Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Argh

It's a travel day for Danny Boy, so enjoy the blog, and I'll be headed across the country for most of the day!

A recap of yesterday's action saw us collect an easy winner with our Free Play on the Heat-Spurs Under, and a tough, tough loss as the Kings-Lakers ending has left me scratching my head. Why does Ron Artest foul Jason Thompson and keep Tyreke Evans from his triple double? Why doesn't Jason Thompson make a darn free throw? It really seemed like when the Kings got the ball back with 20 seconds left, and the game decided, a cover or a push was a pretty strong probability. Sometimes bad breaks come in bunches, so it's our job to make sure we don't let those cloud our judgment when we're getting set to burst out of this stretch of .500 handicapping.

As I said last night, if our cold streaks are mostly marked by trading off wins and losses, and splitting cards because of a bad break, we are FAR from in a bad spot. Plenty of action left, and the bad breaks can stop at any moment. When that happens, we'll rattle off a beefy run.

Sports Wagering

Nets @ Sixers - This line is OFF. Well, the Nets finally lost an ATS bet last night, and I don't think it should come as a surprise that it came on, yep, the FIRST GAME HOME. Just a very, very tough spot for teams, especially a Nets club that almost doesn't have a home court edge in that barren wasteland they call a home arena. Now, they head back on the road, and this is a spot I would much prefer to look at Jersey. Believe it or not, Jersey is actually an even 17-17 ATS on the road, so oddsmakers are starting to figure out this team's road ability, and get that season ATS mark a little closer to even. I suppose the issue is that Jersey hasn't really done anything on back-to-back games; though, looking closer, they have covered their last 2 and 3 of 4 back-to-backs since mid-February, so at least they're showing signs of playing with some gusto. I know this sounds nuts, but I actually believe the Nets have the motivational edge here. Jersey is still playing to try NOT to be one of the worst teams in history, but the Sixers seem to have completely mailed it in. They've lost 5 straight and 10 of 11 games straight up, and they've covered just 3 of those 11 games, so it isn't much prettier ATS. Interestingly, all 3 games this year between these two teams have been won by Philadelphia, but by 3 or 4 points, and the Nets have covered all 3. Very weird. I think Jersey can actually use some of that triple-revenge here, since the Sixers really aren't that much better than Jersey, and the Sixers remain one of the worst home ATS teams in the NBA at 9-23 ATS. I lean Jersey. On the total, all 3 games have gone under the mark, but Jersey's been playing better, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sixers just play an up-and-down streetball style game. I lean Over.

Hawks @ Raptors - This line is OFF. Will the Raptors ever consider waking back up? Do they even know they're slated to actually go to the playoffs? It sure doesn't look like it. This is a nice proving game for them, though, as they get to tackle the Hawks, who should be good and tired heading into Canada. This isn't a good spot for either team, though, with Toronto coming home off a terrible West coast road trip, where they lost all 4 games, and covered just 1 of those 4. I really wish I could find a way to back the Raptors here -- the Hawks have beaten Toronto BADLY twice already this year, so there may be some revenge factor for the Raptors, but even with the Hawks coming in tired and off a win over Jersey, and even with the value the Raptors should have coming off such an awful stretch, I'm just not sure I can ever really confidently back a team off such a long flight home and playing their first game back in over a week. So, again, as sort of a wrapping up thought, as badly as I want to back Toronto, given the Hawks fatigue factor and the double-revenge, and all that, I just think it takes the Raptors ONE MORE GAME to get settled back in - they match up very poorly with the Hawks, so I'd be careful. I guess, gun to my head, I lean Atlanta, but I'd prefer to call this one a near-mandatory pass. On the total, this number is going to come out pretty high, I fear, and with Toronto playing a first game home and the Hawks tired, defense might be at a premium - I lean Over.

