Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Uh Oh, Wednesday's Back

I felt a lighthearted title was in order, considering we've been rolling along, and jokes are extra-hilarious when you're on a winning streak!

Last night we dropped the Free Play on the Cavaliers, as Cleveland got out to a quick start, and then completely ignored a youngster on the Hornets by the name of Marcus Thornton. Thornton torched Cleveland for about 80% of last night's game, and while Cleveland did manage to win by 10 (and miss the cover by a single bucket), the Hornets were certainly the right side, and we missed it.

However, that was merely our half-unit selection, and we more than made up for that early loss with a later 1-unit Paid Play winner on the Memphis Grizzlies. As noted in our write-up yesterday, the Lakers were hugely overvalued just because of Kobe's return. Memphis wanted last night's game more, and only failed to pick up the straight-up win because Kobe Bryant is an absolute assassin late in games. We got the cover easily, and the post-All Star Break onslaught continues.


Alright, that's enough recap; let's break down today's action!

Sports Wagering

Blazers @ Raptors - This line is OFF. Portland lost Marcus Camby early in their game with New Jersey, but managed to fend them off and pick up a nice little road win (and cover) to start their 5-game road trip around the eastern and central time zones. Now, though, they have to head to Canada overnight, deal with customs, and try to get the energy level back up for a tilt with the Raptors. This game, and this line, are largely dependent on whether or not Chris Bosh plays. He is currently listed as doubtful, which makes this game especially tough for Toronto. Interestingly, they've won both games with Bosh out, failing to cover at home but finding a way to win, but this is a new type of opponent: as in, one that has some skill, and isn't New Jersey or Washington. The Blazers are an outstanding 10-3 on the second half of a back-to-back, and if Toronto is truly counting on the rest of their guys to step up yet again without Bosh, I think they might be hitting a little bit of a wall. Portland knows they need to start winning soon, and if Brandon Roy can continue to get his legs under him and get a little more aggressive, the Blazers can be okay yet. Portland hasn't faced Toronto yet this season, so there aren't any historical angles to bring up. Really, what we're faced with is the question of "can the Raptors find a way to score enough to win without Bosh," and "can Portland continue to succeed on back-to-back games." I'm inclined to believe we see another nice effort from the young Blazers, and I lean to the road team, as I expect them to be getting some points. I also like the Under, since I can't imagine Toronto scores as easily against Portland as they did against Jersey and Washington.

Wolves @ Hawks - Atlanta by 12.5 with a total of 204. This is too many points, that's my opinion. The Wolves just aren't that horrid, and they've shown steady growth most of the season, even picking up a rare road win last night in Miami. Obviously, the key concern on Minnesota's side is that they played last night, and they're 3-12 (7-8 ATS) on the back end of these back-to-backs, so not terribly impressive, and just 2-8 ATS when that second game occurs on the road. So, this isn't exactly a good spot for Minnesota. That being said, I think the positive angles actually outweigh the negative ones. Minnesota got SERVED by the Hawks back in December, losing by 25 on their home court to the quicker, stronger Hawks, but I feel that Minnesota has improved dramatically since then. They compete most nights lately, and I just don't see them getting blown out by a team that doesn't play great defense. Anyway, I'm letting opinion get in the way of a factual write-up, so back to the important notes. The Hawks return home in this game off a rather beefy road trip that took them across the West and into Utah for their finale. Atlanta won that final game of the trip against the Jazz, which allowed oddsmakers, I believe, to bring this line out a tiny bit higher and still know the public is going to want to play the Hawks. Atlanta is bound to have a little first-game-home sluggishness, at least on the defensive side of the ball, and with a game against the Mavs coming up on Friday, there might even be the chance for a look-ahead. Strong lean to Minnesota, and slight lean to the Over, as I think Minnesota loses defensive focus on the back-to-back (they are 11-4 O/U on b2b's), and Atlanta takes Minnesota for granted off a tough road trip.

