chance to bounce back off the disappointing loss to Denver on TNT Thursday, and they get, presumably, a pretty tired Pistons team coming to town. Again, it's important to remember that this Detroit team is healthier now than at any point earlier this season, but at the same time, they are just 4-11 ATS on back-to-back days, so SOMETHING isn't quite right with a few of the guys. I think more than anything else, horrible back-to-back numbers are a sign that either your team is extremely old or maybe not healthy. Detroit has been a solid ATS bet since the All Star Break EXCEPT on back-to-backs. They got clobbered by Orlando right after the Break, then just a few short days ago got smacked around by the Clippers. Now, this isn't your average back-to-back; Detroit is playing a 4th in 5 nights and the last game of a 4-game West Coast trip. They also play Boston in their next game, that one back at home. On the other side, the Warriors are playing their final game of a 5-game homestand, so you have to believe they'll want to close things out with a tough performance. They go on the road for 5 afterwards, and coming off that televised TNT loss, the Warriors should have a hair more value. I'm surprised to see the public backing Golden State as much as they are early in the day, given that the Warriors lost to the Nuggets by quite a bit, at home, and last night the Pistons played Denver tough until the final minutes. In any case, I lean Warriors to take advantage of a tired, unfocused Detroit club, and I also like the Over, since I think the Warriors do a nice job of forcing the pace, and with Detroit pooped out, I'm not sure they have the strength left to defend for 48 solid minutes.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Downtown

No one told me to pack an umbrella for our Paid Play last night! I blame the Oakland-area weather man.

Oh well.

I have to say, though, as far as losses go, that one was fairly bearable. I think it has a great deal to do with the fact that Denver just shot the lights out, making 16 threes in just 27 attempts. When a team gets 48 points on 27 shots, well, that's pretty tough to counter. Think of it from another standpoint. If we exclude free throws, getting 48 points on 27 possessions is like shooting 24 of 27 (89%) from 2-point range. Basically, what I'm getting at is that Denver was not going to be stopped, and it was just one of those nights.

But enough of that, let's get to the rather ungainly 12-game blog!

Sports Wagering

Cavaliers @ Raptors - This line is OFF. Once again, this game is all about Chris Bosh, and unfortunately, he's been downgraded to doubtful. If Bosh plays, I LOVE the Raptors. Without him, I don't like this game at all. Cleveland is coming off beating the piss out of Boston with a runaway 4th quarter in Boston, and while I do think they're turning a corner with their new lineup, and with Mo Williams starting to get his legs back, I also think that off a blowout win over the Celtics, the Cavs are simply as overrated for one day as they will be all season long. Toronto has just been awful without Bosh, and I would say I'm a bit disappointed in all the other weapons on that team for failing to step up so completely. I mean, Toronto isn't a dead fish without Bosh, or they shouldn't be. Calderon, Turkoglu, Bargnani, Jack, all capable basketball players, I would have thought. In any case, if Bosh does indeed sit this one out, we may see a rather beefy line for the Cavs to cover. These teams have split the 2 meetings so far this year, so there really isn't much inspiration for the Cavs to play well, especially considering the hassle of getting through customs on a back-to-back off such a huge game in Boston. Also, it was something of a late game in Boston, so there's a strong possibility that they may not get into a Toronto hotel until the wee hours of the morning. The Cavs are already just 5-9 ATS on back-to-back spots, so the 2 points they get against the spread seemingly haven't been enough, and I so badly want to back the Raptors here, but I just don't know if we can trust them without their superstar. Maybe Bosh will make a miraculous recovery...a man can dream. I lean Raptors, and I lean Over, since I don't see Cleveland playing with much defensive intensity.

Knicks @ Wizards - Wizards by 1.5 with a total of 204. The line on this game is absolutely amazing, and so strongly illustrates how far the Knicks have tumbled. Washington has been a favorite 16 times this season, and is a miserable 4-12 ATS in those games, but they are a completely different team now, so we almost have to start over with them. The point I wanted to make about the line, though, involves the previous meetings. These teams have already played twice this season, with each team winning the home game pretty easily, the Knicks beating Washington by 22 as a 6-point home favorite, and losing by 10 as a 2-point road favorite. Now, they come into Washington as a 1.5-point dog. That's a 3.5-point swing since just late January, and we're talking about a Wizards team that has shipped off almost every notable piece of their puzzle. That is just incredible, to think the Knicks went from being 5 points better than Washington in their first meeting to 3 points better in their second (though some of that swing could have been revenge), to now just 1.5 points better despite Washington losing their 3 best players, arguably. In any case, that's how it is, now, and we have to react to it. The Knicks have lost 8 straight basketball games straight up, and are just 3-5 ATS in that stretch, so they're not just losing, they're getting creamed. Washington had a 6-game ATS win streak snapped by visiting Memphis, but they are a team of young guys playing for full-time starting gigs, and you just have to love the max effort we're getting out of this bad team. New York is coming off a hard-fought loss to the Celtics, and I just don't see them getting the ship righted in this one. I lean Washington on the side, since they lost their most recent battle with the Knicks, and they're just simply playing better ball, and I like the Over, since New York's defense has really hit rock bottom, allowing almost 115 ppg in February (especially if you eliminate the dud against Milwaukee).

