Monday, February 22, 2010

Somewhere, Austin Croshere is Smiling

Holy heavens! That was ALMOST as easy as the 40-plus point cover we had a few weeks ago! While not our easiest of the season, it was certainly among the top 3 in terms of never once having to stop and think, "How many points have they scored this quarter?" It's always more fun when the only thought going through my mind is, "We could win this Under bet with double-OT!"

I do think it's worth noting, though, that Brendan Haywood once again controlled the defensive painted area. Indiana just had nothing. They were forced to take jumpers on almost every possession, and couldn't develop any kind of offensive rhythm. The Mavs are suddenly playing defense, and they're a great Under value right now.

In terms of our record, with this tap-in we moved to a robust 7-2-1 since the All Star Break, and 20-12-2 over almost a month, and 32-20-2 over a stretch a few weeks longer than that. I want to also use this opening paragraph to welcome the NEW SEASON PASS SUBSCRIBERS to the mix! There are now a few of you, and I can't tell you how unbelievably honored I am that you're putting your trust in me long term. I will not let you down! It has been a very nice run lately, but today is a new day, so let's get right back at it.

Sports Wagering

Hornets @ Cavaliers - Cleveland by 11.5 with a total of 199. This seems like a pretty goodly number of points, considering the situations of both teams. The Cavs have lost 3 in a row off the 13-game winning streak, capped by a tough loss in Orlando on Sunday morning. And every day it seemed like the public expected that big bounce-back, but the oddsmakers always know better. Now, all of the sudden, the Cavs are back to being 11.5-point favorites against a Hornets team that has been excelling quite a bit. Very interesting. We're talking about a Hornets club that was a 9.5-point underdog in Orlando, and just a 5 point dog in Boston. Is it truly possible that the Cavs, who have lost 3 straight, including a game in Orlando, are worthy of being 11.5-point favorites to a team that is, arguably, hotter than they are? I get the sensation that this game might be one of those spots where books are actually trying to bait the public into flipping over and betting the dog. I do have some strong concerns, though. First, it's not that easy to "bait" the public when the underdog is a team without its superstar. Second, the Cavs are in between games with Orlando and Boston. To use a burger analogy, teams that are "getting up" to play the buns probably are less interested in the meat. Will the Cavs use this game as a chance to flex some muscle and get back on the right track, or will they look ahead to Boston? That is really the one question that needs to be answered. If you think they finally bounce back, you like Cavs; if you think they look ahead, you like Hornets. It's that simple. I have a microscopic lean to Cavs, and I think the Under comes back in play, as I feel like Cleveland is going to try to get back to locking down on defense to prove a point.

Wolves @ Heat - This line is OFF. Dwyane Wade is expected to miss this game, so we'll handicap as if he's out. First, the Heat have been playing incredible defense, starting with the crushing defeat of the Houston Rockets. Since then, they've rattled off nice little 5-1 SU and ATS win streaks, losing the straight up battle in their last game with the Mavericks. This is a tough spot for the Heat, though. They played a road game going into the All Star Break, and they've played 4 coming out of the Break, so this is the Heat's first home game since the 9th, and only their second home game since February 1. This has all the makings of a sluggish effort from Miami, as the players start to run out of steam from playing without Dwyane Wade and struggle to balance the home life with the home game. It's also the start of a 5 of 6 home game stretch for Miami, so they should be setting their roots in pretty good. On the other side, the Wolves are coming off a narrow loss to the Thunder, but a cover, and the Wolves, as we've seen, have a nice knack for competing and pulling off the SU loss, ATS win combination. Just look at their record. The Wolves are 29-28 ATS on the season despite being just 13-44 SU. They're actually 14-13 against teams with a winning record, so they're an equal opportunity SU-loser/ATS-winner of a team. I lean Minnesota to cover. As far as the total, I'm curious where books decide to open this sucker. The Heat have been playing some outrageously low-scoring games, but I worry their lines are TOO deflated for the under to have any value. Let's see where this bad boy opens, but my guess would be high 180's, and I lean to the Over.

