Monday, January 31, 2011

Dinnertime Tuesday 4-Game Leaflet

Opener:

Earlier this morning I thought of some great stuff to rant about in the opening section, and courtesy of a few hours of errand-running, car-under-snow-digging, some exercise (amazing though it may seem), and whatever else my brain is processing, I forgot what it was. Harumph, says I.

One thing I do know is that any Midwest-based sporting events (indoor or outdoor) are going to be subject to some severe weather concerns on Wednesday. Word has it that the upper Midwest could be seeing almost 2 feet of snow and gusting winds, so check your local listings for adjusted game start times or potential highway closures.

In other news, this Tuesday NBA card makes me nauseous, so today's blog is going to be a bit lacking in my usual flair. I mean, just look at these games!

Sports Wagering: NBA

Washington Wizards @ New Orleans Hornets (-10) with a total of 188.5;
Depending on how Washington's epic showdown with Dallas goes on Monday night, the side in this game is one of the few potential wagers I might actually consider. Why? Well, Washington is finishing up yet another disastrous road trip, there's some light sprinklings of turmoil among the players, the team has 2 days off before opening a homestand with the Orlando Magic, and frankly, if Washington exhausts itself in Dallas, this is going to be a bit of a fatigue spot (4th game in 5 nights). New Orleans returns home off a short 3-game road trip, but one that didn't go as well as hoped, with the Hornets losing in both Sacramento and Phoenix. We managed to fade a team off a long winning streak successfully, but with a day off before a home game, New Orleans should be somewhat rested and ready to punch back. My concerns with the Hornets side, however, stem from a potential look-ahead to a game in Oklahoma (though lessened by the fact that the Hornets beat the Thunder in their last meeting), and that Emeka Okafor was injured in Phoenix, and without his defensive presence near the rim, New Orleans' vaunted defense takes a huge hit. As it stands, if he can keep his consecutive game streak going, I lean HORNETS and UNDER, but let's not lock anything in just yet.

Boston Celtics (-6.5) @ Sacramento Kings with a total of 192.5;
Generally, in the grind of a regular season, teams will either be "lookahead" teams or "letdown" teams, and not usually both. What I mean by this is that, if we could somehow know how a team is going to handle big game situations either the game before or after going into the season, our lives would be a lot easier. For Boston, I think it's safe to say that, at least for the Lakers, they went the route of the lookahead. Boston laid a sulfuric mess in Phoenix in the game before (partially due to fatigue, too), then came out and whipped LA on Sunday afternoon. Now, I don't really expect Boston to play a bad game both before AND after LA. I believe they got the bad one out of the way. Does that mean I want to back them? Absolutely not, but I also don't think it's a reason to avoid. The reasons to avoid are (a) that Sactown is playing its ass off, (b) that Boston is playing its final game of a 4-game west coast swing, and (c) that Boston beat the pants off the Kings when these teams faced off on the parquet out East. And in terms of point (c), it's pretty easy to see what happened. The Kings had played an overtime game with the Wizards the night before, were playing a 3rd road game in 4 nights, and the stats bear this out - the Kings committed a ridiculous 23 turnovers to the Celtics 14, allowed 12 offensive rebounds (while only grabbing 6), shot just 2-of-13 from long distance, and maybe most evident of fatigue, got outscored by 15 in the 3rd quarter. This time around, I like SACRAMENTO to fight tooth and nail to keep it close, and I can't see this total repeating what it did last time, lean to UNDER.

San Antonio Spurs (-5) @ Portland Trailblazers with a total of 191.5;
This line feels pretty darn high, considering Portland isn't THAT awful. At the same time, though, a good defensive team like Boston completely shut down the Blazers offense, and the Celtics probably should have won that contest by a bit more than they did. This game, though, has a series of weird scheduling notes that put me squarely in the PASS CAMP. First, Portland has Denver coming up tomorrow, a division showdown. Second, San Antonio has the Lakers coming up on Thursday (on TNT), certainly a big game between the West's #1 and #2 teams. Third, Portland is on revenge from a pathetic 95-78 loss down in Texas back in mid-December. Fourth, Portland isn't even winning at home right now, the one place they seemed to be able to get it done. Fifth, this is the first game of San Antonio's annual Rodeo Road Trip, which is going to take them clear into the middle of February - we don't know how they will respond this year, since, in years past, the Rodeo trip seemed to galvanize the team, and this year, they don't need to be any stronger. So, I maintain, PASS on the side, take a peek at the OVER.

Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers (-8.5) with a total of 207;
Paging Pau Gasol...wake the f$*& up! Sorry, that was the Laker fan in me. The betting man says, "Pau, do whatever you want, just be consistent..." and lately, he has been consistently disinterested. And I suppose the grind of the regular season can be a bit lengthy when you can go home at night's end and see a handful of trophies on the mantle. And that's fine, because right now, it's Kobe (and sometimes Bynum) versus the World, and we know how that show goes: the Lakers lose to the good defensive teams, lose to the supremely hot teams, and beat everyone else, but rarely cover. This game would, in my estimation, fall into category 3. Houston is not a good team, but they can hang with a lot of opponents because of a nice offensive gameplan, and a ton of shooters. I have also been trying to figure out if Shane Battier is an ATS weapon - sure feels like Houston finds a way to cover games when Battier is responsible for the opposition's best scorer. I think a large portion of bettors are going to be on the Lakers with the reasoning that they're "gonna be pissed" about the Boston loss. Yes, they are, but they don't cover when Kobe takes over games. Lean to ROCKETS and the OVER.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

An NBA Week Begins, Pt 15

Opener:

Things got moving in a better direction last week, and after seeing team after team blow a lead in the final 90 seconds, those late leads began translating into winners...as expected. Simply put, it's easier to win a game if you're ahead as time is running out. That's my Maddenism for the day.

The big news out of the NBA over the weekend is the firing of Jim O'Brien as coach of the Indiana Pacers, a move that has been long overdue. O'Brien has a rich history of abandoning plans without giving them a chance to succeed, and, in my mind, I picture Jim O'Brien at Pacers practices paying homage to Rick Moranis in Spaceballs:

"KEEP FIRING, ASSHOLES!"

Why play defense, when you can just bomb threes and cross your fingers?