Magic @ Hornets - Magic by 4.5 with a total of 200.5. Alright, well, Orlando steamrolled Houston in a game that just looked too easy, and in fact, turned out to be exactly that, too easy. Now, they take their operation into New Orleans to do battle with the running and gunning Hornets. I have to admit, I leaned Orlando in that one, but I'm pretty surprised at how well they played off the huge win over Cleveland on Sunday. That potential letdown was more than enough reason for me to pass on that game. Now, off the beating of Houston, can Orlando put together another dominant performance, or do they regress a little here? I have the sensation in my belly that this line is extremely soft, and there's some value with New Orleans despite the Magic's strong recent play. First, Orlando isn't as great as their last game might indicate -- yes, they're a good team, but by playing untouchable basketball, they improved the public's perception of them, which is leading to a slightly inflated line on Orlando. On the other side, the Hornets had covered 6 of 7 before getting their asses handed to them by the Bucks. I love that New Orleans lost big. They were clearly tired off the big game with Cleveland the night before, and now they can come home, where they're 6-3 ATS as an underdog (20-13 ATS as an underdog home and road). The Hornets are a very good shooting team, especially at home, and I believe Orlando might not take this game all that seriously, if not for any reason other than that they're overconfident from the last couple wins. I lean Hornets to cover on revenge (Orlando staged a monster comeback and beat New Orleans 123-117 3 weeks ago), and I believe the total is pretty accurate, though the Hornets have really been running like crazy, so I'd lean Over before I'd lean the other direction.

Timberwolves @ Thunder - Thunder by 10 with a total of 201. This is a very interesting game, and while I don't know if the angles are strong enough to warrant a bet, there's a ton going on here that needs to be addressed. First, the Thunder had a 9-game win-streak snapped at home by the Suns a couple days back, then lost another in San Antonio. I generally like to fade teams off a long winning streak, but it's VERY difficult to try to figure out when the time is right to get back behind those teams. As it is, the Thunder are actually a little bit overrated. They're a very strong team, and they'll continue to win games, but in terms of the line, betting on Oklahoma City right now is going to require paying a premium. The 9-game win streak combined with Durant's ridiculous run of 25-point scoring efforts garnered a lot of media attention, and the public has caught on. So, now, the Thunder have failed to cover 4 in a row in addition to that 2-game straight up losing streak. As far as Minnesota is concerned, these teams have played twice this season already, and the Thunder have won both games by 2 points. The Thunder took the first meeting in Minnesota on January 20th 94-92 (this game stayed Under the posted mark of 199.5), a strangely slow game; they took the second meeting, also in Minnesota, 109-107 last week (a total that went up and Over 201). Now, in this one, the total is STILL 201, which pushes me to an Under lean, since the number was not adjusted, and I think Minnesota brings their A-game. The Wolves believe they can beat the Thunder, and I don't think Oklahoma City wakes back up just yet. Even if you simply flip the home court edge, the Thunder should only be an 8-point home favorite, so you can see right away there's some line edge for the Wolves. I lean Minnesota.

Mavericks @ Hawks - Atlanta by 3.5 with a total of 195. This should be an entertaining game, I would think. The Hawks are in their second game at home off the long road trip, so they should be settling in nicely off the failed cover against Minnesota. I think, in that regard, Atlanta does have a little value. In another regard, Atlanta has even more value, and that is courtesy of the Mavs' home win over the Lakers. Dallas is definitely playing better basketball, but they're certainly not unbeatable, and coming off that HUGE statement win over the Lakers, despite this game being televised, I just don't know if I trust them to get it done on the road. Dallas is going to be overrated, and I wonder if the Hawks aren't going to be slightly underrated. Based on what I've seen and heard, folks have stopped talking about Atlanta, and they've kind of settled into covering about half their games after starting the year by going gangbusters. These two teams have met before, though, and Atlanta beat Dallas 80-75 in a terribly ugly game in Texas back on December 5. This isn't the same Mavs team, though, so I'm not sure they're really sitting around and moping about that loss to the Hawks. For what it's worth, Dallas is just 2-5 ATS when revenging a home loss, so they don't seem to take these spots any extra-seriously. Atlanta has been very, very tough at home at 18-10 ATS, and while Dallas has been much better ATS on the road than at home, I just believe the line value, for once, is with a home favorite. I lean Hawks, and I lean Under.

Blazers @ Bulls - Chicago by 3.5 with a total of 192. Another game with a spread of 3.5, eh? Fair enough. I should start by saying that I have extremely weak feelings about this game. Both of these teams are playing solid basketball, as it seems Portland needed to get away from home, and get Brandon Roy healthy (surprise, surprise!) to get good, again. I know Portland would love to have Marcus Camby back, but we all know how brittle that buffoon can be, so I would assume they're planning on going without him. Portland has won, and covered, both games on their road trip thus far, but those game against New Jersey and the Bosh-less Raptors. Now, they get their first real test on this trip, going against a completely revitalized Chicago Bulls club that is a solid 12-5 ATS in their last 17 games, and has been doing it by improving both on the fast break and on the half-court defense. Chicago has, and I may be off by a spot or two, elevated their defense to top-5 status, holding opponents to extremely low, impressive FG% numbers. I just struggle to break down this game, with both teams in almost the same spot. Both are trying to ramp up their game as we near the stretch, both teams are playing well, both are coming off a nice win, and the only situational angle that has any merit is the note that Portland beat Chicago by 24 way back in November. I'd be surprised if anyone on Chicago even remembers that game, but I guess without anything else to go on, I have to lean to Chicago. I'm intrigued by the Over, but not really convinced of it. Portland's scoring is improving dramatically with Brandon Roy back, and Chicago is doing a great job of getting out and running when the opportunity presents itself. I like the Over when we've got two defensive-minded teams going head-to-head.

