Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Beware the Slumpbuster 2.0

Sports Wagering

Bobcats @ Sixers - Charlotte by 1 with a total of 189. This game is interesting if only because we have two teams that are both on back-to-back, and both happen to be over .500 ATS when playing without rest. The Sixers are just 4-10 SU, but 8-6 ATS; the Bobcats are 8-8 SU and 11-5 ATS, easily among the best in the NBA. The issue here is that Charlotte played a thoroughly exhausting game last night against the Heat -- don't get me started again there -- and now they have to travel up to Philadelphia and try to get the energy level up on the road. Charlotte understands that every win is crucial right now if they want to get into the playoffs, and one thing you have to give them credit for is a never-die attitude. Miami led last night for 47 minutes, but Charlotte played their asses off on the defensive end, and managed to squeeze past the Heat for a monster win. I know Miami isn't the kind of opponent that teams get up for, but this game has all the trademark signs of a potential letdown. Charlotte played with insane levels of energy last night, and while the Sixers looked awful in a road loss to Indiana, they should have more in the tank tonight. The only issue is that the Sixers stink! They played a solid road game in Toronto, but you simply can't lose to the Pacers (without Granger) and expect anyone to take you seriously. This game has too many competing angles, I believe, as Charlotte's strong back-to-back ATS number is butting heads with the emotional letdown. I think this game means way more to Charlotte, and I lean to them to barely win, but this margin for error is razor thin. On the total, well, it's all about whether the Bobcats can control the tempo. The Sixers have been so bad lately that I have no confidence in their ability to score, and for that reason, I lean to the Under.

Clippers @ Heat - This line is OFF. This is another game where we have to look long and hard at motivation. The Heat are on the bubble in the Eastern Conference, but they're potentially a little down after blowing what would have been a great win in Charlotte last night. The Clippers have been blown out now in 4 consecutive games, and no team appears to have mailed in the 2010 season at this point more than the Clippers. They are, for lack of a real word, unbackable. This is a terrible spot for both teams, and while I'd love to offer one side that's superior to the other, I just can't do it. There's no fight left in the Clippers, but they could be laying a large chunk of points, which is not going to be easy to cover for a team that is going to be positively gassed. Miami is just 5-9 ATS on back-to-back games, so this isn't a strong spot for them, and the Clippers are 7-9 ATS on back-to-backs. Is this really a spot where we want to get behind either club? Based on motivation alone, I would offer a lean to the Heat, since the Clippers defense isn't going to force Miami into another 78-point night, but that awful back-to-back record for Miami is slapping us in the face. On the total, the Heat are going to try to keep this thing as slow as humanly possible, since the fewer possessions the teams play, the better the Heat's chance of winning with their better team defense. At home, I think they can do just that, and I lean Under.

Jazz @ Pistons - Utah by 6.5 with a total of 201. The Utah Jazz are coming off a steamrolling of the Chicago Bulls, just as we predicted yesterday, but failed to play. That lean, though, was just as much about how bad Chicago has been playing as it was about how strong the Jazz have been. In fact, looking at the Bulls, that team has now lost 5 straight, and it's pretty clear they need their health if they're going to win. In any case, we move forward. Utah plays in Detroit tonight, on a back-to-back against the surprisingly competitive Pistons. What we're seeing from Detroit, since the All Star Break, is pretty cut and dry. When they're rested, they're covering machines. When they're tired, they're awful. Since the Break, when the Pistons are playing on 1 or more days of rest, they're 6-2 ATS, losing only to Milwaukee at home, who was on revenge, and to Boston at home, because the Celtics love making fans in Motown cry. When the Pistons are on back-to-back games since the All Star Break, they are 0-4 ATS. So, casual fans look at Detroit, see that they're 6-6 since the Break and figure they're nothing special, when in fact, they just don't have the depth of talent to win when fatigued. Here, Detroit is rested, which means they're, in effect, a decent choice, and if it weren't for Utah's prowess on back-to-backs, this might be a play. Sadly, though, the Jazz are 8-4 ATS on no rest, and a perfect 5-0 when going away-to-away back-to-back games. Yikes. Utah looks like a team possessed, and I happen to think this spread is pretty close to accurate. Without Rodney Stuckey and Ben Wallace, the Pistons just won't have enough, and I actually think Utah covers late, but barely! On the total, Detroit is going to try to keep this thing from getting too quick, and I think it slips just Under the posted mark.

