Sunday, March 21, 2010

Let the Fun Return

A new week is upon us, and we got off to a nice start yesterday grabbing an easy winner with the Blazers-Suns Under.

There's no b.s. coming out of the Bebe flapper, though - we were stinking something fierce going into yesterday, and that no-sweat winner is just what the doctor ordered.

I also wanted to dole out a quick congratulations to a great many of you blog readers who have been doing a ton of handicapping yourselves, matching leans with those you see in the blog, and cashing in nicely. I love that more and more of you are willing to post in here - please don't be intimidated - we all love to help one another, and last night the blog was a damn fine time. Also, congrats to the maniacs among you guys who hit a 4-team parlay on the two later games. You guys are crazy, but counting the money right now, so I guess I can't fault you for it!

Sports Wagering

Magic @ Sixers - This line is OFF. I have to admit, I don't know why this line is off, and maybe it's obvious, but so it goes. My injury report has nothing relevant, but that probably means my injury report didn't get updated because it's a Sunday. In terms of what to expect with this one, we're most likely going to see the Magic as a medium-sized favorite on the road. They played in Philadelphia at the start of the month as just a 4-point road favorite, but I think we might see a higher line this time around, since the Magic were on back-to-back in that game. Here, Orlando is rested, coming off an OT road win in Miami back on Thursday, so they've had a ton of time off, and Philadelphia gets set to play off yet another loss. They're getting more and more pathetic by the day, the Sixers are. The Sixers are 2-12 SU in their last 14 games, and just 4-10 ATS in that same stretch. I would love to say that the Sixers are a good bet here, but neither team is in a particularly good or bad situational spot, and it seems pretty clear that the Sixers are content to just got creamed on a nightly basis. The Magic have whacked the Sixers around twice already this season, shooting the lights out both times. If the Sixers were a decent team, or were trying at the very least, I might suggest that the Magic are due to just not shoot as well, but the Sixers are playing so bad right now, that there's just no way I can advocate a play on them. I'm leaning towards a pass, but I'd be more inclined to back the Magic, amazingly, in this ultra-square spot. The total, I believe, is a better bet. The last meeting featured 231 combined points, soaring over the total of 196. If this line is only adjusted a few points, I'd say to give a strong look at the Under. If the total is adjust up near 205-210, I'd leave it alone.

Heat @ Nets - This line is OFF. Again with the no-line, this just because Jermaine O'Neal is qusetionable. Weak sauce, books - weak sauce. Well, whatever, let's break this bad boy down. The Heat are still battling their butts off for a playoff spot and subsequent seeding in the East, so they know that these games against terrible opposition are quite important. Right now, Miami would be playing Boston in the first round of the playoffs without home court. They're just a half game ahead of the Bobcats, who are slated to play Orlando in the opening round, and no one in the East wants to play Orlando or Cleveland in the first round, so I believe the Heat should have postseason motivation on their side here. The Nets appear to be regressing, and I foolishly advocating backing them against the Raptors in their last game, which they lost by 10. After a nice little 6-game ATS win streak, the Nets have now lost 3 straight against the spread, and it's tough for me to envision that changing here. There isn't anything particularly special about this meeting, except that they have actually played strong defense against the Heat so far this year in two previous meetings. I'll be doing some digging tomorrow to see what extraneous factors might have played a role in those games, but while the Heat have won both games with Jersey, they've done so by the final scores of 81-80 and 87-84. Both teams have shot the ball just horribly in those games, and I almost can't imagine another game quite that ugly, but then, looking at Miami's 77-71 home win over Charlotte, yes, it can get uglier. Still, like with the Orlando game above, I think Jersey might be just about ready to resign, and if they fall behind, they pretty much can't come back - Miami isn't going to look past them, and I expect the Heat to be laying 4-6 points. They'll cover, but it won't be easy. Lean to Miami. The total, well, I just have to see where oddsmakers bring this thing out. We might see a number in the high 170's, in which case I'd have to look at the Over because of overadjustments.