Otherwise, rumbling into a new week, trying to make time to plan for a cross-country move and a wedding, and looking to see if maybe the rules of gravity can change briefly to create an hour or two extra in an Earth day. It's just a good thing the NBA only has 30 teams...

Sports Wagering: NBA

Denver Nuggets @ New Jersey Nets with a total of N/A;
It seems somewhat likely that this line is on a delay because Denver is set to play a Sunday early evening game in Philadelphia, though I suppose an injury may have slipped past my view. Denver has (and we'll see if it continues) made a directed effort to shed the tag "bad road team" on this very road trip, and it's not a bad time to make that call, since Denver got to play Washington, Detroit, Philadelphia, and now Jersey, 4 very winnable games for a good Western Conference team. I don't think we're learning much new about the Nuggets, though it does prove they're still good enough to beat relatively poor teams at sea level. Of course, if there's a game Denver might lose on the road, this would be the one. It's the final game of the 4-games-in-6-nights road trip, and they head home to host a division rival (Blazers) on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Jersey continues to be a disaster on the road, but they've been playing significantly better at home, and I'm not sure anyone is noticing. I expect the Nuggets to open near a 4-point favorite, maybe a tiny bit less because of the back-to-back, and at that number, I think JERSEY can stick it out with a total that stays UNDER.

Toronto Raptors @ Indiana Pacers (-8) with a total of 208;
Do we get the coaching change bump in basketball like we did in the NFL? I'm not really sure anything changes for Indiana. Maybe Jim O'Brien was stifling Roy Hibbert in some way, but then, I don't know what went on behind closed doors. This is a very winnable game for the Pacers, and we saw them wipe the floor with a weak road team in Jersey, and then get smashed by the Bulls yet again. Who knows what to expect from Indy, at this point? The Raptors are a total mess, too, and while one team most certainly has to win this game, asking a slumping team to cover 8 to 9 points is a lot. Keeping this writeup brief - this game comes down to whether you believe new Coach Vogel will motivate his guys into a short win streak. I personally don't know, but coaching changes usually do something, either good or bad. We'll take a shot with good and lean to INDIANA and the OVER.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Miami Heat (-17.5) with a total of 202.5;
This could very well be the Cavaliers last chance to get a win in the month of January, though as I write this, they gear up to try their wimpy little hands against the Magic. Frankly, it's unlikely that the Cavs will win either of these two games, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them cover one of the two. There's still some residual LeBronimosity lingering in Cleveland, especially as the season winds its way down one of the deepest, sludge-filled toilets in a humid Cleveland-area truck stop bathroom, and I wonder if that little tinge of hate doesn't get Cleveland a narrow cover. It's tough to win by 18 when Miami just finished up a huge win on the road in Oklahoma, and after this game heads to Orlando for a divisional showdown. Sandwiches for the Heat, anger for the Cavs, I think CLEVELAND weasels out a cover in a game that stays UNDER the total by a bucket.

Orlando Magic (-2) @ Memphis Grizzlies with a total of 198.5;
I might be willing to chalk this one up as a possible revenge game, though Memphis will find themselves looking at a pretty different Orlando team. Still, Memphis did lose by 17 in an horrifically low-scoring effort down in Florida back in mid-November, and they can definitely play some basketball, especially at home. Memphis has, somewhat quietly, crept back up to the .500 mark on the season, winning 5 of their last 6, but those 6 games have been against largely bad teams, and this will be a true test. Maybe more importantly, Orlando, like Miami above, has a bit of a showdown coming up in a couple of days. Orlando does have 2 days off between games, so the look-ahead should be a little less severe than, say, a team on back-to-back, but they are playing in a little fatigue spot here, with a little look-ahead, against a team with a little revenge. Catching a theme? Little lean to MEMPHIS, and little lean to the UNDER.

Washington Wizards @ Dallas Mavericks with a total of N/A;
Who knows? I mean, really. Washington is now starting to get a little hot under the collar, and Nick Young suggested that perhaps inconsistent play-calling is responsible for their road woes. I made a pact with myself not to bet on a team in turmoil, and though I suspect most of that ire will subside between games, and a good deal of it can be chalked up to just general frustration, if Washington is upset, truly upset, I can't back them. They're likely to be a nice value on the road for the rest of the season, since we're seeing lines continually inflated on this team that just can't get it done away from home, and they'll probably cover 1 of the final 2 games on this road trip, but I don't have strong feelings against Dallas, and that would be the only way I could get on board with the Wiz. PASS on the side, totals lean to the OVER, since the Wiz have played to 4 straight Overs, and Dallas, to 3.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Utah Jazz with a total of N/A;
This is another of those weird spots where the HOME team is the one flying into altitude on a back-to-back. And, interestingly, the Bobcats, who we backed successfully in Phoenix and Golden State, and faded successfully in Los Angeles, are actually playing a "never surrender" brand of basketball that should be just perfect against a struggling team fighting fatigue. Deron Williams' health throws a bit of a wrench into the plan, since his return could mean that he's the only Jazz player with a full complement of fuel in the tank, and his absence could mean that the other guys try to play above themselves. Simply put, though, I like that Charlotte's only recent loss came in one of the most devastating of fatigue spots, and I like that Charlotte is going to fight for 48 minutes, even if they're pooped out. They could win this game. Lean to CHARLOTTE and the UNDER.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Los Angeles Clippers (-3.5) with a total of 188.5;
I'm a little concerned that the Clippers don't really have the full spark without Eric Gordon. It leaves them without a guy that can truly create a shot off the dribble (and make it). Baron Davis can create plays, but he can't finish like he used to, and with the Bucks superior team defense, they might just force Davis to beat them. I wonder what we'll get from Griffin. He had a nice first half against Charlotte, but the Bobcats large bodies in the paint seemed to slow him down considerably in the second half. Luckily, the Clippers didn't need him against an exhausted Charlotte club, but playing against a rested Bucks team that is getting Jennings back into the mix is going to be a different type of challenge. The problems for Milwaukee continue to be on offense, and I'm not sure that Ersan Ilyasova can keep Griffin off the glass like Boris Diaw (much bulkier) could. The Clippers should win this game and keep playing well at home, but something tells me it's closer than most expect. CLIPPERS cover by free throws and the game stays UNDER.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Condensed Soup Friday

Opener:

I thought about opening the blog with an apology for doing a leans-only blog, but then I stopped and thought, "Wait, I'm doing about 10 pages a week of completely free content - I don't owe any apologies!" Then I chuckled.

