Friday, March 05, 2010

True Value

It was a squeeze, but we got another one!

I will admit, I was unable (for better or worse) to watch even one second of our Paid Play last night on the Nets +11, but I was indeed able to check the final score upon arriving home and saw that we got the narrow cover. And while it might look like dumb luck, anyone who read the write-up of last night's game knows perfectly well that based on power rankings the Magic SHOULD have been a 9-point favorite, but thanks to 2 points of line value, we played the Nets. And just like clockwork, the game went exactly as oddsmakers expected, and folks, when the books are giving you hints, it's in your best interest to listen.

Down to business.

Sports Wagering

Warriors @ Bobcats - Charlotte by 10.5 with a total of 204. From a line value standpoint, I'm not sure I'm all that pleased with laying 10.5 points, and you guys know how infrequently I look at the home team in a spot like this, but Golden State is just in an awful spot. They are playing their 4th game of a 5-game road trip, and on top of that, this is also their 4th game in 5 nights. That's tough for an average team, but how about a team with only 8 bodies, and only 1-2 of those 8 with real NBA experience. We saw what happened to the Warriors when they went into Orlando on the back end of a back-to-back after hanging with Miami the previous night. This game has all the makings of the exact same outcome, only the Warriors should be even more tired. Charlotte beat the Warriors on the West coast by outrebounding them by 20, so maybe there's a little revenge here, but the Warriors just seem far too fatigued and undersized to really make a legitimate push at beating the Bobcats. I do have a concern with backing Charlotte, though, and that comes from last night's game. They are on back-to-back, as well, and while they're 10-5 ATS on back-to-back games, they're coming off a 15-point win over the Lakers. If that doesn't ruin whatever value you might have had as a team, I don't know what does. I really want to find a way to fade the pooped out, undersized, undermanned Warriors, but I'm just not sure the situational angles add up -- TINY lean to Charlotte. The total on this game looks pretty low, and I do happen to think the Warriors struggle to score, but how many points can Charlotte put up? Another TINY lean, this time to the Under.

Hawks @ Heat - Miami by 1.5 with a total of 188. I'm not a huge fan of this one, either. Miami looks like they might be turning a corner just a little bit, but I'm rarely a fan of backing a team off a win over the Lakers. Miami and LA went to overtime on Thursday before the Heat prevailed, so again, there is almost no faster way to blow all your value than by beating the Lakers straight up. I know the Hawks are on a back-to-back, coming off a ridiculously high-scoring game with the Warriors, and boasting a fairly even record in these spots (8-7 ATS), but Atlanta has been showing some nice muscle lately, especially in tougher games. This has been an interesting series this season, and tonight will be the 4th and final meeting. The Hawks pummeled the Heat back in November, but Miami has dominated both meetings in 2010, most recently locking down the Hawks on February 10 to the tune of a 92-74 road victory. The revenge angle makes me think that if we're getting any value at all in this game, it's going to be on the side of Atlanta. Can the Heat really play all that well off the huge game on Thursday? The monster overtime win would seem to make Miami a team ripe for a letdown. The Hawks on back-to-back might look like a bad proposition to some, but I happen to think they're the side to look at in this one. The question is really whether Atlanta wasted too much energy scoring 127 points against the Warriors. I'm inclined to believe they've got something left in the tank, and I have a weak lean to the Hawks. The total is tough to call, I believe, as we know Miami prefers a slow, grinder of a game, but if we like the Hawks to win, I think we also have to like the Hawks to score a few points, and lean to the Over.

Nets @ Knicks - New York by 8 with a total of 209.5. Something feels off about this line. Can the Knicks really be regarded in such high esteem to rank them as 8-point favorites to the Nets? I mean, I realize Jersey is as bad as they come, but is New York truly 5 points better on a neutral court? This hasn't really been that lopsided of a series this year. New York won the first 2 meetings before Jersey took the third match, though all 3 of those games happened back in 2009. Something just doesn't add up. The Knicks were just a 4-point favorite the last time they hosted the Nets, and while they've clearly improved since then, New York, I feel, should not be laying 8 points to anything with 5 players and matching jerseys. So, the question is whether this line is high for a reason unbeknownst to us, for now, or just hyper-inflated because the Knicks have the name recognition. The lines these teams got in recent games against the Cavaliers happen to agree with this line of 8 points, but again, that number just looks wildly high -- trust me, I did the Math on that Cleveland stuff. Alright, so is either team in a particularly good or bad spot? Well, the Nets barely covered last night against the Magic, and are coming off games with Cleveland and Orlando in rapid succession, so they might be a little more tired than the Knicks, who lost in Toronto against a lower-impact opponent. Still, New York has to deal with customs to get home, they'll be getting less sleep, and New York is playing their 6th game in 9 days, so they might be a little fatigued. I can't be quite certain, though we should also note that Jersey has covered 6 straight on the road, where all the bonus points they get work wonders when they lose by 5-8 points. I lean Nets. The total is a little confusing, with both teams on back-to-back spots (both teams are bad ATS back-to-back, so that's a wash, but...), Jersey is a huge under team when tired and New York is a mild over team. I happen to think this one features more intensity than people would expect, and I lean Under.

