Monday, February 08, 2010

The Rare 45-Point Cover

Last night was like an advertisement for an antiperspirant!

It's not every night you get a 45-point cover, but when it happens, it is really something sweet. I've been feeling good since the end of the 1st quarter of that Magic-Hornets game when I already knew the tempo was going to send the game Over. I didn't know both teams would shoot 55% and it would go Over with 9 minutes left, but it sure was sweet when it did.

That Paid Play winner moves us to 11-5 on our last 16 Premium Plays, and 23-13 on our last 36, two streaks that I am very proud of, not just because they're both strong winning trends, but because folks can see that winning comes in both the short and long term, and that NBA is very much a beatable sport!

Today, we have 11 NBA games to work with, and I must say, I'm seeing a few games that really look juicy. Let's get to it.

Sports Wagering

Nets @ Cleveland - This line is OFF. But it is going to make some noise when it comes out. Look out below! I would say that considering the Cavs have won 11 straight games and covered 7 of those 11, and the Nets are the worst team in the NBA (though they're 5-1-1 ATS in their last 7 while going 1-6 SU), this line is going to be huge. And to be perfectly frank, I believe the value is squarely on the Nets, despite the Cavs recent ability, seemingly, to blow out everyone by the 6 minute mark of the 2nd quarter. The thing I like the most is that Cleveland has a game with the Magic after this contest with Jersey. If ever there were a time when the King might take the foot off the accelerator after a strong 1st quarter, this is that game. They know they don't have to give 100% to beat the Nets, especially in Cleveland, and I think Jersey is going to be getting so many points (especially without Devin Harris, likely hurt again), that the back door is going to be WIDE open on this game. The Nets are on some sort of double-revenge, though, as I've noted before, when you have a team that doesn't expect to ever beat the other, there's no such thing as "revenge." I do think, as our buddy Sac pointed out, that the lesser time is prone to retool their attack method, and the Nets have actually competed at a decent clip against the Cavs, losing games by 10 and 8, respectively, and covering in both. I lean Jersey on the side. On the total, both games so far this year have gone Under, with both teams shooting under 40% in the last game. I think this one ends right around 188-90, so let's see what line we get to work with.

Wizards @ Bobcats - This line is OFF. This is a bad spot for the Wizards. Allow me to explain. First, the Bobcats are in their second game home off a long road trip. They had the letdown game, and lost to the surging Hornets with a very slow, sluggish second half. They should be ready to bounce back in this one, so there's point number one for Charlotte. The second key note is that the Wizards are coming off a colossal upset win over the Magic. This is a bit of a letdown spot, playing a lesser team after the chunky emotional high the Wizards likely experienced after picking up the nice "W" in Florida. This year, off an upset win, the Magic are just 1-9 ATS the following game. Third key note, this is the Wizards' final game before the All Star break. They do not play on Wednesday or Thursday, so the guys have a full week off after this one. If that's not bad enough for the guys looking ahead to spending a week with family, how about the fact they have to play this final game before the break on the road. This, to me, is a lot like how marvelous playing home teams before the baseball All Star break works. Yes, the Bobcats play two more times before the break, so they're not going to be in look-ahead mode, and yes, that's another reason I like Charlotte. The one reason to back off of the Bobcats here is revenge. Charlotte murdered the Wizards back in late November, 92-76, a game that went way under the posted total. I fear the Wizards may be in a bad spot here, and despite the revenge factor, I just don't know if they can get it done. I lean Charlotte, and I lean Under, since a Charlotte tempo is a slow tempo.

Wolves @ Sixers - Philly by 6.5 with a total of 204.5. These two teams are both red-hot right now, leading into the Break. Both teams have won 4 straight games SU, and while Philly has covered 3 straight, Minny has covered 4 in a row. Interestingly, too, of the 8 combined straight up wins for these two clubs, 6 of those 8 games have gone over the posted total. So they're winning, and they're winning with offense. My take on the side is as such: the Sixers have won 3 of those 4 games on the road, where they continue to be one of the League's finest road ATS plays. Philly is 16-10 ATS on the road, but just 6-18 ATS at home. I just can't bring myself to trust Philly to cover 6.5 points at home against anyone, not even the Timberwolves. Especially not right now, while Minny is truly playing with outrageous confidence! I watched every second of the Wolves games against the Mavs and Grizzlies (we cashed both), and not only was Minnesota hitting their shots, aside from about 2-3 stretches in both games where they just stagnated offensively, they were running the TRIANGLE offense, and making it work. I have to admit, I was floored at how smooth they looked. I realize that winning solves a lot of problems, and confidence can do a ton for a team that doesn't play any defense, but the combination of Al Jefferson and Kevin Love inside, with the resurgent Ramon Sessions slashing into the lane and Ryan Gomes and Corey Brewer hitting 3's, this team is winning. The only angle that is a little concerning is the revenge - Minnesota beat Philly up in the Twin Cities 3 weeks ago. Still, I think that was a sign of the match-up problems the Wolves pose for Philly - I lean Minnesota on the side, and I just have to like the Over until one of these teams decides to play some defense. The tempo of both teams lately is so fast that it will take a 40% shooting night from both teams to keep the game under.