Raptors @ Wolves - Toronto by 5 with a total of 218.5. Here's another team that seems to have gone ahead and waved the white flag. The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't won a game since February 23rd. Yikes. They've covered just 3 games in that long span, as well. They got blown out in 3 of their 4 road games out West, and the only game that remained close was the finale in Los Angeles, where it seemed like maybe Kurt Rambis got his guys to give a better effort against the defending champs. Now, the struggling Raptors come to town looking to take advantage of what I suppose you could call an easy 2-game road trip through New Jersey and Minnesota. And Toronto needs these, too. The Raptors are the 8-seed in the East right now, just 2.5 games ahead of the Chicago Bulls, who suddenly have Derrick Rose back and don't appear quite ready to give up. Every win for Toronto is colossal, and we saw that strong 2nd half effort in New Jersey led, as usual, by their superstar, Chris Bosh. Believe me, I don't trust Toronto as far as I can throw 'em, but Minnesota's officially done, and amazingly, when these teams met in Toronto back in December the Raptors shot 32% from the field...and won! Toronto is going to shoot the ball better than that tonight - Bosh should be able to get what he wants, and we've seen Minnesota allow over 100 points to 11 straight opponents. Toronto likes to score and enjoys a game where they force their opponents to keep up, and they'll do just fine to cover here. I think the Raptors win another one by 3 or 4 points above the spread. This total of 218.5 is hyper-inflated because of the teams involved, but it could really get there. I happen to think we see a total near 216, so I'd probably pass or just lean slightly to the Under.

Hawks @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 4 with a total of 189.5. This game has a ton of psychology to it, and unfortunately, I'm not sure I'm fully confident enough to say which psychological edge comes into play. For one, these two teams are slated to meet in the first round of the playoffs if the season were to end today, so which teams responds? The Bucks are playing their first game home off a long West coast swing, so they're in a tough spot, but we've seen how well Milwaukee has played in the extremely difficult situational spots the season has thrown at them. In addition, somehow these teams have only played one previous time this season, and it was less than a month ago in Atlanta. The Hawks won that game 106-102 with the Bucks on the second game of a back-to-back (yet another fatigue cover for Milwaukee). I really have to say, it's a darn shame the Bucks are playing a first game home, since otherwise this would be a very nice situational spot for them. The Hawks, as I'm writing this, are just about to wrap up an overtime win over the Spurs. They may or may not cover, though I suppose by the time I'm done writing the next paragraph we'll know for sure, but either way, this line is going to go up from 4 points to, probably, 5 or 6. With that in mind, I'm not sure I like either team. The Hawks have been decent this year when playing tired, so there's no huge disadvantage there, and with both teams in a bad spot (Atlanta off OT, Milwaukee coming home), it might be wise to pass on this side. However, if you feel so inclined, I don't think I could really talk to anyone into or out of a particular play. This total looks extremely low, especially with the Hawks most likely too tired to play defense. Of course, that also means the Bucks will probably control the tempo, and we know they enjoy a slower game. I would love nothing more in this game than to lean to the Bucks and the Over, but I can't quite bring myself to do it. Tiny lean to the Under on the total, no lean on the side.

Spurs @ Thunder - Oklahoma by 3.5 with a total of 195. The Spurs are the other team involved in the Hawks game I mentioned above, but they, unfortunately for San Antonio fans, dropped a heartbreaker in OT, and now they have to try to get to Oklahoma and compete with a strong, and potentially angry Thunder club. It seems like the Spurs have enjoyed showing the Thunder who's boss ever since Oklahoma beat them back at the beginning of the season. The last two meetings have featured a Duncan-less win in Oklahoma City, courtesy of a 20-20 game for Dajuan Blair, and more recently, the Thunder played in San Antonio on a back-to-back off a tough home loss to Phoenix, and just looked flustered in a letdown spot. I believe that was also the game Kevin Durant's scoring streak came to an end. I happen to think this line is too succulent on the Thunder side to pass up. Both teams are on back-to-back, and we know how the Spurs have had issues scoring on back-to-back. They've been able to make up for that by playing better defense (or making the game ugly, as it were), but after playing an overtime period last night, and with the Thunder actually playing in the morning, it's really not a true back-to-back for the Thunder. Yet, I believe this line is set as if both teams are indeed going to be fatigued. The Spurs also have a date with the Lakers coming up, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if we saw a poor effort in one of these two games. I think the Spurs are old enough to know they're not going to win both games, and might feel like they have a better shot to win the home game. In any case, I lean Oklahoma - they won't stay down long after looking awful in Indiana. The Spurs tend to play very low-scoring games on the second night of a back-to-back, but I'm not convinced this one doesn't get to be a little bit of a quick pace, with the Thunder annoyed and wanting to put in some buckets early, and the Spurs very tired and looking to make life easier on themselves. I lean Over.

