Thursday, March 18, 2010

Feeling Kinda Cranky

Who am I kidding? It's March Madness - NBA is second fiddle until Monday. Depending on viewership, there may be a day or two during March Madness that goes without a blog.

Just be forewarned.

In any case, the whole card is FREE today, so let's see what's up.

Sports Wagering

Pistons @ Pacers - This line is OFF. Things have gone from ugly to uglier for the Pistons, as this team, that for a couple weeks looked like they had some pride, have regressed to mid-season awful form. But I do have some amount of pity for them - Detroit has just been hammered by injuries all season long, and just when you thought they might be able to play out the season with a mostly full roster, at least trying to learn each others' idiosyncrasies and developing some chemistry, Rodney Stuckey passes out on the floor in a very scary, chaotic moment in Cleveland. Since then, the Pistons played well for about 3 games, looked like they might be able to continue to compete, and then watched Tayshaun Prince get snapped in half on his teammates knee. Prince is playing through the pain, but the Pistons have just looked bad in their last couple games. I'll give a little credit - they played the Cavs tough for a while, but the 4th quarter implosion, in my opinion, erased their credibility going forward. Today, they tackle the Pacers, who suddenly look like they care. It took 70 games, and complete and utter worthlessness of every game, so I guess the Pacers play well when there's no pressure? They've only won 2 of their last 7 games SU, but they've covered 6, so they're getting all kinds of value against the spread. Now, this game might be a tad different, since they're playing a pathetic opponent, but I don't think we can overlook the fact that Indy has actually won a few in a row at home, and they seem to know how to score against the Pistons ultra-slow offense. Despite playing to 2 unders, Indiana has won both games and covered both. The obvious concern is the health of Danny Granger, so that gives me pause, but I'm going to go ahead and offer a lean to the Pacers, and a lean to the Under, since Indiana plays a much slower game with Granger hurt.

Thunder @ Raptors - Oklahoma by 1.5 with a total of 209. This will be the second straight road game that the Thunder will be 1.5-point favorites. And, after getting out to a very quick start against the Bobcats, the Thunder folded up shop, and just got hammered from about the 3-minute mark of the 2nd quarter on. It was really unlike what we've seen from the Thunder this season, and I just have to wonder if they're hitting a little bit of a mental wall with the end of the season in sight, and a playoff spot virtually locked up. James Harden is out for a couple weeks and Jeff Green got hurt in the last game, as well, but as long as the Thunder have Kevin Durant, they'll remain more than competitive. I just wonder if the Raptors are starting to turn a corner. They've been a downright terrible ATS wager over the last month, going 1-10-1 since a narrow home win over Washington back on February 20th. That being said, they got a monster home win over a team that had really picked on them this year, courtesy of a buzzer-beating jumper from Chris Bosh (over the Hawks). Is that the wake-up call for Toronto? They still didn't cover in that game against Atlanta, so it's tough to know when they've truly hit that point where they go back to being a decent bet. Also, the Thunder creamed Toronto in Oklahoma a little under 2 weeks ago, when Toronto was without Bosh. Does the Thunder just go right back to beating on them, or can the Raptors play them tough? I think if Toronto was getting a point or two more, I might be more inclined to like them, but as it is, I happen to believe this line is pretty fair. No line value means it's a little tougher to find a place to start. With young teams, though, it's easy for one loss to become two - I lean Toronto. If Toronto is winning this game, they're going to score, so if I lean Raptors, I have to lean Over, but this is a weak, weak series of leans in this one.