Thus, without further ado, a slightly condensed Friday blog.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Memphis Grizzlies @ Philadelphia 76ers (-3.5) with a total of 192;
The Sixers have covered 5 in a row and have won 3 in a row, straight up. The Grizzlies are coming off a loss to the Nets, are playing the final game of a 4-game road trip, and just lost O.J. Mayo for 10 games for "accidentally" taking an "over-the-counter" medication directly into his ass-cheek. Lean to the SIXERS until they give us reason to do otherwise, and the UNDER.

Milwaukee Bucks (-2.5) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 192;
Toronto is a disaster, losing 9 straight games overall. The rebounding butt-kicking they took at the hands of Philadelphia make me wonder just how brutalized they will get by a physical, defensive team like Milwaukee. The Bucks can't score, but this short number, as evidenced by Toronto's miserable effort in their last game, is coverable for the road team. I don't like either side a ton, but I can't back the Raptors right now. Tiny lean to MILWAUKEE and the OVER, because, frankly, this total just looks "eerily" high.

New Jersey Nets @ Indiana Pacers (-5.5) with a total of 193;
Oddsmakers really like those totals in the low 190's so far. Jersey is quietly playing better, winning, and covering 4 of 5 games, but those all came at home. Indiana has lost 6 in a row, and is coming off getting spanked by Orlando. I desperately want to back Jersey just because of which team is hot, but Indiana in a second game back home is a better situational spot, and Jersey can't score away from home. Even tinier lean to PACERS, and small lean to the UNDER.

Detroit Pistons @ Miami Heat (-10.5) with a total of 190.5;
Miami could have been on a letdown if they had won in New York last night; instead, they're going to be playing angry, if a little tired from the travel. The Pistons are on revenge from getting blasted in Miami earlier this year when in a fatigue spot themselves. Detroit has been keeping most games competitive, but I would almost prefer Miami not be on back-to-back and lay 12.5 or 13. This line is close to correct, but I think Detroit can just barely squirm under double digits with 3-point shooting. Small lean to the PISTONS and the OVER.

New York Knicks @ Atlanta Hawks (-6.5) with a total of 207;
I'm torn between thinking the Knicks suffer a monster letdown off the huge win over Miami, and thinking the Knicks ride a tidal wave of momentum into this game and just blow a slumping Hawks team right out of the water. The Knicks are on revenge in this one, so it's possible they get fired back up, and looking back at what the Knicks have done this year, it seems like they take tough losses a lot harder than average, and feed off emotional wins. I know it goes against most of what I typically preach, but I don't actually think New York lets down for one more game, then maybe they collapse against Detroit. Lean to the KNICKS and the OVER.

Denver Nuggets (-10) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 216;
The Cavaliers are turning into a decent value, but I want no part of this game. We're hearing now that Denver has put a special emphasis in getting wins on this road trip and shaking the tag of a "bad road team." So far, so good in that regard, beating two less-than-stellar clubs, but ones that could have posed a problem to a less focused Nuggets club. This one just screams the word, so I'll make it my lean: PASS on the side! Very slight totals lean to the OVER, if indeed Denver continues to impose its tempo.

Orlando Magic @ Chicago Bulls (-1) with a total of 188;
There is no angle any stronger than revenge in this game. Chicago had just come home from an epic Circus Road trip earlier this year, and Orlando took full advantage of a tired, sluggish Bulls club, and whipped Chicago by 30 here in the Windy City. Chicago will not take kindly to that, and I expect a colossal effort, especially on the defensive end. Nothing more need be said - lean to the BULLS and the UNDER.

Washington Wizards @ Oklahoma City Thunder (-10) with a total of 206.5;
The Wizards begin a 4-game in 5 night road trip through some of the West's tougher destinations. Do they finally get a road win in this set? I have to think that, yes, they do. And I mostly just say that because this might be the Wizards' toughest 4-game road trip of the year, so it makes zero sense that they'd get a win here. And because nothing makes sense, they'll win one. Will it be this one? I doubt it, but Oklahoma City is hosting Miami on Sunday, so they might look a little past the pathetic Wiz, and you know darn well that Washington's effort on the road gets more and more intense with every loss. WASHINGTON keeps it under double digits, and the Thunder suffer a sandwich letdown off the crazy OT game with Minny before the showdown with the Heat, keeping it UNDER.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Utah Jazz (-9) with a total of 215;
Utah has lost 6 in a row, Minnesota has lost 5 in a row. Do we really want to put a bet on a team that can't win? Either way, we're screwed. Minnesota is on a little revenge, but that team isn't good enough to care about those types of angles, at least not as much as they might against a team near their own skill level. Minnesota might sense Utah is struggling and try to take advantage, and with Deron Williams hyperextending a wrist (and likely playing through it), the line won't reflect his injury. There may be a hair of value on MINNESOTA (lord knows I wouldn't touch Utah), and Utah's recent sloppy play rubs off and keeps it UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ Los Angeles Lakers (-13) with a total of 199.5;
A rivalry game that you know the kid brother takes more seriously, and one where said kid brother has had 2 days off to prepare. Meanwhile, the Lakers (you didn't think LA was the kid brother, did you?) is coming off a merciless beating of the Jazz, and has Boston on the horizon. This is a big-time game for the young Kings who lost by 12 and 33 to the Lakers, so far this year, and this is a meaningless distraction game for the Lakers, who likely feel they have bigger fish to fry. Lean to the KINGS and the UNDER.