Rockets @ Wolves - Houston by 3.5 with a total of 209.5. Sometimes the mojo is working on a game, and sometimes it just isn't, and I happen to believe this game is a very difficult one to handicap. The Wolves are all over the place, though they are coming off a nice run-n-gun offensive show in Dallas. The one thing that makes a little sense is that Minnesota is extremely streaky. This team very rarely wins a game, then doesn't follow it up with another ATS "W". Same deal with losses. So, I do, to a certain degree, like that Minnesota comes home with a little confidence, feeling a little better about themselves than they did when they got creamed by Oklahoma City and Portland. Unfortunately, Al Jefferson is out for one more game because of suspension. Houston has won both games in this series this year, and without Jefferson, the Wolves lose their huge advantage in the middle. Houston is notoriously undersized, but if the Wolves can't exploit their size edge, and subsequent potential edge on the glass, this is going to be a tall order. I don't trust the Rockets either, though. Houston bounces between wins and losses, almost without any real order. They beat Toronto by 24, then lost to the Kings outright at home. This should be a pretty low-impact road trip through Minnesota, Detroit and Washington, but time will tell if Houston can get their act together. No leans on the sides for me here, but I do like the Over, as I happen to believe Minnesota continues to push the pace, and Houston shouldn't have any problem with that.

Mavericks @ Bulls - Dallas by 1.5 with a total of 200. Dallas has won 10 games in a row. Chicago has looked terrible, losing 3 straight (at Indiana, and hosting the Hawks and Grizzlies). This is one of those spots where perception would seem to indicate that Dallas dominates this game. Unfortunately, I can't really advocate backing either side. The value is most definitely on Chicago's side of the boat, as the public is going to come hot and heavy on the Mavericks, but Dallas is playing their 5th game in 7 nights, so fatigue might be slowly setting in, and they've failed to cover their last 2 contests for obvious reasons. The Mavericks are not playing good defense again. I don't know if it's a lack of focus or fatigue (or both), but the Mavs have allowed opponents to break 100 points in 4 of the last 5 games, and while they've won all 5 of those games, as mentioned, they have not been covering against teams that get a line value edge -- that is, the weak competition. Today, they play a team that's going to get a little more attention than the Kings, if only because Chicago has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but the Bulls are so banged up right now that it's simply tough to know if they can play hard for a full 48 minutes. Chicago looked great against Memphis for 3 quarters, and even though the Grizzlies were playing their 7th game in 10 days, they were the team that came storming back in the 4th when they should have been tired. I have a tiny lean to Chicago on the side, since I think Derrick Rose has a monster game, but my stronger lean is to the Over, since both teams have been struggling on defense over the last week, and I think we can still find a little value in it.

Spurs @ Grizzlies - San Antonio by 1.5 with a total of 199. This game intrigues me, I will admit. Some games I break down and wish they weren't happening, but not this bad boy. We've got the can't-win-at-home Grizzlies against the surging-but-old Spurs in a back-to-back spot. So far, these teams have met twice this season, and the home team has won (and covered) both games. The Grizzlies beat the Spurs by 6 at home in mid-January, and 2 weeks later, the Spurs came right back and stomped Memphis by 7. Memphis has been all kinds of crazy lately, winning and covering their last 6 road games, while simultaneously losing their last 7 straight home games, covering just 1 of those 7. The Spurs, meanwhile, have won 3 in a row for the first time in quite a while, though they covered just 2 of those 3 games. San Antonio is just 4-6 ATS on back-to-backs, so they haven't had many of them this season, and I'm curious to see if those old bones can handle a game against a fiery Grizzlies team that is going to be hungrier than ever to get a win at home. Memphis knows they need EVERY game if they're going to make a push for the playoffs, but I just can't quite decide if I think the pressure of playing at home is mounting with every home loss, or if the desire for a win and the adrenaline boost that accompanies that desire is doubling with every loss. It's a tough call, to be sure. I happen to believe Memphis finally gets a home win tonight, as I really feel like this team has shown a ton of resiliency in a few tough, fatiguing road games, and I think this one means more to the Grizz. I also HAVE to look at the Under, since we know how San Antonio slows things down on back-to-back situations (2-8 O/U), and one of those 8 overs came this most recent Monday, when they were coming off a game at noon the day before...not even a real back-to-back, in my opinion.