Grizzlies @ Boston - This line is OFF. First off, last I heard, Zach Randolph is probable to go, and who can blame him? The Grizzlies sit just on the outskirts of the Western Conference Playoff chase, and they basically need to win every game from here on out to pass either Portland or San Antonio, since the top six teams in the West are basically set. You really have to feel for the Grizzlies, who, at 2 games over .500 are 3.5 games out of the playoffs. Over in the East, the 8th seed is a .500 team, so while the top teams in both conferences are relatively evenly matched, the middle and bottom teams aren't even close, still. You have to be 9 games over .500 to make the playoffs in the West right now, and there are losing teams in the East that still have better than a puncher's chance. In any case, the Grizzlies head into Boston to battle a Celtics team coming home off a tough loss in Milwaukee last night. A subtle reminder: Boston is just 7-21 ATS at home, and the Grizzlies are a solid 6-1 ATS against the Atlantic division, for whatever reason a collection of teams that Memphis matches up well against. Memphis has been a machine on the road recently, winning and covering 6 straight, and while I don't know for sure if they beat the Celtics outright, they certainly could. Boston, like the Spurs, is bad when tired. They're just 5-7 ATS on back-to-back spots, and 4-8 O/U, a pretty clear indicator that they struggle to score, and try to "defend" by making the game move about as fast as a geriatric with a walker. I just wish we had a line on this one, since the power rankings should have Boston as roughly a 3-point neutral court favorite, but with the back-to-back, the Celtics might be laying only 3-4 points here. Still, I like the Grizzlies to go all out, and if we're truly capping motivation, I lean Memphis. On the total, I think Memphis is actually ready for a slugfest, and this one stays Under.

Nuggets @ Wolves - Denver by 8 with a total of 217. If there's one complaint we can have about the Denver Nuggets this year, it's that they don't seem to play well on the road, except in huge games. They need something to motivate them, is what that tells me, so either they use the home crowd to get themselves fired up, or the impact of the game, but when they have neither, I'm not convinced they can play well enough. Now, we're at that time of year where on any given day, a bad team can completely mail it in, and any good team can decide they need this one, and that's an obvious concern here. The Wolves went on a few stretches during the season where they looked decent, but boy if that team isn't made up of Al Jefferson and a cavalcade of jokers. The outrageous turnover numbers from that last game make this team awfully tough to back, though I'd wager Johnny Flynn doesn't have another 8-turnover game tonight. Interestingly, neither of these teams is in a particularly strong situational spot. The Wolves sure look bad, so there's likely some line value there, and the Nuggets may be in a tiny letdown spot off the big home win over Portland, but they've had 2 days to collect themselves and get set for this 4-game road trip. If I had to take a side, in a spot like this where nothing points to either team all that strongly, I would have to lean to the home dog, but I think this one is only a 51-53% prospect at first glance, and we'd need the public's help pushing this line up over 9 to make it a truly strong value. That total is extremely high, given the Nuggets score 10 fewer points on the road than at home, but the Wolves defense is, well, not really defense. I think this one just slips Under the mark.

Hornets @ Thunder - This line is OFF. Is this line really off because of Russell Westbrook? That seems somewhat cowardly of the books, considering I would think he only moves this line a point, but whatever. This is the 3rd meeting between these two teams this year, and the road team has won each of the previous two games. Back in early January, the Hornets pulled off a solid upset on the road as a 5-point dog, but the difference then was that Chris Paul could lead the way. Can the Hornets beat the Thunder again without him? I doubt it. Oklahoma City beet New Orleans by 4 just a few weeks ago, so some folks might argue the Hornets have revenge, but right now, this team is clearly tiring. They had lost 4 straight before beating Golden State, but again failed to cover, so that's now 5 straight ATS losers for the Hornets. Give them credit - they played very, very well when Paul went down, but all the other guys are starting to run out of gas, and as the losses mount, and the playoffs slip out of sight, Chris Paul continues to fall behind schedule in his rehab, and games just become a little tougher to really fight for. That was the run-on sentence of the blog, to be sure, but the point is there. New Orleans is no longer a good value. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Hornets getting 8 points, but I happen to think the Thunder just barely clear that spread. On the total, well, the Thunder's defense has been lax lately, and the Hornets are going to want to push, push, push against a vastly superior opponent. I lean Over.