Bobcats @ Hawks - This line is OFF. Charlotte is fighting through a ton of injuries, but they've been doing a fine job of battling lately, both at home and on the road, only suffering an odd letdown loss in Indiana. This game isn't really a letdown or look-ahead spot for Charlotte, and if indeed they get Gerald Wallace back, I expect them to really give a strong effort. On Atlanta's side, they're coming home off getting beat on a last-second shot in Toronto, and really, they've been scuffling a bit. They got to pick on the Nets again for a win, and technically, they have covered 3 straight, but I'm still just not all that impressed with them. I guess the stats would show otherwise, but it just feels like the Hawks are ripe for a failed cover, and potentially another loss. They are very, very good at home, which certainly makes me think twice, and we've also seen how road teams have been struggling a bit at this point in the season, so I remain hesitant. Also, these teams have played twice this season and the home team has won easily in each of those games. Historically, Charlotte has played the Hawks pretty close in Atlanta, but not in the meeting earlier this year, which occurred in late January, so Charlotte was already playing pretty well. I don't think this game truly warrants a play on the side, I would recommend a PASS on the side. As far as the total is concerned, these teams play two completely different styles, yet they've played to 2 overs despite one team scoring in the 80's in each game. There haven't been many free throws, but the tempo has been closer to what Atlanta wants, so depending on where this line comes out, I'm looking at another Over.

Sixers @ Knicks - Knicks by 3.5 with a total of 208. Well, first note, this line is pretty fair, since New York played in Philadelphia 4 days ago as 2.5-point underdogs, so the 6-point home court swing is in full effect. Since that game, the Knicks got blasted in Boston, and the Sixers finally got a win, at home, over the Nets. So, does that mean the Sixers have turned a corner? I doubt it, but it is certainly worth noting that the Sixers are a much stronger ATS bet on the road than at home (10-23 ATS versus 19-16 ATS) - there's just no comparison. So, certainly, if you're going to take the Sixers, the road would be the venue. On top of that, we have the revenge, since New York just beat Philly in their building. Philly's a bad ATS team, so they're not going to have a strong revenge record, but this game being so close to the other makes me think it will be a bit more pronounced than usual. Plus, does anyone in the League really want to be the team that's consistently worse than New York? Philadelphia has actually lost both home games to the Knicks this year, but beat New York in the Big Apple in the two teams' first meeting. I'm inclined to think it happens again. One added bonus - this will be the Knicks first home game since March 8, so they've been gone for almost 2 weeks. There is definitely going to be some sluggishness for the Knicks, while Philly is rested, and finally a little confident after that win over Jersey. I lean Sixers to get some measure of revenge. On the total, they went over in New York, under twice in Philly, and now the Knicks come home to host - there were just a ton of missed shots in the last game, and I think both teams get out a little bit more. I lean Over.

Cavaliers @ Bulls - This line is OFF. This spread is liable to be gargantuan, especially for a Bulls team playing at home. It sounds like Derrick Rose might want to give it a go in this one, but I just don't know if we can rely on either team to get it done. Allow me to explain. In the last game, the Cavaliers got a win over Indiana that locked up the Central Division, so they're comfortably in the driver's seat when it comes to the Playoffs - what reason do they have to really go all out in this road affair against a Bulls team playing with largely a scrap-heap team of reserves. They're like the Warriors, but they're trying to win with the defense of these career backups and rookies. Okay, so if the Cavs TRY, they should be able to win going away, and who knows, Lebron might very well orchestrate a beating so furious that it makes the city of Chicago quiver just slightly. Lebron might want to show the NBA that they've got to come through Cleveland if they want to stop a freight train, in which case, they should cover. But if the Cavs were out partying a bit late, maybe getting in some altercations with Braylon Edwards, they might be flat here, and those Bulls backups, with proper effort, might keep this thing close. The issue, or I guess one more issue, is that the Bulls are coming home off a 4-game road trip, so they haven't been home in a while, and we all know how dangerous that can be. Unfortunately, when the dust settles, this is another game where I recommend PASS on the side. I kind of like the Over on the total, as I feel like Chicago is going to want to get as many easy buckets as possible against a much better team, and I fail to see how the Cavs are going to be at full focus in a fairly meaningless game.

