Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Compton's Finest

I can honestly say that last night's easy winner on the Detroit-Boston Over was one of the most gratifying since I turned Pro, and not just because a Tayshaun Prince three pointer sparked a 20-point final minute of action.

Big Wednesday card coming up, and today's blog took many hours to put together, so please do take a gander and hit me with some thoughts!

Sports Wagering

Warriors @ Magic - Orlando by 14.5 with a total of 214.5. My heavens, this is a terribly large spread. I can honestly say that I see zero reason to back a team laying almost 15 points. I apologize to those who want to throw their money at the superior club, but the possibilities for a back door are just too numerous. Believe me, I realize that the Warriors are barely fielding a team, but they were able to hang with the Heat, and even outscored Miami 28-24 in the 4th quarter when the weak, tired team with no bench SHOULD have been buckling. The key for Golden State is to make sure that whatever they do, they do NOT allow the opponent to slow the game. As long as both teams are running, and expending energy only on the offensive end, Golden State can usually muster enough to fight through. However, once the Warriors are forced to slow down and grind through screens, box out, rotate on defense, and all those fundamental basketball concepts that Don Nelson has scrapped for his globetrotters, then they're in trouble. Obviously, the Magic are better than the Heat. But the Warriors are actually 9-4 ATS on back-to-backs for the reasons stated above. They manage to get into an ugly game, and make the opponent play down to them, which also means the 2 bonus points on the spread because of the back-to-back are probably more points than the Warriors should actually get. There is line value with Golden State here, and I lean Warriors. I don't much care for the total, but if I had to take a side, I'd have to go Under, since the Magic, being one of the NBA's elite teams, draw public money on the side and the over, and that inherently means we're at least getting some value on the other side. And yes, the Magic beat the Warriors 126-118 in Oakland earlier this year with a posted mark of 222, so oddsmakers think Golden State might struggle to score against this big, strong opponent.

Sixers @ Hawks - Atlanta by 9 with a total of 198. The first thought in any game where a team is getting 9 points is to try to find a way to back that team, but I'm just not sure that any level of convincing can get me to embrace the Sixers. That's not to say I like the Hawks, because I certainly don't, but Philadelphia is not in any kind of "good" situational spot to deserve our money. Philadelphia is coming off a pathetic home effort against the Magic, and they've lost 6 of their last 8 games straight up. They've only covered 1 of the 5 losses, so they're just 3-5 ATS in that stretch, too. They host the Boston Celtics on Friday, so I don't know what level of motivation we're going to get in this one, especially considering these teams haven't faced one another since late November. Yes, Atlanta beat the living piss out of Philadelphia in the City of Brotherly Love back in that game, but can we legitimately claim that the Sixers are upset about it? I doubt it. Philly is playing without Elton Brand, so they're losing a strong interior presence, and the whole Allen Iverson fiasco has to be wearing on a team of mostly younger players. The Hawks are coming off a very strong rebounding effort against the banged-up Bulls, but can they really duplicate that tonight? No leans on the side for me. The total is interesting in that the Sixers can really try to push the pace, and this number, 198, is the exact same as the last time they met, over 3 months ago, which went under. I'm not convinced of either side, but with both teams playing some high scoring games, I actually like the Under, but only just a tad.

Cavaliers @ Nets - Cleveland by 10.5 with a total of 197. I really don't much like this match-up, as I feel like the Nets have zero home court advantage, but the line is just too many points to lay with any road team, ever. I really wish there was some strong angle on either side of this game that would point us towards a team with an edge, but there just isn't. Obviously, the team getting 10.5 points is the place you have to start; that's just common sense. However, a quick look at the Nets recent stretch of games shows that they're 1-6 ATS in their last 7 home games, and 5-0-1 or a perfect 6-0 ATS in their last 6 road games, depending on what line you got. No, this doesn't tell us that the Nets are GOOD on the road! All it tells us is that the 2,500 fans that "pack" the Nets home arena on a nightly basis are not providing a home court advantage, so when the line swings 3 points to a neutral court, and 3 more points to the Nets abode, those are 6 points the Nets desperately need back. If we look at the last 3 home losses, by 10 to the Grizzlies, 9 to the Blazers and 4 to the Wizards, the Nets were underdogs of 6, 8 and 1 in those 3 games. That means they missed the cover by 4, 1 and 3 in those contests, which basically tells us that if the Nets are treated like they're playing at a neutral site, those 3 losses would be 1 win, 1 loss and 1 push - how's that for fun with numbers. And that's how it has to be. We have to assume that, for now, the Nets are 3 points outside the value at home, then compute from there. Against low and mid-tier teams, they're a great home fade, but against a marquee club like Cleveland, 1 to 2 of those 3 points are coming back because of public perception. Thus, I hate the sides in this game and have no lean. As for the total, though, books adjusted hard on the previous meeting, which saw a combined 201 points on a posted total of 189. I happen to believe the books overcompensated. Both teams shot over 50% in that game, and I don't think Jersey can pull that feat off again. I lean Under.

