Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bulls on Parade

Sports Wagering: NBA

Utah Jazz @ Atlanta Hawks (-3.5) with a total of 201.5;
This game strikes me as the prototypical scheduling "game before the game" (to use a Jersey Shore terminology). Utah is playing their 3rd game of a 4-game brutal road trip, the 3rd game in 4 nights preceding a 4th game in 5 nights, and also the 3rd game against stiff competition (coming after 2 amazing games with the Heat and Magic), just preceding a 4th game against a rather weak opponent, the Bobcats, tomorrow. Did that make sense? Whatever the case, this is the type of game where my instinct is to watch this game from start to finish, every minute, and get a feel for the type of energy Utah expends. If Utah has to go to the bottom of the barrel to get this win, or dominates Atlanta, tomorrow is going to be a tough game to "get up" for. If Atlanta comes out and plays their game of the month, Utah might be looking to get some revenge tomorrow. Motivation is so key in the NBA, and this is one of those 2-games in 2-games spots for the Jazz where we can learn a lot about the team by its performance in the first game. PASS on the side, lean to OVER on the total.

Houston Rockets @ Indiana Pacers (-4.5) with a total of 215;
Will anyone play defense in this game, I wonder? Houston is likely without the services of Yao Ming, and definitely without the services of Aaron Brooks, so it's going to be the Luis Scola and Kevin Martin show again. They were unable to conquer the Washington Wizards in the opener of this road trip, and I fail to see how this is a game where things get any easier. The Pacers, though, might be a little overrated thanks to their incredible offense show in that game against the Nuggets. For that reason, and that reason alone, I think the Pacers are giving about a point too much. Houston is playing pretty terrible defense, so Indiana might score a ton of points again, but they're just not going to shoot 95% for a quarter, and they're not going to shoot 65% for a game. Neither team is in any particularly good or bad scheduling spot, and neither team has any strong situational angles to pursue, so going on line alone, small lean to HOUSTON to keep it close, and to the UNDER because of inflation.

Toronto Raptors @ Orlando Magic (-14) with a total of 200;
This is one of those games where I almost don't want to handicap it. Neither team has any amazing situational or scheduling angles to discuss, and the line is so damn high that you can't really make a strong argument for either side. So, quickly...Toronto is starting a 4-game road trip, which is usually a very slight ATS edge, since the team often brings some of the best energy in the first game. Orlando has a game tomorrow with Jersey, so there's no real look-ahead or letdown involved, and Toronto plays in Miami tomorrow, probably looking at a line up around 17 for that one. The Raptors struggle to score against good defenses and struggle to rebound against strong teams, so this one could get ugly. It depends on how Orlando decides to play, which makes both the side and total coin flips. PASS ALL AROUND.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Washington Wizards (Pk) with a total of 189;
The Bobcats are a troubled team. Yes, they're coming off a rare road win in Toronto, but they let the Raptors score 96 points, and that just wouldn't have happened last year. The slow progress of D.J. Augustin is going to basically determine what this team can do, since the loss of Tyson Chandler has left them without anyone to protect the rim. John Wall, meanwhile, is coming off an unbelievable game against the Rockets. Does he follow it up with a total stinker like he did in New York after his last huge game? Charlotte is going to try to make him work, but the Bobcats have lost my trust. I'm not certain Washington has really earned my trust, but in this particular spot, the Bobcats are a total mess, and I'm not backing them unless the situation is perfect. Here, they need to win to cover, so...slight lean to WASHINGTON and a little bigger lean to the UNDER.

