Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NBA, How I Missed You

I'm developing a man-crush on Russell Westbrook.

I'm developing a man-crush on Jeff Green.

I'm developing a man-crush on Kevin Durant.

Come to think of it, I think I'm developing a team-crush on the Thunder. They are a fun team to watch, executing on offense, and really giving guys fits on defense. It's funny -- going into the season, you could look at their roster and see the potential. The Thunder simply have so many wing players capable of playing great defense, and switching on pick-and-rolls, that they appeared to be gearing up to create nightmares. Now we're seeing it.

That Paid Play Winner gives us a nice little 2-day streak, as the Game of the Week on Cleveland last Thursday cashed for 2-units. Long streaks have to start somewhere, and I have a ton of confidence that this week is going to be a BIG one.

Our Free Play also cashed on Sacramento, as the Kings missed some key free throws that might have netted them an underdog win, but still did enough to get the cover. I would have liked to see the Celtics lose this one, since the Kings really did play harder, but when it comes right down to it, I'll gladly take the cover!

The 2-0 mini-sweep makes us a solid 15-10 over our last 25 plays, and 27-18 over our last 45. I am very proud of that sort of consistency, so let's keep it going right now!

Sports Wagering

Grizzlies @ Raptors - Toronto by 7 with a total of 215. I have to admit, I was really hoping the Grizzlies would win their last game, and going against Memphis would be a tremendous value, but instead they lost and looked terrible doing it. Now, on the second half of a back-to-back (a situation where Memphis is 1-11 SU and 4-8 ATS, 8-4 O/U), the Grizzlies are in a very tough spot. This game PROBABLY would have been a play on Toronto if Memphis was coming off a win, and consequently, giving away a little line value, but right now, with the Grizz playing their worst basketball since the opening weeks of the season, the question is whether or not the public has caught on yet. That question will, thankfully, be answered by the bet percentages. These are two teams I'd call "upstart" squads -- teams that started the year very poorly, turned up the heat in the middle of the year and burst forth, but the difference between the two is that the Grizzlies have slowed markedly, almost playing like they don't like one another any more. The offense has been disjointed, and as a result, the defense has suffered. They've lost 5 in a row since beating the Lakers in a crazy game at home, and I'm just not sure what's going to wake this team up! Toronto, meanwhile, has gone 8-1 SU in their last 9, and 6-3 ATS in that same stretch, so they're still playing good ball. My strong lean on Toronto is closer to a weak lean, courtesy of the decreased line value, but it's still a lean. I also like the Over, since I think Memphis's defense gets even worse in this back-to-back.

Timberwolves @ Wizards - Washington by 4 with a total of 203.5. This is a screwy spot, as Minnesota is coming off getting absolutely CRUSHED in Detroit last night by a Pistons team, that, I'll be honest, surprised me with a strong effort. I'm glad I didn't make a play on that game, and that type of weird result was exactly why I NEVER had a lean on the Minny/Detroit contest. So now, off the horrible display on Motown, the Wolves get to play the Wizards, who will be featuring some fresh bodies. I simply can't imagine the Wizards playing a strong game with Josh Howard and Drew Gooden getting worked into the system, and now lacking their best presence down low, Brendan Haywood, and their only decent small forward type, Caron Butler. This game, overall, just feels straight up ugly to me, though it looks like this line is strangely low given the circumstance. The Wolves are finishing up a back-to-back, a situation in which they're 7-7 ATS this year, so we can't determine much from that, though further inspection shows that Minny is a dismal 2-7 ATS when that second game occurs on the road. In my opinion, there are too many competing angles in this game that just look awful to me. If I was forced to make a call, I would lean to the road dog getting some points, just because they're going to be warmed up already, and the Wizards are still going to be shaking off some rust. Still, the Wizards have "revenge", sort of, so we should be careful here. The better bet might be the Under, if indeed the Wolves continue to play like buffoons. I can't imagine the Wizards coming out and shooting the lights out, and even though we know Minnesota likes to push the ball, they looked confused and out of sorts last night in Detroit.