Bobcats @ Celtics - This line is OFF. This series has been absolutely, positively dominated by the Celtics so far this year, and they have beaten the Bobcats so thoroughly that I needed to check Charlotte's dental records to make sure it was actually them. Boston beat them 92-59 in Boston back in the season's first week, and then went into Charlotte in early December and beat 'em 108-90. So, the first point is that Charlotte is going to have some revenge. I know it was a while back, but you can't get trounced that hard by a team and not have some extra energy when you finally get a chance to tackle them again. I also happen to LIKE the fact that this game is being played in Boston, because the Celtics are sure to be a favorite, which means they not only need to win, but they need to win without needing a last second bucket. Boston is just 4-7 ATS on back-to-back situations, so they have not been strong, and a lot of that can be traced back to the fact that they score just 94.8 ppg in these spots, while averaging almost 99 ppg on the season, so those back-to-back, slow, clunkers are dragging that season average down quite a bit. Boston is 6-20 ATS at home, so that's not going to help the situation, and they're just 8-19 ATS against teams with a losing record, which the Bobcats just barely claim at 28-30. I simply have to lean to Charlotte. I also think Boston's methodical, somewhat boring pace in back-to-back games will force this one Under whatever low total we're dealt.

Pistons @ Knicks - New York by 3.5 with a total of 204.5. This game has some interesting angles going on, and MOST of them point to the Knicks, but not necessarily all. The first angle is the obvious one, with the Knicks coming off an hideous performance in Cleveland, getting down by close to 40 points before finally losing that game 124-93. It doesn't get a whole lot uglier than that! You guys know how I feel about teams coming off huge losses, and this game fits that criteria in that it wasn't just a big loss, but it was a loss that a lot of people saw or heard about because it came against Lebron. It's a loss that makes the betting public lose all confidence in a team, and that's the kind I like. Another interesting angle is that the Pistons are on back-to-back yet AGAIN. They are playing just a ton of games these days, playing on the 23rd, 24th, 26th, 27th, 2nd and now the 3rd. That's 6 games in 9 days, basically the most brutal stretch of basketball that any team will play all season. We have seen lately, that the Pistons are not very strong on back-to-back spots, losing all 3 back-to-back games since the All Star Break, and failing to cover all 3. Two of those three have gone under the posted total, too, though Detroit is generally a fairly break even O/U team in back-to-back spots. The final angle favoring New York is that Detroit is coming off a tough game with the Celtics, and teams on back-to-back after playing high emotion games generally suffer a slight letdown. There is one angle favoring Detroit, though, and that's revenge. The Knicks are 2-1 against the Pistons this year, and if Detroit wants to split the season series, they need this road game. Still, I think New York gets it done, as I see the Knicks winning by 5-7. The total on this game is also higher than any previous posted total for these 2 teams this season, and higher than any final total, as well. This looks like another oddsmaker hint, and I lean Over.

Wizards @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 10 with a total of 193.5. I mostly steer clear of these double-digit spreads, as you guys have seen. There are just better values on the board. Still, we can at least take a look at the angles and trends and see if anything stands out as odd. These are two of the hottest teams that most folks didn't capitalize on. The Wizards ran off 6 straight covers, lost 2, but got back on the winning side with a nice road win over the lowly Nets. The Bucks have just been unbelievably good since mid-January, and I know I've used that phrasing quite often, but today I'm going to do the grunt work and find out exactly how amazing Milwaukee has been. Milwaukee is 17-3-1 in their last 21 games! Took me a minute, but I counted them up, and courtesy of that unreal ATS streak, the Bucks are 37-21 ATS on the season. Now, believe it or not, the Bucks are on double-revenge in this game. Washington beat Milwaukee twice back in December, though let's be fair, that was a vastly different Wizards team, so it's tough to call it revenge of any kind. Unfortunately, it's an angle like that one that makes it almost impossible for me to back the road team, here. Milwaukee actually has the motivational edge, but 10 is WAY too many points for the Bucks to be laying. They're playing great basketball, but they're not strong enough to be double-digit'ing teams. No leans on the side. The total intrigues me, as I think the Bucks actually prefer a slower game, if they can get their opponent to play that way. The Wizards are athletic, but they're not scorers, and I could really see this one being decided in the low 90's. I lean Under.