New York Knicks (-2.5) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 214.5;
This is yet another game on a rather mundane Friday card that features two teams with very little motivation, minimal situational angles of note, and no real scheduling anomalies to exploit. Observe: the Knicks head on the road for just 1 game, having lost 3 straight to the Sixers, Bucks and Warriors. They go home to host the Rockets after this game. The Wolves return home off a road trip, but only a 3-game set, and one where they started to play a little better. Is Michael Beasley starting to emerge as a team leader? Is Sebastian Telfair playing point guard like he knows what he's doing? The Wolves, aside from some absurd turnover numbers in LA, actually looked borderline competent in 2 of their 3 road games, but unless Minnesota is catching 8-9 points, they're a tough team to back. Still, the Knicks don't play much in the way of defense, so they are beatable by any team on any given night, and if Minny takes care of the ball to any degree, they'll compete. Very small lean to MINNESOTA, and the UNDER.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Dallas Mavericks with a total of N/A;
Handicapping Mavericks games is almost getting too easy. And, of course, as soon as I type that, the whole thing is going to come apart. The Mavericks are a perfect 3-0 SU and ATS on the road, and a rather pedestrian 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS at home. It continues. In terms of scheduling, Dallas has a rather important home-and-home coming up with the Hornets, so it's pretty safe to assume that the Sixers weren't the top priority for Dallas on this 2-game homestand. That being said, Philadelphia can disappear at times, so they're always going to be a bit of a risk. This line is off because of a few injury concerns. Dirk Nowitzki sprained his ankle in Dallas's game in Memphis, and Andre Iguodala is trying to get back to playing shape, as well. I'd love to see a giant line on this game, since I believe Philadelphia will compete - they're an improving young team with no place to go but up, and Dallas just can't shut the door on teams in their home building. It's getting to the point where it's a little weird, but hey, it is what it is. Lean to PHILADELPHIA and the UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ Phoenix Suns (-7.5) with a total of 218;
There's no question, this total is inflated. The Kings have been playing some pretty ugly basketball on their most recent homestand, so now we'll see if some room service can help them get back on track. However you slice it, though, Sacramento only put up 91 points against Memphis, and only 89 against the Timberwolves, and those offensive numbers simply won't get it done. The big problem with backing Phoenix in this game is that they have a bit of a look-ahead on the chart, and they're slated to play the Lakers, in LA, on Sunday. What we've seen, though, is that size is what gives Phoenix issues, and the teams that have bothered the Suns so far (in a real way) have been the Lakers and Blazers. Yes, the Suns also dropped a game in Memphis, and one to the Spurs, but there were other factors at play in those games. Phoenix handled Utah, they handled Atlanta as well. This line is somewhat on the low side, I feel, and now it's up to us to determine if that's value on Phoenix, or if something more is working, here. Still, until I see Sacramento figure out how to score again, lean to the square-shaped SUNS and the UNDER.

Portland Trailblazers @ Oklahoma City Thunder with a total of N/A;
Here we go. Finally, a good game. The Blazers and Thunder get a rematch just 8 days after Oklahoma City rolled into Portland and picked up a hard-fought overtime win, much to the Blazers chagrin. Of course, there were other factors at play in that game that aren't quite so prominent here. For instance, Oklahoma City was coming off an ugly loss to the Clippers in LA the night before. They were embarrassed, pissed off, and catching a ton of points. Also, Portland was playing their first home game off a highly successful 3-1 road trip out East, with the only loss coming at the hands of the hot-shooting Chicago Bulls. They were feeling fat and sassy, and some home sluggishness may have cost them a regulation win. Now, Portland, a quality road team, is playing with revenge on the brain, and the Thunder still don't look quite right, especially on defense. Yes, Portland has a big game in New Orleans tomorrow, but this is the division rivalry game, so I don't believe a look-ahead is in order, and both teams are coming into this game off medium-sized wins. I expect we'll see the Thunder open as a slight favorite (2 points, perhaps), and if that's the case, lean to the BLAZERS and to the UNDER, since the last meeting was high scoring and involved OT.

Detroit Pistons @ Los Angeles Clippers with a total of N/A;
Call me crazy, but I actually like the Pistons in this scheduling spot. This is a long, slow, drawn out road trip for a fairly rickety Pistons club that really needs every possible day to rest that they can get. And to their credit, they're starting to play a little better, specifically on the offensive side of the ball. The substitutions are making more sense, and guys are making some shots. Of course, the defense is still a step slow (thank you to rock solid defenders like Ben Gordon), but I'm not sure how much that's going to matter here. Why? Well, the Clippers are in a rather unenviable scheduling spot. This is their first game home off a brutally tough road trip where they went 0-4 SU, but actually covered 3 of the 4 spreads. Guys are banged up for the Clips, and they played above themselves with their stars out, but all that extra energy expended in games with Denver, Utah, and San Antonio (they didn't play that hard in New Orleans) is going to catch up with all these career reserves playing starters' minutes. Also, this is a sluggish scheduling spot for a team that doesn't play again for 3 days. I think we'll see a line favoring the Clips by a few points, and I lean to the PISTONS on the side, and I think we'll see an accurate total.


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