Knicks @ Celtics - This line is OFF. I'll start by admitting a truth -- my feelings on this game are largely based on the outcome of Knicks-Bucks last night, and the Knicks played themselves one ugly-ass basketball game. The Bucks rolled into New York, and beat the Knicks for the 3rd time this year, but this time really embarrassed them, winning 83-67, as the new Knicks took a step back in their 2nd game, and the Bucks imposed their superior skill, their ability to play defense, and I believe (and you guys might yell at me for this) superior coaching of Scott Skiles. Without getting into a rant about how D'Antoni's teams are gimmick basketball, it's safe to say they don't have the talent to compete with a well-coached, disciplined team like Milwaukee, and now they have to go on the road to play Boston. I will admit, though, this is a monster value spot for New York. This game could very well end up as a blowout, but in terms of value, it doesn't get much better than this for the Knicks. I suppose the only better spot would be if Boston was coming home off a huge, emotional win over the Nuggets, instead of just getting run out of the mile high gym in Denver. As it is, the Knicks have lost, now, 7 straight games, covering just 2 of those 7 straight up losses while playing almost no defense, and in my humble opinion, the Knicks are, currently, the worst team in the NBA. So, why exactly are we considering a play on them? Well, Boston is in their first home game since February 7th, over 2 weeks ago, and they've played 4 games since the All Star Break, all far from home, so they've not only been traveling, they're also in that "first game home" spot. On top of that, Boston has a big date with Lebron on TNT Thursday, the next game on the slate. We have seen the Celtics look ahead from time to time, and while they have done a good job avoiding letdowns AFTER big games, they have seemed to look past the crapper teams of the NBA when a big showdown is coming up. I lean to New York, unfortunately, and I lean to the Under, since no one is going to impress, but I think the Knicks hang in there just long enough to get a cover.

Blazers @ Nets - Portland by 7.5 with a total of 183.5. This game seems like a tough spot for Portland, but I'm starting to think it's not the world's greatest spot for either team. The Nets are terrible both at home and on the road, but because they generally have to keep games closer at home to cover (courtesy of the 6-point line swing from location to location), they have been covering more games away from Jersey. And really, what kind of home court edge are they getting? There aren't many fans at the game, and while I suppose they are more familiar with the rims and background scenery, I would say the swing from home to road should be closer to 4 points instead of 6 (or 2 points of home court instead of 3). Thus, I find it very hard to back Jersey at home. I will admit, the Nets have had some nice line value lately, going on an 8-2-1 ATS run before dropping the last two, both at home, to the Raptors and Nets. And if we break that streak down, the Nets have gone 4-4 ATS at home in their last 8 home games, sandwiched around a 4-0-1 road ATS streak. So, there you have it, the Nets are squandering any home court "edge" they might have, and are basically making themselves an impossible team to back at home. On top of that, we have the issues over on Portland's side -- are they going to bounce back from the debilitating loss to Utah at home, or are they going to suffer a letdown making the cross-country trip to start a 5-game road trip. This is a very tough game to pick a side, and I just wonder how long it's going to take for Brandon Roy to get the courage to drive the line. And yes, Portland beat Jersey by 10 points back in November, 93-83. I lean just slightly to the Nets, but this side is basically a pass, and I lean just slightly to the Over, as I feel like Portland couldn't possibly do any less on offense than they did at home, and the Nets are a sneaky Over play these days.

Lakers @ Grizzlies - This line is OFF. The rematch in Memphis. Really, the game that sent Memphis into a tailspin they only just finally broke out of a couple days ago. After the Grizzlies beat the Lakers in a truly exciting game here in Memphis, the Grizz lost 5 consecutive games SU and ATS before taking down Toronto on the 17th, losing to the Heat, then beating Jersey in a nice little "get fat" game in the Nets abandoned arena. So now, back home again, but facing a Lakers team that certainly remembers the way Memphis paraded around the basketball gym after the win, streamers flying, confetti falling, it was like they won a playoff series (okay, I exaggerate a tad). Still, Memphis looked like they had achieved their season's goal, and I can't imagine the Lakers were pleased about it. So, the question becomes, who the heck is going to be playing for LA? Kobe and Bynum are both currently listed as "probable", so my guess is that we'll see a line for this game based on both Lakers giving it a go, and believe it or not, that is my greatest concern. I really like LA on revenge here, as the Lakers (Kobe in particular) never take kindly to a loss, and they're one of the few teams that outperforms whatever small shift books adjust to the line for a team on revenge -- they are 8-5 ATS in such spots. I think we can learn a TON about this game just from seeing where books open the line, though my VERY early lean is to LA. In the game the Grizzlies won 3 weeks ago, they were 1-point home favorites over a Lakers team WITH Kobe Bryant, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this thing as much as 2-3 points different. Also, that game went 18 points under the posted total, so let's see if the oddsmakers give us another hint, though right now I think the Under is the way to lean, if anything.