Grizzlies @ Hornets - New Orleans by 2 with a total of 203. Did you ever think we'd see the Hornets as a 2 point home favorite over the Grizzlies this year with Chris Paul on the shelf? I know I didn't, but here we are. The Hornets are playing better basketball than Memphis, dictating the tempo in almost every game they play, and clearly have more confidence than a Grizzlies team that is really struggling trying to make that leap into playoff contention. Interestingly, though, Memphis has been pretty tough on the road lately, while laying egg after egg at home. It's inexplicable, really, unless we argue that the Grizzlies get a little performance anxiety at home, lumping too much pressure on themselves to succeed and instead playing tight and confused. Then, they go on the road, play loose, and get the win. This is going to be a test, though, as the Grizzlies last 3 road wins have come against Jersey, Washington and New York, the true dregs of the NBA. On the other side, the Hornets have failed to cover 2 straight for the first time since February 3rd and 5th, and I wonder if they're tiring just a bit. Darren Collison is playing HUGE minutes these days, and they've done a great job of keeping their collective head above water with Paul out. It's really a wonder that New Orleans is 31-30; very impressive. In terms of meetings this year, the Hornets beat Memphis twice in the span of 10 days in late January. So, New Orleans has some ownage on Memphis, and I just wonder if the double-revenge is more important than the relative hotness of both teams. I think this is going to be a close game, which makes me hesitant to take a side, but I have to like Hornets to get another win over the Grizz. Also, believe it or not, I like the Under, since I think the Hornets might have tapped out on that "hey, we're a fast break team now" value on overs.

Wolves @ Mavericks - Dallas by 13.5 with a total of 201.5. This isn't a particularly good or bad spot for either team, which means what class? That's right - start with the huge dog, and see if there are any good reasons to switch over to the fave. Well, Minnesota is coming off getting clobbered in Oklahoma City, then getting clobbered again at home by the Blazers. So, I'm hesitant to back Minnesota, since they happen to be a pretty streaky team, usually winning and losing in bunches. After an ATS win, the Wolves are 17-14 ATS, and after a loss they are 13-16 ATS, indications that the Wolves' value tends to fluctuate in small waves depending on how hot they are. And right now, unfortunately, they're in a funk. The strong defense from both the Thunder and Blazers have worn down the Wolves, and with Minnesota in a 4 in 5 nights spot, they never got the car started. Now, they got 3 days of rest to catch up on some sleep, but that hasn't really changed much for the Wolves this year. They're just 2-3 ATS on 3+ nights of rest, and again I turn to the note that they play in waves, and when they're down, you're playing with fire trying to predict when they get it turned around. Final note here is that Minnesota actually beat Dallas outright here in Dallas back on February 5th atoning for a home loss to the Mavs way back in November. Let's be frank, 13.5 points is too many to lay, so we're not playing the Mavs, but with the Wolves in a deep slump, I'm not sure we can back Minnesota either, especially with Al Jefferson suspended for a DUI. Once again guys, no real lean on the side. The total of just 201 is intriguing, as Dallas has been playing much better defense, the Wolves are struggling to score, and despite the last meeting hitting 225 on a posted mark of 205, this total came out lower. I lean Under.

Kings @ Rockets - This line is OFF. I honestly can't believe oddsmakers are unwilling to put a line out on a game because of Trevor Ariza, but whatever. Houston is coming off killing the Bosh-less, and hapless, Toronto Raptors, and after this game with the Kings, they go out for 3 road games. Houston is in a decent spot, in that they're relatively well-rested, but at the same time, they're just not that good of a team. They got smaller, believe it or not, in that trade for Kevin Martin, and while wins over San Antonio and Toronto might look somewhat impressive, I am far from convinced that the Rockets should be taken seriously. In addition, the Kings have been rock solid ATS against Houston, going 8-1 ATS over the last 3 years against the Rockets. Maybe it's the Rick Adelman factor, and the guys in Sacramento know what to expect, but Sacramento just gears up to play Houston tough, and to me, they're a very tough trigger to pull. Sacramento, on the other hand, actually looks like a decent ATS play right now. They played like complete and utter manure for about 2 solid months, but I strongly believe dumping Kevin Martin on their opponent in this one was the best move they could have possibly made. Picking up Carl Landry was nice, as well, as his odd-size skills make him a very tough guard. He should probably be a 6th man, but Sactown takes what Sactown can get. Unfortunately, the Kings are a miserable 4-9 ATS on back-to-backs, so this is definitely a fatigue spot, especially coming off a hard-fought 6-point loss (and cover) in Oklahoma. I think Sacramento will be getting a nice chunk of points, so I do lean in their direction, but there's almost no chance I back a team running at less than 33% covers on back-to-backs. This one has the chance to be pretty high-scoring, as Houston will always try to run, and I think the exes on both sides are going to try to get theirs - I lean slightly to the Over.

