Friday, February 26, 2010

Some Tired Teams

Deeee-Troit Baaaasket-baaaall!

Yes, I played that PA Announcer's voice in my head every time the Pistons managed a defensive stop against the Nuggets. There weren't many late in the 4th quarter, but we had the line advantage all night long, and the Pistons were NEVER behind by more than the 9.5 points we had on the spread.

We should thank our lucky stars, though, that the Nuggets are run by two CLASSY superstars. With 35 seconds left in the game and Detroit trailing by 8, the Nuggets got a steal from the Pistons, and could have easily pushed for an easy layup. Instead, Chauncey Billups held up the break, ran the clock down, handed the ball to Carmelo, who flat-footed a jumper as the shot-clock expired. Detroit got the rebound and hit a meaningless 3-pointer, but thanks to the Nuggets trying to end the game and not worried about embarrassing anyone, we got the cover.

I know what you're thinking -- can we handicap "class?" Honestly, I'm not sure, but you can bet I'll be keeping an eye on similar situations going forward.


Enough silliness - let's handicap.

Sports Wagering

Nets @ Celtics - Boston by 11.5 with a total of 188.5. Well, this is a downright ugly game, and under most circumstances, I would say you absolutely, positively have to start with the huge road dog, but I'm not so sure in this one. We have two of the worst ATS bets in the entire NBA in this game -- you could have played against Jersey and Boston in every game all season long, and you would be 69-42. Put that in your pocket. So, when these two miserable ATS teams go head-to-head, how do you pick a side? Well, in this case, I believe it's important to note how the teams have been playing. The Nets, after seemingly turning a corner from about January 27th to February 17th, have regressed badly. Why? Well, I contend it's because they don't deserve a home court advantage of any kind, yet continue to get the full 3 points. New Jersey has been playing a ton of home games lately, and will play quite a few more, and while losses of 8, 9, 10 points are covers on the road, they're only getting 4-6 points at home, and those 10-point losses are all ATS losses, as well. Back on the road now, the Nets are getting those bonus points, and it'll be very interesting to see if that'll be enough. On Boston's side, the Celts are coming off a total 4th quarter meltdown to the Cavs on Thursday. I suppose the question is whether they bounce back from the demoralizing loss or let that failure snowball. I know Boston is supposedly a strong-willed team, but they're just not the same. They're just 8-18 ATS against losing teams this year, a strong indication that Boston is always going to cost you a premium, and even moreso against the League's worst. In terms of the season series, Boston has won all 3 games, one in a huge blowout, and two where they just missed the cover. The most recent meeting was a 96-87 Boston win about 3 weeks ago, here in Boston. There really isn't a good side to take in this game, but the Nets on the road have a good shot to lose by 9-10, which would be a cover, so I lean Jersey. I also think most people are going to feel these teams are going to win with defense, but Boston has been running the ball quite a bit, and I think Jersey is pushing the tempo a little, and the Over in Jersey games is still one of the sneakier bets in the NBA.

Bucks @ Heat - This line is OFF. Dwyane Wade is doubtful for this one, so we'll handicap as if he's NOT playing. If that changes, we'll adjust accordingly. As for where we sit now, it's hard to see the Heat really playing up to the current level of the Bucks without their big dog. Miami is on double-revenge here, but I just wonder if Milwaukee once again has a particular team's number. The Bucks beat Miami by 11 at home, then came right back 2 days later, and crushed Miami on the road by 16. My immediate concern here is how this line is adjusted. Is it going to be preadjusted for the Heat's double-revenge, or is it going to be fair? I suppose a lot has to do with how the public feels about these two teams. Milwaukee should be getting more love than they have been, although they were the public choice against Indiana, to no one's surprise. The Bucks have won 5 straight games, and have been covering machines, and the Heat were really doing the same before Wade got hurt. That's what makes this game so tough to call. The obvious choice is to just jump right back on Milwaukee until Miami shows they can top the Bucks, but at the same time, the obvious choice is often wrong. When these teams played two straight games against each other a month ago, Milwaukee was laying 4 at home and catching 6 on the road in a monster home/road swing. I would expect to see Milwaukee still catching a point or two in this one, though Miami plays in Orlando tomorrow against one of the East's marquee clubs in ESPN's early-evening NBA tilt. So, does Miami look ahead? Does Milwaukee go easy on them without Wade? Too many questions in this one, though I don't really see how you can avoid a tiny lean to Milwaukee. Maybe the better bet will come on the total. If this line comes out below 186, I believe the total to be pretty accurate. Above 186, and I think we might be seeing a tipped hand. No lean on the total yet, but when we get a number to work with, I might develop one.

