Saturday, February 20, 2010

T-Mac Lives!

Winner winner, chicken dinner! That one got a little exciting down the stretch, didn't it? We had a play on the Knicks-Thunder Over last night, and after 3 very high-scoring quarters, the teams played a slow, plodding 4th that almost cost us a win. Then, in the final minute of regulation, 4 free throws and a 3-pointer helped put us over the mark. Sure, the game went into overtime, but we didn't need it, so I don't feel like we got lucky at all - that was a winner without the extra 5 minutes. A nice comeback for the Thunder, and we might be able to use that info going forward So there.

In terms of records, that win moves us to a very strong 6-2 since the All Star Break, and our selectivity has really paid off. I am pretty disappointed in the loss we suffered back on Wednesday on the Knicks (I know, I'm supposed to forget about plays going forward, but in retrospect that one feels avoidable), and while I am obviously annoyed that Portland didn't show up, there was just no way for me to know they'd play one of their worst games of the season, and honestly, I'm just not that bugged with that loss. The wins all feel pretty good, since none has been all that close. We're cruising, and if we stay the course, pick selectively, I believe we can keep up this 55-60% long term clip all season long! That Paid Play winner also moves our Premium Selections to 19-12 in the last 31 and 31-20 in the last 51, two long term stretches that make me very happy.

Sports Wagering

Cavaliers @ Magic - Orlando by 2 with a total of 196.5. This is an interesting spot, in that I feel like neither team is really in a particularly strong spot, and neither team is in a particularly weak spot. Let's start with Cleveland. The Cavaliers are coming off back-to-back losses, one a crushing OT home defeat at the hands of the Nuggets, and then, the following day, an emotional letdown and blowout loss courtesy of the slumping Bobcats. That was a great spot to fade the Cavaliers, and a number of the regular blog readers did so, wisely (kudos to you, you know who you are!). But now, Cleveland has lost the TNT game, and then had the letdown, and now, is this a bounceback spot or almost like a blank slate game? No matter how you look at it, I think you have to give the Cavs, on a scale from 1-5 (1 being a terrible spot, and 5 being an amazing one), something of a 3.1, JUST above neutral. They're going to get better slowly now, with the addition of Antawn Jamison, who just looked horrid in his first action for Cleveland, clearly pressing a bit, but right now, the Cavs are getting out and running a bit, and I'm curious to see how that translates over into this big ABC game. On the Orlando side, the Magic had a pretty ugly home meltdown to the Mavs 2 days ago, blowing a big lead and eventually getting crushed as a 6 point favorite. Were they looking ahead to the Cavs? Might have been. Or are they just not that great this year? I would give the Magic roughly a 3.4 on the situational scale mentioned above. So, I suppose we might be getting minimal value with the Magic, who may be looking to avenge a loss in Cleveland just before the All Star Break. Unfortunately, I'm concerned the line has already reflected that revenge factor, and it's going to be my sworn duty between now and tip to figure out if indeed that revenge is giving us value, or if it's been preadjusted. In the interim, I lean to the Magic, and the Under. The line on the previous meeting was 193, and the game hit 211, yet this line has been adjusted only 3.5 points? Something foul is afoot on that one.

Celtics @ Nuggets - Nuggets by 4 with a total of 199. This is another spot, much like the game above, where both teams are right smack in the middle of the situational ranking scale (existing mostly in my mind). The Nuggets are returning home after a road back-to-back that was, let's say, a very strange 1-1. The Nuggets rolled into Cleveland and beat the Cavaliers in overtime as a medium-sized underdog, then followed that up with a complete and utter disaster in Washington (a game we cashed on the Wizards). Now, they return home for another big game, but this time with the Boston Celtics. The questions, again, are, will Denver suffer an additional letdown game, disappointed by the loss to Washington, and still reeling from the Cleveland OT situation, or will Denver strut their typical home stuff, and take it to the Celtics? The Nuggets are an exact "3" on our little scale, trapped right in the center between motivational angles and travel schedule/early tip-time. Boston, on the other side of things, has come out of the All Star Break with a renewed sense of purpose. They're still not lighting things up on the offensive side of the ball, and they're relying on solid defense to go on any in-game runs they might have, but I think the biggest change for Boston is the play of Ray Allen. I don't know if the pressure of potentially being traded was bogging him down, but Allen has been dynamite from the outside in the two big wins over LA and Portland. When he's got his stroke going, Boston is damn tough, since they can literally run a series of back-screens, and with minimal room, Ray-Ray can knock down a 3. He has hit huge shots in these games when his teammates seemingly go ice cold. Still, off the blowout win in Portland, will Boston have much value left here? I would tend to think they will. Denver is a team of nearly the same level of marqueeness, and I bet we'll see fairly split action on this game. I have a teeny, tiny lean to Denver, as Boston is finishing up a 4-game road trip, but they're playing well, so that lean is as small as they come. My stronger lean is on the total, which feels like an Under. Boston has been playing better defense, and they're not going to want to get into any kind of running game with Denver, the stronger, faster opponent. With Denver just returning home, I think they'll be hesitant to run like crazy, and this one is going to slip Under the total by a bucket or two.