Bobcats @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 3.5 with a total of 193. I should probably never admit this, but I don't have any kind of read on the Bobcats right now. Charlotte is something of a post All Star Break enigma. They lost at home to Jersey, beat the Cavs, and have dropped all 3 games on their current road trip through Milwaukee, LA (Clips) and Utah. So, basically, they've been pretty bad. I know that the value is often with the bad team, but that statement by itself just isn't true. Value is with a bad team playing well, and right now, Charlotte is a middling team playing terribly. They are a bad bet, and even if they dominate this game, I still won't go back on this statement. In terms of covers, the Bobcats are just 1-7 in their last 8, so that's even worse than the straight up mark, AND Charlotte beat Memphis 89-87 on a last-second shot (I remember that game well) back in mid-January. So, we have Memphis, a middling team that appears to be starting to turn the corner (they've covered 3 straight), trying to get some revenge and pick up another win against a Charlotte team in their last game on a 4-game West coast (and southern) road trip. I don't think people trust the Grizzlies yet, but I do, and I lean Memphis. I also like that the Grizz are putting some effort into playing defense, and taking care of the ball - I lean Under.

Spurs @ Rockets - San Antonio by 3 with a total of 196. Historically, this has been the time of year the Spurs turn it on. Can they do it again? Even if you think so, I'm not sure there's enough value in this game to warrant a play. The Spurs are coming off a tough home win over the Thunder, shutting down Kevin Durant in the process. Someone that watched that game would certainly believe the Spurs should be able to take care of Houston. They might not be wrong. These teams have played twice this year, with the road team taking care of business in each one. Back in late November, the Spurs won in Houston 92-84, then 2 months later Houston beat the Spurs in San Antonio 116-109 on the shoulders of a 55% shooting performance. I don't think Houston can duplicate that effort again here, as it really is starting to feel like the Rockets are running out of gas. They traded for Kevin Martin, and, to no one's surprise, that's not helping yet. They just don't seem to be able to find points, even in their up-tempo offense, losing 3 straight, and falling to 1-7 ATS in the second half of the season against winning teams. Bottom line is that it has just been an ugly run for the Rockets, and I don't know that there's ever a "good" time to back this team. They seem to pull a crazy road blowout win out of their back pocket once every couple weeks, but otherwise, Houston is in shambles. San Antonio looked strong in their first game back from the Rodeo Road trip, and I think this is a team that is prime to go on a little run, though I'm not sure this is the right time to get behind them. Still, value or not, the Spurs are playing better basketball and lost their last game with the Rockets, so I lean in the square direction of the small road favorites. I also think if you like the Spurs, you have to like the Under, so I do.

Pistons @ Nuggets - Nuggets by 10.5 with a total of 200. Well, as you'll see later, if the Lakers/Sixers game is a look-ahead spot, then this has to be one, too, does it not? I happen to think this game is potentially a bigger look-ahead than the one the Lakers have, since LA is coming off a loss in Dallas, which should motivate them a bit more, while the Nuggets are coming off a ridiculously hot-shooting performance in Golden State, and they're traveling late into the night to get home. Now, we need to be aware that when the Nuggets play back-to-backs, they tend to play a little bit slower. That shouldn't surprise anyone, though -- a hyper up-tempo club just isn't going to have the legs to run, run, run 2 nights in a row, especially if they're going a fair amount of travel between games. This is a weird spot in that Denver is the team coming from the super-late TNT game, which just ended around 10:20pm Pacific time. So, assuming they haul ass to their team plane, they should be getting back into Denver by around 2:30 or 3am local time. They don't have to check into hotels, which helps, and they'll likely get better rest in their own beds than most visiting teams do on the 10th floor of a building that's already a mile high, but I have a sneaking suspicion Denver might actually show some signs of wear in this one. Also, this might blow your minds, but Detroit is Denver's kryptonite. Detroit has beaten Denver 5 straight times, despite being the lesser team in quite a few of those meetings. Now, I'm not contending the Pistons win again, but with the Lakers game coming up on Sunday and Denver feeling confident and tired, the Pistons should be able to score enough easy buckets to stay in this one. I like Detroit to cover, and I like the Over, since, while we've seen the Nuggets don't score as much on back-to-backs, they give up even more than they lose, and Detroit should break 100 in this one.

Jazz @ Kings - Utah by 7.5 with a total of 201.5. Well, if you want to talk about a tale of two teams, this is really that. The Jazz have been an absolute wrecking machine since mid-January, and the Kings, well, have been the worst team in the NBA this year. And just when you thought maybe they were about to turn a corner and start getting a little value, the Kings made a blockbuster trade which, admittedly, will probably help them in the long run, since they unloaded the shoot-first Kevin Martin, but also brought in new pieces that are each taking some time to adjust. As a result, Sacramento is rolling to the tune of zero wins since the All Star Break, and only one cover. They are bad, home or road, and I just can't advocate backing them, not yet. The time will come when they'll figure out how to play, they'll give a good effort and deserve our attention, but it's just not yet. Unfortunately, what we have here is a situation of one team that's SO bad that no amount of line value is worthwhile and another team that's so hot that they're laying 7.5 points on the road, which makes them an incredibly tough team to choose, as well. What is somewhat interesting is that the Kings have not only covered both games against the Jazz this year, but they actually beat Utah straight up in one of those two contests, a meeting way back in November, before the Jazz got their legs underneath them. I can't help but think the Jazz are making a real run at one of the top seeds in the West; they're 8-2 ATS in the second half of the season, and even though they're the big road favorite, I dig 'em. I also like the Under, since the Jazz have quietly turned themselves into a truly hard-nosed team, and Sacramento can't score lately to save their lives.