Pacers @ Cavaliers - Cleveland by 13 with a total of 209. Two of the stranger games from last night, that's for sure, involved these teams. The Cavaliers got a cover in Detroit in a game that was about as close to looking "fixed" as any I've seen all year - and I didn't have a cent on it. I just have no idea how Detroit continues to foul and foul and foul and let the Cavs have scores until they get outscored by that many points just in the final minute. Very weird. In any case, the Cavs got the cover, and now they head back home, the quick trip from Detroit to Cleveland, and get to lay 13 whopping points to the Pacers. Indiana beat Charlotte yesterday, giving some small measure of credibility to their ability to play at home. The Pacers have actually won 3 straight at home, but unfortunately, they've lost 8 straight on the road. With both teams tired, I'm not sure trying to pick which side is going to show up is the best option. We know how tough the Cavs can be, and Lebron has a way of keeping his troops motivated. Still, neither team is in a particularly good or bad spot, which means you have to at least look at the huge road dog, and I suppose I would then give a teeny tiny lean to Indiana.. On the total, though, we might very well get to see some scoring, here. Obviously, the concern is whether the Pacers will make enough buckets to help this total get to 209. They'll push the pace, and the Cavs will score close to 110, but the Pacers just don't shoot well on the road, and the hope is that the Cavs' defense just won't be that strong. These teams haven't cracked 200 points in their previous two games, and something just feels like this one might be a runner. I lean Over.

Thunder @ Bobcats - Oklahoma City by 1.5 with a total of 191. This game intrigues me, though I'm not 100% sold on a play just yet. The Bobcats are coming home off a loss in Indiana, and the lack of Gerald Wallace combined with the letdown off the big road win in Orlando seemed to take Charlotte's focus off Indiana and maybe got set on going home a little too early. I mean, Charlotte got badly outplayed by the Pacers: they turned the ball over more often, and even though they shot the ball better than Indy, the Pacers' attacked the glass, and really separated themselves from the Bobcats with a strong 2nd quarter. So, now I can't help but wonder if Charlotte bounces back in this game against one of the League's rising powers, or if they continue to suffer a little skid. Charlotte does seem to have a knack for losing 2 or 3 games in a row in between nice win streaks. Charlotte had won 6 straight going into this loss at Indiana, but before that they had lost 5 of 6. If Gerald Wallace misses this game, I find the Bobcats hard to back, even though they're quite strong at home. The Thunder are just not a team that even a slow-it-down club like Charlotte can really contain, and if the Thunder are at all interested in this game, which they should be since it's the first game of a road trip where this is actually the toughest game, then the Thunder should win by a bucket. I know this game might look a little like a "trap", but I can't help but lean to the surging Thunder. I will admit, I don't have a good read on this total - we know the Bobcats want to slow things to a crawl, especially against a team with so many weapons like the Thunder, but can they control things? I lean slightly to the Under, since I believe the Thunder are comfortable in both slower or quicker games.

Knicks @ Celtics - Boston by 9.5 with a total of 208.5. Well, Boston can't play any better than they did against Detroit two days ago -- the question is, can they play almost as well? Because an equally strong effort from Boston would most certainly mean a cover. A weak effort, and covering double digits seems damn near impossible, especially since the Knicks are actually playing decent ball lately. New York has picked up 2 straight road wins, a crushing blowout of the Dallas Mavericks in one of the weirdest games of the season followed by a solid win in Philadelphia against the struggling Sixers. My concerns with this game are numerous. For instance, if I'm thinking about backing the Celtics, can I really trust Michael Finley to rain in buckets at a near-perfect clip, and can I expect Boston to shoot 62% as a team for the game, even in garbage time? Seems unlikely. But what if I back the Knicks? Boston has won both games this season, but hasn't covered either one -- is this the game where the Knicks realize they just can't get over that Celtic hump, or do the Knicks figure that if they can get THAT close to winning, maybe this is their night. I honestly don't know how the Knicks have stayed so close in both games this year - both have gone WAY over the total, so perhaps the Knicks have had great success at suckering Boston into quicker games, and trading buckets is no way to beat a team by more than 5 or 6 points. Now, we see oddsmakers have adjusted this total by 10 points above the last meeting, and that's worth noting, as well. They're expecting another high-scoring affair, which makes me think the Knicks get up near 100 points - I only hope the Knicks don't look forward to getting home off their road trip. If the Knicks weren't riding a little momentum, I'd be more concerned about the "Last Road Game" theory, but as it is, I think they're having fun, and I think they score some buckets. I lean New York, and I think the total is pretty accurate, but I can't help but think it might have been overadjusted, and I lean Under.