Spurs @ Pistons - Spurs by 5 with a total of 187.5. Let's face it, Detroit stinks. They beat the Wolves in the first game out of the All Star Break, but have since been blown out in Orlando and lost at home to the Bucks. They are a team so terrible that having line value almost doesn't matter, since they just keep losing. Joe Dumars has been on a vicious roll of awful trades and signings, and it's manifesting itself on the court. Charlie Villanueva has been an epic bust (who didn't see that coming, really?), Ben Gordon has been hurt most of the year, and mainstays like Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton just aren't enough to get it done anymore, not without a floor leader like Chauncey Billups hanging around. So, I pose another question (yeah, that seems to be the way I'm feeling in this write-up): is the line value we get with Detroit enough to warrant a play on them, basically ever? Well, I have to admit, the +5 is definitely looking succulent against an aging, inconsistent Spurs team that is just 12-12 on the road this year (10-14 ATS), and coming off a narrow win (and failed over in Indiana), followed by an ugly loss to the Sixers. This game also happens to be the conclusion of the rodeo road trip for the Spurs, so we'll see how they react to that spot. They played a GREAT game going into the All Star Break, so if that game is any indication of how San Antonio wants to "finish strong", then we might actually see a half-decent effort from them here. Going back through the season, the Spurs have actually gone 2-0 in the final game of road trips of 3 games or longer. I'm not sure if we can make much of that, but if we couple that small note with their effort going into the Break, I think it's safe to say that the Spurs are decent closers of road trips. I lean Spurs, square as I may be. They've also seemed to play to the pace of their opponents on the road, so I'm inclined to believe this total is very accurate. I suppose I have a tiny lean to the Under.

Grizzlies @ Nets - Memphis by 4.5 with a total of 195. This is a Grizzlies team that desperately needs a shot in the arm, but I'm just not sure this is the time. Earlier this season this would be a game where teams would roll into town looking to "get fat," but right now, Memphis is struggling. They got a key OT road win in Toronto, but then came home and lost a 2OT game to the Heat (who, for what it's worth, are playing some outstanding defense lately). Now, the Grizz head back out on the road for just one game, then come back home to host the Lakers. I'd love to call this a look-ahead spot, and maybe it is, but it's a minor one now, given how badly the Grizzlies need a win. Still, the public was just starting to catch on with how good the Grizzlies were playing before they reverse-bottomed out, lost their value, and went on a tailspin both SU and ATS. On the Jersey side, they are coming off getting crushed by the Raptors for a rare ATS loss. Looking at the numbers, though, that game appeared to be the classic "Injured Star" spot for Toronto, where the non-Bosh players all stepped it up and shot almost 60% for the game! I'm writing this before the results of last night's Toronto game come in, but I'll be curious to see if the Raptors can keep playing well for one more game without their star, or if they'll slip. That is one of those interesting spots, tracking how long the role players can step it up; but I digress. Jersey continues to get a ton of value against the line, as they are now officially the most hated team in the NBA by public bettors, and unless their opponent is in tremendous value spot (as the Raptors were 2 nights ago), you absolutely HAVE to lean Jersey before looking at anything else. The Grizzlies are in a bad way right now, so indeed I do lean Jersey. I also think playing Overs with the Nets is currently the sneakiest total in the NBA - they're scoring better and their defense still stinks, and if they're playing a team that is also struggling on defense (as the Grizzlies are; Memphis's problem lately has been offensive continuity, even moreso), the Over has some value.

