Friday, February 05, 2010

Every Rose Has Its Thorn

I couldn't decide if I wanted to talk about the Lakers going into Portland, or the fact that a Russian billionaire is buying the New Jersey Nets and Rod Thorn's job is in jeopardy, so I decided to do neither, and just make a clever title with no substance backing it up. On to the recap!

That was not the way I envisioned Friday going.

I admit, I was supremely excited about the games on the card, and while Minnesota came up with the easy cover (they won outright as 10-point underdogs), the Kings never showed up, and got run out of their own building. An embarrassing performance that left Joe Q. Public rich and happy, and took money out of our pockets. All in all, we lost the small play on Memphis (half-unit) and the full-unit Paid Play on the Kings, but salvaged a palatable day with the win on the surging Timberwolves (0.75 units).

In terms of streaks, the subpar Friday moves us to a less outstanding, but still solid 8-4-1 over our last 13, and 20-12-1 over the last 33. That's consistency, and that's profit. And despite things not playing out the way I expected, I have another batch of games that are leaping off the card at me on this fine Saturday, and I expect to make back yesterday's 0.90 units of loss, and then some!

Sports Wagering

Hornets @ Bobcats - This line is OFF. This one has the potential to be extremely ugly. The Hornets are on the second day of a back-to-back, and as we all know, are playing without Chris Paul. The Bobcats come home off a 3-3 road trip out West, which, given the level of competition, can be considered a pretty successful trip. The Bobcats beat Phoenix, Golden State and Sacramento, and lost to Denver, Portland and LA, but the important note here is that they come home off a very long road trip, and a very tiring one. I only wish they were playing a team that was a little bit more compelling competition. The Hornets are downright awful without their leader, but this is one of those games where I think they can get out to a decent start on the sluggish Bobcats. Can New Orleans hang on for the entire game? Well, therein lies the true issue here. The Bobcats might not be able to play strong enough to fatigue the Hornets, but then, New Orleans is so confused and disjointed right now, that it might not matter. There is no revenge issue to worry about here, so it's really a situation where I expect the Hornets to play well early, and the Bobcats to play better late. Let's wait and see how the line comes out, but this game has the potential to be a halftime play, or even a play in both halves. On the full game, I lean Hornets, and I lean Under, since I expect each team to have one terrible half.

Hawks @ Wizards - This line is OFF. Two teams on back-to-backs, and both coming off solid wins. The Wizards with the monster underdog outright win over the Magic propelling them into this game, and the Hawks with a 4th quarter surge to power the Bulls out of their building. Now, Atlanta has to go on the road to face a Wizards team that has been trying to compete on a nightly basis, and you have to at least give them a glance as a large underdog. Unfortunately, Atlanta has beaten the Wizards at least 6 straight times (that's as far back as my site looks), so this might be a spot where even the Wizards on double-revenge make little difference. I do like the fact that the Hawks are just 3-6 on back-to-backs on the ROAD. They're 3-0 when that second game is at home, so this is a team that truly feeds off the home court to get energy, and if there's a building right now where the energy is decidedly negative, it's the shooting range/blizzarding D.C. area. I don't put a ton of stock in a 6-game win streak for one team, especially when they're not really rivals. I lean to Washington to keep this thing a decent game, and I think there may be a distinct lack of defense with both teams tired from playing yesterday, so I lean Over. I truly wish I had more to say about this one, but without a line to compare to the last meeting in early January, we have to save that part of the write-up for tomorrow.

Nets @ Pistons - Pistons by 8 with a total of 187.5. This seems like an awful lot of points to give the Nets in Detroit, doesn't it? Are the Pistons really tough enough to deserve 8 points against anybody? The key for us in breaking down this game is to determine if this line is one of those spots where oddsmakers are luring us into looking at the underdog because of a large number of points, or if it's just a mistake. I'm inclined, at least here at the outset, to think it's a mistake, but with two teams THIS bad playing one another, almost anything can happen. I'll tell you, though, with these two teams having just played 4 days ago in Jersey and the Pistons using a strong 4th quarter to win by just 4, the adjustment on the line (Detroit -2.5 in the first meeting) is less than you might think. I believe the Nets will again play strong for at least half the game, which tends to be the way they operate. They are coming off a cover against the Celtics last night, unable to compete when the crowd got crazy in the 4th and the Celtics woke up. But that won't be the case in Detroit. The Pistons are just not a good team, the crowd is not all that interested, and the Pistons are going to come home with their heads down, losing by 24 in Indiana. Yes, the Pistons are better at home than the road, but I still just don't see them as good enough to lay 8 points. I lean Nets. I think this total is right on the mark, no lean there.

