Monday, February 15, 2010

Feelin' Lucky

As many of you saw in yesterday's Podcast thread, and many more saw in yesterday's brief blog post, your buddy Dan Bebe spent this most recent Sunday getting engaged to his special lady. This is important for 3 key reasons.

One: I have to believe that any luck floating around is going to come drifting my direction. The gambling gods wouldn't be so cruel as to deliver heartwrenching blows to the newly engaged, would they?

Two: All Star weekend (which sucked, unfortunately), combined with the 24-hour break from the podcast has really recharged my batteries. A happy Dan is a better handicapper.

Three: I feel so great right now, that I think I'm going to be even LESS inclined to force anything. This point is extra important, as these first few days back from the All Star break are always completely screwball, and we want to place our bets with judicious accuracy and conservative, methodically executed precision.

Let's do a blog!

Sports Wagering

Nets @ Bobcats - Charlotte by 11.5 with a total of 186. Games with lines this high are games where I'll likely be avoiding the side coming out of the Break. Will the Bobcats be in perfect sync and blow the Nets out by 35, or will both teams go on their own special little clankfests and the Nets will lose by just 6-7 in a low-scoring game? I'm inclined to believe that almost no teams, especially ones that rely on streaky scorers like Stephen Jackson and All Star disappointments like Gerald Wallace, are going to be able to come bursting out of the gates on the other side of the Break. Do we really think the Bobcats, who have been barely squeezing by heading into the Break are going to turn it around without a few minutes of game action to get their bearings? My concern with this side is that it is awfully high, even for a Nets game. Jersey was only getting 12.5 points in Boston, so this is a pretty strong signal that either oddsmakers feel the Nets are going to really lay down for the stretch or that oddsmakers feel they can charge a premium on a team, Charlotte, that needs to win down the stretch to ensure a playoff berth. I can't imagine that, at this line, there's any value left on the home team, and as much as it pains me (and you) to say it, I lean Nets. I think the obvious choice is the under, but I worry that oddsmakers have already accounted for the rust coming out of the Break. Even without the line value, I still believe the Under is the way to go, and that is going to be a running theme today, especially if we can find a game where the public is going to take the over and give us some added value.

Heat @ Sixers - Philly by 2 with a total of 189. This is a troublesome one. We have the Sixers, who have, for some reason, owned the Heat, but have been an awful ATS wager at home this year, and the Heat, who went into the All Star Break winning (and covering, in blowout fashion) two in a row, and then watching their Superstar put on the show of the day in Sunday's All Star Game. In terms of angles from this season, there aren't many. These teams have yet to play this year, so they'll be seeing an awful lot of each other from this point forward, and those games are going to count. The Heat are right on the bubble in the East, and the Sixers need to make a charge, or rather continue the charge they started before the Break, if they have a shot of making any noise down the stretch. So, my best advice here is to lay off the side in this game, and again, you were warned, this is a DANGEROUS day to make bets on the NBA, especially on sides. The safer plays today are on totals, and once again I like the Under. Philly was pushing the tempo heading into the Break, but came up with a lackluster effort in their final game in Toronto. Miami has really gone into full lockdown mode on defense in their last two wins, and for reasons somewhat unknown, games in this series have been strongly trending to the Under. Over the last 15 years, this Heat/Sixers series has gone 15-30 O/U at both locations.

Wolves @ Pistons - Detroit by 5.5 with a total of 198. This is a more interesting game, in my opinion, than the two teams involved might let on. Well, maybe not this game in particular, but these are two teams I'm going to be watching very closely over the next few weeks. The Pistons are an awful 18-33 on the season, a monster disappointment for a team that signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in the offseason expecting to shore up some of their offensive issues. This was a team where I very nearly suggested the "Under" futures bet on total wins, but decided it was somehow bad karma to wish ill upon my new "home" team here in Michigan. In any case, Detroit is such a colossal letdown of a squad this year, that I think we'll find out in the next week or two if this team is going to try to salvage some pride down the stretch or pack it in and shoot for some top-pick lottery action. From the looks of things, they've been so riddled by injury and have such a messy crop of shooting guards and wingmen (but nothing else), that I just see no reason for Detroit to not only risk the health of their investments, but why make a mad dash just to see if they can be the best of the worst? On the other side, the Wolves know they're going to get a perfectly delightful draft pick, and at 13-40, they have no prayer of making the playoffs in the West, and it seems like within the last 1-2 weeks the triangle offense is starting to make a little sense to these guys. Considering the terrible SU record the Wolves are 28-25 ATS, so they have outperformed the line quite a few times this year, and I believe they'll be a decent value the rest of the season, at least until the final week or two. I like Minnesota a little bit here, but I find defense tends to win games coming out of a long Break, since jump-shots usually aren't quite there yet. Thus, I have no real feelings on the side or the total, but remember, keep an eye on these teams, as I think we'll see some true colors shine through in the next short bit.