Boston Celtics (-4.5) @ Phoenix Suns with a total of 202;
The results of Boston's game in Portland do weigh a bit on how we break this one down, but Boston's failures in back-to-back spots are fairly well-documented this year, and the flight from Portland to Phoenix (while losing an hour) is no cheapie. This is a horrible spot for the Celts, who play the Lakers after the Suns, and this is a game that Phoenix needs to get back on track. Side note - these teams haven't played since late 2009. Thought that was kind of interesting. Lean to the SUNS and the OVER.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Golden State Warriors (-4) with a total of 203.5;
More revenge at hand, I do declare. The Warriors beat the Bobcats by a single tally right after Paul Silas took over, and something tells me the new-tempo Bobcats haven't forgotten. Plus, they're rolling, winning in Sacramento and Phoenix back-to-back, and now taking aim at a Warriors team that is having all kinds of trouble defending anybody. I would love to see Charlotte keep this one close to the finish, since they play a 4th in 5 nights tomorrow against the Clippers, and we can set up to fade them then. For now, though, I prefer to ride the hot hand, especially when it's on revenge. Lean to the BOBCATS and the OVER.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TNT Dinner-Time Blog, Heatles Edition

Opener:

Getting this blog out early, but I will say that one of the big things I'm going to be assessing at the end of the Wednesday slate will be how the inordinately large number of road favorites performed. You guys know I generally am not a fan, but there were a few intriguing ones, maybe more than usual because the road lines were in the 2-to-4 range. I definitely want to chat about how those games play out when they reach their conclusion, so feel free to bring up any topics you like, especially related to the lopsided card.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Miami Heat (-3) @ New York Knicks with a total of 208;
Double in-season revenge, but here's the problem - the Knicks run an offense almost exclusively through pick-and-roll (with a smattering of "give it to Amar'e" mixed in there), and the Heat might very well be the best pick-and-roll defensive team in the NBA. There's a good reason they beat up on the Knicks in both games so far this season, not the least of which is the aforementioned match-up edge. Chris Bosh is out, so that's keeping this line just a shade lower than usual, but the other two Heatles are expected to go, and I'm not all that convinced that the Heat need Bosh to win this game. And I admit, I hate when I want to play a road favorite, especially one as public as the Heat, but most of the angles do indeed point to Miami. Both teams are coming out of mini-slumps, though Miami's was largely due to injury, both teams can score, but only one of the two teams can defend. In addition, the Heat haven't played in 5 days, the perfect recipe for a team that needed to rest some aching bones. Will they be rusty? I don't think so, not with two guys that can get to the rim and finish. It's amazing how quickly the rust can shake off when you get knocked to the deck in the first 3 minutes, bang through a couple free throws, and then start raining in buckets. Lean to MIAMI and the OVER, as I believe the Knicks will shoot a little better (courtesy of the double revenge), and really, I might even like the total lean more than the side.

Houston Rockets @ Dallas Mavericks (-5.5) with a total of 204;
Dallas is slowly getting its groove back, and Houston is, well, a zero-defense shoot-first monster. At this point, I'm a little ticked at myself for missing the chance to play some Overs on Houston games in the last week. I watched a few of those contests, and they might be the most up-tempo team in the NBA right now, largely because they're content just letting the other team score most trips down the court. And thus, I can't help but wonder how Houston plans on winning competitive games. Maybe they won't, and that's okay, because all that tells us is that betting Houston to cover any large spreads is a death wish. As an underdog, though, they could shoot themselves into a cover. Dallas is starting to get things back together on the offensive side, but they're not quite themselves yet, and this short line is indicative of that. We know Dallas is going to try, at least at first, to slow it down, but if Houston gets out to a quick start, that might force the Mavs to score right along with them. Dallas could still sneak out a cover, and for that reason, only the tiniest of side leans to the MAVS, but with both clubs scoring, it might be worth a peek at the OVER.

Boston Celtics (-4) @ Portland Trailblazers with a total of 187;
This line is about what I expected, so that makes finding a monster value a little tough. Portland is, however, quite accustomed to grabbing some late TNT spotlights, and they haven't shied away from those big games. This is also a revenge spot from a 99-95 loss in Boston back at the beginning of December. My biggest concern with the Blazers, though, is that they just don't have enough firepower to compete with Boston when the Celtics are really giving max effort. And, I do expect a good effort from Boston here. Boston enjoys the bigger stages, this is the start of a road trip out West where veteran teams have a tendency to pull together, and we all remember how much Boston enjoys dealing butt-kickings out to the mid-tier teams in their buildings. Here's the thing - Boston shot 57% in that last game with Portland, at home, and still only won by 4 points. Portland just shot 46%, but took extremely cautious care of the basketball, utilized those extra possessions and nearly stole one on the road. Portland is coming off a terrible show against Sacramento, so they'll be focused on this one, Boston could potentially be a tiny bit jet-lagged from the flight from Ohio, and they have the Suns and Lakers on the horizon. Small lean to PORTLAND to take this one down to a final 30 second-decision (though we know my luck on those this month), and the UNDER, because neither team is shooting 57% this time around.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bebe Back in the Mitten

Opener:

Well, I largely missed the action yesterday, I admit, while flying across this fine nation (well, first across it, then up it...thank to you all the airlines that make getting to Detroit so time-consuming).

Still, I must say, landing and seeing over 20 posts in the blog while I was in the air, the helpful question-answering that took place with some of the blog veterans helping out those that are getting into NBA for the first time touched the sports betting pockets of my heart.

But enough fuzz. Let's get down to business, and a return to normalcy (Michigan) for me!

Sports Wagering: NBA

Orlando Magic (-5) @ Indiana Pacers with a total of 200.5;
I feel pretty similarly in this game to how I felt about the Clippers/Mavs game yesterday. You have one team that's overrated (Clippers yesterday, Magic today), and one team that hasn't been playing well at all and isn't in a great situational spot (Mavs yesterday, Pacers today). And what happened? That's right, exactly what we expected, and the game landed right smack dab on the number, and as we also predicted, went over the total. Today, we have the Pacers coming home off a tiring 4-game western swing, losers of 5 straight, taking on the Magic, who themselves are off a loss to the Pistons, at home. Which angle is more significant? I suppose the Pacers' fatigue, maybe, but I'd rather have no part of it. Ubertiny lean to the MAGIC and the OVER.

Philadelphia 76ers (-3) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 199;
This line seems like a slight overadjustment, but maybe I'm out of sorts from travel. Is Philadelphia really 6 points better on a neutral court, and even moreso if we're working off the current line (it appears to be as high as 4.5 at some outs)? I would definitely consider a play on Philly if they were doing the hosting and laying a small-to-medium number, but laying points on the road means you've turned the corner as a team. The only reason I can see this line being as high as it is would be double revenge, but really, Philly strikes me as another of those teams that's more concerned about improving by the game than trying to exact revenge on some sort of evildoers. Bottom line - Philadelphia is the better team, but they're not quite road favorite material in my book. I lean to TORONTO in their 2nd game back home off a long roadie, and I like the OVER.