Spurs @ Magic - Orlando by 7.5 with a total of 194.5. This spread is strikingly low, considering the Spurs are playing a back-to-back game. Are the Magic really only 2.5-point favorites to the Spurs on a neutral court? Let's check out some common opponents, if we can find one. Oh goodie, we can: the Clippers. The Magic hosted the Clippers on the first game of LA's road trip East just about a week ago, and were laying 13 points. So, 10 points better on a neutral court. A few days later, the Clippers played a 4th game in 5 nights in San Antonio, while the Spurs were coming home on a back-to-back, and laid 11.5, so they were just about 8 or 8.5 point favorites on a neutral court. How about that - this line is actually pretty fair, or certainly within a point of fair. I guess that's worth noting, because the Magic don't often get a fair line, being one of the true marquee clubs in the NBA right now. Does that mean this is a rare time where maybe we take a look at Orlando? I suppose it's worth considering -- the Spurs are a middle of the road team on back-to-back games, but they've had a huge issue scoring points when tired. Generally, they've been able to stay in games by slowing things down, but the Magic are a stronger, faster team, so if I'm the Spurs, I'm a little scared. They are fortunate to have been able to get out to a big lead over the Heat, and really didn't have to play at full speed in the 4th quarter, though an early-quarter surge by Miami forced the Spurs to leave started in until the 3 or 4 minute mark. I hate to say it, but I like Orlando, and I don't think it's a trap. On the side, I like the Under, since the Spurs are going to try every trick on the planet to keep this thing low-scoring, and while the Magic might get theirs, the Spurs might not.

Grizzlies @ Rockets - This line is OFF. Alright, so, what's going on with the Grizzlies? They got up big on a badly undermanned Chicago team, then let them claw their way back into the game. A truly motivated team doesn't let that happen, though I suppose there is the possibility coach Hollins might have been trying to buy his guys a little more rest than usual last night with this showdown with Houston coming up. Both of these teams want this game BADLY, and when the motivation factor is almost equal, I think the best move is a pass. As far as angles go, Memphis got embarrassed by Houston at home shortly before the All Star Break, and so far this year it just looks like Houston has Memphis's number. I would honestly be very, very careful with this game. The Grizzlies are going to be a bit fatigued, and a rested Rockets team can definitely put up some points. The total is probably going to be a tad inflated with the Rockets coming off a near-250 point total with Denver, and Houston might very well suffer a small letdown off that huge comeback win over the Nuggets, but with all these competing angles, the possibility that the Rockets just own the Grizzlies, both teams needing this win to have any shot at the playoffs (and even that is a stretch), I just don't think this one is worth playing a side. I guess if you got that gun back out and pointed it at me again, I'd lean to the veteran Rockets to execute in a big game. On the total, I have to lean Under without even seeing it, as both teams have been playing some high scoring games, and there's almost no chance we're not getting a few points of value on an Under.

Bulls @ Mavericks - This line is OFF. Chicago is in bad shape these days. They did somehow mount a monster comeback against the Grizzlies last night to get a cover as a huge underdog, and if you thought that line was outrageous, wait until we get a load of this one. Given that the Bulls were getting 11.5 points in Memphis, and now they're playing a back-to-back game against a better team, we might be looking at a 15-point spread. I guess we'll have to wait and see, but this is an awful spot for Chicago, no matter what scrubs are playing. Chicago could be missing 80% of their starting 5 again tonight, with Taj Gibson the lone exception, and Dallas is coming off getting blown out by 34 at home by the Knicks, and haven't played in 4 days. Yikes. Dallas beat Chicago 122-116 on the road 11 days ago, so we know they can handle the Bulls, and the only real concern with Dallas is whether they can actually play some defense at home. The return of Brendan Haywood helps Dallas quite a bit, but at 8-25 ATS at home, the Mavs are never really an "easy" home team to back. But here, with the Bulls going all out in trying to come back against the Grizzlies, and the Mavs in a spot where they want to take out some anger against the next team to come into their building, I have to lean to the chalky Mavs. On the total, I just can't see the Bulls competing on the offensive end if the Mavs play any defense at all, and I lean Under.