Bulls @ Pacers - Indiana by 1.5 with a total of 202. I like Indiana right now. That doesn't mean I want to bet them every game, but I like them because they're somewhat predictable - the handicappers greatest ally, especially for a low-tier team. We know the public is going to look at the Bulls first, because, well, Chicago bettors love their team, and the Bulls have name recognition: Derrick Rose, in particular. So, Chicago comes to town off a win over the tumbling Miami Heat. Did that tell us anything, though? Chicago is banged up, and equilibrating somewhat after that exceptional road trip through half of the Western Conference. They won 5 straight on that trip, lost 3 after it ended, then just won 1, but really, I wasn't too impressed with the win over the Heat, and I think Miami gets a bigger test here in Indiana than most people expect. The Pacers have suddenly become a very home-friendly club, winning each of their last 2 home games in blowout fashion, but got crushed on the road on either side of those 2 games. They're not playing any close ones, that's one thing we can say for certain. And unless Chicago holds a team meeting where Del Negro calls his boys out (and I don't see that happening the week before the All Star break), I think the Pacers should win this one going away. It's also a revenge spot for Indiana, for what it's worth; and Chicago hosts Orlando tomorrow, so a potential look-ahead spot for the Bulls. On the total, I think it's interesting that the first meeting had a posted mark of 193, went over (199), and this one opened 3 points higher. That, to me, is a relatively beefy indicator that oddsmakers think the Pacers will control the tempo - I lean Over, even though Chicago has been playing some clunkers lately. Stronger lean on the side, though.

Rockets @ Heat - This line is OFF. Other than the revenge angle, this game, to me, is a handicapper's nightmare. These are two of the most inconsistent teams in the entire NBA, and now they get to play each other! Miami did beat up on Houston down in Texas back on January 15th (115-106), so the Rockets will likely want to get a little revenge here, and I believe they couldn't find the Heat at a better time. Miami has suffered through a season-high 5-game losing streak, and they're just 1-4 ATS during that stretch, covering as an underdog in Boston. Otherwise, and really, even in that game, it has been VERY ugly. Miami has not been scoring, posting totals in the 80's in 3 of those 5 games, and 91 points in the 4th. In fact, they broke 100 against Boston, who, for whatever reason chose not to play defense for one day, but if you eliminate that game in Beantown, Miami is averaging just 85.5 points in the other 4 games. They haven't been rebounding or defending either, allowing AT LEAST 95 points in every game in this streak, including 102 to Cleveland and 107 to Boston. I just cannot stress enough how terribly ugly it has been. Have they bottomed out? I'm not sure, but I don't think there has been an obvious "rock bottom", at least not yet. Miami plays in Atlanta tomorrow, so even if this game is close, that could be the embarrassment they need to wake up, just in time for an All Star break. Houston, interestingly, looked like they were snapping out of a funk of their own with a home blowout over the Warriors and a road blowout over the Grizz, but then came back home and got stomped by the Sixers. I want to chalk that loss up to playing on zero rest (Rockets are 4-9 ATS on back-to-backs), and say that with 2 days of rest going into this one, they should be able to hang tough. I lean to Houston in this battle of tiring middling clubs. I also lean to the Under, as I can't play a Miami-over until they show they can break 90 consistently.