Knicks @ Cavs
- Cleveland by 12.5 with a total of 199. The Knicks head on the road off another disappointing home loss, this time at the hands of the red hot Milwaukee Bucks. And now, it seems, oddsmakers are finally adjusting to the fact that New York is just running out of steam. I believe this line is fair, and while I think you simply have to look at any team getting a dozen points in any game, I would be hard-pressed to find enough reason to back the Knicks here. The Cavs did beat the Knicks by 9 in New York earlier this year, and honestly, I would not be surprised to see that number jump up to a winning margin of around 15. Let's be reasonable, here. The Knicks are 4-9 in their last 13 games, so they're not playing well at all, right now. They're 1-5 in their last 6 road games, clearly the root of the problem, and coming off getting stomped by both the Wizards and Wolves. The Cavs, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, are on a 10-game winning streak SU, and a 6-game ATS winning kick, as well. This is not the time to fade the Cavs - that day will come, and it might be soon, it might not, but I wouldn't risk it here. If you want to make a play on this game, take a peek at the total. The Cavs have been scoring a ton of points, but most of their success lately has come by way of shutting down opposition, holding 4 straight opponents under 90 points. New York might try to push the pace a little, but coming off a monster scoring night against Milwaukee in a loss, I think we have some value on the Under.

Heat @ Bulls - Chicago by 2 with a total of 189.5. I know this is kind of cold to say, but I'm not that interested in this game. We've got the hyper-inconsistent Miami Heat, coming off two of their worst defensive efforts all season in back-to-back losses to the Celtics and Cavs, and the weary Bulls, fading after a very strong road trip. So, I ask you all, who cares? Neither team has value, since the Heat have some name recognition (Wade), and the Bulls built some "cred" with those wins on the road. The Bulls are on a back-to-back, and the 4th game in 5 nights, so based on that, and that alone, I lean to the Heat to come into Chicago and get it done. The Heat are 13-12 ATS on the road, so they're not a terrible road bet, and right now, for whatever reason, the Bulls look better on the road. Maybe it's because Chicago has played just 1 home game over the past 3 weeks, and home suddenly just feels like another weird road venue. I think it's going to take the Bulls some time to adjust, and despite looking downright sloppy and confused in Boston and Cleveland, and as much as it pains me to say it, I lean Heat. Miami could very well turn their defense back on for this one, and because of that inconsistency, I can't make a call on the total.

Grizzlies @ Wolves - Memphis by 3.5 on the road with a total of 210. This isn't a very good spot for either team, with Memphis heading back on the road off a horrible home showing against the Rockets last night, and the Wolves coming home off a huge road win, but way the heck down in Dallas. Both teams are traveling a pretty robust distance to play this game, which is, by the way, triple revenge for the surging Wolves! After nearly beating the Grizzlies the last time they played in Minnesota (December), the Wolves got killed when they played in Memphis 3 weeks ago. If you don't think Minnesota's renewed self-confidence isn't going to power them into a solid performance, well, we disagree. I believe the Grizzlies continue to suffer through something of a hangover here, as the huge win over the Lakers has been followed by awful games in Cleveland, then at home against the Rockets, and momentum has a way of carrying over in back-to-back games more than most others. I think Minnesota gets out to another quick start, something they have been doing very well on their current miniature win streak, and I think we see a similar game to the one in Dallas, where the Grizzlies will make a run - every team makes runs when playing the Wolves poor defense, but I think Minnesota is going to get the home energy flowing, and I just love their level of enjoyment right now. You can tell they're having fun, while Memphis looks a little jumpy and the chemistry is just a bit off; my one concern is that the Grizzlies will find a fire within (Zach Randolph was quoted as saying the Rockets treated the Grizzlies "like little girls" last night), but I'm not overly caught up in that. I like the Wolves, and I like the Over, as I see Minnesota continuing to go nuts with the pace.