Clippers @ Suns - Phoenix by 10 with a total of 208. This spread is just too huge, and the likelihood that I make a play on the game is somewhat minimal. You guys know how little I like to work with giant spreads, but as you also know, when you have a game with a double-digit spread, you simply have to start with the dog and work your way off that team, if possible. Here, we have the Clippers, who seem to have bottomed out right after the All Star Break, and as they're finding a smooth rotation for the new bodies, they have won, and covered, 3 in a row. Now, before we get too excited, those wins have come over the Kings, Bobcats and Pistons, and they probably would have lost to Detroit had the Pistons not been on a back-to-back spot and just simply got tired, but in terms of line value, the Clippers have a goodly amount. They are the team no one wants to back, and even though the Suns are playing inspired basketball right now, they are still the marquee team, and it's always going to cost you to back them. Phoenix has been playing some more defensive-minded games, and you just have to love taking a road team with 10 points when the score isn't necessarily going to be all that high. I mean, just look at the total - only 208! There was a time not that long ago when the Suns wouldn't have a total under 212 for just about any team in the League, let alone a team like the Clippers that aren't exactly known for their defense. The obvious concern is that the Clippers are just awful on the road. Still, they got flat-out embarrassed in Phoenix on Christmas Day, and I think the guys left over from that Clippers team are going to want to come back today and make a stink. I lean LA, and I lean Under.

Sixers @ Lakers - Lakers by 11.5 with a total of 197. Lakers, I'd like you to meet my friend, Mr. Lookahead. I don't care who's on the team, this isn't a very good spot for the Lakers. Obviously, in terms of value, the Lakers are always going to be a little overvalued. If they weren't coming off a loss to the Mavs, it might be a bit more pronounced, but I love the fact that the Lakers have a game with the Nuggets coming up on National TV on Sunday. Unfortunately, on the other side is Philadelphia, finishing up a 4-game road trip, and then taking a couple days off before hosting the Orlando Magic. It's tough to know if Philly is going to show up, because even a fairly strong effort from Philly should be enough to keep this thing within this gigantic number. I don't know if there's an outrageous amount of value, and obviously with the Lakers coming off a straight up loss, Kobe is going to be pissed, but that doesn't necessarily mean a cover. The questions of this game are simply, "Will Philly play hard to finish the road trip" and "Will the Lakers look ahead to Denver?" If you can definitively make a statement on either of those questions, you've got yourself a potential play. I happen to think the Lakers win this one by 9-10, which would be a narrow cover for the Sixers, but if indeed Philly has their mind on the trip home, this could be a blowout. I lean just slightly to Philadelphia, thanks to their nice ATS road record, and I lean slightly to the Over, since I believe any chance Philly has to stay in this is going to be through a higher-scoring affair.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Loves Me Some TNT

Guys, I want to begin by thanking everyone that's been riding this wave! The number of you continues to grow, seemingly, on a nightly basis, and I only hope that I can continue to leave you feeling fat and sassy!

We collected another winner on Wednesday, as the Dallas Mavericks had themselves a gut check and came up with some real intestinal fortitude, playing outstanding defense in the 4th quarter, and making their free throws to hold off the Lakers. The value was there, and it's always nice when that value leads to winners!

It has been a great run since the All Star Break, going 9-3, including 6-2 on Paid Plays (excluding a push), and a current run of 4-0-1 over the last 5 Paid Plays. In addition, we are also a robust 22-13 over our last 35 graded wagers (there were a pair of pushes in there, as well), and 34-21 over the last 55.

I must remind everyone, though, that we need to keep a level head while winning just as much as when losing! Don't go out tomorrow and lay all your winnings on one play! We are in this to make money LONG TERM, and as long as we continue to hit between 55-60% of plays, proper money management should ensure a monster profit down the line. So, do not lose sight of our goals.

Sports Wagering

Bucks @ Pacers - This line is OFF. This is a battle of two teams playing back-to-back games, but the difference is that the Bucks are one of the League's better back-to-back teams, at 9-5 SU and 11-3 ATS, while the Pacers are quite average, at 4-12 SU but 8-8 ATS (1-4 at home) in these spots. I would imagine we'll see this game pretty close to a Pick, but whatever the spread, I'm guessing it won't be a huge factor in deciding which team to favor. Fact of the matter is that this is just not a good spot for Indiana. I realize they're significantly better at home than on the road, where they generally do a better job of imposing their tempo, but a few key angles jump out as reasons to be scared of taking the Pacers. First, the Pacers are playing their first game home after a 4-game road trip through Texas and Chicago, so they're not likely to be comfortable returning to their building. Second, they play almost no defense, which is a disastrous way to try to compete with Milwaukee. The Bucks are a ridiculous 20-5 ATS against teams that allow over 100 points per game! One thing to note: the Pacers are on double-revenge, but at the same time, I'm not sure they are good enough to compete with the Bucks. So we need to weigh this little predicament. This line is going to come out, potentially, adjusted for revenge, and it's our job to determine if it's a tangible change in value, or nothing at all. Therein lies the tipping point for this game. I do have an early lean to Milwaukee based on the above notes, and I also think the Under has some value, as Milwaukee has really done a nice job this year of slowing down breakneck opponents.