Thunder @ Nuggets - Denver by 6 with a total of 207. This line doesn't make a ton of sense to me. The Thunder are on a back-to-back and traveling into altitude (albeit, not from the West Coast, so they might actually get a half-decent night of rest), yet the Nuggets are just 6 point favorites. Very rarely do we see a situation where the marquee team appears to be the value, and if this was a road game, I'd be extra suspicious, but I wonder if the Thunder have truly "arrived." Could it be that the Nuggets are only 1 point better than the Thunder on a neutral court? Something feels odd about this one. These teams have played twice this season, with both home teams taking care of business. That being said, the Nuggets played two ugly, ugly games, and still managed to come away with a home win somehow. Both teams get to the foul line and make their free throws, so no huge advantage there, though the Nuggets might get to the line just a little more often. I suppose this line is a little more attractive than usual because Denver is coming off losses to both the Lakers and Suns, but they are a completely different team at home than on the road, and while the Thunder are rolling along to the tune of 3 straight wins (2 blowouts in there), I wonder if oddsmakers are underestimating how tough this spot is going to be for the Thunder. I hate to say it, but I lean to the Nuggets at home. More than the Nuggets, though, I like the Over. The Nuggets are coming off a 35-point under in Phoenix, so the public is going to be disenchanted with the Over, at least a little more than usual. The real reason this total looks so interesting, though, is that the posted mark of 207 is actually 12 and 22 points higher than the two previous actual totals in this series. What's the line doing so high? That's right, the oddsmaker hint returns.

Pacers @ Blazers - Portland by 9 with a total of 201.5. This is a bad spot for Indiana, and potentially a worse spot for Portland. We may be looking at a lesser of two evils situation. The Pacers are playing a back-to-back, and are 8-8 ATS in such spots, but at 26-32 are still one of the weakest ATS plays in the East. They are coming off getting blown out by the Lakers, falling behind by as many as 30 before losing by the eventual margin of 23 points. There's something to be said for Indiana getting crushed on the first half of this back-to-back, though. It creates some positive line value, as this will likely shift to Portland by 9.5 before we really get an idea of which side people are betting just based on Indiana's performance in LA last night. Also, the Pacers are 4-1 ATS when the back-to-backs are both on the road, kind of a weird stat and not one I can truly explain with such a small sample size. Portland beat Indiana by 11 back in December in the Midwest, so I'm not sure it's a revenge spot, truly, but certainly this isn't a team the Blazers are going to take all that seriously, especially in this trademark "first game home" spot. The Blazers are coming home off a wildly successful 4-1 road trip (SU and ATS), but those 5 road games came in the span of 7 days. That seems like it should have drained the life out of Portland, but it didn't, somehow. Unfortunately for Portland, it always catches up eventually, and when a team gets home off a long road trip and settles back into family life, that's when a little nap can quickly turn into a 2-day mental lapse. This is a bad spot for Portland, who plays Denver in their next game, and I lean Pacers. This total might look pretty high, but the Blazers broke 100 in all 5 road games, and I see no reason why they won't do it again against the Pacers pathetic defense. I suppose my concern is that Portland tries to slow things down at home -- they are very much an "under" team at home, and an "over" team on the road, so I wouldn't go nuts with this total. I happen to think it's pretty accurate, especially if the Pacers lay down offensively. No lean on the total.

Suns @ Clippers - Phoenix by 3.5 with a total of 211. Phoenix has really been one of those teams that the Clippers just can't solve. I know, laugh it up, but it's true. The Clippers have intermittent success against most of the NBA, stealing a win here and there, and while they have found ways to barely cover a few times against Phoenix, the Suns 10-1 straight up run against the Clips is pretty close to total domination. But what about ATS? Well, this year, the teams have met 3 times and the Suns have won all 3 straight up, covering the 2 home games, but missing the cover on the road by a single point. The interesting part about the 3 previous meetings, though, is that there was NO defense, at all. The first game was a Phoenix 109-107 road win on October 28, long before anyone had developed any real offensive rhythm or continuity. Hell Phoenix took just 80 shots in that game, but both teams shot over 50%. The next meeting took place on Christmas, and the Suns took that one 124-93, shooting 54% from the field. The third meeting was last week, and the Clippers came to Phoenix and lost 125-112, with the Suns shooting 57% and the Clippers right around 48%. I find it extremely interesting that that game cleared the posted total of 209 by 18 points and books only adjusted by 2. Something tells me this posted total is pretty accurate, and I actually lean to the Under. On the side, it's a tough one. Phoenix is certainly the "easy" play, but they're coming off a huge home win over the Nuggets and host Utah tomorrow. This is the classic sandwich game, and I wouldn't be surprised if Phoenix won by 2 or 3 and failed to cover. I lean Clip show.

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