Thursday, March 04, 2010

Hating the Mailman


After all the favorites covered last week on TNT, the underdogs stormed back this week, and we picked up TWO MORE WINNERS in the process!

In the early game, we had our Free Play on the Miami Heat +5.5, and it took overtime to get the job done, but Miami brought all the energy and shot the ball extremely well in a huge, huge win for an Eastern Conference bubble team.

In the late game, we backed the Jazz +2, another monster value play, and after looking confused and lost for 36 minutes, Utah played some defense in the 4th quarter, and outscored Phoenix by 19 points en route to an 8-point outright victory.

A strange Friday NBA card on tap, let's break this bad boy down!

Sports Wagering

Bucks @ Wizards - Milwaukee by 4.5 with a total of 190.5. This is the second half of a home-and-home between the Bucks and Wizards, which began on Wednesday with Milwaukee taking the home game 100-87 as a 10.5-point favorite. The absolute most interesting factor in this game, in my opinion, is that the line has been adjusted just the standard 6-points for a home court flip. Usually in these home-and-home, the team that lost the first game will receive some sort of revenge compensation in the line. I believe that the mere fact that this game does NOT is a strong indicator of how much respect the Bucks are getting right now. I think it's also worth noting that that game was actually double-revenge for the Bucks. Does that mean this game is still ranked as a single-revenge? I don't think it quite works that way. I happen to believe Washington is going to play a fairly strong game, but they've only covered 1 of their last 4 games, and I'm also a little worried that Washington's young guys are hitting a wall. The Bucks are a great shooting team, and they can also play some defense -- Scott Skiles deserves Coach of the Year, as a side note -- and even though Washington is going to want to prove they're not as bad as Milwaukee made them look on Wednesday, my lean to Washington is still a relatively weak one. It's also worth noting that the Bucks play in Cleveland tomorrow, so there is the potential for a little look-ahead. My lean is to the Wizards, though. The total was adjusted slightly from the last game, and I think this one has a nice chance of going Over, if indeed Washington can increase the tempo a little bit.

Lakers @ Bobcats - Lakers by 3.5 with a total of 190.5. This line is probably going to shift just a bit, courtesy of the Lakers overtime loss to the Heat last night. I was hoping the Lakers would win and fail to cover for this game's sake, but seeing as how the Lakers lost on the early big TNT game, the value of betting LA is going to decrease quite substantially. Think of it this way. This line is probably going to dip to 2.5 or 3 by morning, so the Lakers are going to look like a pretty easy road favorite to bet. The "public fade" would clearly be a play on the Bobcats, but my strong fear is that the Lakers will come up with a gutsy performance at the exact moment when you least suspect it. Still, without letting the gut get too involved in the decision-making, and sticking more with the math and situational angles, this is a great spot for the Bobcats. Charlotte is looking downright horrible right now, coming off blowing a lead at home against the Mavs, and then getting crushed in Boston. Charlotte is just 3-10 ATS in the second half of the season, so suddenly they became overvalued. Still, no bad team is going to get overvalued in a game against the Lakers, so we don't have to worry about that part of the equation. Our more important issues revolve around deciding if the Bobcats will finally wake up for a game, or if they'll continue to sleepwalk after the All Star Break. We all know how good Charlotte has been against the Lakers over the last couple years, going 9-2 ATS since their creation, but I believe this is going to be the lowest spread of any Lakers/Bobcats game in the franchise's short history. That should be an indicator that oddsmakers strongly believe Charlotte brings their A-game. I lean to the Bobcats. I also think that Charlotte keeps this thing low-scoring, trying to get a game decided in the high-80's to low-90's - weak lean to the Under.

Pistons @ Cavaliers - Cleveland by 13 with a total of 199. This spread really says that oddsmakers either think the public is going to be on Cleveland at a 90% clip, or that they think Detroit isn't going to have any pride. I happen to think this spread is a slap in the face to Detroit, though I have no idea if anyone on the Pistons watches spreads. There is zero doubt in my mind that this number comes down -- Detroit isn't in any sort of pronounced bad situational spot, and the Cavs aren't in any pronounced good spot. In fact, it seems as though because the Cavs have had great success against Detroit over the last couple years, including a 4-game sweep in the playoffs last year in a wildly lopsided series, this line has become inflated to a ridiculous degree. For what it's worth, the Cavs are indeed playing some strong basketball right now. They've won 5 straight, covering the most recent 4 of those wins. Their last 2 games included a 31-point win over the Knicks and a 19-point road win over the Nets, so they're covering huge spreads. I suppose our goal here is going to be to determine if the line is this high for a reason, or this is just standard Lebron-style inflation. It stands to reason that if we look at games against a common opponent (the Knicks), we might be able to tell better what's going on. The Pistons, on a back-to-back, were 4.5-point dogs to New York, so that has them ranked at roughly New York's equal, maybe a half point better. The Knicks were an 11-point dog in Cleveland, which puts the Cavs as 8-points superior on a neutral court. When, then, is the line in this one set as if the Cavs are a 10-point neutral court favorite over the Pistons? Something's fishy. I happen to lean Pistons to play a hard game, though without Ben Wallace their rebounding suffers badly, and I lean Under, as I think the Cavs might get near 100, but I tend to doubt Detroit will, too.