Cavaliers @ Bucks - Cleveland by 3.5 with a total of 196. The Bucks are covering machines, but today they get their test. I actually don't think we're getting a great value in this game on Milwaukee, believe it or not. I know the Cavaliers are the big dog, and they're going to garner the public attention, but I believe this line is fairly accurate. Perhaps the Bucks really go to town and play out of their minds in this one, but looking at a common opponent reveals that this line is pretty close to where it should be. Both of these teams hosted the Hornets a little under 2 weeks ago. So, with some leeway for the potential power ranking changes over the last 2 weeks, the Cavs were laying 11.5 points to the Hornets, and the Bucks were laying 6 (though New Orleans was on back-to-back in that one, so for all intents and purposes, the Bucks were laying 4). What this means is that Cleveland was ranked as an 8.5-point favorite over New Orleans on a neutral court, and the Bucks were a 1-point favorite. That translates to the Cavs being 7.5-points better than Milwaukee, and thus, they should be laying 4.5 today. Now, Milwaukee has been getting better and better with every game over the last 2 weeks, so let's say they improved by 1 to 1.5-points. That still means that today's line falls right in that window. I know most people's inclination is going to be to jump on the Bucks because they're the public fade, but I'd be a little less quick on the draw. Milwaukee is indeed on double-revenge, and this is sort of a "proving ground" game for them, and on top of that, the Bucks are a League-best 12-3 ATS on back-to-back games while the Cavs are just 6-9 ATS, and for THOSE reasons, the Bucks are the lean, but NOT because they're a public fade. The Cavs have played to low totals against Divisional opponents, and I'm on board with that trend, since I think it stems from both teams playing hard in those games. Neither of these teams has any strong O/U trends for back-to-back spots, so I lean Under.

Clippers @ Jazz - Utah by 13.5 with a total of 206. This is something of a rough spot for the Clippers. They start a violent road trip here in the altitude on the second half of a back-to-back, and from here, they head to Orlando, Miami, Charlotte and San Antonio. The Clippers, really, would be lucky to come out of this road trip with one win, I believe. Still, this is a ton of points. Oddsmakers know the Clippers are going to be in a tough spot, traveling late after getting pummeled by the Thunder last night at home, and the line has been adjusting accordingly. This is also, amazingly, a bit of a revenge game for Utah, as the Clippers knocked them off less than a week ago, 108-104, in a game where the Jazz just didn't show up until late, and couldn't quite pull off the comeback. Unfortunately, Utah isn't going to be terribly excited to face the Clippers again, a team they've seen twice in the last month already, but I do feel like there are some angles here that might work to our advantage. You guys all know that with games of spreads this large, I like to start with the giant dog and try to talk myself out of it, and on this game, I'm having some mild success. The Jazz aren't a good value, let's not kid ourselves, but the Clippers are just awful right now. Since that win over Utah, they've been blown out twice, both times at home, and they're not showing any signs of fighting back. This might be that point in the season where the Clip show starts to mail it in. On the other side, the Jazz are right in the thick of things for home court until the Western Conference Finals, just 2 games back of Dallas for 2nd place, and 1.5-games back of Denver for 3rd. Every win is huge for Utah, since they know how important that 7th game can be, especially against a powerhouse home team like the Nuggets. Also, the 4th seed means you get the Lakers in the 2nd round, and no one wants that. Lean to Utah. The total has been adjusted a bit from the last game, but if indeed the Clippers run into that wall in the 3rd quarter, I believe they'll struggle to break 90 - I lean Under.

Pacers @ Suns - Phoenix by 12.5 with a total of 221. This is another monster spread, and for whatever reason (maybe that pop tart I ate was funky?), I'm liking the huge favorite again. Indiana has been downright awful on their current road trip, losing by 23 to both the Lakers and Blazers, before last night finding the courage to find back against the Nuggets and lose by just 8. Of course, all of that has taken place in just 4 days, which means today, that's right, it's a 4th-in-5 spot for the flailing Pacers. This is also the final game of a road trip for Indiana, generally a spot where teams get their hearts set on home. Tough, tough game if you're a Pacer. It isn't all roses for Phoenix, though, as they're coming off that 4th quarter meltdown against Utah. It wasn't surprising, really, as Phoenix was on a 4th-in-5 situation back on Thursday, and a 7th-in-10, so for them to run out of gas wasn't nuts. Still, getting just one day off to mull over the loss and having to get right back at it, well, we might see some sluggishness. Plus, Phoenix has FIVE days off after this game to get ready for a battle royale with the Lakers. Is it a look-ahead to the Lakers? I doubt it. But it could be a look-ahead to the time off. I still think the Pacers sleepwalk their way through this game, but that line is awfully large. TINY, and I mean tiny lean to the Suns, but there are better values on the board. Phoenix is going to score 110 points, at least. The question in my mind is whether the Pacers can break 100. Honestly, I'm just not sure. There's better value with the Under, so we'll lean that direction.

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