Cavaliers @ Celtics - This line is OFF. Ah, the start of the TNT double-header, and easily the more interesting of the two games. The Cleveland Cavaliers, fresh off a win (and failed cover) against the Hornets at home, and riding a 4-game ATS losing streak, bring their traveling circus to Boston. The Cavs are also just 1-6 in their last 7 ATS, so this is clearly a team that peaked somewhere near win number 9 in their 13-game winning streak, and have since been vastly overvalued. That being said, this game has all the makings of the one that turns things around, so we need to be careful before just writing Cleveland off as a bad value. As we've talked about multiple times, the Cavs are a very strong 17-10 ATS against winning teams, meaning they're just 11-19 ATS against the scrubs of the NBA. This is a team that has its sights set on an NBA Championship, and thus, games with the NBA elite are the ones they take seriously. Lebron wants his teammates to taste victory against the best the League has to offer, but when you're giving a full 100% effort against half the NBA, you're going to want to go at 80% against the other teams. Fortunately here, Boston is among the elite, so we can be pretty sure we'll see a strong effort, if nothing else, from Cleveland. The Cavs are also on something of a revenge spot, and we'll have to wait and see if that gets factored into the line at all. Boston beat Cleveland in Ohio way back at the beginning of the season, and the Cavs still haven't had a chance to take a shot back at the Celtics. Cleveland, though, needs to work out some kinks on the defensive end, as they've allowed 5 of their last 7 opponents to break 100 points, despite allowing just an average 95 ppg to their opponents on the season. When a club is giving up at least 5 more points than they normally do, it's going to be awfully tough to win, and it's going to be even tougher to cover. So, how does this one play out? Well, Boston has been playing better since the All Star Break, but I'm still not convinced this team belongs at the top of the power rankings. In my opinion, despite winning 4 of 5 games since the Break, they haven't really impressed me, aside from the walloping they laid on the Blazers. They have allowed Denver and New York to score 114 and 106 points, respectively, in their last 2 games, and had to hang on to beat the Knicks at home on Tuesday. Like the Cavs, the Celtics haven't been covering many games, managing just a 2-7 ATS record in their last 9 games. So, here we have two of the East's best, each failing to play up to the expectations set in the line, and really, we shouldn't be surprised. These are the teams that come with a huge premium, and in the very long term, they should probably be losing propositions. But when they play one another, we can generally ignore the "premium" and handicap more on the situational spot, which I believe favors the Cavs. Cleveland is gaining rhythm and chemistry every day, and Boston is likely going to be without Paul Pierce (or if he plays, a version of Pierce with the flu), and while the line adjustment might not be to our liking, I expect this thing to come out close to a Pick, and I lean Cavaliers. I also think both teams are going to make a conscious effort to push the ball against tough opposing defenses, and I believe the public perceives both of these teams as extremely defense-heavy. If Boston wasn't coming off 2 ultra high-scoring games, I might think the Over would have some legs, but a lot is going to depend on where the books bring this line out. The Cavs are going to try to play some defense, but I just feel they need a game or two more to get all the rotations/assignments right on the defensive end.

Nuggets @ Warriors - Denver by 6 with a total of 227.5. At first glance, this one feels like the Nuggets should just steamroll the Warriors, but let's look back at the season series. Yes, the Nuggets are a perfect 3-0 against the Warriors this season, and when all is said and done, they should have a pretty solid chance of sweeping at the end of the night, but there's far, far more to it than that. If we exclude the first meeting of the season, which was the classic "team coming from the West coast into altitude" situation, and the Warriors subsequent blowout loss, we have two of the most hotly contested basketball games for any teams all season long. I know, you're thinking I'm nuts, but let's address them one by one. January 5, in Denver, the Warriors took on a shorthanded Nuggets team as just a 5.5 point road underdog. The Warriors actually had the lead with the clock ticking down, and as you may recall, Monta Ellis was whistled for a silly foul on J.R. Smith, who was attempting a desperation 35-footer. Smith calmly stepped to the foul line, hit the free throws, and the Nuggets won 123-122. Disappointing? Hell yes. So, how did the Warriors respond? Fast forward 15 days, when the Nuggets came to Oakland as a 6-point road favorite. Two things jump out. First, that's the exact same line we're seeing on this game, and second, that's basically the same line as the shorthanded Nuggets laid at home without Carmelo and Chauncey. I suppose it's not hugely important that we know that Carmelo and Chauncey are worth about 6 points on the spread, but the fact that the line hasn't changed between their last meeting and this one is very interesting. I suppose there's no real reason to chance the spread, since Denver won that game by 5 points. The Warriors are definitely going to be psyched up for this one, a big TV game where Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis can really try to shine. This is Denver's first game since defeating Boston 4 days ago at home, so I just wonder how focused they will be to really blow out a lesser team. I don't doubt Denver wants to win, but the Warriors just have a way of taking Denver's running style and cranking it up even one more notch; it's almost like the Warriors push the pace so hard that Denver gets sucked in and makes a few mistakes that allow Golden State to keep the game close. I like the Warriors to bounce back off an ugly game against the Sixers and keep this one competitive. I also like the Under. When two supremely high-octane teams play like this, in a big game, there is always going to be value on the Under. Also, folks that look at their previous meetings this year will see 145, 142 and 141 points and think this is a shoe-in. Well, consider this a bookmaker tipping his hand. I like the Under quite a bit.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Uh Oh, Wednesday's Back

I felt a lighthearted title was in order, considering we've been rolling along, and jokes are extra-hilarious when you're on a winning streak!