Spurs @ Pacers - This line is OFF. Interestingly, neither of these teams played last night, so they're both still, to use a craps expression, "coming out." The Spurs, the old goats of the NBA, should be nice a rested, and I would imagine, feeling decent about themselves, as they put together a strong effort in Denver just before the Break. The Pacers are coming off two losses heading into the All Star Break, including a meltdown at home against the Bulls in their final game before taking, now, 8 days off. There is going to be some colossal rust in this game. It is technically a revenge game for the Pacers, and I generally fear backing teams on the road coming out of the All Star Break, so someone is really going to need to sell me on the Spurs if they expect me to back San Antonio. Without looking like a cop out, this is a game where, especially without a line to work with, I don't have any particularly strong feelings on the side. Neither team is going to be highly motivated to play -- there isn't any bad blood, and while the line value is probably on the side of the Pacers, the Spurs have been in this spot many, many times before, coming out of a break, and they might very well have a fine game. I would avoid the side in this one. I have to look at the Under once again on the total, since I'm not buying the fact that these teams are going to come out shooting the ball well. Hell, the Spurs went into the Break on a streak of 4 straight unders, so why should that change when they're cold as ice and haven't really aired it out in a week?

Pistons @ Magic - Orlando by 12 with a total of 190. I actually like Detroit here, and I'll tell you all why. First, the Magic haven't played in ages, and went into the Break on a loss to the Cavs. Orlando hosts Dallas and Cleveland on this 3-game homestand, and I find it hard to believe they come out of the gates excited to play the Pistons, a team that, for whatever reason, just doesn't fear the Magic. Detroit showed a nice defensive tenacity coming out of the Break with a beating of the Timberwolves last night, but playing against a marquee club like Orlando, they still won't get any respect. This is an interesting stretch for Detroit, where we'll see how much pride they're actually going to play with (or for), but if game one post-Break is any indication, they just looked happy to finally be healthy and learning how to play with one another. Will Bynum is back, and suddenly Detroit actually has a pair of competent guys coming off the bench. Jonas Jerebko is looking decent, as well. Obviously, with Orlando as something of a wild card here playing their first game, we need to continue to tread lightly, but Detroit has been a covering machine against the Magic, and you can tell Ben Wallace actually gives Dwight Howard something of a rough time. I lean Pistons getting a crapload of points, and I lean to the Under, since I think we see both teams playing at a relatively slow tempo. Orlando keeps getting suckered into running, but when they play the game the way Stan Van Gundy wants, it's a lot of 3-point shooting and 16-18 second possessions.

Bulls @ Knicks - This line is OFF. You guys know how I feel about teams off a 30-point loss, so I'm going to start handicapping this game with what we'll call a "pre-lean" to New York, and we'll work from there. The Knicks have been bad, which certainly puts a red flag next to their team, but I believe when you get a team on a home-and-home situation, you can kind of deal with those 2 games separately from everything else going on. New York showed last night, with the 33-point loss to the Bulls in Chicago, that they're still not playing any defense, and really, just about everything the Knicks have been doing lately has been ugly. They are just 1-7 SU including the loss last night, and only 2-6 ATS in that same stretch, so it's not like they're losing and covering; they're getting shellacked. And that's what makes the Knicks so beautiful in this one. They look awful, they smell awful, they play awful, but they're a value. They're going to play with a chip on their teamwide shoulder off that miserable loss, and I expect one of the Knicks strongest efforts over the last couple months. I also think books will open this line a little lower than normal because they KNOW people that saw Chicago cream the Knicks last night are going to figure the Bulls can do it again with ease. On the total, I think we can learn a lot based on where the number comes out. Last night's game opened at 197, and tipped near 200, and thanks to the Bulls 118 points, it went Over. I think if we see oddsmakers open this game above 200, we can expect a similar game, but if we see a total in the 190's again, I might give a look at the Under. Just some food for thought.

