Saturday, March 06, 2010

Finals Rematch Sunday

If I were to write here that I have a personal relationship with Mehmet Okur, would anyone believe me?

Yeah, I didn't think so. Still, we've backed Utah in each of their last 2 games, both ATS wins, and for the first time in over a year, Okur has put up back-to-back 20-point games. Pretty incredible timing, since the Jazz really needed it in Phoenix. They probably would have won last night without Okur's dominance, but hey, we'll take it, since it led to another notch in the "W" column!

Some very interesting games today in the NBA, so without further ado...

Sports Wagering

Sixers @ Raptors - This line is OFF. The Sixers have been absolutely awful lately. They have lost 5 straight games, by 11, 9, 21, 19 and 10, in that order, so really, it hasn't been close. And here, we have them heading into Canada for the trademark Sunday early game against an undermanned Raptors club. Still, despite Toronto's injury concerns, the Sixers are so out to lunch right now that there's no way I can advocate a play on them. They are losing badly, home and road alike, and they are, maybe, the single most underperforming team in the NBA as of this moment. That doesn't mean I like the Raptors. In fact, without Chris Bosh, they're a team lost at sea. Toronto is just 1-4 in their last 5 games, picking up a 6-point win (and failed cover) in their last game, at home, over the Knicks. They're also dealing with some nagging injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu and Jose Calderon, so times are tough in Toronto, too. This is a battle of the mediocre right now, and I would advise avoiding it. Hell, by the time we get a line on this game, you'll only have an hour or two to decide if it's a good bet, and to me, that's rushing it. You won't have time to get a good feel for bet percentage numbers, line movement, and all the good stuff we interpret between 10am and 2pm Eastern time every day. I recommend a Pass on this game. That's right, it's not a no-lean, it's a Recommended Pass - that's how strongly I feel that this game is a total coin flip. On the total, however, we are going to get some value on the Under. Toronto isn't quite running the way they usually do, probably because they don't have their inside presence to help create space for the outside shooters. The offense stagnates, possessions take more time, and after breaking 100 points basically every night from mid-January until Bosh went down, the Raptors have cracked 100 only once in their last 5 games.

Lakers @ Magic - Orlando by 3 with a total of 195. This is the big one of the day, the ABC Sunday marquee Finals rematch and revenge day for Orlando. This game is going to be a great one to watch, with the Lakers concluding the first half of a split road trip before flying home to host Toronto. I'm disappointed by the Lakers showing in their two games on this trip. We got a betting winner with Miami on Thursday in a game that the Heat clearly wanted more, but to see the Lakers get absolutely worked over by the Bobcats was a bit of a surprise. We noted multiple times how well the Bobcats play against the Lakers, but I can honestly say I was floored that Charlotte ran away with that game. I thought for sure it would come down to the final few minutes. Unfortunately, in terms of value, I would love to find a way to back the Magic on Finals Revenge and on revenge from earlier this year, but given the fact that the Lakers have looked terrible to bettors over the last 4 days, the split on this game is probably going to be significantly closer to 50/50. In fact, this line is probably a better VALUE for the Lakers. The line indicates that these teams would be equals on a neutral court, and considering the Lakers were favored by 6 points when these teams faced in Los Angeles, this development is rather interesting to say the least. You know Kobe isn't going to back down in the big ABC game, and the real point of concern is whether guys like Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol will do their part to make this game a good one. The Lakers have covered just 1 of their last 9 games, so they've been an awful ATS wager, but certainly this game is one where both teams are going to be marquee enough to nullify the "paying a premium" issue of betting on a public darling. The Magic have been a much better bet of late, winning 6 of 7 games SU and covering 5 of their last 7 ATS. So, the question becomes, is the fact that the Lakers are, for potentially the second time all year, a better value, a more important note than the fact that the Magic might very well want this one more? I can't argue with value, so I lean Lakers. On the total, both of these clubs have been trending strong to the Under against the top teams in the NBA, and with the earlier start time and the fact that both clubs should bring a top effort, I like the second half to be very low-scoring, and I lean Under.

Rockets @ Pistons - Houston by 2 with a total of 197.5. No surprise, without Al Jefferson, the Wolves were entirely unable to exploit any kind of advantages over the Rockets. Without Jefferson, the Wolves are just a crummier version of the Rockets, to be frank. Aaron Brooks is a better Johnny Flynn, Kevin Martin is better than Corey Brewer, Battier is better than Ryan Gomes, and so on and so forth, with Luis Scola posting a very strong game last night, as well. However, the Rockets have been downright terrible this year in back-to-back situations, sitting at 8-8 SU, but just 5-11 ATS. The difference is in the defense. Houston scores and allows about 101 ppg. On back-to-back games, the Rockets actually score 103 ppg, but allow 104, so the game turns into a track meet, and if the Rockets can't stop anyone from scoring, how are they going to cover spreads at home, or win on the road when those jumpers stop falling? Believe me, I would love to back the Pistons in this game, but the Rodney Stuckey situation makes me a little bit nervous about what to expect. Stuckey was playing great basketball before he passed out, and while he's supposedly okay, I doubt he plays in this one, and even if he does, he won't be at full strength. Without Stuckey, the Pistons become even more reliant on jumpers, and if Ben Wallace misses more team, the Pistons will be without their rebounder and stopper on the inside. Detroit is also coming off that emotional game with the Cavaliers. Will they suffer a letdown? Will the non-Stuckey players band together to get their fallen comrade a win? There are a ton of questions on Detroit's side, which is a shame because we really had a good read on them before Stuckey fell over. As it stands, I think Detroit plays a decent game, but I'd love them with a healthy Rodney - I lean Pistons. I lean Over on the total if indeed the Rockets can do what they usually do and turn it into a shoot out.