Celtics @ Rockets - Boston by 1.5 with a total of 203. I am trying to find every possible way to back the Rockets in this game, but I'm not sure I'm fully sold on the situation. Boston has really been turning up the juice, winning 3 straight at home in decisive fashion with a bad road loss to the Cavs mixed in there among the home games. The solid stretch for Boston has really been marked by extremely hot shooting - their defense still isn't where it needs to be to be strong in the playoffs. The shooting has been borderline nutty at times, with Boston putting up 122, 119 and 109 in their last 3 home games. The question is whether they can continue to rain in buckets on the road. The Cavs defense is miles better than that of the Rockets, so Boston should get at least a few open looks, but Houston is a team on a mission right now, making one final push to try to slip into the playoffs. It's going to be hard; damn near impossible, really, since Houston needs Portland or San Antonio to roll over, and Houston can only really do 1 game of damage themselves, as they play the Spurs in early April. So, all they can do now is try to win every game, one day at a time, and maybe hope for a miracle. So far, so good, too. Houston has won 4 straight, including a home win over the Nuggets, and a potential season-ending win over the Grizzlies, who look like a prime fade candidate with their postseason hopes all but eliminated. This is a very, very tough call, considering Boston seems to be on one of their scary hot streaks, and it doesn't seem smart to step in front of that madness. Still, I think Houston lays it all on the line, and it's tough to fade a team giving every ounce of strength they have. I lean Houston on the side. On the total, with the way Boston is scoring, I can't imagine this thing stays under - Houston loves to run, and you know they want to get Boston out of whatever offensive or defensive set they're trying to run. I lean Over.

Warriors @ Spurs - This line is OFF. Stephen Curry's injury is certainly at the forefront of this game, but I can tell you right now it won't matter. The Warriors don't stand a chance in this one. Don't get me wrong, I love Golden State, and the comeback they mounted against the Hornets was a thing of beauty. I'm fully aware they've covered 5 games in a row, too, and I know I've said that a bad team that plays full tilt on every possession is one of the most valuable ATS gold mines on the planet, but there just comes a time where you have to know a team is going to run out of steam. That night is tonight. The Spurs are such a savvy veteran club that they understand what it takes to slow down this Warriors team, and playing on the road has not been a Warriors strength this year. It's not easy to dominate a team like the Spurs have done to Golden State (and the Clippers, for that matter), especially when you are a marquee club like the Spurs, and are constantly laying more points than you should against a lowly team like Golden State. But for whatever reason, the Spurs are 23-2 their last 25 home games against the Warriors, and 16-9 ATS, so they're not just winning, they're winning big, including a 14-point home win earlier this year, just barely clearing the 13-point spread. The Spurs defense has been ramping up lately, as well, and I just don't think a wise, old team like San Antonio gets caught up in the silliness that Golden State manages to spin on a lot of their less motivated opponents. The Spurs are playing to get ready for the playoffs, and it shows - they're coming off an ugly loss in Orlando, but that's just fuel - I lean to the big home favorite (or soon to be big favorite, since there's no line right now). I also lean to the Under, since I see the Spurs being quite effective in dictating the pace.

Jazz @ Suns - This line is OFF. It sounds like Deron Williams and Amare will both likely play, but I suppose oddsmakers could get nailed on this game if one guy makes up his mind late and they've been taking huge action on one side or the other all game. This should be a hugely entertaining showdown in Phoenix, with the Suns coming off scoring 152 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, and the Jazz coming off scoring 122 against those same Wolves on Wednesday! Now that both teams have shared the same appetizer, it's time to go head-to-head for the 3rd time this year. Is this finally the time the Suns break through? Phoenix has outplayed Utah for about 72 minutes of the 96 they've played this season, but it hasn't been nearly enough, as the Suns have collapsed late both times. It's tough to put your trust in a team, like Phoenix, that has shown a tendency to just fall apart against one particular opponent when it matters most. Now, for what it's worth, the las time these teams played the Suns were playing their 4th game in 5 nights, so to see Utah slowly wear them down wasn't all that insane, but this time they don't have an excuse. The Suns have had 2 days to rest up and game-plan, and the Jazz, well, the Jazz are still just a mighty tough opponent. Can't say much else about them - they will play you tough for all 48 minutes, so if you're the Suns, you know you have to pace yourself and make some plays down the stretch. Double revenge hasn't meant a great deal this season, and Phoenix seems to be getting away from playing that little defense that made such a huge difference for them. This is another ultra-tough call, but I happen to think the Suns make a few plays late to finally get over the hump with Utah, so I lean Phoenix. The last meeting went over the total by 11 points, so let's see where this one comes out - I'd love to lean Under, but we need the right line to do so.