Knicks @ Raptors - This line is OFF. Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu and Andrea Bargnani are ALL questionable for this one, which makes it damn near impossible for us to handicap. There are simply too many iterations of lineup for Toronto for us to go through all the layers on each possible permutation of a semi-healthy Raptor lineup. So, with all apologies to fans of these teams, this is going to be among my shortest write-ups to date. These teams have played twice, and Toronto has won both games, but if they're not healthy, we might see the Knicks come in and try to steal one in Canada. There you have it; if Toronto is playing ill, I lean Knicks. I like the Over on the total, since it feels like both teams are just going to get out and play an And-1 type of game. Very little defense, guys just firing away.

Celtics @ Sixers - Boston by 6 with a total of 197.5. Obviously, the first thing to do in a game like this one is to try to find a reason to take the home dog. This spread is right in that mid-zone where it's going to take a nice effort by the Celtics to cover the number, and if Philadelphia plays with any sort of pride, they've got a nice shot. Unfortunately, they haven't been playing with any pride. The Sixers have been crushed in their last 4 consecutive games, and the Celtics have picked up back-to-back wins and covers, so it's not the world's best spot to fade Boston. They've been stronger on the road than at home this year, anyway. And, on top of that, Philadelphia has been an awful home team ATS at just 8-20. This will be the 4th and final meeting between these two teams this season, and while Boston killed Philly in the first meeting, the next two occurred close to one another in November and December, and the two teams split those two games, both in Boston. So, Philly does have home revenge here, but I just don't think I can trust them right now. They were saying all the right things heading into their last game against the Hawks, and then got steamrolled. Bottom line, you take the home team in a game like this one if the angles tell you to do so, but there just aren't many that make me think the Sixers are ready to turn the corner. No leans on the side. This total is rather high for a Celtics game, and the only other recent Boston games with a total this high came against Denver, New York and Sacramento, 3 teams that play zero defense. If you think the Sixers can make a few buckets, you have to like the Over.

Warriors @ Hawks - Atlanta by 13 with a total of 215. Another huge spread where you have to ask yourself if either team is in a particularly good (or bad) situational spot. And really, believe it or not, the Hawks are in a better spot than the Warriors. Yes, we know Golden State is sending a team out there of Stephen Curry and 7 D-Leaguers, but I'm talking about angles beyond that. Most interestingly, the Hawks had a HUGE meltdown in Golden State not long ago, losing by 4 a game that they led by almost 20 in the 3rd quarter. I highly doubt Atlanta lets that happen again. The Hawks play tomorrow in Miami, but that's not really a look-ahead spot, and because that game with the Warriors is so fresh, I just don't know how Atlanta doesn't hammer this one home. The Hawks are severely outmuscling teams over the last week or so, winning 5 of their last 6, and losing just that OT game to the Mavs. Atlanta's rebounding has been phenomenal, outrebounding their last two opponents by 24 and 17. You simply cannot beat a big, strong team like the Hawks if you're giving them the kinds of 2nd chance opportunities they've been getting, and the Warriors are going to really struggle to clean the glass. I hate to say it, but I just don't think Golden State has anything in the tank, and I have to lean Atlanta, despite the lack of value. I lean to the Under, as well, once again because of the rebounding and strength of the Hawks - I just don't believe the Warriors can score like they need, or want to.

Magic @ Nets - Orlando by 10.5 with a total of 196.5. The parade of ugly games continues with this one, though I guess just about any game that involves the Nets in any capacity is an ugly one. Lately, New Jersey, at home, is an awful bet. I don't care who tells you otherwise, Jersey has no home court advantage, and they got crushed yet again in their last home game, this time by the heavily favored Cavaliers. Yes, it always looks sweet to get 10 points at home, but please do take the time to look at how the Nets have performed on their own court lately. They have lost and failed to cover their last 5 consecutive home games, all the while doing a great job of covering on the road. And we went into excruciating detail on why the Nets do not deserve the 3 points they get for playing at home. On top of that, Jersey hasn't shot over 40% against the Magic in EITHER of the two previous meetings this year. The Magic can really shut down the Nets, most likely because Dwight Howard virtually neutralizes the one advantage Jersey usually has, with Brook Lopez in the paint. I simply can't advocate backing the Nets, no matter how many points they're getting right now, especially at home, and especially against a Magic team that appears to be pretty locked in, even against weak opponents. HOWEVER, and this is the BIG NOTE - the Magic host the Lakers on Sunday's ABC game, so there is the potential for a bit of a look-ahead here. Is it strong enough of an angle to give us a Jersey play? This one is hovering in the balance, but I suppose I have a WEAK lean to the Nets. If Orlando is indeed looking ahead, I think this one's got a nice shot of going Over, since the defense will suffer first.

