Thursday, February 04, 2010

Let's Sweep the Weekend Again!

No plays yesterday, so no real recap necessary. I could go into a long-winded monologue about how I epitomize integrity because I didn't force a play, but the bottom line is that I just felt like that books yesterday released lines that were damn close to the true handicapping numbers. The first game's total was within 2 points - that's way too close to call, and while I did have a lean to the Cavs, the Heat's revenge factor was enough to keep me off the game. The Cavs won, and covered, but as our good buddy RJ Bell often notes, "Avoiding a losing bet is more important than getting on a winner."

Words to live by!

Sports Wagering

Wizards @ Magic - This line is OFF. Caron Butler is questionable for this one, and the Magic are on revenge. Yeah, you read that correctly. The Wizards caught the Magic in a weird lull when these teams met in Washington, and won that one outright as a 7.5-point home dog. Now, the Wizards have to head into Orlando to tackle a team playing with a renewed vigor. The Magic have won 7 of 8 games straight up, the only loss in that stretch a very reasonable defeat in Memphis at the hands of the upstart Grizzlies. The ATS numbers aren't quite as impressive, though still decent, at 4-3-1 over that same 8-game stretch. The issue is, as it always seems to be with these premium, marquee teams, can the Magic cover what's sure to be a monster spread? I have to believe this is going to feature a spread in the double-digits, potentially right around the 9-11 window. My initial inclination is to think the Magic are going to want to bounce back and deliver a beating to the Wizards, but I believe the psychology of this game is more complex than that. The Magic, no matter how many times the Wizards catch them napping, are never going to take Washington seriously. Revenge is not really an issue. In fact, I think the win does more for the Washington side, giving them the confidence that they can compete with the Magic, if indeed they can force Orlando into a subpar performance. I think this spread is going to be fair, and I don't like the side. Both of these teams have been posting "unders" lately, so I have to lean in that direction, though the great concern is whether Orlando is going to put up 110 on Washington. I don't think they will - maybe 105, but let's see about the total before making any stronger calls.

Pistons @ Pacers - Indiana by 4 with a total of 199. Revenge spot for the Pistons, but can we trust this team to do anything right? Detroit lost by 12 to the Pacers in Motown about 2 weeks ago (as a 3.5-point favorite), so my assumption is that they will not take kindly to that beatdown. However, what have the Pistons showed us lately to make us think they're prepared to bounce back? They snapped a 5-game losing streak with a comeback win (and cover) against the New Jersey Nets, but that's it. They haven't been scoring, and they've been slow to work all the formerly injured bodies back into the rotation. Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, Rip Hamilton, Will Bynum, Charlie Villanueva and a few others have all missed significant time, and Rip is finally starting to get back to his normal self, but the other guys are still far from full strength, and it makes this team a very dangerous play. The Pacers got a nice home win over a Toronto team that just never showed up in their last game, but they're just 11-13 SU at home, so this is by no means a gimme for Indiana, either. This is really a battle of the mediocre, sort of a round-two for Detroit off that game with the Nets. I don't see either team as the huge value, which makes it tough to have a strong lean. I think the revenge angle supports Detroit to keep it close for part of the game, but I just don't think they can maintain on the road for the full contest. No lean on the side. The posted total of 199 is basically spot on the actual total of the last game (198),t so oddsmakers think one should go similarly, and I'm inclined to agree. I DO think Detroit shoots better in this one than the 41% they posted in the last meeting, since the Pacers don't really play defense. This could clear 200 by a point or two - slightest lean to the Over.

Nets @ Celtics - Boston by 13 with a total of 188.5. I hate everything about this side. I hate laying 13 points, and I hate backing the Nets, other than the time we won with 'em, of course. New Jersey is coming off a narrow cover in Toronto, just barely slipping within the spread, losing by 9. Now, they head from Canada to Boston, and get a couple more points to work with. I think we're in one of those spots where if New Jersey's opponent was in any kind of letdown spot, it would be a great time to consider the Nets, but I actually think the Celtics are in a "spot of great comfort", playing the second consecutive game at home, rarely a time I like to go against a team. Yes, it's a ton of points to lay, and yes, the LINE value is all with the Nets, who continue to get all kinds of points to work with (and have covered 4 of their last 5 games), but Boston has been scoring much easier the last couple games, and I'm hesitant to think that the Nets dismal defense will do anything about it. Boston has been having trouble guarding guys on the dribble-drive, but who do the Nets have that can really cause trouble in a pick-and-roll? Devin Harris is doubtful, and even if he plays, he won't have the quickness necessary. Brook Lopez is the Nets key to success, and he's liable to get pushed around by Kendrick Perkins, KG and Rasheed Wallace, all very strong interior defenders. I know this is nuts, but if I had to make a lean, I'd lean to publictown, the Celtics. The total, I feel is pretty accurate, as I see Boston winning this one big, potentially in the 105-85 neighborhood.