Wizards @ Blazers - Portland by 12.5 with a total of 190.5. Well, this one is sheer motivational handicapping. We have the Blazers, winners of 4 straight and 7 of 8 games straight up, going against the Wizards, losers of 9 in a row, and clearly a team that has just about called it a season. But that, unfortunately, is why this spread is so darn high. The Wizards have been losing pretty consistently by 10-15 points, so this spread is right in that window, and that is somewhat disconcerting. I suppose you could call this game something of a semi look-ahead for Portland, with Phoenix coming up on Sunday, but I'm not sure Portland is really doing any of that these days, knowing that every win, even against weak competition, brings them one step closer to the season goal of getting to the playoffs. They also know San Antonio lost in Orlando in their last game, so a win here would bring them a little closer to avoiding the Lakers in the first round, as well. What does Washington have to play for, really? The Rose Garden is extremely hostile, and the Blazers are scoring the ball extremely well right now, cracking 100 points in every game except one since Brandon Roy got truly healthy back on February 23rd. So, they're scoring, they're playing defense, and they're dangerous right now. But can they cover this monstrous spread? Well, I think I need a bigger reason to fade the Blazers if I'm going to take points with a team that has given up; I lean Portland, but just a tiny, tiny bit. On the total, I just don't trust Washington to score. They haven't broken 100 in their last 10 games, so anything in the mid-190's or higher, and I think we have to figure Washington won't do their part - I lean Under.

Bucks @ Kings - Milwaukee by 3 with a total of 197. Oddsmakers are keeping these road lines for the Bucks nice and low, as it seems Milwaukee hasn't quite proven itself when they've had to go far, far from home. The Bucks have really been rolling against teams from the East, but just got schooled by the Clippers in their last game, and I have to wonder if they bounce back, or if they continue to struggle on this road trip. Really, that game in LA was probably the Buck's worst effort since a February 17th home loss to Houston coming out of the All Star Break. It was almost surreal. It was pretty clear going into the game the Clippers were going to give a strong effort, as they had just been embarrassed at home by the Hornets, but to see the Bucks play that poorly was something of a surprise, especially at the defensive end. You can bet Scott Skiles was not a happy camper between games. Now we see how the Bucks respond to a rare loss - do they bounce back and play the Kings ultra tough, or do they suffer another loss before trying to rebound. The Kings actually beat the Bucks in Milwaukee in the only previous meeting, so I don't think Milwaukee will take the Kings lightly, but that was an awfully long time ago. Also, the Kings are coming off a hard-fought game with the Lakers, so there is the possibility for a letdown, considering how much energy it always takes to play a rival. The Bucks are starting to get some credibility, and this line shows that, but their drive to play hard on the West coast is still in question. The Kings are better now than they have been at almost any point in 2010, and while I think the Bucks win, I think the Kings keep it close - this game is a coin flip, but I'd always lean to the dog in a coin-flip spot, since they're most likely to make that final shot to get under the spread. On the total, we know the Bucks want to keep the game at a slower pace, and this 197 is too high, in my opinion - definite lean to the Under.

Wolves @ Lakers - LA by 15.5 with a total of 216. I'm not even going to justify this one with a breakdown. I know guys, this is a cheap maneuver on my part, but 15.5 points? There is no reason to lay 15.5 points unless one team has to play with their bad hand all game. I don't care how bad a team is, or if they've mailed it in - unless the Lakers are in the world's greatest situational spot, or the Wolves are playing, say, their 5th game in 6 nights like the Wizards had to do recently, you just can't lay 15.5. You guys have seen the only time I'm willing to lay a number even close to this high is when a team is headed into altitude, but there is no back-to-back at play here, no altitude, and a Lakers team that has shown zero aptitude for putting teams away. Based on points alone, I lean Wolves. We know the Wolves are going to push the pace, but I guess it's a matter of triangle offense versus triangle offense, and if Minnesota actually brings any kind of heat. Seems like there ought to be some value in the under, but I have no idea if the Lakers are going to be motivated to actually try to slow down the Wolves. No lean on the total.

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