Grizzlies @ Wizards - Memphis by 1 with a total of 199. Wow, very tough spot for the Grizz. Memphis, our Paid Play winner last night. Memphis fought tooth and nail against the Lakers, and after falling behind early, scratched and clawed their way to a 5 point lead that they held for most of the 4th quarter. And then the game clock ticked under 1 minute, and everything changed. For the Grizzlies, the rim shrink to a pinhole, and O.J. Mayo missed two free throws that would have iced the game, then Kobe Bryant came down to the other end, banged in a 3-point with 5 seconds left, and the Grizzlies were left with their pants around their ankles. Now, Memphis has to head into Washington where the Wizards youngsters are playing inspired basketball, and try to get their heads back on straight and win a tough road game. This extremely short spread is interesting in that it almost tells me that oddsmakers know sharps are going to come in on the Wizards, and even though they could likely get away with bringing this line out a tiny bit higher, they don't want to risk getting killed with big Washington money. As you may recall, Washington played Memphis tough way back in December, though admittedly it was an entirely different team, then. The Wizards have quietly rattled off 6 straight covers with the new cast of characters, and I lean to Washington to get it done again. I also like the Over here, as Memphis is bound to go half-assed on defense.

Hornets @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 5.5 with a total of 192.5. Boy, if the Hornets play as hard as they did against the Cavaliers, they should be in decent shape in this one. That being said, it's never easy to follow up a game with the Cavaliers with another one the very next night. The Hornets have been a strong 7-4 ATS on back-to-back games, so perhaps they don't NEED the full 2 points they get in this spot, but I think coming off a game with Cleveland, they might be a little more tired than after, say, a game with Indiana. I realize I backed Cleveland last night in a half-unit freebie, so for me to fade the Hornets again might be nuts, but in an effort to be thorough, I feel the need to at least address the angles of this game. New Orleans defeated Milwaukee by just 3 points way back in November, so I don't know if there's any real revenge in play, here, but what we DO have on our hands is a fun battle at the point. Brandon Jennings going head-to-head with fellow greased-lightning point guard Darren Collison? That's solid theater. Both of these teams are playing well above their ATS rank, with the Hornets covering 6 of 7, and the Bucks covering 3 straight and 14 of 17! Basically, what this means is that neither team is really the "value" play, as each is a solid wager against most other teams in the NBA, but not each other. I would contend that the strongest angle is the potential letdown for New Orleans off hanging with the Cavs for 43 minutes, so I lean just slightly to the Bucks. We also know how the Hornets want to run, run, run, and I imagine the Bucks are going to really try to slow things down. I have to look at the Under.

Pacers @ Bulls - This line is OFF. And I'm afraid I must admit, my feelings on this game are largely going to be dictated by the presence (or lack thereof) of Indiana's star, Danny Granger. We saw what the Pacers look like without him once again in Monday's ugly defeat at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. We cashed an Under wager on that game, as the Pacers just couldn't get anything going, had zero offensive rhythm, and couldn't stop the Mavs. That, right there, is a brutal combination of failure. Now, they head into Chicago for their 3rd game this season with the Bulls. This one is technically a double-revenge spot, but I hesitate to use that term when the Bulls so severely out-class the Pacers. Indiana lost by 9 in Chicago back in mid-December, then lost by 8 at home just before the All Star Break. It seems like, watching these games, the Bulls have unlocked the key to defending the Pacers, and Indiana just hasn't been able to succeed offensively against them. Unfortunately, that probably means we're going to see a fairly hefty spread in this one. My one concern is that Chicago is coming home off a silly loss in Washington, and I only hope that doesn't send them into any kind of multiple-game tailspin. As it is, if Granger is out, the Bulls could very well run the Pacers right out of town. Lean to the square side, the home Bulls. I also think we'll get some info from oddsmakers with the total, as both games this year have gone over, the last time eclipsing the posted mark of 205 with a final total of 210. Let's wait and see where that number comes out; if it's below 204, we may have a lean to the under.