Memphis Grizzlies (-3) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of 191;
Memphis, on the other hand, is a team that has done enough to earn some small road favorite lines, though I happen to believe this one is pretty close to where it should be. Jersey is playing better back in their own building, winning 3 of 4 games on the current stand, and the only loss was by a single point to the Dallas Mavericks. The Grizzlies are no slouches, winners of 3 straight, but they're still not, in my estimation, truly battle-tested away from home. They barely beat Toronto on Monday, and another slip in focus like that will land Memphis on the losing end of a very winnable game. I like the Grizzlies - I believe they are a team that is very close to being relevant (significant improvement from Mike Conley or O.J. Mayo might get them there), but right now, I'm still not quite a believer. Lean to JERSEY and the UNDER.

Denver Nuggets (-2.5) @ Detroit Pistons with a total of 204.5;
The Pistons keep surprising people, but let's not forget, it was Dan Bebe that said they might be the biggest surprise of the season in the Season Preview podcast. Just sayin'. I know, a long way to go, and they blew for the first 2 months, but quietly the Pistons have won 5 of 7, and are actually 12-9 in their home building. Of course, we got burned fading the Nuggets last night, and I'm not sure I want to get nailed again. Fool me once, so on and so forth. Still, the Pistons beat Orlando on the road, they beat the Suns in a defensive battle (yeah, what?), they beat Dallas, and nearly took down the Celtics in Boston. Ever since Rip Hamilton got the semi-boot, Detroit is playing with fire, and some of the young guys are showing up. I don't particularly like taking the team with the big talent disadvantage only getting 2.5 points, but with apologies to the Nuggets (who will probably go out and make me look stupid for a second straight day), I lean to DETROIT and the OVER. Temper these leans though, as Detroit is playing this one between games in Orlando and Miami, so the potential for a sandwich is in full effect.

Atlanta Hawks (-2) @ Milwaukee Bucks with a total of 180.5;
Atlanta Hawks lines are all over the place, and I suppose the credit should go to Al Horford. Big Al missed a few games, the Hawks got slammed by the Hornets, then showed up as 3-point underdogs in Charlotte, and wiped the floor with the Bobcats. Now they're back to being road favorites against the offensively challenged Bucks in a series where the road team has won every game this year. We can, for all intents and purposes, wipe the slate clean on this showdown. The Bucks got their playoff revenge in the first meeting, the Hawks got home revenge from that first loss, and now they meet again, with Milwaukee grasping for points, and Atlanta trying to stay focused long enough to get home court in any playoff round. This line is probably pretty accurate, since the first two games haven't been close, and that makes me think I'll take a jetlag PASS on the side, and look at the UNDER on the total.

Oklahoma City Thunder (-5.5) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 220.5;
That total high enough? Geez! This game is a complete wasteland of angles. Aside from the obvious, which is that Minnesota is on something like sextuple-revenge, or more, there's just not much to go on. The Thunder are coming off a SU loss, so that would be a small reason to consider backing them, but they're also not playing that superbly overall. On top of that, the Thunder are on a run of 4 straight "unders" while the Wolves are in a 3-game "over" romp. Everything about this game screams PASS, so we'll do that on two straight sides, and I believe Durant name-recognition and crazy high-scoring Wolves games have inflated the total just a hair - I lean UNDER.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Houston Rockets with a total of N/A;
I thought about starting this short paragraph by saying that I might consider the Over no matter the line, but then I rethought that remark. Still, you get the point. The Clippers have some of the worst road defense in the League, and right now, Houston has completely abandoned defense in favor of just firing up as many shots as humanly possible. It's the mark of a team that knows it's going to be out-sized almost every night, and such is the case for the Rockets. Chuck Hayes, god bless his soul, is not a full-size center (though I did add him in a fantasy league and have enjoyed his well-rounded work so far). So, the Clippers, a team that certainly doesn't lack athleticism and features the highest first-quarter scoring offense in the NBA, gets to go head-to-head with a team that doesn't feel like playing on half the court. Eric Gordon being out does concern me on the side, so I don't really know where this line is going to open, but I believe Houston wins by a narrow margin in a high-scoring game. Make of that what you will when the line comes out.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Phoenix Suns (-5.5) with a total of 201;
This line is all kinds of crazy-low, considering Charlotte is just now finishing up a game in Sacramento. This is a very tough fatigue spot for the Bobcats, but then, Phoenix isn't in the best of spots, either. The Suns are set to play their first home game off a 5-game road trip, and one that concluded with 2 straight losses to Detroit and Philadelphia. Phoenix looked tired, and as you all know, I love to play on streaks in the NBA, especially for a hot-and-cold team like the Suns. And, maybe most importantly, the Bobcats are actually excellent against the Suns. They match up supremely well with Phoenix for some reason (believe me, I've tried to figure out exactly why, and I'm still not sure), and Charlotte has won the last 3 meetings, including last year's game in Phoenix. All 3 of those games went Over the total, too. Why fight it? Leans to CHARLOTTE and the OVER.

San Antonio Spurs (-2.5) @ Utah Jazz with a total of 198.5;
This is a tough, tough way for the Jazz to come home off a road trip - a back-to-back, in altitude, off a game with the Lakers? Yes, the Jazz lose an hour to time zones, they're going to be sucking wind, and taking on the team with the best record in the NBA, and a team that has already beat them once in Utah this year. Be warned, people. If you like the Spurs, bet them immediately, because this line is only going up, courtesy of the Jazz getting absolutely murdered by the Lakers. Do I like laying chalk on a team in Salt Lake City? No way, but I sure as heck can't play the Jazz right now. They're a total mess. At this current number, lean to SPURS and the UNDER.