Rockets @ Hornets - New Orleans by 1 with a total of 200. I will admit, my first instinct with this game is to worry a bit. New Orleans beat Indiana a couple days back, Indiana just beat Houston last night. Why would anyone bet on Houston in this one? The Rockets are on a back-to-back spot, and are just 5-9 ATS in those spots, despite actually winning 8 of 14 straight up. So, really, the issue has been that they haven't really covered as a favorite in low-rest situations. I just can't help but wonder how the oddsmakers are making this line so close to a pick, when, by the NBA transitive property, the Hornets should have little trouble dispatching the Rockets. Unfortunately, life isn't so simple. You just never quite know what team is going to match up well with what other team, and which club is going to play with the higher level of motivation. Houston brought Kevin Martin off the bench in his first game, and shot a horrible 3-for-16, so he could very well play better today. These two teams also played twice in rapid succession right near the turn of the year, with both teams winning, and covering at home. I honestly do find it a bit difficult to believe the Rockets can play a strong game on the road, but you just never know. I lean to the Hornets, but something about that side feels too easy. For the total, this is far and away the highest total of any of the 3 meetings between these two teams, with each of the first two games listed right around 194. With both of these teams coming off high-scoring games with the Pacers, I worry that this total might actually jump up a point or two off the opening number, but the value would seemingly be on the under. The total is a very, very tough call. I think this number is accurate, though these weird Sunday games have a way of starting off a little slow, so I lean just slightly to the Under.

Thunder @ Wolves - Oklahoma City by 6.5 with a total of 200.5. This is not going to be an easy back-to-back for the Thunder. They picked up a win in overtime over the Knicks, but it took a miracle comeback in regulation, and then a late surge in OT to get it done. This has all the feelings of an Oklahoma letdown. They might very well win the game, just like they did in New York, but Minnesota is rested, and playing their second game at home. I know all indications are that the Thunder will just keep on steamrolling the League, but I think they'll get a run for their money here against Minnesota. 6.5 is a ton of points to cover in a back-to-back, especially with the overtime factor in New York. And really, let's be honest, the flight from New York to Minnesota is not THAT quick. This game tips at 7 eastern time, so 6 central, which means the Thunder have significantly less than 24 hours to turn around and get amped back up for a game with a team that really doesn't inspire energy or adrenaline. For what it's worth, the Thunder have been pretty bad on Sundays, at just 1-6 ATS, for reasons unbeknownst to me. They also seem to get involved in higher scoring games on the back-to-back, allowing, on average, 2 more points to their opponents when tired. Plus, Minnesota, as we've seen, tends to play a quick tempo. I think off the tough win in New York, the Thunder are not going to be that focused on defense, and I doubt they've gameplanned for Minnesota's weird iteration of the triangle offense. I lean to Minnesota, and I like the Over once again. Plus, these teams played in late January, and the Thunder won 94-92 in Minnesota with a posted total of 199.5. This total is higher despite that lower-scoring affair, and with the revenge, there are two more reasons to like the plays I do.

Hawks @ Warriors - Atlanta by 5.5 with a total of 213.5. I have no idea why I keep thinking Golden State played last night. They didn't. My mind is fuzzy when it comes to the Berkeley/Oakland area of the US. In any case, the Warriors are coming off an ugly offensive effort against the Jazz, which shouldn't surprise anyone. They had the collective mega-game against the Kings 2 days before that, but it's pretty clear that superior competition is really going to give the Warriors trouble, especially without Monta Ellis. Yes, he played against Utah, but just didn't look healthy, going just 2-for-14 from the field. Yikes. Will he bounce back in this one? It's tough to say, if we don't know how badly he is really banged up. I know this 5.5-point line is a dubious number for the Hawks, but I'm not sure it's one of the "special" cases that we talk about in the blog and on the daily podcast. Honestly, I rather wish the Hawks had won their game in Phoenix on Friday, since then we'd have some value playing on the Warriors. Instead, Atlanta lost a weird, low-scoring defensive game with the Suns (I know, I didn't believe it either), and you have to believe they come into this one looking forward to picking on a smaller, weaker opponent. I don't believe there's a letdown factor for Atlanta coming off the game in Phoenix, since the Suns aren't really a rival, and despite the Hawks game in Utah tomorrow, I think they will be focused for this one. I don't really like the Hawks, but I definitely don't like the Warriors, so I guess I have a microscopic lean to the road faves. And those of you that read this blog daily, you know how much I have to loathe a home dog of this magnitude to lean road. I also wonder about that total. I didn't watch the Suns/Hawks game, but reading the recap it sounds like the Suns were making a concerted effort to play defense. Thus, I'm not sure how the Hawks are going to respond to the Warriors breakneck pace, but it's looking more and more like physical teams can really slow the Warriors down. I like the Under.