Bucks @ Knicks - New York by 3 with a total of 200.5. This actually shapes up as a pretty interesting game. The Bucks had an 8-game ATS win-streak snapped while getting blown out in Orlando (again) in their last game, and now turn and head back up to MSG to do battle with the Knicks. The Bucks crushed New York way back in November, but these teams were pretty different then, in terms of style of play and level of success. I truly believe that the Bucks were just caught in a bad spot in that loss to the Magic, playing on the second night of a back-to-back after sweeping a home-and-home from the struggling Heat. Yes, New York is on revenge, but it was a road loss, so I think the general enjoyment of playing at home will only get a minor boost because that game was so long ago. New York is coming off a win (and cover) over the Wizards at home, so they do have a little positive momentum, but prior to that game this team had been struggling mightily, winning just 1 of the previous 6 games (and going the very same 1-5 ATS in that same stretch). I think the two important questions in this game are (1) will the Bucks continue their solid play or suffer a couple-game letdown off the drubbing in Orlando? and (2) will the Knicks put together a decent stretch of basketball, or was that win over the Knicks an anomaly? Those questions are very hit-or-miss. I think the Bucks AND Knicks play well in this one, which makes me think the side is a crapshoot. I like that both of these teams are trying to win with defense and execution, and I don't believe either club wants to get into a track meet. And no, it does not concern me that the previous meeting went under, and the oddsmakers have the line a bit higher - that game was far too long ago to have much impact on this one. I like the Under.

Bulls @ Hawks - Atlanta by 7 with a total of 197. I want to come right out of the chute by saying that for as fun a game as this one might be to watch, there are almost zero interesting angles to pursue on the sides. Other than the fact that, in general, Atlanta is a pretty solid home ATS wager, everything else rolls out pretty evenly. These teams have played twice this year, with each team winning (and covering) the home game. Those games occurred in December, so they're not that fresh in anyone's mind, and I would argue that the Bulls are playing the better basketball since then. Chicago did lay an absolute egg the first time they played in Atlanta, firing just 36% from the field while getting routed by 35, but they got their revenge, so it's pretty strongly a tabula rasa situation, here. Blank slate. The Bulls are hosting Miami tomorrow in Chicago, not a game I would call a look-ahead spot. The Hawks are playing in Washington tomorrow, not a look-ahead either. Neither team is in a long homestand, or coming off a road trip. Neither team is on any kind of interesting streak. I have no lean on this side. I also feel the total is set pretty tight, based on the two previous games kind of working their way closer to this number. If anything, I'd say we have a tiny bit of value on the Under, but not enough for me to consider it a lean. Chicago likes to play a slower game than Atlanta, so it's about which team can create the tempo they desire. I think the tempo clash will result in a total right around 200, which we're seeing in the line.

Rockets @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 5 with a total of 204. This game presents itself as the old "trap or game of the year" conundrum. The Grizzlies are on revenge, amazingly, from way earlier this season. And in most cases I would dismiss a game in November as ancient history, but the Grizzlies have turned their season around since that date, so I believe they're going to want to prove to the Rockets that they are now the superior team. Houston beat Memphis by 25 in Houston earlier this year, and my hope is that SOME bettors out there will see that lopsided win and assume that the Rockets should be able to roll into Memphis and get another win. I really don't believe that's the case. The Grizzlies won a huge game over the Lakers at home, suffered a letdown in Cleveland while getting creamed by the Cavs, and now they took 2 days off to regroup before getting to face the Rockets at home. I believe the Grizzlies are more than 2 points better than Houston on a neutral court. Really, what has Houston done lately to make them a compelling wager? They beat the Warriors and undermanned Blazers on their 6-game homestand, and they've never been very impressive on the road. They did get a win in San Antonio in a revenge game a couple weeks back, but when the strong motivational angles aren't there, the Rockets have been a much better home team. Maybe the new month will help Houston get things on track, but 2010 has not been kind to them so far. I lean strongly to the Grizzlies, and I like the Over, but that's assuming Houston can actually do their part to score a few points.

Sixers @ Hornets - New Orleans by 3 with a total of 195.5. Another revenge game, and another game with a line on it. I could get used to this! This game is basically set where we should expect. When these two teams met a couple weeks back in Philadelphia, the Hornets had their leader, Chris Paul, and were underdogs of 2-points playing on the second night of a back-to-back. So, assuming we do an 8-point flip, that would make the Hornets a 6-point home favorite. Drop Chris Paul, and voila! We arrive at 3. So, what's to make us think that we won't see an 8-point switch in the outcome of the game? Not much, really, other than the fact that the Sixers are actually better on the road than at home. Still, if you take the outcome and give it an 8-point flip, the Hornets should cover by a narrow margin, and I really did like the fight New Orleans showed in a tough loss at home to the Thunder. I think the Hornets are going to play very, very hard in this game, as I strongly believe they are aware this is a winnable game, and if they want to have any shot at playoffs, they need to try to tread water with Paul out. So, which is more important, the Sixers 14-10 road ATS mark, or the Hornets desire for revenge and desperate need for a win? I'm inclined to think the Hornets get it done. I know they don't cover at home, but without Chris Paul, I think the sense that they have one of the best players in the League that can just "flip a switch" and get them a close win is gone. Call me nuts, but I kind of like the Over, too, as I feel like the Hornets know they need to really push the ball and create open shots in transition, once again dealing with the lack of Paul.