New Orleans Hornets @ Golden State Warriors with a total of N/A;
Steph Curry's potential injury is keeping this number off the board, but I actually don't think Curry is going to be a big difference-maker in this game whether he plays or not. Chris Paul can put the clamps on the young guard. The Warriors need another monster game from Monta Ellis if they're going to pull off another upset over New Orleans like they did a couple weeks back. That, of course, puts the Hornets on revenge, and considering New Orleans has won 9 games in a row, getting that little something extra is probably not an enviable spot to be, if you're a Warriors fan. The Hornets are playing some of the best defense that I've seen from any team at any point this year, and I expect Emeka Okafor to continue his dominance of the paint against the small, quick style of play we have come to expect from Golden State. If I'm betting Hornets, I'd prefer not to have to cover a number bigger than 2-3, but let's see what we've got. In my mind, I lean to the HORNETS and the UNDER.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Corner Turned

Opener:

That's two straight winning days, so that's nice. 'Bout freaking time our teams that led going into the 3rd led at the final horn.

In any case, rumbling along into Tuesday - I'll be flying most of the day, but I still damn well expect you guys to interact with one another.

I don't want this to be like the last time I was traveling all day and the blog had something like 12 responses. That does not make me want to write the darn thing. I expect no fewer than 40 when I land tomorrow at 8pm ET.

And remember, no "TiSB" on Tuesday - listen to the Betting Dork instead. Hell, listen to both every day!

Sports Wagering: NBA

Denver Nuggets (-4.5) @ Washington Wizards with a total of 211.5;
I feel like people may have forgotten just how mediocre Denver is on the road, and considering Washington played last night in New York and got spanked, this line is remarkably low. I have to think that Denver being considered just a 5.5-point neutral court favorite (adjusting for Washington's b2b and the venue) is very low, and either this is the gift of the century on a pretty public team, or oddsmakers are getting a little ahead of their biggest bettors. I know this is simplifying things, but here are two stats to check out. 13-9, and 5-13. Yes, that is Washington's home record and Denver's road mark. Denver outscores opponents by 8 in their own building, but loses by 4 on the road, on average, a whopping disparity of 12 points! Washington, likewise, averages a 2-point win at home and a 14-point loss on the road. These are two of the biggest home/road teams in the NBA, and they're squaring off with Denver as the favorite. If Washington has the energy to keep up, and it's a pretty big "if", they could definitely win this game outright. Lean to the WIZARDS and the UNDER.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Boston Celtics (-18) with a total of 195;
This total is relatively high, considering Boston is expected to win by nearly 20 points. Kinda crazy if you asked me, which you did by coming to this blog. We can see that lines are starting to catch up with the Cavaliers a little, or whatever the opposite is of "catching up." The lines have gotten so chunky that even the pathetic Cavs are covering the number. This game, though, is a 50/50 spot, I feel - either Boston cares and they win by 35, or they don't and they still win, but only by 10 to 15. You're playing with fire by betting this game at all, but if you think Boston comes to play, can the Cavs really crack 85 points? I suppose you could put together an intriguing correlated parlay of Boston and the Under or Cavs and the Over...or both, and just hope one of the two hits? Nothing in bold in this writeup, so just take it for what it's worth. And no, there's no real revenge at play, since, somehow, these teams are 1-1 against each other this year.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Dallas Mavericks (-6) with a total of 195.5;
This game is not one that looks all that tempting right off the bat, and here's why: the Clippers are the public darling of the week, and the Mavs aren't playing very well. So, in effect, we have overrated versus underachieving, two factors that cancel each other out, and I'd rather not make a wild stab at which is more important. I suppose you could argue that the Clippers have some tiny nugget of revenge, losing to Dallas in the first week of the season (as a 5.5-point home underdog, mind you, and now just a half point more on the road), but I don't think the Clips even remember that game. What's more important is that Dallas still isn't quite right, the Clippers aren't quite "there" yet, on the road, and someone has to win. The only thing that seems a certainty is that the Clips defense on the road is going to remain atrocious. For that reason, I have NO STRONG LEAN on the side, maybe a tiny one to the Clippers to keep it tight, but I like the OVER if LA is going to force Dallas to score.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Sacramento Kings (-1) with a total of 192.5;
Sacramento finally broke through with a win last night! Yes, you heard correctly, the Kings got a lead and didn't blow it in the final moments. Is this a sign of more good things to come, or is it the win that creates a rippling "letdown" effect through the room? Tough to say. One thing we do know is that Gerald Wallace is coming back to Sactown with the Bobcats, and he might try to go off. This is the start of a 6-game road trip for the Bobcats, who, to their credit, have played a tiny bit better after an abysmal start, but still aren't very good. This line should hover around a pick, and oddsmakers are nearly dead on. These teams haven't played in nearly a year, so there's no bad blood from this season, though Charlotte did win both games last go-round, so Sacramento has season sweepvenge. This is a battle of jet-leg versus back-to-back fatigue, and with Sacramento finally closing out a game the right way, I believe they build on it, and I lean to the KINGS to get another, in a game that stay UNDER the total.

Utah Jazz @ Los Angeles Lakers (-8) with a total of 198;
This is a series that has been about as one-sided as any between two good teams. The Lakers have completely and utterly owned the Utah Jazz, and that, combined with Utah's opposite-of-stellar road trip, has puffed this up to its sizable current state. Oh, how I desperately wish that Utah had just won something on their current 5-game trip because looking ahead, this was a spot I was actually prepared to back the Lakers (insane, I know). Los Angeles is playing focused basketball, especially at home, and the Lakers are at last truly utilizing that vast size advantage over almost the entire League to just squeeze teams right out of the paint, and slowly, out of the game. But instead, the Lakers have to win by nearly double digits to cover against a hungry (but still scuffling) Jazz team. Is this the game the Jazz "get up" and play competitive ball, or will the Lakers run of dominance continue? I admit, I really liked the idea of getting the Lakers at 6, but at 7.5 or 8, I dunno. Slight lean to LA, but I have some more thinking to do, and lean to the UNDER.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An NBA Week Begins, Pt 14

Opener:

Rumbling into a new week, trying to shake off the stink of all those blown leads. Nothing we can do about those now, and I know a lot of cappers say it, but I think we can all agree that we'd make those same wagers again. I mean, really...how many times can you take a lead into the final minute and lose? In any case, I'm getting myself all riled up just thinking about it.