Bulls @ Pacers - A Pick with a total of 211. If the first thing that pops into your mind is "these teams JUST played," you are absolutely right...doubly so, in fact. On the 9th, Chicago went into Indiana in the Pacers final game before the All Star Break, and beat them with a very strong 4th quarter, 109-101; less than a week ago, Indiana paid a visit to Chicago, and lost 120-110. Both games were covers for Chicago, and both went over a posted mark right around 205. So, now, oddsmakers finally adjusted, and I think this number is pretty accurate. Really, it could still go Over, but we'll get to that. As far as the side is concerned, Chicago has won all 3 meetings this season by 9, 8, and 10. Could Chicago really be just a Pick here? Something seems a little funny on the side. Chicago is coming off a ridiculous overtime victory over Portland that really took every ounce of strength to get that cover. This is a bit of a letdown spot for Chicago, a team that has not been terribly strong on back-to-backs this season, at just 6-9 ATS, and 2-5 ATS when they go home-to-away in back-to-backs. In addition, Chicago is coming off a 58% shooting night against the Blazers, and if that's what it takes to squeeze by Portland at home, it seems like this might be a tough spot for them. I like that this line appears extremely easy, in terms of taking Chicago, and since Indiana is coming off that loss to Milwaukee, I don't think they'll get much public love. There is definitely some line value on the side of the Pacers, and don't be concerned if this line dances around the centerpoint while sharps set up a middle. Lean to Pacers, and Chicago plays zero defense on back-to-backs, so I think this one might go up and over one more time.

Grizzlies @ Knicks - A Pick with a total of 210. These are going to be two tired-ass teams! The Knicks played on Feb 22, 23, 26 and now today, and are coming off an overtime win in Washington last night. The Grizzlies played on Feb 23, 24, 26 and today, so they're on their 4th in 5 nights, and coming off a home loss to the Bobcats last night in a rather low-scoring affair. So, the question becomes "which of these teams is MORE fatigued?" I honestly just don't know. The Knicks are playing at home, which certainly gives them a little adrenaline boost, since MSG will bump no matter how bad the Knicks are, so maybe there's a slight edge there. Both of these teams have been terrible on back-to-back days, so we can't really take a great deal from that information, and really, I'm inclined to think this game ends up being pretty close. Memphis needs to win every game they can, especially after dropping another close one at home last night, and the Knicks have played a bit better the last two games, so perhaps they're turning a corner and are in line for a few ATS victories. This line is likely going to jump hard based on New York's OT affair last night, but don't be completely fooled into thinking they're immediately going to be the more exhausted team. At the same time, New York has a date with the Cavaliers on Monday, so there is the potential for a Lebron look-ahead. I mean, you know the talk in New York is going to be around the game with King James, if only because they want him on their team next year. I really don't have any strong lean on the side, though I made a deal with myself never to back a team on a 4th in 5 nights, so I have to lean NY in that regard. I still think the sharper play in this game is the Over. Memphis has been playing a ton of low scoring games, but New York is going to get out and run, and both teams are going to be too exhausted to play defense. This first half has 110 points written all over it.