Heat @ Nets - Miami by 6.5 with a total of 185.5. The Heat are murdering teams right now thanks to some of the strongest defense we've seen from ANY team all season long. The Heat's short 3-game winning streak has featured a 99-66 win over the Rockets, a 94-76 road win over the Hawks, and last night's 105-78 road win over the Sixers. That makes this game very, very scary. On a back-to-back, with both teams coming off a nice win yesterday, can the Heat maintain their ultra-strong intensity on defense? I'm inclined to believe there's some value on the Over, above all else. With the way the Heat have been playing defense, the public is likely to assume this is going to be a clunker, but the Nets have actually been pushing the ball lately, and I will admit I'm beyond surprised at how much a healthy Yi Jianlian has helped this team offensively. I think the Heat relax a little bit in this one, and I'm not sure that means the Nets cover or even keep things close, but I have this feeling this one gets into the 190's. I still don't completely trust Miami, but with both teams turning things up lately (both had been losing a TON, and now are undervalued), I don't believe there's a great deal of value on the side. It's always a bad idea to try to pick between two undervalued squads, since you know you're not getting a line edge on either side. There might be a TINY value with the Nets, but in my opinion, with the way the Heat are playing, it's not strong enough to warrant a lean. I will reiterate how CAREFUL we should be this week with teams still settling back into a rhythm, but the sneakiest bet in the NBA right now is on the Nets Over. Let's see how things play out.

Rockets @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 5 with a total of 194.5. One of two more teams coming out of the Break, so remember, this game is subject to some unpredictability, but I think you have to START with the home team in this first game back, and work from there. As many of you may recall, going into the Break, the Bucks were pretty hot. Sure, they had lost a freak home game to the suddenly "trying" Pistons, but aside from that loss, the Bucks were one of the surest bets in the East for the previous 3 weeks. Houston, meanwhile, remains a staple of unpredictability, and, to a certain extent, mediocrity. We knew going into the season the Rockets would have a tough time, and thanks to the clever coaching of Rick Adelman, they remained relevant for a while, but they're just about cooked. We saw a nice road effort in Memphis, but that's looking less and less impressive with the way the Grizzlies have been playing of late, and after that win, Houston got creamed at home by the Sixers, then embarrassed on the road by the Heat. The ONE reason I have to like the Heat is that they lost their last game by 33 before the Break. I'm just not sure if the embarrassment and anger carries over for a week, though. Besides that one angle, the others support the Bucks. Milwaukee is on revenge, as they lost in Houston back on January 18, and on top of that, the Bucks are simply playing the better basketball. The Rockets have been pretty bad on back-to-backs, as well. There isn't as much value with Milwaukee now as there was a month back, but against a floundering Rockets team that continues to get way too much credit, this line is nice enough to warrant a lean on the Bucks. I have to like the Under, as well, given the Bucks nice stretch of defense, and the All Star Break jitters.

Jazz @ Hornets - Utah by 3.5 with a total of 201.5. This line might look low, but do remember that the Jazz played last night, so in most cases, they'd be favored by 5.5. The Hornets are an interesting beast for so many reasons. This is a team that was charging into the All Star Break, covering their last 3 games behind the extremely strong play of backup point guard Darren Collison. This game, though, screams AVOID on the side. Will the Hornets come out of the Break rested and sporting the same fire they had beforehand, or will the long layoff take some of the glue off their house of cards, and we'll see a sluggish, uninspired effort? There are simply too many questions that can't be answered until we're a game or two back into the swing of things. The Jazz did play last night and beat the Rockets handily, so yes, they might be a little fatigued, but I also think they're warmed up to a certain degree. Also, will the Hornets continue to try to push the ball, even against a strong offensive club like Utah? Just another question that is so darn tough to tackle right now. Utah, interestingly, is the team on home revenge, as well, as New Orleans came into Salt Lake City and beat the Jazz by 4 in a low-scoring game. That one went WAY under the posted total, which is actually 5 points higher in this game than that last one. I like the way the Jazz have been scoring lately, and I think the Hornets do indeed continue to try to run the ball. This game could very well have a ton of possessions, and I like the Over in those spots. No lean on the side. Utah looks too easy, and Hornets could be anything from awesome to terrible.