We did manage to snag a winning Saturday (despite Phoenix blowing a late 14-point lead that kept us from a 3-0 sweep), and we'll just keep taking leads into the final minute in every play, and over the long haul, those will be winners.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Detroit Pistons @ Orlando Magic (-12) with a total of 193.5;
It's good to know almost nothing has changed over the last few months, despite Orlando trading away half its team and Detroit benching Rip Hamilton for being a clubhouse cancer. After all that, Detroit is a 12-point road underdog to the Magic, just like they were back on November 30, when they covered by a point. And to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised to see the same outcome. That being said, Orlando's offense is getting revved back up the last couple games (against terrible defensive teams), and they bring some nice shooting into this one. Detroit has been playing horrendously on the offensive end, but managed to sneak out a win over Phoenix because of a Suns offensive implosion. I'm not particularly hopeful for Detroit, especially if Orlando cracks 100. PASS on the side, slight lean to the UNDER.

Phoenix Suns @ Philadelphia 76ers (-3.5) with a total of 207;
I'm not sure I thought I'd see the day, at least not this year, when the Sixers were considered superior neutral court ballers to the Suns, but here we are. Philadelphia and Phoenix, both rested, go head-to-head, and the Sixers are a half point better than the Suns, and it's probably warranted, given the situation. The Sixers are coming off a strong defensive performance against the slumping Utah Jazz, and they continue to play well enough to win games at home. It seems like the Sixers can't quite get over the hump on the road, but when Lou Williams can drain a few momentum-changing threes at home, the Sixers find ways to win. The Suns, meanwhile, had their 5-game winning streak snapped in Detroit 2 days back and are set to play the final game of a 5-game road trip here, all in 7 days. Phoenix is undoubtedly in a fatigue spot, ready to head home for 5 games, and Philly is rested, playing at home, and showing signs of starting to turn a corner. Phoenix struggled to score in Detroit, and I'm thinking that carries over due to being tired, and Philly is in a bit of an Under-run. Lean to the SIXERS and the UNDER.

Memphis Grizzlies (-4) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 202.5;
Memphis is a little tough to figure out these days, coming off a dominant defensive performance in Milwaukee, but losing an ugly one just a few games back to Chicago, at home. Yes, they're hot right now, winning the last 2, but things seem to flip so quickly with Memphis, and I'm still not completely sold with their road play. Of course, if we consider Memphis a full question mark, Toronto's notes should be the ones that decide this game for us. Those notes are not good. Toronto has lost 7 games in a row, including all 5 on their recently completed road trip, and the 2 home games prior. Toronto has shot the ball very poorly, and they don't defend much, which makes winning a pipe dream. Toronto can't rebound without Reggie Evans, so that only compounds the issue. I'm not necessarily saying I like Memphis here, but I definitely dislike Toronto (a team also playing its first game back home after almost 2 weeks on the road) to the point where I suppose that pushes my leanometer over to the GRIZZ, and we know Toronto wants to push the tempo, so I think this one sneaks OVER.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ New Jersey Nets (-8.5) with a total of 189;
Good lord, things have gotten out of hand! The Cavs are now catching almost double digits to one of the worst teams in the NBA? I don't think I can even break this game down. Cleveland is a team, right now, that is setting new standards for bad. And while there may be some "line value" with them, they're consistently shooting in the 35% range, and you just can't count on Cleveland to keep any game close. They did finally cover one in Chicago, so maybe the lines are at last catching up, but since the Carmelo "crap" ended in Jersey, the Nets have played better, and I wouldn't put it past them to just wipe Cleveland right out of the building. PASS on the side, tiny, tiny, tiny lean to the UNDER.

Washington Wizards @ New York Knicks (-8.5) with a total of 209;
Is THIS going to be the one? Can the Wizards really go an entire season without a win on the road? They're halfway there, at 0-20, or I guess this game would put them at the halfway mark. Washington is coming off a nice home win over Boston, a team that continues to struggle in fatigue spots, but really, Washington didn't look all that great in that game. They did enough to win, but Washington was stagnant on offense, and needed Boston to tire out before they could come back and grab a narrow win. This is the 3rd meeting this year for these two teams, and New York has won each of the first two games, once by 30+ and once by a handful (and you can probably figure out which venue provided which outcome). As I said a couple days back, I'd love to keep fading the ice cold New York Knicks, but I'm not going to be that guy that plays Washington in every road game until they win one. I'd rather be the guy that's second-smartest, and play them after they get the monkey off their collective back. NO LEAN on the side (though I suppose if Washington wasn't 0-20, it'd be to them), and a totals lean to the UNDER.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Chicago Bulls (-7.5) with a total of 178.5;
I think oddsmakers got this one right, so I'm going to keep this writeup a little more brief than the others. The Bucks are still struggling to score, but are more than capable of beating lesser teams because of stifling defense. The Bulls have Boozer back, but seem to have a renewed zest in playing defense. This is a winnable game for Chicago, and this side and total are both telling us that it's going to be one of those games where Milwaukee will have maybe two shots late in the game to sneak out a cover, but if they can't convert, Chicago will win by 10. And in terms of the total, neither team wants to score, which often leads to games where both end up scoring a little more. Microscopic leans to CHICAGO and the OVER.