Kings @ Knicks - New York by 5 with a total of 212. Can the Kings be trusted right now? I don't believe so. Sure, they may be a team with some "value", but if they're just not playing well, then it almost doesn't matter how many points they're getting on a "fair line", since they're getting blasted by at least 3-5 over the spread every single night, it seems. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, seeing as how they did cover 2 in a row in Denver and at home to the Spurs, but they've gone back to losing big since those ATS wins. This is a team that, right now, is losing almost every single game straight up. So, if you're looking at taking Sactown, you have to be considering the idea that they can lose by less than the spread. And in a game where the line is just 5, it's hard for me to play a team that I just don't feel can win the game outright. The Kings, and prepare yourself for a mind-bending stat, are 2-18 in their last 20 games. That is Nets territory. And the most crushing part is that they were actually beating the Raptors soundly entering the 4th quarter on Sunday before cracking off another of their nearly-patented 4th quarter meltdowns, and losing by 11. Can they bounce back? Maybe. But I'm not going to be the lunatic that tries to play a carnival game with the Kings, and pick the one game out of every 10 that they win outright. This one is Knicks or nothing. So, is it Knicks or nothing, you're asking? The Knicks haven't been terribly impressive either, though, after falling behind by 20 early to the Cavs, they rallied to cover that one. This is their final game before the All Star break, and I just wonder if they're going to mail this one in. I'm leaning towards a Pass on the side, and with neither team really focused, I think the Over might have some legs.

Hawks @ Grizzlies - This line is OFF. This strikes me as the game where the Grizzlies wake back up. I'm not sure if it's the level of competition that is somewhat more inspiring, but I just have a gut feeling Memphis breaks out of their mini-slump to put together a strong game here. It might have a little something to do with the Hawks recent and long-term history, too. Atlanta beat Memphis by 13 back on December 16th, in Atlanta, while wildly outplaying the Grizz. Memphis had 20 turnovers in that game, and when all was said and done took 17 fewer shots than Atlanta! You're rarely going to win like that, unless you're taking 30 more free throws than your opponent, which Memphis most certainly did not. I don't think Atlanta is going to pick on Memphis again. The Grizz have come so far, and they're sitting right on the cusp of a playoff berth, and they definitely realize how important every game is, especially against the teams that they want to stack up against, the barometer effect, so to speak. Atlanta has also been pretty terrible on the road lately, and very, very strong at home. It's a nice blend for bettors, since the public is going to see Atlanta winning (and covering) at home, then forget that Atlanta has lost their last 3 on the road - those games were against tough teams (Spurs, Magic, Thunder), but they got beat pretty soundly in all 3. It's a bit of a dangerous call, since this is Memphis's final game before the All Star break, but they strike me as the type of young team that wants to go into the layoff with positive momentum, and Atlanta has a home date with the rival Heat tomorrow, too. I lean Memphis on the side, and I believe this total will be slightly inflated because of the slight misconception that these teams never play defense. That's not to say I lean Under, but I do think there may be 1-2 points of value beneath the line.

Pistons @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 8 with a total of 189.5. Yikes, how things have changed this year. Who would have thought, really, in 2005, that 5 years later the mighty Pistons would be getting 8 points in Milwaukee? A devastating time for the city of Detroit, and its fans, with the Lions still awful, the Tigers melting down, and so forth. At least they've got their Wings. Anyway, back to the game at hand -- I think the reason this line strikes us as so high is because it probably is a tad high. The Bucks are starting to get some credit, as well they should. Milwaukee is a ridiculous 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that they're suddenly laying big points at home, where they're exceptionally tough. The Bucks are coming off a 12-point win over the Pacers as a 7-point home favorite, so they're not at all opposed to winning by double digits, but with both teams having won the previous home meeting, and the Pistons, supposedly, getting better every game, this is not a good time to fade Detroit. The Pistons are just finally getting all their injured pieces back, and as they start to come together as a team, chemistry-wise, they should be able to rattle off a few covers in a row. It's just a bit of a mystery when it's going to happen. So, in this game, do you back the white-hot Milwaukee team and go with the "ride the wave" approach, or back the Pistons, assuming they're a team on the upswing and getting 1-2 points of value? Or neither. I'm leaning towards a pass right now, though strong line movement might sway me. This total looks awfully low, too, since I think Milwaukee is going to try to play a little faster in this one and get Detroit out of their comfort zone. I lean Over, but barely.

