Thursday, April 01, 2010

Quite Warm

We're still a few wins away from being "hot," but that easy coast-to-coast winner with Orlando last night certainly bumps us one notch above "warm" to a temperature that I like to call "quite warm."

As far as leans go, we made our play on the Magic to take advantage of rested legs, and they slowly wore the Mavs down in a game that featured a great defensive effort, and also stayed under the total. Once again, Orlando puts its defensive foot forward in a big TV game. Definitely something to consider come playoff time.

The second game went the way we expected, as well. Denver handled their business at home, Portland got caught in another high-scoring game on a back-to-back, and struggled at the Pepsi Center.

Monster Friday card, and we're firing a 2* Game of the Week, so let's break down some games!

Sports Wagering

Heat @ Pacers - This line is OFF. I assume because of Jermaine O'Neal, and probably because books are getting pasted by large favorites covering right now, so they don't want to bring this line out too low, then find out O'Neal is playing. Miami has clobbered Indiana all 3 times they've played this year, but Indiana has not played this well all season long. So, from a situational standpoint, there's no real edge for either team. Miami has a cake schedule the rest of the way, so they're in the driver's seat for getting a nice spot in the mid/bottom of the East. Indiana isn't really in a letdown or look-ahead because they've stunk all year, so each game is its own little challenge. I'll be curious to see where this line comes out. If the Heat are bigger than a 5 point road favorite, I'd look at Indiana; otherwise, probably pass, or maybe Heat if it's a short enough line. Both teams are playing their best basketball all season, and both teams are dominating at the defensive end, which is especially surprising for the Pacers. I happen to think Indiana's offensive-minded approach could potentially inflate the total, but Miami's numbers should yank that sucker down. This is a very tough game, but if I had to offer a lean, I'd say Miami to keep rolling on the side, and the Under on the total, although all 3 meetings this year have stayed Under, so if this number isn't drawing money on the over, we should be VERY careful.

Bucks @ Bobcats - This line is OFF. I don't actually know the injury situation here, but I do know that with a win, the Bucks can stave off the Heat's charge for 5th place in the East. I'm not sure Milwaukee and Miami care which has 5th and which has 6th, since they're playing Atlanta or Boston (and don't know which), but I definitely feel both teams want to avoid the 7th and 8th spots. That brings us to Charlotte, currently in 7th place, a couple games ahead of Toronto and a couple behind the Heat/Bucks tandem. How badly does Charlotte really want to clobber in this game? I don't know. How well do the Bucks bounce back off a very tough road loss in Cleveland in their last game? I don't know that, either, but that's really the only situational angle at play, here. These teams have played 3 times, and the home team has won all 3, so you have to lean to Charlotte on that notion, as well. When you add the situational and revenge angles together, and I think it's safe to disregard the "big picture" stuff because both teams want the win, we have to lean just slightly to the Bobcats. These teams have also played ultra low-scoring games to this point, and I'd honestly be nervous to take the under on what's sure to be a very low opening number. Let's wait and see, but there might be some value with the Over, since Charlotte has actually been scoring pretty well, and the Bucks haven't been quite as solid on defense over the last week or two.

Bulls @ Wizards - Chicago by 4 with a total of 192.5. This game is intriguing for one reason - does Chicago still care? The Bulls don't have the world's toughest schedule the rest of the way, facing the Wiz here, Charlotte twice, Milwaukee, Jersey, Boston, Cleveland, and Toronto, but that one game with Toronto could make a monster difference. Realistically, if the Bulls can pick up some huge wins over Milwaukee and Charlotte at home, they should be right in the mix for that last playoff spot in the East. I don't think this team gives up just yet, even though they're coming off a brutal loss to the Suns in their last game. They've had plenty of time to gather themselves before this one, and if you don't believe in late-season letdown spots, the Bulls are actually the better situational play. Washington is starting a homestand for the first time in over a month, really. This is the first time Washington will have more than 2 straight home games since February 22-26. I wonder how they'll respond to finally getting to settle in for a few days. I have to think that Chicago's desire is just so strong here, and even though this is a hugely public side, I lean to the Bulls - they're not giving up just yet, I don't think. Maybe with another loss and Toronto win, but they're still close enough to make this relevant. Lean to Chicago, and lean to the Under, since I just don't see Washington scoring over 85.

