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.


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