Suns @ Thunder - Oklahoma by 7 with a total of 202.5. I was about to start this write-up with the question: "Is someone important hurt?" Then I decided to stop being so lazy and head on over to my injury news source website, and sure enough, no Steve Nash for this one. This is an extremely disturbing situation to bet either team, now. We've got the Thunder, suddenly favored by a ton of points in almost every game NOT against one of the NBA's elite, and to a very small degree, struggling with the raised expectations. I should clarify, this is purely from an ATS standpoint. The Thunder have actually won 9 straight games SU, but after covering games 3 through 7 in that run, they have failed to cover each of the last 2 contests, narrow road wins at New York and at Minnesota. Now, they return home to face a Suns team without Steve Nash? I know the Thunder are a very good team, and as an up-and-coming squad they take every game seriously, but somehow playing the Suns without Steve Nash just doesn't sound as adrenaline pumping. Besides, Oklahoma plays again tomorrow in San Antonio, which will be a 4th game in 5 nights. I truly believe the best choice here is to leave this one alone, since it could very well be an "Injured Star Theory" situation, and we might get a monster night from Goran Dragic, or we might just see the Thunder roll. Total coin-flip in my opinion, though I think there is some line value with the Suns, just because of the 2-3 point adjustment from the lack of Nash. On that, I have an eency-weency lean to the Suns. I also dig the Under, as BOTH of these teams have been improving dramatically on defense, and the Suns just won't be able to run as efficiently without their leader. Plus, with the last meeting hitting 230 points, the public is going to eat up the Over, I would think.

Pistons @ Kings - Sacramento by 2.5 with a total of 194.5. A clash of titans! No, wait..a REMATCH of titans! These teams met, as you may recall, just before the All Star Break, and the Kings got a hyper-rare road win, beating Detroit 103-97. Then, just as fast as the Break came, so did half the Kings team go. I do believe the acquisition of Carl Landry is a decent one, especially since the Kings were able to unload Kevin Martin's larger salary and underachieving, shoot-first not-so-vital cog in their up-and-coming wheel. That was a stretch there, I know, but the point is accurate. The Kings will be better off in the long term, but in the short, they are a confused team with a lot of bodies trying to learn Westphal's style of offense and blend in. Nowhere is this more evident than in the total for this game. When these teams met in Detroit just before the Break, the total was set at 198, and the teams played to a final total of 200. Pretty damn close, I'd say, so we'll see roughly the same total in this one, right? Maybe even slightly higher since the Kings shoot so well at home? Nope, 4 points lower. Books know the Kings just haven't gelled yet, and the Pistons should be able to slow down most of Sacramento's players. The Kings have scored just 89 and 88 points in their last 2 games, and those were against the Clippers and Suns! Detroit is a team that really likes to slow things down and run set plays on almost every possession, so this game should stay in the range of 190, and I think oddsmakers are telling us that. I lean Under. On the side, I can't help but think Detroit comes out focused and looking to get some revenge. The veterans on the Pistons have shown that they do have some pride left, and I think they beat Sacramento 98-90, a straight up victory, perhaps.

Sixers @ Warriors - This line is OFF. Is this line seriously off because of injuries to Iverson and Maggette? That's sort of odd, in my opinion -- I wouldn't think Iverson would move the line at all, and Maggette maybe a half point? Oh well, so it goes. In any case, let's break this sucker down. The Warriors are coming off an incredible comeback win over the Hawks, courtesy, mostly, of Stephen Curry going bonkers in the 4th quarter. I just wonder, though, if the Warriors kind of put their whole ass into that game, and didn't save much for Philadelphia. The Sixers are coming off getting throttled by the Bulls, losing 122-90 in the first game of this 4-game road trip. You guys know how I like to look at teams coming off embarrassing losses (though the theory is stronger when a team loses in front of a home crowd). Still, there is definitely some value with Philadelphia. The unfortunate part is that Philly is playing another team that consistently has line value just because of how much they stink. This is a rare spot, though, where the Warriors earned some cred with the public by forging from behind in the Sunday ESPN dinnertime theater game. Both of these teams have been a little hit-or-miss lately, which makes this one even tougher, but based on the last games, I would have to pose a small lean to Philly to come out of the gates quick and play with a little chip on their shoulder. The Sixers are also a pretty strong rebounding team with Dalembert and Brand, among others, and the Warriors true weakness is being undersized on the glass. I think we might want to take a peek at the Over, since both teams like to run, though at the same time, this line might very well come out in the high 220's, which may be overinflated, and too rich for my blood.

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