Rockets @ Celtics - This line is OFF. If there's one thing we need to remember, it's that Boston threw a public temper tantrum after their last game. They were not happy with the calls Kevin Durant was getting, and they are going to be aggressive and expecting fouls to be called. And they should be, as Houston is going to be severely outsized, outstrengthed (not a word, I know), and just generally outclassed by the Celtics. We saw Houston get manhandled by the Spurs, and it wasn't for lack of effort, or even for lack of shooting from the perimeter - the Rockets just don't have the horses to play defense against bigger, stronger teams right now, and they don't have the depth to compete without Kevin Martin and Shane Battier. This team was already small, then they got smaller at the trade deadline, and even smaller because of injuries. Boston should run away with this one. There is one small issue of the look-ahead to Cleveland, but Boston wants this game, as they want to get back into the #3 spot in the East, and secure themselves a first round series against whichever team between the Heat and Bucks is less hot down the stretch. Bottom line, Boston is annoyed, and they are not a team you want to mess with when they're pissed. Lean to Boston. Both teams are coming off very high scoring games, and I think Boston puts up a nice offensive night, I'm just not sure if Houston does their part. Slight lean to the Under, but I have a feeling the oddsmakers are going to peg this one properly.

Hornets @ Grizzlies - This line is OFF. I have this gut feeling that the Grizzlies used everything left in the tank in that game against the Mavericks, and still couldn't hang on. The home crowd is not going to give a hoot about this one, which, in my opinion, greatly diminishes home court edge. Also, Chris Paul is one of the select few basketball players that seems mostly impervious to playing on the road. But really, what incentive does either of these teams have to play hard? None, really. The Hornets got that sweet home win over the Lakers, then lost to the Wizards in the very next game. They don't care - they got the one piece of candy they wanted. On the Memphis side, I'm sure they'd like to end the season on a slightly positive note, but I haven't a clue if they've got anything left in the tank. Two teams that don't care? I have no lean on the side, though believe me, I'm looking for a reason to back the Hornets. On the total, with two teams that don't care, I think we might see some extended run for the young guys, which means two things - turnovers, and missed shots. The tempo is going to be quicker, but I think the ugly basketball might very well balance that out. I'd like to see how each of these teams plays now that the season is over, but if I had to take a shot in the dark, I'd say we get a little value on the Under.

Suns @ Pistons - This line is OFF. My guess is that Detroit sits a few guys, which should boost this line up to a solid 8 or 9 points. That's not an easy road cover, but if anyone can suck hard enough, it's the Pistons. This team is looking for a lotto pick, and honestly, with the way the injuries hit them, they're right in the mix for a top 3 selection. Detroit wants a big man and listening to local radio, there's some clamoring to try to get Cousins if Detroit gets a high enough picks, even though folks don't seem to trust "what's between the ears," as they say. In any case, the draft isn't important, what is important is that Rip Hamilton got a night off for no legitimate reason, and I would expect to see a different starter taking a game off every day the rest of the way. Can Phoenix defend well enough to cover what's sure to be a colossal spread? Not really, but they sure as hell can score. I guess my concern is that Detroit has been surprisingly close in a few recent games (not the most recent against the Heat), so will they play with enough pride to stay in this thing? Phoenix, with a few wins and a few losses by key Western Conference teams, could actually slide up to a pretty solid playoff spot, and they're playing good basketball. Even with a huge spread, I can't trust a team that's given up - lean to the Suns. Detroit has been trying to get out and run, and I happen to think this game hits 210, so let's see where the total comes out.