Rockets @ Bulls - Houston by 2 with a total of 207. Here's an interesting game, though not so much from a betting standpoint. On one side, we have the home Bulls, who are coming off winning their first game in about 3 weeks. They had lost 10 straight, but Derrick Rose brought the fire and they beat up on the flailing Sixers back on Saturday. And they did it with defense. The Bulls have held their last 2 opponents under 100 points, and they've covered 4 in a row, but prior to these two reasonable defensive outbursts, the Bulls had allowed 100 points or more in 12 straight games, losing 10 of those 12. The Bulls, especially shorthanded, are just not a team that's going to win with firepower, so that swarming defense that they were playing back in early February, before Chicago mysteriously traded away John Salmons, then Tyrus Thomas to get, um, smaller, may have returned in some small degree. Honestly, it's tough to win when you have Chicago's revolving door of middling ballplayers, and Vinny Del Negro, captain of the S.S. Nearly-getting-fired, keeps having to teach new guys how to play defense like he wants. I wonder if Chicago has one final grunt left in them. That's why this game gives me the shivers. Houston made a heck of a run at the end of that New York game yesterday, and it appears youngster Aaron Brooks isn't ready to give up just yet, even though the deficit Houston faces in the West is nearly insurmountable. It's not quite there; not quite. So, we have two teams making their final push; which one buckles first? Houston has been awful on back-to-backs at 5-12 ATS, but their game yesterday was in the morning, so they should get a decent night of rest. This one is a very, very tough call, but I lean Chicago to play one more strong game. I lean to the Under, because of the same reasons - Chicago isn't going to win a shootout with a team like Houston that has a bunch of weapons. If I like one, I have to like the other -- but really, I don't much care for either.

Mavericks @ Hornets - This line is OFF. Don't fade the Mavs on the road. If I haven't learned that lesson yet, well, I deserve to be slapped. Right now, really, the Mavs are something of a tough read. I had a strong lean to Boston in the last game, and once again Dallas came up short at home, but just when you think they can't play much worse, the Mavs go on the road and stomp someone. Okay, so, with this game, there's one angle I like, and one I don't. I like the fact that the Hornets are coming home off a 5-game West coast swing that also involved 2 games in altitude. I have no idea how the Hornets are going to muster any strength here to compete. On top of that, the reason this line is off is because Chris Paul is getting close to playing. I would love to see Paul try to play, and move this line 2.5 points, because then, suddenly, the Mavericks would look like a great play. Instead, the angle I'm not a huge fan of is that the Hornets are coming off getting clobbered in Utah. It's never a great idea to fade a team off a huge loss, if only because oddsmakers will usually move the line a half point or a point due to public perception. The Hornets have been playing terrible basketball lately, and I have to think they'll be getting a solid 6ish points at home in this one. Still, I can't trust them. The Hornets just don't look interested in playing defense, and we've seen how Dallas can surprise you by actually winning by 10 points on the road. I hate to say it, but I have to go square again and lean to Dallas. On the total, Dallas has slipped into playing bad defense again, and we know the Hornets are going to try to get some easy buckets. I lean Over.