Pacers @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 6.5 with a total of 204.5. Man oh man, not a huge fan of this one. The Bucks come home off another nice road win, this time over the Knicks, and have to face a Pacers team that has played, well, pretty damn well in their last two games. I hate when two hot teams go head-to-head, especially when both are on back-to-backs, and the last meeting between the teams was 3 months ago. So basically, we are without any sort of key angles to break down. This is going to happen from time to time when we get these 12-game NBA cards, but I just don't have feelings about this game. I believe the spread is slightly inflated due to Milwaukee's strong recent play, so there may be a tiny bit of LINE VALUE on the Pacers, so if you're a volume guy, play Indiana. If you're a normal guy that likes to play 2-3 games per night, maybe think about waiting on another one. The total looks rather low to me, though. Indiana is operating at a breakneck pace, and if Milwaukee continues to score like they have been (that is, a lot against teams with poor defense, and enough to win against teams with mid-tier defense), this game should go Over. I think Milwaukee should break 100, and the Pacers should get into the high 90's, so it'll be close, but I think we get up to around 207.

Sixers @ Rockets - Houston by 5.5 with a total of 194.5. This game features another team, the Rockets, that were at one point this year, one of the few teams that you pretty much knew what you were going to get on a nightly basis. Not anymore. After losing 3 straight on a recent homestand, and covering just 2 of 14 games, the Rockets have rattled off two dominant wins in a row -- a 22-point drubbing of the Warriors at home as a 6.5-point favorite, and then an 18-point road win over the Grizz as 5-point underdogs. Who the hell are these guys? So, now they come home, back to being a medium-sized favorite, and tackling the "warm" Sixers. After losing 3 straight, now Philly has won 3 straight, so they, too, are playing alright. I think the biggest factor here is that we need to remember the Sixers are really no worse on the road than at home; they might even be better. They're 15-10 ATS outside their own building, so getting 5.5 points against a Rockets team that is just 5-9 ATS in non-conference games and 4-8 ATS on back-to-backs might be just enough to get us by. Philly is a strong 7-3 ATS on back-to-backs, not that crazy considering they're a pretty young team with decent strength down low. Philadelphia is also going to be revenging a home loss to the Rockets, a 96-91 loss where Philadelphia shot just 41% from the field. I expect them to play better this time, and we all know how big men give the Rockets all kinds of trouble. Philly has plenty of size, they're a solid rebounding team, and I think they might even win this one outright. I lean Philly, and I lean to a game that slows over the course of the night. I think the total is close to accurate, but a first half over and second half under might be worthwhile.

Nuggets @ Jazz - This line is OFF. This one has a strong angle, doesn't it? Denver coming from the West coast, coming from the late ESPN game with the Lakers, and now, while they're more used to the altitude than any other team in the NBA, this is still a prime fatigue spot, getting in late, and as we've heard the announcers mention a few times, not really getting into the rooms until about 4am. This is actually triple-revenge for the Jazz, so I would expect to see this line look far less enticing for Jazz-backers than usual. Oddsmakers are going to account for the fatigue, and they're going to account for the revenge. Utah put up a nice fight in the last one in Denver, as they managed to push as 7-point underdogs, but for the most part, this has been a series thoroughly dominated by the Nuggets. So, as usual, we have to weigh competing angles, and therein lies the mysterious art of handicapping. The Jazz are on revenge and have the energy edge, but the Nuggets have OWNED Utah this season. As we saw with Boston and Atlanta, sometimes you just get into a situation where two good teams play one another, and one team just understands how to stop the other. So, which way do we go? I am inclined to give the Jazz my lean, but I think this one needs more work once the line is out. I also think we'll get a strong indicator of how oddsmakers expect this one to go when the total comes out - I lean Under, but only if this total opens below 212.