Wolves @ Jazz - Utah by 15 with a total of 214. You guys know my feelings on a team coming from a 7pm Pacific time start, and heading into the altitude on the second half of that back-to-back. It's really the combination of factors that leaps above all others. Not only do they get into Utah at 3am and get to a hotel, probably a bit hungry, near 4, but they have to try to sleep in the altitude, and get ready for a game with a strong, tough team not terribly long from that time they get into town. The Jazz crushed the Wizards on Monday, so they're rested, and they're feeling just fine about themselves, knowing that every win gets them closer to home court in the first round of the playoffs, and maybe more if some of the teams ahead of them would lose a couple. I know this is a monster spread, and these are really becoming the norm down the stretch as the weaker teams start to call it a year, but unfortunately, now is just the time of the season where we need to start taking a look at these big favorites. They're covering a good half the time, and if we can find the right situational spot to back a huge favorite, we can get ourselves a blowout win, and in the process, a 5-10 point cover. Interestingly, these two teams have actually played close games this year, and that's the one point of concern here. The Wolves actually beat Utah twice, then forced the Jazz to play to the final possession in losing the 3rd meeting. I just wonder if the Wolves have the drive to try to compete again, when they're going to be tired beyond tired, and also can see the finish line on this complete failure of a 2009-2010 season. I have to lean to the big favorite here, as the only thing keeping us from doing so is that the Wolves seem to play well against the Jazz, but I don't really think that's a trackable trend. On the total, all 3 games have gone over so far this year, and I think finally oddsmakers have adjusted. Minnesota isn't going to score enough to get this one over the total, and I lean Under.

Hornets @ Warriors - Golden State by 3 with a total of 229. There's a little revenge at play here, as the Warriors lost by 4 in New Orleans (but got the cover) just a little over a week ago. Now, the Warriors get to play host to a Hornets team that seems to be just about done with this season. Yes, they beat the Clippers, but there are only about 2 or 3 teams in the NBA playing less inspired basketball than the Hornets, and the Clips just happen to be one of those teams. Here, the Warriors are playing about as hard as anyone in the NBA, but I do have two concerns about this game. First, the line was Warriors getting 6 points in New Orleans, and now they're laying 3? A 9-point swing is pretty hefty, especially since neither team is playing a back to back - is it possible that the return of Monta Ellis is really the only thing shifting this line 3 extra points? The other concern I have is that the Warriors are coming off that game with the Lakers where they went all out and nearly sent that game to overtime. Do they suffer a letdown, these young guys on Golden State, after pouring their hearts into that near-miss against LA? And, does New Orleans get a little confidence off the win over the Clippers, and carry that into Oakland? There are just too many questions to be answered about each team. I actually believe that the line shift between games is too big, and that there might be a point or two of value on the New Orleans side, especially considering they've shot the ball very well in all 3 games against the Warriors this year. It's not a lean, more a trademark tilt to the Hornets, but avoiding the side might be the best move in another weird late-season matchup. These teams scored 266 points in the last meeting, and this total got adjusted by 12 - the over just looks too easy, and the value is definitely with the Under.

Bucks @ Clippers - Milwaukee by 3.5 with a total of 192. This line looks all kinds of crazy to me. The hottest team in the NBA is laying only 3.5 to one of the worst teams in the NBA? This is exactly the kind of game, where, in the middle of the season, this game would be Clippers or nothing, but here near the end of the season, I just don't know if there's that same value in the underdog. Sure, the Clippers are getting almost 2 buckets on their home court, which in January is a nice little chunk, but the dog days are done, and the cream is rising to the top. This is indeed the Clippers second game back off that awful road trip, so they'll play a bit better tonight than they did against the Hornets on Monday, but in terms of situational angles, neither team is really in a particularly good or bad spot. And, as noted before, at this point in the season, I think we need a very strong reason to take the underdog in a game where the motivational edge is so severe for the better team. For instance, last night, the Bobcats were in a letdown spot in Indiana, and the very short line was an indication of that. Here, the Bucks are coming to town off a win (and missed cover) at home against the Pacers 3 days ago. They've had plenty of time to regroup and make their push down the stretch, and while this line is certainly an odd one, I fear we may be overthinking things just a bit by trying to find a way to back the Clippers. I don't trust them, and I think they're done with this season. I lean Bucks. On the total, the Clippers have been playing no defense at all, but the Bucks have been trying to win games with execution - when two styles butt heads like that, I'd prefer to pass on the total.

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