Magic @ Rockets - This line is OFF. Trevor Ariza is dealing with a hip injury, and I believe is expected to miss this game. I honestly can't find a good reason to back Houston at home. The home court edge doesn't appear to be worth anything, and the Rockets have, not so quietly, slipped to 25-30 ATS on the season, and 1-6 ATS against winning teams in the season's second half. Basically, what we're seeing is that this is still a team that is getting some public love, and are getting creamed by the better teams in the NBA. In fact, and I realize this is all the more reason to be afraid to bet this game, Houston doesn't really have any positive trends right now. They are 1-5 ATS against the Southeast, 11-18 ATS against teams that score over 100 points, 12-15 ATS at home, and 4-12 ATS in their last 16 games. On Orlando's side, I might be a little concerned of a letdown after the big home win over the Cavs back on Sunday, but with all this time to collect themselves and get ready for the games at hand, I think we should see a decent effort from the Magic. Am I nervous that someone on Houston will step up and lay a beating in Ariza's stead? Not really, as he's just not a superstar -- sorry Trevor. This is a very tough spot for the Rockets, who have covered just 1 home game over the last month and change, and once again, I have to play the square card and lean to the road faves. I also think Orlando will try to put the clamps on Houston, and believe the Under has a tiny bit of pre-line value.

Thunder @ Spurs - This line is OFF. Ouch, if you're the Thunder. You win 9 games in a row, then finally drop a home game to the Nash-less Suns. Trademark "Injured Star Situation" there, as Phoenix kept it close all game, then outplayed Durant and the Thunder down the stretch in a strong road effort for the surging Suns. As you guys know, I tend to enjoy fading teams that lose a game to snap a long winning streak, especially when it's a tough, hard-fought one like this bad boy. The Thunder are a great team, don't get me wrong, but they're simply due for a few bad games. They managed to escape with wins against the inferior clubs on their recent road trip, but the Suns exposed them for not really going full throttle, and I wonder how this one is going to go, too. I wish almost any other team was coming into San Antonio, because in terms of bad situational spots, it doesn't get much more disturbing than the Spurs coming home off the rodeo road trip. The Spurs literally have not played a home game in the month of February. That is downright ridiculous. Whatever home court advantage they might have here is going to be vastly diminished by the fact that home might just feel like another road stop. They also go right back out on the road for a game in Houston on Friday. What can we expect from the Spurs? I don't think a strong game, that's for sure, but can they take advantage of a Thunder team that might be in line for another loss or two before getting things back in gear. This is a damn tough game to pick, especially without a line, and especially with Tony Parker expected to be out. I suppose I have to lean just a tiny bit to the Thunder, since they have been a very good bounceback team this season, going 17-4 ATS off a SU loss. I also like the Over, as I feel the chances of the Spurs playing lockdown defense in this first game back home is somewhat slim.

Bobcats @ Jazz - This line is OFF. The Bobcats are off to a rather poor start to their current road trip, losing and failing to cover in both Milwaukee and against the Clippers in LA. In addition, the Bobcats have actually gone a dismal 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games, and I don't know if they've really "bottomed out" just yet. That being said, it might happen here. The Jazz got beat at home by the Hawks in their last game, trying to come back off an incredible OT win in Portland and play a strong Atlanta club without the services of Andrei Kirilenko and Deron Williams. Obviously, the health of the Jazz is paramount in this game, and they'll be a tougher team to back if they continue to miss key pieces. Still, Utah has been red, red hot lately, only losing 3 games against the spread since the middle of January, and here they'll get to face a Bobcats team that just isn't clicking right now, especially on the defensive end. Charlotte wins games when they can slow their opponents, and they haven't held an opponent under 90 points since January 20th. That run of not-as-impressive defense has coincided almost exactly with their poor ATS run. I just can't bring myself to back the road dog here. I know taking points is the way to go in the long run, and we often play big dogs, but I just don't feel like Charlotte can handle the unique Utah offense, and while this is indeed a home revenge spot for the Bobcats, I believe Utah beat Charlotte on the road because the young Bobcats just didn't know what to do with Utah. I lean to the Jazz. I also think this one has a chance to stay Under, but I want to see where the total comes out. Utah has been playing, in general, lower-scoring games and really playing physical defense, and they might very well hold the Bobcats to a very low number.