Lakers @ Blazers - This line is OFF. I wanted to get this writeup done before going to sleep, but I needed to see how that Denver-LAL game ended before I could effectively complete the write-up. Or did I? This is the true house of horrors for the Lakers, the Rose Garden. For whatever reason, as well as the Lakers play in most buildings, especially their own, they just can't seem to conquer the Blazers on the road. And this streak is starting to get ugly. Portland beat the Lakers at home earlier this year 107-98, and while Kobe Bryant seems to continue to get into tougher and tougher spots on his injured limbs, Portland is actually expecting Brandon Roy BACK for this huge game, a huge reason why this line is off. You guys want to know what I think? I think we may see the dubious 5.5 here. Lakers on a back-to-back in their personal valley of shadows, Portland feeling good off that comeback win over the San Antonio Spurs on TNT. The big stat that jumps out in these games? Not FG%, not tempo, not (typically) rebounding; it's FREE THROWS. The home team in this series has had a monster advantage at the line in just about every recent game. Going back through them, in Portland earlier this year the Blazers shot 32/39 to the Lakers 5/10; in April last year in Portland, the Blazers shot 17 more free throws; in March last year, Portland outshot LA by 12 free throws. LA outshot Portland when the games were played in Southern California, but there is a certain level of aggression that comes with playing the Lakers, especially at home, and I like Portland in this game even without seeing the line. These games tend to go Over, probably in part because of all the clock stoppages and free throws, and with the Lakers potentially fatigued and banged up, Portland should put up some numbers.

Spurs @ Clippers - San Antonio by 3 with a total of 193.5. I like some the angles in this one, too. Another reason to try to find the joy in this weekend's games, even though things didn't go perfectly last night. These are the types of match-ups, in my opinion, that make capping these huge cards a ton of fun. Sure, you've got games mixed in that couldn't light a fire with a stick of dynamite, but then you run into a weird game like this one. The Spurs, part-way through their rodeo road trip, and taking on a Clippers team coming home off a terribly long, and mostly disappointing road trip. This is double-revenge for the Clippers, but one thing we need to remember about double-revenge is that it means the team in question already FAILED in the first try at revenge. The Spurs beat the pants off LA at Staples Center on December 13th, then came back 8 days later and killed 'em again, but in San Antonio. It just seems like the Clippers can't really guard the Spurs, and even though the Clips were embarrassed on their home court by this team, the Clips are just 2-10 ATS against the Southwest Conference, and not that impressive in revenge spots. Also, as noted above, the Clippers haven't played at home since January 20th, so it has definitely been a while, over 2 weeks. This is a severe letdown spot for the Clips, and coming off the meltdown at the Rose Garden on TNT, I lean Spurs to come out and take advantage of a soft Clippers effort. I have no feelings on the total yet, but when it comes out, we can analyze it against the previous games. Both of these teams have been playing poorly on the defensive end lately, but will the Clippers have the focus to get some good shots on offense under their new coach and in this sluggish spot?

Thunder @ Warriors - Oklahoma City by 4 with a total of 214.5. Another rematch of a recent game, and again on the other team's court. The Warriors have actually lost twice in Oklahoma City this year, so this is an interesting spot for them to try to show that playing in Oakland isn't the same as everywhere else. That being said, the Warriors have lost 7 straight games, and while they have covered the spread in 3 of those 7 games (including a half-point cover in Oklahoma City, losing by 8), it can be a pretty dangerous proposition to bank on a terrible team like the Warriors to keep things relatively close. The Warriors come home after losing all 3 games on their concluded road trip, though they did cover 2 of them, so I have to believe they are a team, while playing some ugly games, that actually is getting some line value, courtesy of their losing streak. The Thunder, meanwhile, have been covering the other way, by winning games as a small favorite, and clearing that spread. I think the one thing that does favor the Warriors here, besides the revenge, is that Oklahoma has not been playing much defense lately. They have allowed roughly 101 points over their last 3 games, and while they've been able to cover because of their superior offense (see: Kevin Durant), I think the Warriors keep this one within reach. I'm curious about the spread, though, since it's a little higher than I expected, which would then make this game a potential no-play. I thought this total would be a point or two higher, but perhaps this is more accurate. TINY leans to the Warriors and Under.

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