Celtics @ Jazz - Utah by 5 with a total of 200. This game is going to be a doozy! Even if we don't find a great betting angle, I want to watch it. As far as previous meetings go, Boston beat the pants off Utah way back in November, but I still happen to think this is an important game for both teams. We know Boston wants to show that they're still among the NBA elite, and we know Utah wants to show that they can beat the best, especially at home. I don't feel either team is in a particularly good or bad situational spot. Yes, the Celtics are on the last game of a tough 3-game road trip, but it's only 3 games, and they're focused on the finish line right now, not concerned about getting home. Plus, Boston beat both Houston and Dallas so far, and you know those old farts want to make it a little tic-tac-toe on this trip. Honestly, right now, I wouldn't want to step in front of this Celtics freight train. They're playing angry, and that's really the only time to fear them. Boston doesn't have the legs they had a few years ago, but what they do have, mostly thanks to Kevin Garnett, is a fire within. Don't get me wrong, they're still an awful ATS wager most days, but as we pointed out about 2 weeks ago, Boston would never have more value than they did after getting creamed at home by Memphis, and they've responded with a strong, strong run. Still, Utah is just the kind of team that Boston could have issues defending because of their unique offensive style. I happen to think this one comes down to the wire, so I would have to lean to the team getting points, but Utah could just as easily hit 2 buckets down the stretch and win by 6 or 7. Still, gun to my head, I lean Boston. On the total, I have to lean Under, since if Boston is going to keep it close, it's going to be a grudge match.

Grizzlies @ Kings - This line is OFF. I feel like we're back in January with all the games without lines! Is this because of Marc Gasol? Tyreke Evans isn't supposed to be back yet, but whatever. Fact of the matter is that it looks like the Grizzlies haven't completely given up just yet. I would love to say that the Kings are the obvious play, and I'm guessing that the line that comes out is going to be a decent value on Sacramento, but at the same time, the Injured Star Theory would tell us to be very careful backing a bad team without its Superstar the second night he's out. The non-Tyrekes stepped up big yesterday in a road beating of the hapless Clippers, but can Beno Udrih drop 20 and 17 again? Can Carl Landry go 11-of-14 from the field again, or Spencer Hawes drop another double-double? I dunno. I do like the fact that it's a pseudo-back-to-back, with the Kings playing yesterday in the daytime, so they've had plenty of time to get home and rest up. If indeed the line is brought out as if the Kings are on back-to-back -- that is getting 2 bonus points -- then I think I'd have to lean to Sacramento, so we'll find out how oddsmakers truly feel about this one. The Kings are playing confident basketball these days, and though they did lose in 2OT to Milwaukee, they're competitive just about every night, and you have to like that. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, are probably one loss away from giving up on the season. I don't trust this Grizzlies team in pressure spots, and they lost in Sacramento way back in November, but damn if they don't need this game more. I'd love to just say the motivation is the only key, but I don't think Memphis is going to be a good value. I guess we'll see, but I expect to lean Sacramento when we see a line. I also expect to lean Under, since the Kings are much more of a post-based team, either high or low (Landry or Hawes) with Evans out, and they don't want to let Memphis get out and run too much.

Suns @ Warriors - Phoenix by 4.5 with a total of 243.5. Hahaha! Look at that total! If my fiance weren't fast asleep in the other room, I would actually be laughing out loud right now. That's just ridiculous. Alright, what we have here is a Phoenix team coming in from a late ESPN game with Portland that required every ounce of strength they had, and, in fact, played very strong defense in the 4th quarter. We also have a Warriors club coming home off getting positively worked over in a 2-game trip to the Southwest. But, if there are a few things we know about the Warriors, it's that they always get slaughtered by the Spurs, and they always get killed on back-to-backs, since all those young guys go full tilt every night, and they don't really have a reasonable bench. Also, we know the Warriors play like maniacs at home, running at a ridiculous pace, and giving bigger teams fits by turning the game into streetball. I don't have the numbers, but I wonder if this is the highest single game total of any match-up all year. We know the Warriors and Suns are going to hit 210, that goes without saying, but I do find it interesting that the last meeting had a posted mark of 233.5, and the final score of 215. It came in 18 points lower, and this total is higher by 10. I know that last meeting was in January, so it's not hugely relevant, and I don't believe this is a true "Oddsmaker Hint", but it certainly is a high number, and it might be up there for a reason. The Suns aren't particularly different in totals on back-to-backs, though they're a bit weaker on sides at just 6-10 ATS, and I happen to think the Suns get sucked into a silly game with Golden State. Lean to the Warriors to push the Suns to the brink, though I do think Phoenix wins this one late, and No Lean on the side, since this total is just so high, that if even one thing goes wrong, it might not clear. What if Curry, Ellis or Nash gets in foul trouble or turns an ankle? What if the teams don't score for 60 seconds? That might be enough to do it in, but I do think there are going to be some serious points scored.

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