Last night we dropped the Free Play on the Cavaliers, as Cleveland got out to a quick start, and then completely ignored a youngster on the Hornets by the name of Marcus Thornton. Thornton torched Cleveland for about 80% of last night's game, and while Cleveland did manage to win by 10 (and miss the cover by a single bucket), the Hornets were certainly the right side, and we missed it.

However, that was merely our half-unit selection, and we more than made up for that early loss with a later 1-unit Paid Play winner on the Memphis Grizzlies. As noted in our write-up yesterday, the Lakers were hugely overvalued just because of Kobe's return. Memphis wanted last night's game more, and only failed to pick up the straight-up win because Kobe Bryant is an absolute assassin late in games. We got the cover easily, and the post-All Star Break onslaught continues.

Alright, that's enough recap; let's break down today's action!

Sports Wagering

Blazers @ Raptors - This line is OFF. Portland lost Marcus Camby early in their game with New Jersey, but managed to fend them off and pick up a nice little road win (and cover) to start their 5-game road trip around the eastern and central time zones. Now, though, they have to head to Canada overnight, deal with customs, and try to get the energy level back up for a tilt with the Raptors. This game, and this line, are largely dependent on whether or not Chris Bosh plays. He is currently listed as doubtful, which makes this game especially tough for Toronto. Interestingly, they've won both games with Bosh out, failing to cover at home but finding a way to win, but this is a new type of opponent: as in, one that has some skill, and isn't New Jersey or Washington. The Blazers are an outstanding 10-3 on the second half of a back-to-back, and if Toronto is truly counting on the rest of their guys to step up yet again without Bosh, I think they might be hitting a little bit of a wall. Portland knows they need to start winning soon, and if Brandon Roy can continue to get his legs under him and get a little more aggressive, the Blazers can be okay yet. Portland hasn't faced Toronto yet this season, so there aren't any historical angles to bring up. Really, what we're faced with is the question of "can the Raptors find a way to score enough to win without Bosh," and "can Portland continue to succeed on back-to-back games." I'm inclined to believe we see another nice effort from the young Blazers, and I lean to the road team, as I expect them to be getting some points. I also like the Under, since I can't imagine Toronto scores as easily against Portland as they did against Jersey and Washington.

Wolves @ Hawks - Atlanta by 12.5 with a total of 204. This is too many points, that's my opinion. The Wolves just aren't that horrid, and they've shown steady growth most of the season, even picking up a rare road win last night in Miami. Obviously, the key concern on Minnesota's side is that they played last night, and they're 3-12 (7-8 ATS) on the back end of these back-to-backs, so not terribly impressive, and just 2-8 ATS when that second game occurs on the road. So, this isn't exactly a good spot for Minnesota. That being said, I think the positive angles actually outweigh the negative ones. Minnesota got SERVED by the Hawks back in December, losing by 25 on their home court to the quicker, stronger Hawks, but I feel that Minnesota has improved dramatically since then. They compete most nights lately, and I just don't see them getting blown out by a team that doesn't play great defense. Anyway, I'm letting opinion get in the way of a factual write-up, so back to the important notes. The Hawks return home in this game off a rather beefy road trip that took them across the West and into Utah for their finale. Atlanta won that final game of the trip against the Jazz, which allowed oddsmakers, I believe, to bring this line out a tiny bit higher and still know the public is going to want to play the Hawks. Atlanta is bound to have a little first-game-home sluggishness, at least on the defensive side of the ball, and with a game against the Mavs coming up on Friday, there might even be the chance for a look-ahead. Strong lean to Minnesota, and slight lean to the Over, as I think Minnesota loses defensive focus on the back-to-back (they are 11-4 O/U on b2b's), and Atlanta takes Minnesota for granted off a tough road trip.

Grizzlies @ Wizards - Memphis by 1 with a total of 199. Wow, very tough spot for the Grizz. Memphis, our Paid Play winner last night. Memphis fought tooth and nail against the Lakers, and after falling behind early, scratched and clawed their way to a 5 point lead that they held for most of the 4th quarter. And then the game clock ticked under 1 minute, and everything changed. For the Grizzlies, the rim shrink to a pinhole, and O.J. Mayo missed two free throws that would have iced the game, then Kobe Bryant came down to the other end, banged in a 3-point with 5 seconds left, and the Grizzlies were left with their pants around their ankles. Now, Memphis has to head into Washington where the Wizards youngsters are playing inspired basketball, and try to get their heads back on straight and win a tough road game. This extremely short spread is interesting in that it almost tells me that oddsmakers know sharps are going to come in on the Wizards, and even though they could likely get away with bringing this line out a tiny bit higher, they don't want to risk getting killed with big Washington money. As you may recall, Washington played Memphis tough way back in December, though admittedly it was an entirely different team, then. The Wizards have quietly rattled off 6 straight covers with the new cast of characters, and I lean to Washington to get it done again. I also like the Over here, as Memphis is bound to go half-assed on defense.