Mavericks @ Thunder - Oklahoma by 3.5 with a total of 195. How about this number, eh guys? The Thunder are now officially in a dead heat with the Mavs in the power rankings, possibly even favored by a half-point, depending on what sort of home court edge they're being given here. Still, this ridiculously enticing line of Mavs getting 3.5 points feels like it might still lure the average bettor over to the side of the team with the floundering defense. I mean, just take a peek at how the previous meetings have gone this season. The Mavs beat the Thunder by 14 in Oklahoma back in mid-December as 2 point favorites, then eked out a 1-point home win as 5-point favorites in January. And now, here in mid-February, the power rankings have shifted 5.5 points since that fateful meeting in December, and even though the Mavs have won both games straight up (1-1 ATS), the line has moved strongly the other direction, and that, ladies and gents, is because the Thunder have been the better team. Oklahoma nearly beat the Mavs in their last meeting, and I believe this young, surging team is going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder. It also doesn't hurt that they've won 6 straight games and covered 5 of those 6. I have had a tendency at times to give the public too much credit by thinking they've caught on to situations sooner than they have, so let's wait and see which side they like. I actually tend to believe this line is pretty solid to get 50/50 action. Still, given the angles and the Mavs stretch of defensive futility, I can't help but think Durant is going to rip Dallas a new one. Oh, and the Mavs have new bodies to work into the rotation. It is not easy to add a bunch of new pieces and just expect everyone to gel right off the bat. I expect this game to be a Thunder 5 point win with the total staying Under by about 2 buckets.

Suns @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 1 with a total of 220.5. I absolutely loathe this side. Flat out. There is almost no value here. The Suns remain a hugely public team, especially so considering they won and covered 5 in a row before dropping their final game before the Break to a Portland team that put on the jumpshooting clinic of the season. So, clearly, no value there. Memphis would have been a wonderful value here if it was 2 weeks ago, but after the confetti blowing, balloon-dropping, shirt-removing win over the Lakers on February 1, the Grizz have dropped 4 straight games, by 16, 18, 7 and 14, respectively, and that 7-point loss was to the Wolves. In addition, the Grizzlies have crushed the Suns in 2 straight meetings this year, after losing the first. So, Phoenix is on something of a revenge spot, but might be distracted by trade talks. The Grizzlies are slumping, but are a bubble team in the West, and we have no idea if these guys are going to be the type of team that cranks it up when the pressure's on or folds, and then, on top of all that, Nash, Amare and Zebo are coming from the All Star game, and a couple of the younger guys were in the Rookie challenge back on Friday. This one screams no-play. On the side. But wait, what's this? After meetings this year that ended with totals of 137, 131, and 143, the total on this game is actually 5 points less than the last game? In an homage to our good pal Razorbackfan, this one smells a bit. I lean Under. Somebody is going to half-ass this game, and All Star hangover is going to make half of this game look like it's being played in molasses.

Knicks @ Bulls - This line is OFF. Oh come on, oddsmakers, a game without a line coming out of the All Star Break? You had 4 days to figure out who was and was not hurt. Oh well, let's see what we have to work with. So far this year, this series has been about as consistent as we could hope. These teams are gearing up for a home-and-home today and tomorrow, so we'll almost definitely have a play on the rematch then, but we might be able to milk this home-and-home both days, if we play our cards right. In the first meeting, in Chicago, the Bulls won by 9, an easy cover on the -2.5 spread they were laying, and the game went under the posted mark by about 15. Five days later, they met again in New York, and the Knicks, laying 6, covered by a nose, with a game that once again went way under. In both of these games, both teams shot the ball terribly -- the Knicks shot 36 and 40% in the two games, and the Bulls managed a robust 45 and 40.5% themselves. The Knicks have been struggling mightily after a nice December, and seem to be fluctuating between 3 or 4 games where they try to win with offense, and fail, then 3 or 4 games where they try to win with defense, and fail again. Bottom line is that this team had installed a nice gimmicky offense under D'Antoni, but they just don't have the talent to compete on a nightly basis. David Lee is a stud, but the rest of this team epitomizes inconsistent, and that makes them tough to trust. I would tend to think Chicago gets the job done at home, but I definitely want to see if Noah and Rose are both going to be active for this one. On the total, I would expect to see the lowest posted mark of any of the meetings between these teams this year, but not knowing which iteration of the Knicks comes out of the All Star Break makes me want to look this one over again after the number comes out before making any choices. I'm thinking pass on the total.

Jazz @ Rockets - Utah by 2.5 with a total of 202.5. I've lost faith in Houston. I just think this team was an overachiever from the outset, and teams without a superstar tend to fade as the role-players tire from giving max effort all season long. But wait, they had 4 days off, so how will these guys respond? Both teams are coming off embarrassing losses heading into the All Star Break, with the Jazz getting slammed on their home court by the Kobe-less Lakers, 96-81, the first time Utah had failed to break 100 since the 14th of January; the Rockets lost by 33 on the road in Miami in a trademark mail-in effort, 99-66. At least the score looks kind of seductive when you type it, because otherwise, Houston left a lot to be desired in that one. I think the initial thought here is that Utah is an easy winner, but we saw how poorly they played going into the All Star Break. I just feel like there is such great unpredictability in these games that you want to be absolutely certain before backing a small road favorite. These teams haven't played each other since November 2, when Houston pounded Utah in Salt Lake City, but I find it hard to believe Utah is playing this one like a revenge game. So much has happened since then, the least of which being that Utah is playing basketball like beasts and the Rockets are, well, stinking. I think you obviously have to at least LOOK at the Jazz on the side, but do be careful, since you guys know how I hate going against teams off a huge loss. The Rockets are getting bonus value thanks to that blowout loss in Miami, and I doubt they'll take kindly to it. Also, this Rockets team got a lot of rest over the break (see: We don't have any All Stars), so they'll be practiced up and ready. I think the best bet in this game is the Over, but I fear we may see one quarter where neither team can make a jump-shot. Play with caution.

