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.

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