Sixers @ Suns - This line is OFF. What an outstanding comeback effort for the Suns last night in Oklahoma, and what a near meltdown for the Sixers in Golden State! Two teams on the back-to-back, squaring off in Phoenix. The question is, of course, is Steve Nash going to play. The "Injured Star Theory" took effect in Oklahoma City for the Suns last night, as the other guys stepped up big time, but I just wonder if they'll have the gusto to do it again tonight. That is the point of contention with the Injured Star theory -- how long do you back a team that loses its star, and when exactly can you start fading them? The Suns are a dismal 4-9 ATS on back-to-back spots, so they really don't play well when fatigued, and I guess that makes sense. If you're a team that uses every ounce of strength running the ball down your opponent's throat, and if you're already bad on defense, then clearly playing tired is going to slow you down on offense, and turn you from a bad defensive team into a terrible one. The Sixers are a more impressive 8-5 ATS on back-to-backs, but they're also extremely inconsistent right now. They've been alternating wins and losses, and even the totals of their games are all over the place. I just don't like getting into a guessing game with teams like Philly, and would strongly advise looking elsewhere for value on this card. However, Phoenix beat Philly on the East coast earlier this season, so there may be a tiny bit of revenge, and if indeed the non-Nash Suns show a little fatigue, the Sixers have the young legs to take it to them. I lean just a tiny bit to Philly, and a tiny bit to the Over.

Lakers @ Mavs - A Pick in Dallas with a total of 194.5. This should be an interesting one -- the new-look Mavs against the Lakers, with Kobe fresh off the shelf. From a situational standpoint, I think you have to like the Mavs, here. Even though Dallas has been downright unbearable at home (6-21 ATS), so get such a short spread against the defending champs is a rare and unique privilege. Also, the Lakers are coming off that grinder in Memphis, and getting the game-winner from Kobe might actually have been worse for the Lakers' upcoming ATS record than if he had missed the jumper. Now, you have to think the Lakers feel invincible again, and the other guys not named Kobe are ripe to take a few games off, mentally. Unfortunately, the Mavericks have had all kinds of issues scoring against LA this season. In the 3 previous meetings, Dallas shot 42, 38, and 43% from the field, winning just the first match-up, when the Lakers out-stunk them, and shot 39% themselves. So, with the new pieces starting to fit together in Dallas, will the Mavs finally have a decent offensive game against LA? I actually believe they do. The Lakers are an even 7-7 ATS on back-to-back games, so that may or may not be a true factor, but it was pretty clear the Lakers defense wasn't quite the same in Memphis as it had been with Kobe out, and I believe that to be a strong indicator that some of the guys that stepped up with the superstar out have decided to take a couple games off. In addition, the Lakers beat Dallas here, without Kobe, just over a month ago. I lean Dallas on revenge, and I have almost no idea what to expect on the total, but with two big-name teams, my first lean is always to the Under.

Pistons @ Clippers - LA by 3.5 with a total of 190. Detroit clobbered Sacramento last night, but the question we have to ask going into this one is "can they get the juices flowing again tonight for a game with another lackluster opponent?" Well, if the earlier parts of this season are any indication, the Pistons might struggle a bit. Detroit is just 4-10 ATS on back-to-backs, so they generally do show strong signs of wear. However, they're healthier now than they have been all season, so you just have to wonder how much of that terrible back-to-back record is because they just didn't have enough warm bodies to compete and get the other warm bodies fresh. This game has all the makings of a real stinker. Each team has won (and covered) 2 games in a row, for what that's worth, and each team has, to some degree, bottomed out. The Clippers 2-game win streak is of a 5-game ATS losing skid, and the Pistons are slowly improving as guys like Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, Will Bynum, Charlie Villanueva get their legs underneath them and learn how to play with one another. It looks like Detroit is actually a potential good ATS buy right about now, but I'm just not sure about this game in particular. The Clippers have a ton of new pieces they're trying to work into the system, as well, and it's something of a crapshoot if they'll evolve or devolve on any given day. I happen to think this game is a coin-flip, but I'll lean Clippers because of Detroit's miserable back-to-back record, and because they're coming off such an easy win I feel the line holds a microscopic bit of value on the Clips side. Maybe the better bet is the Under -- as the Clippers work the new teammates in, they have seemed to improve on defense; I just worry Detroit's defense might suffer on the back-to-back. This one might be a pass, but gun to my head, I'd lean Under.

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