Hornets @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 5.5 with a total of 192.5. Boy, if the Hornets play as hard as they did against the Cavaliers, they should be in decent shape in this one. That being said, it's never easy to follow up a game with the Cavaliers with another one the very next night. The Hornets have been a strong 7-4 ATS on back-to-back games, so perhaps they don't NEED the full 2 points they get in this spot, but I think coming off a game with Cleveland, they might be a little more tired than after, say, a game with Indiana. I realize I backed Cleveland last night in a half-unit freebie, so for me to fade the Hornets again might be nuts, but in an effort to be thorough, I feel the need to at least address the angles of this game. New Orleans defeated Milwaukee by just 3 points way back in November, so I don't know if there's any real revenge in play, here, but what we DO have on our hands is a fun battle at the point. Brandon Jennings going head-to-head with fellow greased-lightning point guard Darren Collison? That's solid theater. Both of these teams are playing well above their ATS rank, with the Hornets covering 6 of 7, and the Bucks covering 3 straight and 14 of 17! Basically, what this means is that neither team is really the "value" play, as each is a solid wager against most other teams in the NBA, but not each other. I would contend that the strongest angle is the potential letdown for New Orleans off hanging with the Cavs for 43 minutes, so I lean just slightly to the Bucks. We also know how the Hornets want to run, run, run, and I imagine the Bucks are going to really try to slow things down. I have to look at the Under.

Pacers @ Bulls - This line is OFF. And I'm afraid I must admit, my feelings on this game are largely going to be dictated by the presence (or lack thereof) of Indiana's star, Danny Granger. We saw what the Pacers look like without him once again in Monday's ugly defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. We cashed an Under wager on that game, as the Pacers just couldn't get anything going, had zero offensive rhythm, and couldn't stop the Mavs. That, right there, is a brutal combination of failure. Now, they head into Chicago for their 3rd game this season with the Bulls. This one is technically a double-revenge spot, but I hesitate to use that term when the Bulls so severely out-class the Pacers. Indiana lost by 9 in Chicago back in mid-December, then lost by 8 at home just before the All Star Break. It seems like, watching these games, the Bulls have unlocked the key to defending the Pacers, and Indiana just hasn't been able to succeed offensively against them. Unfortunately, that probably means we're going to see a fairly hefty spread in this one. My one concern is that Chicago is coming home off a silly loss in Washington, and I only hope that doesn't send them into any kind of multiple-game tailspin. As it is, if Granger is out, the Bulls could very well run the Pacers right out of town. Lean to the square side, the home Bulls. I also think we'll get some info from oddsmakers with the total, as both games this year have gone over, the last time eclipsing the posted mark of 205 with a final total of 210. Let's wait and see where that number comes out; if it's below 204, we may have a lean to the under.

Magic @ Rockets - This line is OFF. Trevor Ariza is dealing with a hip injury, and I believe is expected to miss this game. I honestly can't find a good reason to back Houston at home. The home court edge doesn't appear to be worth anything, and the Rockets have, not so quietly, slipped to 25-30 ATS on the season, and 1-6 ATS against winning teams in the season's second half. Basically, what we're seeing is that this is still a team that is getting some public love, and are getting creamed by the better teams in the NBA. In fact, and I realize this is all the more reason to be afraid to bet this game, Houston doesn't really have any positive trends right now. They are 1-5 ATS against the Southeast, 11-18 ATS against teams that score over 100 points, 12-15 ATS at home, and 4-12 ATS in their last 16 games. On Orlando's side, I might be a little concerned of a letdown after the big home win over the Cavs back on Sunday, but with all this time to collect themselves and get ready for the games at hand, I think we should see a decent effort from the Magic. Am I nervous that someone on Houston will step up and lay a beating in Ariza's stead? Not really, as he's just not a superstar -- sorry Trevor. This is a very tough spot for the Rockets, who have covered just 1 home game over the last month and change, and once again, I have to play the square card and lean to the road faves. I also think Orlando will try to put the clamps on Houston, and believe the Under has a tiny bit of pre-line value.

Thunder @ Spurs - This line is OFF. Ouch, if you're the Thunder. You win 9 games in a row, then finally drop a home game to the Nash-less Suns. Trademark "Injured Star Situation" there, as Phoenix kept it close all game, then outplayed Durant and the Thunder down the stretch in a strong road effort for the surging Suns. As you guys know, I tend to enjoy fading teams that lose a game to snap a long winning streak, especially when it's a tough, hard-fought one like this bad boy. The Thunder are a great team, don't get me wrong, but they're simply due for a few bad games. They managed to escape with wins against the inferior clubs on their recent road trip, but the Suns exposed them for not really going full throttle, and I wonder how this one is going to go, too. I wish almost any other team was coming into San Antonio, because in terms of bad situational spots, it doesn't get much more disturbing than the Spurs coming home off the rodeo road trip. The Spurs literally have not played a home game in the month of February. That is downright ridiculous. Whatever home court advantage they might have here is going to be vastly diminished by the fact that home might just feel like another road stop. They also go right back out on the road for a game in Houston on Friday. What can we expect from the Spurs? I don't think a strong game, that's for sure, but can they take advantage of a Thunder team that might be in line for another loss or two before getting things back in gear. This is a damn tough game to pick, especially without a line, and especially with Tony Parker expected to be out. I suppose I have to lean just a tiny bit to the Thunder, since they have been a very good bounceback team this season, going 17-4 ATS off a SU loss. I also like the Over, as I feel the chances of the Spurs playing lockdown defense in this first game back home is somewhat slim.