Suns @ Mavs - Dallas by 4.5 with a total of 218. I hate to just drop a simple line here, but it might be time to "fade the Mavs." Dallas is just not showing up lately, and it was a loss to these very same Suns that woke up Phoenix. Dallas, after falling in Oklahoma in an ugly effort, has now gone just 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games, but the beauty is that the public still likes this team. Today, it's public vs. public; marquee vs. marquee, so we're not getting quite the same line value, but should Dallas really be laying points to anyone at home? They are the worst ATS home wager in the NBA at 5-19 ATS at home, and they're a perfectly awful 0-7 ATS as a home favorite of 3-6 points. I know the value isn't huge right now, coming off the loss to Oklahoma City, but bear in mind this line was set before Dallas got thumped and before Phoenix laid the wood to the Grizzlies. That makes me very curious what this line is going to do once the world reacts to the results of last night. Will this line drop to 4 or 3.5? I'd say that's quite possible, so we might want to consider jumping on Phoenix with the points right now, then looking for a potential middle, or maybe the smartest move is to just wait and see. The line will move to the proper spot, at least based on 50/50 money, so I'm not sure there's a ton of line value, but I just can't see the Mavs beating anyone right now. Their team defense is weak, and they were almost solely reliant on Dirk Nowitzki in last night's game, a scheme that most certainly did not work. I like this game to feature a pretty good pace and a decent number of points. Dallas is on revenge, as mentioned above, but I think that might actually help us, if indeed the line was preadjusted for revenge, which I believe it was. In terms of back-to-backs, the Mavs are just 5-8 ATS, and 8-5 O/U, while the Suns are 4-8 ATS and 7-5 O/U. I like the Suns, but not as much as the Over.

Kings @ Warriors - This line is OFF. This game has the potential to be a real waste of time. The Kings are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Celtics at home, and I was desperately rooting for a Kings win, which would have created all kinds of value on the Warriors, but sadly, it was not to be. The Warriors took the Lakers down to the wire, catching them a bit off guard, but like the Kings, just didn't have the gusto to win one down the stretch. Now, these two bottom-feeders of the Pacific get to face off in what most expect to be a high-scoring zero-defense affair. And normally, I'd try to find fault with that, but they might be right. With both teams on a back-to-back, I don't foresee either team really worrying themselves with defense, and these two teams tend to play pretty close games, which means a few bonus points down the stretch. Will Monta Ellis play? That could have a pretty huge bearing on how I feel about the side. My feelings on the total are going to rely heavily on where oddsmakers bring this one out. Both games in the series this year have gone WAY under the posted mark. The last game was a 99-96 Sacramento win with a posted mark of 219! If this game opens up around 219, we might want to take a gander at the over. Otherwise, let's just play it by ear. I really do hate to be so wishy-washy, but these games out of the break are so tenuous that we really need to work with what we're given.

Hawks @ Clippers - Atlanta by 6 with a total of 196.5. The Clippers come home with a few pieces missing, a few new bodies (some healthy, some not), and looking a little worse for their wear. They look like a team that has mailed it in. I could be wrong. Maybe the Clippers were just rusty, but a 7 turnover night for All Star Chris Kaman last night in Portland looks like more than rust. That looked like a guy that wanted to be back in Dallas, cruising down the road with other star players, signing autographs and feeling spry, not stuck in the sinking ship that is the Clipshow. I realize the Hawks are laying a very dubious number on the road, right in that 5.5-6 window, and I realize the Clippers are on a back-to-back (6-7-1 ATS), but man, this is a weird one. Which angle will prevail? The Clippers being "warmed up", having played one game out of the Break? Atlanta's weak road efforts lately? There just doesn't seem to be a ton to rely on in this game, and once again I'm bringing out the caution tape. We just don't know what we're going to get from the Hawks, who got throttled in their final game before the All Star Break by the Heat, and really haven't been that strong away from home. I suppose if I had to lean to anything, I'd lean to the Clippers, since this feels like that spot where things couldn't get much uglier for LAC. Ugh, I just don't much care for this one at all. Barring some wild line movement that swings my feelings, this one is a pure pass.

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