Wolves @ Mavericks - Dallas by 11 with a total of 206. Uh oh, Dallas as a huge home favorite, again. Do we really need to get into all the details? I'll just start off by saying that something is going to really need to make me let go of the road dog in these games if I'm going to change my initial lean. I mean, come on. Dallas is 5-18 ATS at home, yet the public is going to love them just the same because, hell, they have Dirk Nowitzki! Minnesota is a clunker-team; nobody wants to play them, and for good reason. They stink. But we don't care about win or loss, we care about whether they can keep the game within reach. And given the fact that Minnesota shot 32.6% at home earlier this year in an ugly 89-77 loss to the Mavs, I think they'll come out ready to play. Numbers would dictate that the Mavs should win this home game by even more than those 12 points they laid on the Wolves up in Minnesota, but it just hasn't worked that way for Dallas this year. In fact, each of the last 3 times these teams have met in Dallas, the Mavs have won the game and lost ATS, and that was when Dallas was a strong home team. This year, they just seem two steps slow on defense, allowing over 100 points in, now, 5 straight games, all ATS losses. The Wolves have actually covered 2 straight games, both SU wins, as well, so they're playing with confidence, and I believe they will look at footage of their game with Dallas from November. That was an ugly performance, and this time around, the Wolves have had a rare 4-day break from basketball to get their legs back, get healthy, and get ready. I think they'll start slowly because of some sluggishness, so Dallas might surge ahead, but I think over the course of the game, the Wolves will start to gain strength while the Mavs start to tire a little. With Dirk Nowitzki playing through a sore thumb, the Mavs are going to need to get a lot of help and play some defense, and I just don't see all that happening. I like Minny on the side, and I simply have to look at the Over, since the Wolves like an up-tempo game, and Dallas is staunchly opposed to playing defense.

Suns @ Kings - Phoenix by 3 with a total of 220.5. Double-revenge? I'll take a plate with a side of What the Hell. Yeah, I'm getting cornball, but it's late, and I'm on game 9 of 10 here. Writing this much every day can really put a strain on the brain's ability to pump out clever phrasings and somewhat amusing grammatical mish-mosh. In any case, this is the ultimate case of hot streak vs. letdown for Phoenix. The other angles in this game don't really matter as much, in my opinion. I think the line has taken into account the Kings' desire to snatch a home win from the Suns after losing to them twice already, this year; I also think the line has taken into account the fact that Sacramento heads off on the road after this one, and wants to get a win at home before a trying road trip through Toronto, New York, and Detroit (the Niagara Falls loop, so to speak). What I don't believe the line has accounted for is the potential for a Phoenix soft game. The Suns have won and covered 4 straight after playing some hideous basketball in most of January. Maybe more important is the fact that Phoenix looked uninspired, maybe even playing a little concerned and hesitant. But Alvin Gentry has started to give his young, energetic centers (Lopez, Amundson) a little more playing time, and they've responded with layups and dunks, and more importantly, a little help-D. Why am I prattling on and on about the Suns? Well, it's important to note how white-hot they are right now, and why, coming off getting some revenge over the Nuggets in a huge ESPN game, they might be ripe for a letdown. The Suns don't play again until the 10th, so there may be a few folks ready to get home and chill. I lean Kings, and I lean Under, for the same reasons.

Nuggets @ Lakers - This line is OFF. Kobe Bryant is questionable. Finally a "good" reason for a game to wait on posting a line. And Melo might miss this one, too. It's the star-less marquee game of the night! I really wish Kobe would play, because the Lakers are on colossal revenge here, and the Nuggets have shown something of a lack of skill on the road. At just 9-13 ATS away from the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets are a great road fade, mostly because they're usually going to carry a premium as one of the League's elite teams, and for whatever reason, they tend to play down to their opponents on the road. Interestingly, though, the Nuggets are 12-11 ATS when playing a team with a winning record, so they tend to play just fine when they have to step it up. The Lakers, on the other hand, are just 8-14 ATS against teams over .500. Does this mean the Lakers revenge factor is enough to earn them a cover, or just the SU win? I'll be curious to see where this line comes out, and obviously the Kobe/Melo injuries are going to play a crucial role. I actually believe the best bet here is no bet. The Lakers are in a decent spot in their second game home off the long trip, but they play in Portland tomorrow in a letdown spot off this big fish. The Nuggets play in Utah tomorrow in a horrible altitude spot (though they're more used to it than just about any other team). I think the Lakers win this game straight up, with or without Kobe, but unless BOTH superstars play, I am inclined to take a pass on this side. If the stars play, I lean Lakers. I like the Under no matter who plays. The total is going to be wildly inflated because of the teams involved, but we talked at great length less than a week ago about how the Lakers play SLOW games with the best teams in the League. They are 10-14 O/U against teams with a winning record, and play even more strongly to the Under against the highest-profile of those winning teams.

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