Mavericks @ Nuggets - This line is OFF. This is a Denver play or nothing at all. I love that the Nuggets are coming home off a loss in Utah, since it should create just enough value to make this game playable. I also love that the Mavs are coming into the altitude on a back-to-back, a situation where they WON earlier this year, but this time are coming from the West coast, a notoriously difficult time zone issue that puts them in their Denver hotel near 4am local time, and gives them less than half a day to get a night of rest, try to gameplan for the Nuggets, warm up, deal with the thin air, and then try to sustain a high level of basketball for 48 minutes. Dallas really had to play HARD in Golden State, trailing most of the night before ratcheting up their game in the 4th and take advantage of the vastly overmatched Warriors, who definitely appear to be tiring heading into the All Star break. I must say, though, I like that the Mavs had to play their starters the entire game, and work to come back and hold off Golden State. It didn't help that Monta Ellis squashed his knee on a layup try and couldn't return, but it seems like the Mavs would have won this one either way. Not sure about a cover, but hey, injuries happen, and they happen even more when you're a Warrior. The Nuggets are devastatingly good at home, as they make a push to supplant the Lakers for the best record in the West. Dallas is certainly a better ATS bet on the road than at home, but even against the Warriors their defense left something to be desired, only finally pulling ahead when they were simply able to outgun Golden State with a deeper bench and healthier players. The Nuggets are 22-4 at home SU, and while they should be pretty sizable favorites here (whether or not Billups and Melo play), and I lean to Denver. I also don't see the Nuggets shooting 38% again against the Mavs, and I like the Over.

Thunder @ Blazers - Thunder by 1 with a total of 191. Thunder on revenge? You have to give them a look. I do wish the Blazers were coming off a win against the Lakers, since that would likely have made this line a Pick, but it is what it is, and we'll work with it. Quietly, or maybe not-so-quietly depending on where you live, the Thunder have run out to a beastly 31-19 ATS mark on the season, 18-7 ATS on the road! This team is generally not intimidated by other teams' courts, and that is just huge if they want to become a team to be reckoned with year in and year out. And with Brandon Roy out through the All Star break, we know exactly who we're going to be dealing with in this one. Unfortunately, there isn't much value in the line for the Thunder, coming off 5 straight wins (4-1 ATS), but as we noted above in previous write-ups, sometimes you have to stare the value right in the face and give it the finger. If the Blazers aren't going to show up (they play in Phoenix tomorrow), then the Thunder can destroy them. I'm inclined to believe this game comes down to the wire, because even the games the Thunder lose tend to be within one possession. In fact, going through the games, of the 7 games the Thunder have lost in 2010 (they're 11-7 straight up this year), 3 of those 7 games have been 1-point losses, and 1 game was decided by a bucket. My concern here is that the Thunder will be taking a look ahead to the All Star break, and playing their final game before said Break on the road is not often a good situational spot. I like the revenge, and I like how hard this team plays, but if the team's collective head isn't in the game, this might not go so well. It's a toss-up, and while I do lean Thunder, this one has a strong chance of being a Pass. On the total, I like the Over -- we know the Thunder can score, and the Blazers are a faster team without Roy around. Plus, if the Thunder aren't completely focused, they will suffer in transition defense, and I think we'll see at least a handful of easy buckets.

Jazz @ Clippers - Jazz by 4.5 with a total of 200.5. Like taking candy from a baby, right? Not so fast. The Jazz have absolutely KILLED the Clippers over the last few years, going 7-1 ATS against LAC in the last 8 meetings, spread out over 3 years of basketball. They beat LAC by 13 earlier this season (as in, the 3rd day of the season) in a high-scoring tilt in Utah. They have won 8 straight games, going 6-1-1 ATS in that stretch (or 7-1 if you got this recent Nuggets game at the early line of -8 like we did), and haven't won any of those games in the win streak by fewer than 7 points! Why, guys, is this line only 4.5? Boozer and Williams are both playing for the Jazz, so they're at full strength. The Clippers are healthy, too, but coming off a hideous loss to the Spurs back on Saturday, getting blown out on their home floor by 17. That was the rather standard "first game home" letdown for the Clips, and this is the second game back, where most teams play a much better game. I expect a strong effort from the Clippers, who, as many have forgotten, were actually killing it at home before they had to voyage East on an 8-game road trip. Prior to this trademark letdown loss to the Spurs, the Clippers had actually covered 8 straight home games. And on top of that, the Jazz HOST the Lakers tomorrow in a big game in Utah. Utah is in a look-ahead spot, the Clippers are on revenge and in a bounceback spot in their second game back home, and after the home game with the Lakers, the Jazz head to the All Star break. This is one of those overnight road trips where some guys might just mail it in. I think Utah is a sucker play in this one, and I lean to the Clippers. In terms of the total, Utah has broken 100 in 10 straight games, but I think their focus might be lax on defense, and I just have to look at the Over, since I think the Clippers play them strong and make some shots.

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