Thursday, March 25, 2010

Totals Time

Laughable effort from the Bulls. Screw 'em. We're likely going to head back into the realm of totals, which seem to be much more predictable at this late point in the season.

Also, huge card today, but with the focus largely on NCAA, we'll keep the write-ups "brief", most list-like, and more concise. Then, back into the weekend, which will be leans ONLY.

Sports Wagering

Wolves @ Magic - Orlando by 15 with a total of 209. Unless there's a supremely obvious reason to take one side or the other in a game with a spread this high, the side is going to be a pass. Here, we have Orlando on the first game home off a 3-game road trip that ended with a tip-slam loss in Atlanta, and a potential look-ahead to a game coming up with Denver, but at the same time, the Wolves can't be trusted to compete. Gun to my head, I'd take the visitors, since situationally, they're in a slightly better spot, but again, nearly impossible choice here. On the total, I lean slightly to the Under, since the Magic have been ultra-focused defensively whether they're overlooking a team, or not. They've allowed over 100 points to an opponent just once in a non-overtime game this month, so it's going to be tough to hit 209 if the Wolves can't break 100.

Jazz @ Pacers - Utah by 5 with a total of 210.5. Wouldn't think these two teams would BOTH be red hot right now, but that's where we are. I wouldn't recommend a play on the side, since both teams are equally hot, though again, if you put a gun to my head, I'd say take the really hot team getting points. We all know, though, how quickly the Jazz can stomp you into submission. Pacers have won 4 straight, covered 7 straight, and are actually playing some defense, but Utah is basically unstoppable, so you have to try to keep up. That's what makes the total so tough to determine, as well. These teams faced off in December with a posted mark right around 210, and both clubs shot the ball terribly; if they shoot better, this one could go Over, so I'll offer a tiny, tiny lean that way.

Nuggets @ Raptors - Denver by 5 with a total of 217. We had two red-hot teams in the game above, and here we have two ice-cold squads, with the Nuggets losing 3 straight, and the Raptors losing by 26 on their home court. The Nuggets lost by 14 in Boston, and have failed to cover 6 straight games. So, did Denver bottom out against the Celtics, or did Toronto bottom out against Utah? Or, conversely, are both teams just struggling, and there's no bottoming out on the radar? Once again, I'd say it's a dicey proposition to try to pick the team that's stinking less, so I'd again recommend passing on the side, but if you absolutely must squeeze a lean out, I suppose you'd again have to take the lesser of two evils - that is, the evil that's getting points - tiny lean to Toronto. The total is interesting, since Toronto has been having issues scoring against, well, anything that can move on defense, and Denver's offense has been slow and hugely based on iso plays. I like the Under.

Hawks @ Sixers - This line is OFF. This one is interesting because the Hawks just clinched a playoff berth, so you have to wonder if they celebrated and are going to be sluggish in this one, or if they think they've got a legitimate shot at shuffling their position in the playoff standings. You've got to think that if ever there were a game where Atlanta might be in a letdown spot, this would be the one, but can we truly trust the Sixers to get the job done on the other side? Neither team is really in a look-ahead spot, so the only true situational angle is Atlanta's playoff situation, and for that reason, and because Philly is coming off a strong effort in Milwaukee, I think they should a little moxie and get it done. Lean to Sixers. I'm expecting a total near 200, and I like the Over, since I can't imagine Atlanta bringing the heat on defense, and we know both teams have great athleticism if they choose to use it.

Wizards @ Bobcats - Charlotte by 10.5 with a total of 181. This is a rematch of a game we saw a couple days ago that the Bobcats won going away in overtime, but still had a total of just 181 even after the 5 extra minutes. I'm very curious to see where the money comes on this game, since I feel like Washington tries to push the pace a little more this time around, realizing they're in big trouble if they try to get into another dogfight with Charlotte, when the Bobcats are playing at home. Still, oddsmakers are showing a ton of confidence in Charlotte's defense by bringing this line out SO LOW. No leans on the total here until we see the initial move, since I feel like public perception is going to dictate quite a bit. But, like I said, I think we see a little more movement early, and again a very slow second half. This total might actually be spot on th nose. As far as the side goes, I think Washington poured their heart out when these teams squared off in our nation's capital, and I think that might have been all they had in the tank. I lean to Charlotte to win in blowout fashion.

Kings @ Celtics - This line is OFF. This one could go one of two ways. The Kings could lay down, which to me seems like the more probable, or the Celtics could have a slight letdown off the game with Denver. I don't think it's the right time of year for Boston to suffer a lapse in focus. They are rolling at home, and this one could very well be a 25-point win when all is said and done. Sacramento is a young team headed for the lottery and missing their superstar, Tyreke Evans. They're also on a strangely scheduled 5-game road trip that nearly ends their season. These guys aren't focused, and they don't care. They couldn't beat Boston with their best effort at home, and the Kings are on the metaphorical tracks with the train coming through. Beware the teams tuning up for the playoffs right now, and Boston is one of those clubs building confidence heading towards the postseason. Lean to the Green. The total should go Under, as I love playing Sactown Unders right now - they struggle to score on the break without Evans, and Boston should be able to really clamp down on the other guys.