Nets @ Mavericks - Dallas by 12 with a total of 204. This game is marked by two key points -- Brendan Haywood's health, and the fact that the Mavericks can't seem to cover spreads at home. Dallas is a perfectly miserable 0-6 ATS when favored by a number this high. What that tells us, most likely, is that sharps are probably going to hit this number and knock it down overnight. The Mavs did beat the Nets by 16 on the road earlier this year, but for whatever reason they just don't defend at home. It's almost inexplicable. Even in their last game, a win, and cover, against the Timberwolves on the road, the only reason the Mavs covered was because the Wolves turned the ball over 25 times. Now, with Haywood questionable, we're expecting Dallas to cover 12 points against the Nets? Without getting into a longwinded discussion of value, since you guys know that the Nets are the value play, it's pretty safe to say that you fade the Mavs at home, and you'll be in decent shape more often than not. It's not a random trend that Dallas is 8-23 ATS in their own building, as they really don't play 6 points better at home than on the road. In fact, given that they cover just 25% of the time, roughly, at home, that is close to 6 points of value. Interestingly, based on that number, the Mavs should probably be laying the exact same points at home as on the road, if oddsmakers truly wanted to balance the results. But results be damned, books just need even money, and if that leads to the Mavs tanking, so be it. I lean Nets. I also lean Over, and I'm not taking a Mavs under until Haywood comes back.

Knicks @ Spurs - San Antonio by 8.5 with a total of 207. I would love to fade the Spurs in this one, especially with Tony Parker going down for a long stretch of time, and San Antonio coming off that tough loss in Cleveland to the Lebron-less Cavs, but I just don't know if I can pull the trigger. The Knicks are indeed coming off a win against the Hawks, but they're just not a very good road team, and they're so hit or miss these days that we really need to pick our battles. The Spurs beat the Knicks by 7 in New York earlier this year, but that doesn't tell us much, considering the game was in December. More than anything, I'm just not sure I can trust the Knicks to play all that hard against a team that isn't a true rival, and isn't one of the League's elite; not any more, at least. When it comes right down to it, the value is probably with New York, since they're catching a ton of points, but I strongly believe there are better value on the board than backing a terrible team on the road or an underachieving team laying too many points at home. The Spurs are in a worse situational spot than the Knicks, who might try to start a 5-game roadie with a decent game, so I guess with a gun to my head, I'd advise a small lean to the Knicks. The Knicks don't score as much on the road as they do at home, and the Spurs haven't allowed 100 points in their last 4 games, which is actually a nice defensive stretch for San Antonio - I lean Under.

Raptors @ Kings - Toronto by 1.5 with a total of 212. I'm actually a little surprised the Raptors are favored here, but I suppose with BOTH teams on a back-to-back, we're getting a relatively fair line. Both teams are coming off tough, hard-fought losses last night, with the Kings fighting to get even with the Blazers after trailing all night, only to lose by 7 in the final couple minutes, and Toronto actually leading the Lakers most of the evening, only to have Kobe fire yet another game-winning dagger into their hearts. I think the question for this game has to be, "which of these teams, if any, can deal with last night's heartbreak and bounce back accordingly?" On the one hand, I want to say Sacramento, since their game with Portland was likely one that they didn't think they were going to win, and then getting to play in front of the home crowd. Sacramento is just 1-4-1 ATS in back-to-back games that go from away-to-home, but for whatever reason they've played exceedingly bad teams in those spots, and are actually 3-3 SU. I know, weird...in any case, this is the rare time when Sacramento is going to be an underdog in a home conclusion to a back-to-back, and while sharps are probably going to toy with this line, Sacramento getting points seems like a pretty good deal. Toronto has redefined awful in back-to-back games, going just 3-11 ATS, including their most recent debacle in Houston (a game they lost by 24, though, admittedly, it was without Bosh). But really, this team is just bad when they're tired, and off that loss to the Lakers, they are going to be tuckered out. Lean to Sacramento. Neither of these teams plays all that differently on back-to-backs, since neither really plays defense to begin with, so I'd be hesitant before launching onto the Over, but I think we might see a 115-point first half. I happen to think this total is pretty accurate, but have a "tilt" to the Over.

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