Wizards @ Celtics - Boston by 13 with a total of 193.5. Well this line isn't really worth touching, the side at the very least. As I've said a million times, when I'm presented with a double-digit line, I need some strong angles on one of the two teams to even consider a play. As was the case last night with the Jazz, we had a very strong fatigue angle, but what do we really have in this one? We have Washington's young players clearly tiring after a superb run when the stars were traded away. It happens every year. A team sells off their best player, or two, the youngsters realize they can play ultra hard for 2-3 weeks to secure a job for next year, then for all those days they played their hearts out and had to get IV fluids, there are an equal number of days where those players are going to need to go half-speed to keep from crumping on the court. I don't like Washington, but I don't much care for Boston, either. There is almost no value on Boston's side, as this line is colossal, given neither team is on a back-to-back, and there really aren't any strong angles to consider. Washington is technically on double-revenge in this game, but that doesn't mean anything for all these former backups playing big minutes on the Wizards now. Boston is a total clunker of a home team, ATS, but they've won, and covered 3 games in a row, and I'm not going to advise backing a team with no value, but I'm also not going to advise getting in the way of Boston potentially rattling off a few covers in a row. No leans on the side. Washington has stopped scoring, bottom line. If Boston plays at 90%, they will hold the Wizards under 90 points. I lean Under.

Thunder @ Kings - Oklahoma City by 3.5 with a total of 202.5. Dangerous spot for both teams. The Thunder are either STILL not getting the respect they deserve, or this game is a spot to be awfully careful. I would think the latter might be true. These teams played less than a week ago in Oklahoma, so it's not like we don't have some other data to go on. The Thunder were 10.5-point home favorites to the Kings and won that game by just 6, courtesy of a very impressive game from the Kings. In fact, Sacramento has quietly covered 5 games in a row, starting with a straight up home win over Utah that seemed to renew the team's joy in playing basketball. They followed that up with a home win over the Clippers, and 3 straight covers (going 1-2 SU) in Oklahoma, Houston and Dallas. Now, the Kings return home for this revenge game. I just don't know if Sacramento can possibly play any better than they did in Oklahoma City, and they still lost that game by 6. The Thunder have been an ATS monster all season, though it seems somewhat like they might have actually finally become overvalued, going 3-6 ATS in their last 9 games. I suppose a I'm a little concerned that there's been a 7-point line adjustment between games. Is that extra point a result of the Kings getting better, or revenge being precalculated into the line? Believe it or not, that ONE point of line movement is what is keeping me from making a stronger prediction. The Kings have played the Thunder pretty well this year, if we exclude the meeting way back on October 28, covering both games since, and actually winning the home game in November. I have a very small lean to the Kings to keep their ATS streak rolling along. On the total, I have a nice lean to the Under, as both teams shot over 50% in the last meeting, which sent the total way over, and yet, here we are, less than a week later, with the exact same total as before.

Blazers @ Nuggets - Denver by 6 with a total of 206. The late-night ESPN showdown in the Mile High City, and really should be a great game. The Blazers are playing their best basketball in months, having won (and covered) 5 of their last 6 games, with 4 of those decisive wins coming on the road. It's no coincidence that Portland got good again when Brandon Roy got healthy. I suppose that's the ultimate obvious statement, but it needed to be said. Now, I hear Marcus Camby might be missing a game or two, and Portland does need their one defensive-minded big man to help rebound and help slow down the wild and woolly Nuggets. Surprisingly, these teams haven't met since December, the Christmas Evening game that Portland won, at home, in front of an absolutely NUTS Rose Garden. Denver beat Portland in Oregon at the very start of the season, but it's been so long since these teams have seen one another that things are just bound to be a little different. This line doesn't make a ton of sense to me, though. I'll turn to recent games with a common opponent -- the Blazers were basically listed as 4-points better than the Pacers on a neutral court, and the Nuggest were listed as 8 points better. So, shouldn't Denver be at least a 7-point favorite in this one? Are oddsmakers really saying that the games these teams played with Indiana made Portland 1 point stronger in power rankings? Or, are oddsmakers doing the unthinkable, and actually just setting a perfectly fair line? My guess is the latter, which also means we can work off of situational and match-up angles to find a winner. I love how the Blazers have been playing on the road, but Denver is scary at home. I happen to lean to the square side and I think Denver covers by 1-2 points. This total looks eerily low, considering Denver is 19-13 O/U at home, and the only recent time Denver played a home game that didn't clear 206 was their final game before the All Star Break, and that was a screwy game to say the least. I don't like to be so square, but I lean Over, as I really don't see Portland slowing the tempo all that successfully.

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