Hawks @ Cavaliers - Cleveland by 5.5 with a total of 195.5. This is a tough one. On the one hand, we're seeing Atlanta playing some of their best basketball in the last few months with two easy wins over the red-hot Pacers and Western Conference-leading Lakers, but what have they done on the road, and what have they done against Cleveland? In fact, including the playoffs, Atlanta hasn't beaten Cleveland since December of 2008, a span of 8 straight losses for the Hawks. It looks like the Cavs just have Atlanta's number, though again, that is straight up. The Hawks lost in Cleveland earlier this year in a game with this exact same spread, but covered by the hook, so it's not like they get blown out every game. Still, something about this game tells me we're getting some value on the Cavaliers side. Cleveland is coming off a game where they just barely squeaked past a highly motivated Bucks team, and seemingly in cruise control, Cleveland might not be expected to go full tilt. I happen to think Cleveland (Lebron in particular) believes in the art of intimidation, and I think we see a top-notch effort from a Cavs team looking to show that no matter what the Hawks do against the Lakers, or against the Magic at home, Cleveland is still their "daddy." Also, with Atlanta coming off that monster win over the Lakers, their value is bottoming out - they're not a good road team, they're an incredible home team, and something just tells me folks saw them at their best in the last couple games. Lean to Cavaliers, and lean to the Under, as I think points are going to require some hardcore work.

Magic @ Spurs - San Antonio by 2.5 with a total of 195.5. Well, this is a difference. Last night, Orlando crushed the Mavericks as a 2.5-point road favorite, now on the back-to-back, they're a 2.5-point underdog to the Spurs. Now, San Antonio needs this game way more than Orlando, and with the Magic playing on TNT, you know folks are going to enjoy snapping up some Magic and points, here, but given that San Antonio got murdered in Orlando just a few weeks ago in a game that wasn't even close, I struggle to see how this line isn't screaming at the public to take Orlando. I mean, for one, the Spurs were 7-point underdogs in Orlando when they were on a back-to-back, so based on those numbers, the Spurs should actually be 3-point favorites here with a normal swing. We're getting a half-point of value with San Antonio even though this game looks like it should be an easy cruising winner for Orlando. The Magic are coming off that big win in Dallas, are just 7-8 ATS in back-to-backs, but more than anything, they score a ton of points on back-to-back games, as the defense seems to relax, and they just figure they can cream teams with superior offense. Lean to the Spurs on revenge, and lean to the Over, especially because I think Orlando's low scoring game with Dallas should help move this line down a hair.

Knicks @ Warriors - This line is OFF. Monta Ellis or no, I think we get a monster effort from the Warriors here. I'm not convinced the Knicks care. They seemed to lay it all on the line in Utah, but didn't have anything left in the tank for a game in Portland, and now they have to try to play clean basketball with the Warriors scratching and clawing? The Knicks don't really have a size or skill edge on the Warriors, and try to play up-tempo themselves, but usually not as effectively as Golden State. Both teams are coming off getting blown out, so there's value on both sides from that, but I think from a motivational standpoint, the Knicks are way out West in a tough building, and the Warriors are trying their asses off to get Don Nelson that record-breaking win. I've talked about it, before - this team has not given up. They're going to get a high draft pick, but these youngsters want to be the guys to get Nellie the record, and they know that the Knicks are the perfect first victim down the stretch. I expect a strong, strong effort from the Warriors against one of the few teams in the NBA that doesn't have a size advantage on them. Quick versus quick? I'll take the home team with the better point guard - lean to Warriors. The total could be colossal, though the Knicks have been known to lay an egg from time to time on offense. I have to believe the number is going to be inflated - let's see where the total comes out and which side draws the money, then we can make a call.

Jazz @ Lakers - Lakers by 5 with a total of 205. First game home, we've seen it a thousand times. Everyone figures the Lakers are just going to roll into their own building and beat someone down, but I don't think it's going to be so easy. The Jazz are one of the toughest teams in the NBA right now, and they need these wins to secure that #2 spot in the West. You know they've got their sights set on it, too, and Utah can beat the Lakers if LA doesn't play rock solid defense. And flying cross country when there's team turmoil is not a good way to get a homestand started. Obviously, I wish the Lakers didn't get so much publicity for how bad they've been playing, since that greatly diminishes the value on the Jazz, but I still believe the Lakers need more time to get this ship turned around. Maybe 46 minutes of basketball...something tells me Kobe wins this one on a last-second shot, and everything gets better in LA. Still, that smells like a Jazz cover - lean to Utah. And defense is usually lacking in a first game back home, and I think we see well over 100 points in the first half before things slow a bit. I lean Over.

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