Kings @ Suns - Phoenix by 11.5 with a total of 218. I can tell you right now I like the Under. I don't even have to look at the line or the history. The Suns are making a conscious effort to play some defense, as evidenced by their extremely low-scoring game with Atlanta, and while I think they'll definitely score more than 88 in this one, I think Phoenix continues to really try to clamp down on the defensive end, and win games the RIGHT way. Guys like Robin Lopez, Louis Amundson, Channing Frye, and a few others are really helping Phoenix make monster strides on the defensive end of the court, and going against Sacramento's one-man-gang is a great opportunity to flex those defensive muscles. This one ends in the 205-210 range, I'm pretty confident. Let's see if this line gets steamed down overnight, and we might very well have ourselves a play. On the Kings side, they struggled with the new pieces, but as expected, Tyreke Evans, and to a lesser extent, Omri Casspi carried the team against the Clippers. Also, to no one's surprise, they still aren't very good. That being said, I think this team is actually better with Kevin Martin gone. Martin is a pure shooter; nothing else. He stops the ball on offense, and he doesn't actually look healthy to me. Sacramento can get a nice, slightly undersized but highly skilled Carl Landry out on the floor, giving them a nice little dimension, and now the combo of Hawes, Thompson and Landry is a nice little trio of moderate skill that Sacramento can cultivate moving forward. I rather like the pieces on this team, but they're just not good enough to compete...yet -- at least not with good teams. I think Sacramento will play hard enough to keep this game with Phoenix close, so I lean in their direction, but I feel like this spread is too large to really be a game with the top value on the board.

Jazz @ Blazers - Utah by 1 with a total of 192. Nice rivalry game in the Pacific Northwest, but will Portland wake up for this one? Unfortunately for bettors, this game features a few key question marks that make it a tough one to call, specifically on the Blazers' side. Portland is trying to work Brandon Roy back into the lineup, and newcomer Marcus Camby, as well. The efforts to re-tool how the offense is run and try to get Camby familiar with all the schemes takes time. We saw in Portland's clunker of an effort against the Celtics that they just weren't ready to all play together, and I really strongly believed they would bring a high-level effort, even if the chemistry wasn't perfect. So, will Portland be ready to step it up in their second game with Roy and Camby back in the lineup? I'm not sure. Dallas looked WAY better in their second game with Butler and Haywood. Cleveland looked horrid in its first game with Jamison, so we're kind of watching closely how all these teams involved in larger trades respond to the new personnel. And really, the smart move here is to just not bet this one. Utah hosts Atlanta at home tomorrow, so there might be a value play in that game, depending on how this one turns out, and maybe we should just wait. For those of you that desperately want to make a play on this one, you obviously have to compare two notes. The Blazers are coming off an embarrassing loss at home to the Celtics, so they'll be playing with a chip on their shoulders. The Jazz are steamrolling the NBA, going 15-2-3 ATS in their last 20 games, or thereabouts depending on the line you got, and what reason do we have to think they'll slow tonight? They've defeated Portland all 3 times this year, and I wonder if this isn't one of those spots where a team on triple-revenge is just overmatched. I like Utah in this small spread to cover in a close game. I also my (or anyone's) opinion on the total is based on whether we think Roy has a good game his 2nd night back. I believe he may need another game or two to get back into the swing of things, and I like the Under.

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