Lakers @ Thunder - Pick with a total of 199. The way the Lakers played that second half in San Antonio was SCARY. This is not a team I'm going to advocate fading right now. It looks like the Zen Master has gotten into his team's head and is starting to tune up for the playoffs, and what better way than to play some staunch defense against some teams they might very well meet in the playoffs? The Lakers made the Spurs look absolutely silly in San Antonio, and while the Thunder historically play the Lakers pretty darn tough, I still don't think you can underestimate LA right now. I don't necessarily think they run away with it, since Kevin Durant is basically unguardable, but the Lakers sure do have the size to make scoring very, very difficult for anyone that's not a superstar. If I had to pick a lean, I'd take Lakers. Thunder haven't seen anything this tough since the last time they played the Cavs, and while Oklahoma has some very solid wing players, I just don't see them having the size to score inside. I lean Lakers, and I lean Under.

Pistons @ Nets - Jersey by 1 with a total of 192.5. This game could very well challenge the record-books for one of the ugliest ever. Still, it's time for the Pistons to lay down. Those old farts have plenty of pride, but this season is going nowhere, and with Detroit having lost, now, 6 in a row, I think we might see some of the older guys taking nights off. The Nets, as we know, are playing with their backs against the wall of history. They don't want to be the worst team ever, and this game is definitely their most winnable the rest of the way. Much like the win over the Kings, the Nets just want this one more, and I have no reason to think Detroit brings the pain. Lean to Jersey. On the total, Jersey doesn't want to open this one up and give the Pistons a chance to enjoy themselves - they want it to be a game without rhythm where they can use Brook Lopez to win a grudge match. The two totals this season between these teams have been 190 and 191, and those games have featured surprisingly decent shooting. This one ends in the 180's thanks to the outrageously slow pace, and I lean Under.

Heat @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 5 with a total of 184.5. Miami looked scary last night, but no team is ever as good as their best game, and no team is ever as bad as their worst game, which Milwaukee might have played the last time out. Still, Miami is just 6-9 ATS on back-to-back spots, and getting 5 points basically means these teams are ranked as equals. I'm not sure I agree with that. Milwaukee has dominated Miami this season in all 3 meetings, and Miami has shot 37, 36 and 36 percent in the previous 3 games. Not surprisingly, all 3 of those games have gone under the posted total. The Heat don't play defense quite as well on back-to-backs, but they score worse, as well, so they're actually an under team when fatigued, believe it or not. Still, it's tough to see them playing as awfully against Milwaukee a 4th time as they did the previous 3. I'm torn on this side. I think I have to lean Milwaukee, since there's just no way Miami can duplicate the beating they laid on Chicago last night, and Milwaukee really seems to understand how Miami works. On the total, these games have been played at an outrageously ugly tempo, and they've been ending in the 170's pretty consistently. I think Miami brings a little better action on the offensive end, but once again I'm curious to see which side this line draws money on before I make an official lean.

Cavs @ Spurs - This line is OFF. The Spurs just looked so awful against the Lakers, I can't see them looking a whole lot better against an equally tough defensive team. Hell, the Spurs lost to the Cavs when Cleveland was without half their roster. I know San Antonio probably wants this one more, but that argument did us no good in the Spurs' last game. Bottom line, the Spurs just have to be exhausted from this stretch of ridiculous competition. They have one more tough game after this one, then finally a short respite, but man did Tim Duncan look completely worn out in the last one. I can't trust the Spurs to really compete when they're this tuckered out - I lean Cavs to cover, barely, whatever line we get -- I'm thinking close to a Pick, maybe Cavs by a point. On the total, I'm looking at the Under. It's clear the Spurs have no desire to play at a quick tempo right now, and the Cavs would annihilate the Spurs in a fast game, so we'll likely see a final score in the high 180's.

Knicks @ Suns - Phoenix by 11 with a total of 224. Oh, this is a fun one. Mike D'Antoni's Knicks versus, well, let's be honest, Mike D'Antoni's Suns. There's no secret, here. D'Antoni knows how the Suns want to play, and he knows the best way to defend it, and the Knicks beat the crap out of Phoenix earlier this year on the East coast. The Knicks are playing competitive basketball, but we know how tough it can be to head out on the road this late in the season. Still, I'm a little surprised to see the Knicks getting 11 points against a team that really only blows out the worst few teams in the League (see: Clippers, Wolves). Situationally, this game probably favors the Suns, since you know the Knicks are ready to pack it in, and want no part of going on the road, but from a schematic standpoint, the Knicks have a huge edge. The Suns haven't changed much under Alvin Gentry, other than using guys like Robin Lopez a bit more than previously, and if anyone knows Steve Nash's weaknesses, it's his former coach. I expect to see the Knicks play a very strong game, and though I think the Suns ultimately win, I think they do so by 7-8 points. I lean Knicks. I also lean to the Under - this total is inflated, and unless the Knicks go absolutely nuts with the tempo, this one should stay in the 220 range.

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