Bobcats @ Jazz - This line is OFF. The Bobcats are off to a rather poor start to their current road trip, losing and failing to cover in both Milwaukee and against the Clippers in LA. In addition, the Bobcats have actually gone a dismal 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games, and I don't know if they've really "bottomed out" just yet. That being said, it might happen here. The Jazz got beat at home by the Hawks in their last game, trying to come back off an incredible OT win in Portland and play a strong Atlanta club without the services of Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams. Obviously, the health of the Jazz is paramount in this game, and they'll be a tougher team to back if they continue to miss key pieces. Still, Utah has been red, red hot lately, only losing 3 games against the spread since the middle of January, and here they'll get to face a Bobcats team that just isn't clicking right now, especially on the defensive end. Charlotte wins games when they can slow their opponents, and they haven't held an opponent under 90 points since January 20th. That run of not-as-impressive defense has coincided almost exactly with their poor ATS run. I just can't bring myself to back the road dog here. I know taking points is the way to go in the long run, and we often play big dogs, but I just don't feel like Charlotte can handle the unique Utah offense, and while this is indeed a home revenge spot for the Bobcats, I believe Utah beat Charlotte on the road because the young Bobcats just didn't know what to do with Utah. I lean to the Jazz. I also think this one has a chance to stay Under, but I want to see where the total comes out. Utah has been playing, in general, lower-scoring games and really playing physical defense, and they might very well hold the Bobcats to a very low number.

Sixers @ Suns - This line is OFF. What an outstanding comeback effort for the Suns last night in Oklahoma, and what a near meltdown for the Sixers in Golden State! Two teams on the back-to-back, squaring off in Phoenix. The question is, of course, is Steve Nash going to play. The "Injured Star Theory" took effect in Oklahoma City for the Suns last night, as the other guys stepped up big time, but I just wonder if they'll have the gusto to do it again tonight. That is the point of contention with the Injured Star theory -- how long do you back a team that loses its star, and when exactly can you start fading them? The Suns are a dismal 4-9 ATS on back-to-back spots, so they really don't play well when fatigued, and I guess that makes sense. If you're a team that uses every ounce of strength running the ball down your opponent's throat, and if you're already bad on defense, then clearly playing tired is going to slow you down on offense, and turn you from a bad defensive team into a terrible one. The Sixers are a more impressive 8-5 ATS on back-to-backs, but they're also extremely inconsistent right now. They've been alternating wins and losses, and even the totals of their games are all over the place. I just don't like getting into a guessing game with teams like Philly, and would strongly advise looking elsewhere for value on this card. However, Phoenix beat Philly on the East coast earlier this season, so there may be a tiny bit of revenge, and if indeed the non-Nash Suns show a little fatigue, the Sixers have the young legs to take it to them. I lean just a tiny bit to Philly, and a tiny bit to the Over.

Lakers @ Mavs - A Pick in Dallas with a total of 194.5. This should be an interesting one -- the new-look Mavs against the Lakers, with Kobe fresh off the shelf. From a situational standpoint, I think you have to like the Mavs, here. Even though Dallas has been downright unbearable at home (6-21 ATS), so get such a short spread against the defending champs is a rare and unique privilege. Also, the Lakers are coming off that grinder in Memphis, and getting the game-winner from Kobe might actually have been worse for the Lakers' upcoming ATS record than if he had missed the jumper. Now, you have to think the Lakers feel invincible again, and the other guys not named Kobe are ripe to take a few games off, mentally. Unfortunately, the Mavericks have had all kinds of issues scoring against LA this season. In the 3 previous meetings, Dallas shot 42, 38, and 43% from the field, winning just the first match-up, when the Lakers out-stunk them, and shot 39% themselves. So, with the new pieces starting to fit together in Dallas, will the Mavs finally have a decent offensive game against LA? I actually believe they do. The Lakers are an even 7-7 ATS on back-to-back games, so that may or may not be a true factor, but it was pretty clear the Lakers defense wasn't quite the same in Memphis as it had been with Kobe out, and I believe that to be a strong indicator that some of the guys that stepped up with the superstar out have decided to take a couple games off. In addition, the Lakers beat Dallas here, without Kobe, just over a month ago. I lean Dallas on revenge, and I have almost no idea what to expect on the total, but with two big-name teams, my first lean is always to the Under.

Pistons @ Clippers - LA by 3.5 with a total of 190. Detroit clobbered Sacramento last night, but the question we have to ask going into this one is "can they get the juices flowing again tonight for a game with another lackluster opponent?" Well, if the earlier parts of this season are any indication, the Pistons might struggle a bit. Detroit is just 4-10 ATS on back-to-backs, so they generally do show strong signs of wear. However, they're healthier now than they have been all season, so you just have to wonder how much of that terrible back-to-back record is because they just didn't have enough warm bodies to compete and get the other warm bodies fresh. This game has all the makings of a real stinker. Each team has won (and covered) 2 games in a row, for what that's worth, and each team has, to some degree, bottomed out. The Clippers 2-game win streak is of a 5-game ATS losing skid, and the Pistons are slowly improving as guys like Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, Will Bynum, Charlie Villanueva get their legs underneath them and learn how to play with one another. It looks like Detroit is actually a potential good ATS buy right about now, but I'm just not sure about this game in particular. The Clippers have a ton of new pieces they're trying to work into the system, as well, and it's something of a crapshoot if they'll evolve or devolve on any given day. I happen to think this game is a coin-flip, but I'll lean Clippers because of Detroit's miserable back-to-back record, and because they're coming off such an easy win I feel the line holds a microscopic bit of value on the Clips side. Maybe the better bet is the Under -- as the Clippers work the new teammates in, they have seemed to improve on defense; I just worry Detroit's defense might suffer on the back-to-back. This one might be a pass, but gun to my head, I'd lean Under.
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