Clippers @ Blazers - Portland by 6 with a total of 193. The Clippers are a team I cannot trust on the road, which, despite whatever angles we might have on them, makes this game extremely difficult to bet. Here's why: the Clippers have actually been a match-up nightmare for Portland this season. It might be because of Portland's injury issues, but the Clippers have some length in the middle, and Portland, without Oden and Przybilla, just hasn't really had an answer for the likes of Chris Kaman in the post, and getting the ball past Camby on the other end. Also, more bad news for the Blazers, they are still likely without Brandon Roy, who seems to need even more time than the All Star Break to get healthy. The Roy situation really feels like a spot where a superstar felt like his team needed him to go full tilt for so long that he just finally broke down, and Roy has needed extra time to heal because of it. Bottom line, the Blazers shouldn't really be laying 6 points to almost anyone when they're playing without Roy, especially a team that, while clearly an awful road bet (at 7-20 SU and 12-15 ATS), has actually gone a perfect 2-0 ATS against Portland this year. The total has a tiny bit of value, I believe. The Clippers are coming off a game in Golden State that saw 234 combined points, and saw the Clippers get blown the hell out by 30. This team is supposedly "opening it up" under their new Head Coach, but I haven't really seen that in action just yet, and until the Clippers show any kind of consistent attack, I'm not buying into these two straight overs. I like the Clips just a tiny bit, courtesy of the 30-point blowout theory, and I like the Under, because, well, the Clippers can't score on the road.

Celtics @ Kings - Boston by 6 with a total of 199. You just have to like the Kings in this spot. It's not often you get a team that has, somewhat sneakily, covered 2 straight games, had their Rookie take home an MVP award at the All Star games (fine, it was just in the Rookie-Soph game, but still), and then get 6 points at home to an old, crusty road club traveling cross-country with a date with the Lakers coming up on Thursday. Yeah, I covered pretty much every angle in one sentence there, but I suppose each is worth elaborating on, if only for a bit. First, the Kings' recent minor bouts of success. They won 2 of 3 games straight up on a road trip through Toronto, New York and Detroit. It wasn't exactly the stiffest of competition, but they actually led in Toronto as well, before melting down in the 4th quarter. I'm starting to get the sensation the Kings might make a little push, and we might very well have seen them bottom out after that 31-point road loss to the Heat back on January 23rd. If we ignore the classic "first-game-home" clunker that immediately followed that awful road loss, the Kings have gone just 2-6 SU, but 5-3 ATS, and I think we can all start to see the line value for this team as they try to turn the corner. These teams haven't played yet this year, so we'll get a rematch in Beantown at some point soon, but with the Celtics having been an ATS nightmare of late (2-10-1 run), they should not be laying 6 points on the road. This number might look like a bargain to the average bettor, but you can bet your ass Boston is gearing up for a rematch with the Lakers on TNT Thursday after losing a heartbreaker to LA at home. Lean to Sactown. The total isn't my favorite. Boston has been playing bad defense and worse offense, and coming up with unders - Sacramento has been playing bad offense and worse defense, and coming up with overs. Tough call, but I lean Under coming out of the Break.

Warriors @ Lakers - This line is OFF. And with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette all questionable, I will allow it. Still, if the previous game is a look-ahead spot for Boston, this one certainly must be a look-ahead spot for the Lakers, right? I would say most likely, especially given the relative disgust the betting world has for the undermanned Warriors right now, but at the same time the Lakers took care of the Sixers on their recent road trip right before the game in Boston, and didn't seem to look ahead there. I would argue, though, that while on the road, the Lakers weren't taking any games for granted. They hadn't been a strong road team, so opportunities to prove themselves, even against the likes of the Pacers and Sixers were still chances for Kobe to rally his troops and start getting them a little more battle-tested as we get into the final third of the NBA season. Now, at home, coming out of the All Star Break, I can't help but think the Warriors are going to really try to give the Lakers a nice run for their money. I expect this line to be pretty hefty, and I realize that it's tough to make a solid call on this game without knowing who is going to play, but I feel like the best value here is to play the Under. If bodies return for the Lakers, it could disrupt the chemistry when Kobe takes 25 shots out of the offensive rhythm, and the Lakers know their best chance of burying the Warriors is to crush them with superior size. Slow the game down, get easy buckets in the paint, and never let the Warriors get a clean look or an offensive rebound. Tiny lean to Warriors, slightly larger lean to Under.

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