Blazers @ Wolves - Portland by 4 with a total of 195.5. How often does THIS happen? BOTH teams in this game are playing their 4th in 5 nights! This has the potential to be one of the most lackluster efforts all season long, but how will the game play out? These two divisional opponents have played 3 times this year, and Portland has blown Minnesota out of the county in all 3 games. I mean, we're talking about two 23-point wins and a 28-point victory. Ouch. Interestingly, though, this is the shortest spread of any of the meetings, so I think oddsmakers might be tipping their hand just a little bit. When you talk about a series that has been as one-sided as this one, for books to come out with a rather short line like the one we're seeing, I think it's safe to assume that the general consensus is that Minnesota is going to compete, at least a little. Still, Portland has shown to be one of the best teams in the entire NBA on short rest -- they are 11-3 ATS on back-to-backs, and I think some of that energy just simply has to carry over into the 4th-in-5 spot we see tonight. The Wolves are just 8-8 ATS on back-to-back games, so no real information there. I do, however, rather enjoy the idea that the Wolves are 11-5 O/U on back-to-back games, and the Blazers are 8-5 O/U on theirs, so the Over, once again, looks like the more interesting play. Bottom line, I'm not sure I can back either of these teams on the side - Portland is off an OT loss in Chicago, while Minnesota got crushed in Oklahoma, so they both have a little value. Portland is playing way better basketball with Brandon Roy back, and Minnesota has just been a nice ATS team in 2010. Tiny, microscopic lean on the side to the Blazers, but it almost can't even count, and lean to the Over.

Rockets @ Jazz - Utah by 10 with a total of 202.5. This is a hefty spread, considering the circumstances. Two more teams playing on back-to-back days, but no 4th-in-5 spots to worry about here. Instead, we have another angle, and I'm weighing just how important it is. That key angle is the altitude. Both of these teams are coming into Utah off a game the night before, and Utah is actually the team coming from the West Coast, so they might actually be more exhausted than the Rockets. Still, Utah has been significantly better on back-to-back spots than Houston. Utah is 7-4-1 ATS, though just 1-2 when going away-to-home, and Houston is a dismal 5-10 ATS, and really equally bad in every back-to-back location, home or road. This line looks high, because, well, it IS high. Let's take a recent example. Both of these teams have played in New Orleans over the last week and change. Utah was laying 4, and Houston, on a back-to-back, was catching 2.5. So, let's adjust that Houston line by 2 points, and they're basically a pick. So, based on these meetings with a common opponent, we should have Utah as a 4-point favorite over Houston a neutral court. Please explain, then, why Utah is favored by 10 with BOTH teams on a back-to-back? Has Utah really improved by 3 points over Houston in one week? Not likely. So, the question is, is there really 3 points of value on Houston slapping us in the face, or is this a spot where books adjusted the line knowing full well that Utah was gearing up for a blowout win? Looking at the public betting numbers is a little helpful, since Houston appears to be the slight public choice here, and that makes me think this line is "high for a reason" - I lean Utah. And, if Utah is going to blow someone out, Houston is going to need to score under 90. I like the Under.

Pistons @ Warriors - Golden State by 4 with a total of 208. The Warriors get a chance to bounce back off the disappointing loss to Denver on TNT Thursday, and they get, presumably, a pretty tired Pistons team coming to town. Again, it's important to remember that this Detroit team is healthier now than at any point earlier this season, but at the same time, they are just 4-11 ATS on back-to-back days, so SOMETHING isn't quite right with a few of the guys. I think more than anything else, horrible back-to-back numbers are a sign that either your team is extremely old or maybe not healthy. Detroit has been a solid ATS bet since the All Star Break EXCEPT on back-to-backs. They got clobbered by Orlando right after the Break, then just a few short days ago got smacked around by the Clippers. Now, this isn't your average back-to-back; Detroit is playing a 4th in 5 nights and the last game of a 4-game West Coast trip. They also play Boston in their next game, that one back at home. On the other side, the Warriors are playing their final game of a 5-game homestand, so you have to believe they'll want to close things out with a tough performance. They go on the road for 5 afterwards, and coming off that televised TNT loss, the Warriors should have a hair more value. I'm surprised to see the public backing Golden State as much as they are early in the day, given that the Warriors lost to the Nuggets by quite a bit, at home, and last night the Pistons played Denver tough until the final minutes. In any case, I lean Warriors to take advantage of a tired, unfocused Detroit club, and I also like the Over, since I think the Warriors do a nice job of forcing the pace, and with Detroit pooped out, I'm not sure they have the strength left to defend for 48 solid minutes.

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