Kings @ Mavericks - This line is OFF. I suppose because Jason Kidd was rested in Dallas's last game, oddsmakers are being extra careful here? Not really sure, but I can tell you that by this point in the card, I'm getting a little bugged with these lopsided games. We can expect Dallas to be a double-digit favorite here, but I wonder if the Mavericks are taking their foot off the gas after that outstanding run of games, and covers. In their last game, Dallas slipped back into a bad old habit of trying to outscore their opponent instead of trying to D-up and lock them down. Dallas has beaten Sacramento twice this year, by just 2 points at home back in November, then by 8 on the road in January. The double-revenge angle is viable, though, again, I'm not sure how much a young, bad team like the Kings actually expects to get any revenge. If anything, they're working hard to compete on a nightly basis, and coming off a nice outright win in Houston. Sacramento has quietly covered 4 games in a row, so they're not a terrible bet, and I find it hard to believe Dallas takes this game seriously -- if they can win with 90% effort, that's probably what we'll get. I mean, what incentive do the Mavs have to blow a team out, and can they really blow out the Kings? I don't know. I lean Sacramento to keep staying within the spread, and I think the Kings again force the Mavs into playing a little quicker than they want, and I just don't see how the Kings can win this game unless they push it into a running match. I lean to the Over.

Pacers @ Nuggets - Denver by 10.5 with a total of 218. Indiana has been slaughtered thus far on their current road trip, losing by 23 in LA, and then by 23 again in Portland. Will they lose by 23 for a third consecutive night? I'm inclined to think the Pacers finally put together a half-decent game, but I'm just not sure that still keeps them in single digits. To be perfectly honest, this spread almost feels low, I don't know why. I would love to see Indiana compete, but man if they're not outclassed everywhere you look. The issue here is value, and there just isn't really any on Denver's side. The Nuggets are coming off a blowout win over the Thunder, so covering 10.5 against the hapless Pacers should be easy, right? Well, right now, Indiana could not LOOK any worse, and the Nuggets look pretty darn good, at least just checking the last game. Denver also beat Indiana by 18 on the road back in November. Basically, as much as Denver completely dominates Indiana in every aspect on paper, they still have to play the game, and the Nuggets have a pretty big game with Portland coming up on Sunday night. I'm not saying it's a look-ahead spot, but I just find it hard to believe this is a night Denver really gets amped. They are coming off games with the Lakers, Suns and Thunder, and now suddenly they have to find the strength and adrenaline to battle the Pacers? Based on motivation alone, I would have to give a look to the big road dog. And if you like the Pacers, you likely also think some points are going to be scored - lean Over.

Hornets @ Spurs - San Antonio by 8 with a total of 197. This looks like too many points at first glance. Let's see what second and third glances bring. For the Spurs, this is going to be two consecutive games against the Hornets. It's very interesting for one team to be having a home-and-home, but the other team not. The Hornets played the Grizzlies at home in between their games with the Spurs, and lost on a final 2-minute meltdown and a concurrent Memphis surge. In fact, the Hornets have lost 4 of their last 5 games ATS after a stretch where they covered 6 of 7. Such is the ebb and flow of the NBA power rankings. The Hornets rattled off a number of covers, but the backups are starting to get a little fatigued in Chris Paul's absence, and they're suddenly unable to finish strong. That last game with the Spurs had some weird angles, though, that this one doesn't have. New Orleans was playing its 5th game in 7 nights, was coming off a tough game with the Mavs that ran extremely late on Sunday night, then had to come back and play earlier the next day back at home. The Spurs were on a back-to-back, so still a little tired, but their Sunday game was in the early morning, so they had over 24 hours to recover and travel, putting them decidedly more rested than the Hornets. The Spurs are going to be more rested again in this one, rolling on 3 days of rest, and while they're an old team, they're actually only 1-4 ATS in these spots. I lean Hornets to get a little revenge. This total is pretty spot on, but I think the Hornets get out and run a little more, so I lean Over again.

Thunder @ Clippers - Oklahoma City by 5 with a total of 201. I can tell you right now, I'm desperately hoping for a Clippers miracle. Why? For Saturday. The Clippers head from home into the altitude in Utah, and if they're coming in there off a win, they'll look better and won't get dogged in the line quite as hard. If the Thunder lay waste to the Clippers like everyone else has been doing, well, the value loses a little something. This isn't a particularly good or bad situational spot for either team. The Thunder are coming off getting killed in Denver's altitude, but they'd be rolling otherwise. The Clippers are playing off getting killed by Phoenix at home, but actually beat Utah at home before that game. The Clippers seem to be pretty hit or miss, which makes them not only a tough game to pick for the late-night bailout, but also a tough team to fade, since they might show up and decide it's one of those nights they give a crap. There aren't many motivational angles here, as these teams met twice back in November, and each team won the road game. Plus, the Thunder are a totally different team now, mentally, than they were then, the Clippers are fairly different physically, and it's basically impossible to draw comparisons. No leans on the side, though again, I'll be rooting for a strong, strong game from the Clip show. On the total, this number is 15 points higher than each of the two previous meetings, but again, those were almost 4 months ago. Both teams have been playing some overs lately, so I'm inclined to think this number is inflated. I'd look at the Under.

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