Houston Rockets (-2.5) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 217.5;
I feel like it's been forever since the Wolves played a game...let's check on that. Yeah, it has been forever. Minnesota last played on the 19th, so they've had some time to rest (or rust) up. Not much data to go on for Minnesota in this type of spot, so they're a little bit of a question mark. There might be a tiny tinge of revenge from a 26-point loss in Texas earlier this year, but Minnesota doesn't strike me as the kind of team that's worried about which opponent they're playing, and are more concerned with just trying to put decent minutes together and grow as a team. Houston has lost 2 in a row after winning a few, and they continue to be ultra-streaky. Houston can cover this small line if they shoot 48%. Will they? Tough to say. Tiny square lean to HOUSTON since I think Minny struggles off the long rest, and small lean to the OVER.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ New Orleans Hornets (-3.5) with a total of 191.5;
Somewhat quietly, the Hornets are surging. New Orleans has won 8 straight, including 2 blowouts over pretty good competition (Atlanta, San Antonio), and they're doing it with defense. I might argue that New Orleans has played great defense all season long, but they seem to go through scoring droughts. Lately, David West has been running hot, and that makes life supremely easy for the Hornets - they can slow the game down, run pick-and-roll or post-up plays all day, take care of the ball, and give up very few easy buckets. The Thunder is a unique beast, though, in that there are 2 guys that are basically unstoppable. I believe the Hornets have a nice matchup for each (Ariza and Paul), but that only means that CP3 will need to avoid foul trouble. Still, the Hornets have had a great gameplan for every opponent, of late, and I bet they've got something up their sleeve for this one, too. Oh, and double revenge doesn't hurt our cause: Lean to NEW ORLEANS and the UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ Portland Trailblazers with a total of N/A;
I've spent the last hour trying to figure out what injury is keeping this sucker from getting posted, and I'm thinking I just missed something obvious in my quest for some sort of sneaky information. Anyway, the Kings continue to improve their play in the first 47 minutes of the basketball game, and still just cannot for the life of them, put a team away. Call me crazy, but I think Paul Westphal needs to go. There's no way a professional team should have as many late leads as the Kings have had in the last 3 weeks, and only have 3 January wins to show for it. Sure, they're 7-5 ATS, but Kings ownership can't be pleased with just covers. In any case, this game is a rematch of another of Sacramento's overtime failures. Does that mean Sacramento hangs in there again, or is this one of those rematches where Portland just rolls Sacramento from the opening tip? Given that the Kings just seem to come back and play good ball for the first 47 after loss after loss, I'm not sure why this one should be any different. Portland still relies far too heavily on jumpshots, and this game should stay relatively close. Lean to the KINGS and the OVER.

San Antonio Spurs (-5) @ Golden State Warriors with a total of 211.5;
The Spurs aren't so much a streaky SU team, but when you look a little more closely, they do seem to be a fairly streaky ATS proposition. The Spurs covered 4 in a row crossing into the new year, lost 3 of 4 ATS, won 4 straight, and have now gone 0-2-1 in their last 3. Now, coming off easily the worst offensive game of the Spurs season, they have to head to the relatively hostile environment in the Bay Area. I'm not sure the Warriors have anyone that can stop DeJuan Blair, and amazingly, that's my biggest concern. Tim Duncan usually has a good game against the smaller Warriors, but with David Lee healthy, he should be able to at least make Duncan work a little, and the Warriors are definitely going to score more effectively than the 2 blowout losses to the Spurs earlier this year. Still, the Spurs are the best team in the NBA this year, and they know how to win. The best thing the Warriors have going for them is that they're getting set for an epic homestand, so they're definitely less "worn." Not a great card, considering its size, but to end the blog, I lean WARRIORS and the OVER.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Friday Time

Opener:

Remember, recaps are no longer part of the blog - this is a teaching tool and an NBA maniac stomping ground, and things are going to stay that way. Obviously, I'd love to have people on board for plays, but this is no longer the place where I'll be conducting business. That will be on the Pro Page only.

I hope everyone enjoyed yesterday's podcast with Mike where we broke down the NBA card in full, talked about Mikhail Prokhorov, and tried to isolate some times when the underdog is actually a potential public disaster. Today, of course, is the NFL MegaCast, so stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, let's talk some NBA. And please, if one of our games goes to free throws, just stab me and end it.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Detroit Pistons @ New Jersey Nets (-2) with a total of 190.5;
Situationally, this is a much better spot for the Nets, who are set to play their 2nd home game of a 5-game stretch in Jersey. Detroit is playing its 2nd of only 2 road games, but the loss to Boston 2 days ago was a true energy-buster. Kudos to the Pistons, though, for playing some tough basketball of late, and actually picking up a win every now and again, but I'm not sure they've got the right mix of players to take on the slow, defensive-minded Nets. For Detroit, it all comes down to whether or not they're making shots. This is a battle of two bad teams, and while I think Detroit is probably the slightly better club, I don't like the spot they're in. Tiny lean to JERSEY and the UNDER.

Toronto Raptors @ Orlando Magic (-11.5) with a total of 205;
The Raptors have, somehow, lost all 3 games on their current road trip, but have managed to cover all 3. They just find a way to hang around, and hang around a little longer, and these big numbers give them a chance to remain in the game just long enough to get some ATS action. Interestingly, Toronto has won its last 2 trips to Orlando straight up, so this isn't an arena that scares the Raptors, and you have to think this team is just going to keep giving more and more effort until they grab a win. It might not happen with Orlando and Miami on the docket to finish the road trip, but Orlando hasn't impressed me since their win streak snapped, and they're overvalued right now. Lean to TORONTO and the OVER.

New Orleans Hornets @ Atlanta Hawks (-3.5) with a total of 186.5;
I think we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the Hornets - they're going to cover a lot of underdog spreads, and they're going to stink to high heavens when they're a favorite. And the reason is pretty simple - they play close games. Getting just 3.5 isn't much against a pretty talented offensive team like the Hawks, but some of this short line is likely due to Al Horford being out for 2-3 games. The Hawks desperately need those inside presences even if, perhaps, they might not realize it, and being forced by a good Hornets defense to take a ton of outside shots makes scoring much less predictable. Atlanta is, however, coming off a nice road win over the Heat, so the confidence is back, and this is a revenge spot. I think this line is actually pretty close to where it should be. Lean to ATLANTA to win by 4-5 and barely cover, and slightly to the UNDER.

Utah Jazz @ Boston Celtics (-6.5) with a total of 196;
Well, we know one thing - this line isn't coming down because of Utah's recent play. If it's coming down, it's because someone truly thinks Utah "gets up" to play a big bopper on the road. Utah has looked downright awful against both Washington and New Jersey, so I believe that backing them here is taking a bit of a chance, but they're definitely skilled enough offensively to overcome even the smartest of defenses. The question is, will Utah put the pieces together at the right time? Boston has been getting locked into a number of close, tough games, so covering 6 or more points might be tough. With that in mind, I'm not really sure I'm too fond of either team. I will say this - if this line drops enough, I might look back at the favorite, but as it stands, I don't like the side at all, and I'm peeking at the UNDER.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of N/A;
I have to believe this line is off because Andrew Bogut has now gone to see a specialist about a lingering respiratory infection that he's been battling for the last month. Hell, if he gets better at some point, he'll really go on a blocking spree, considering he's leading the League while sick. Either way, I'm not that opposed to him missing this game, since it'll deflate the line, and might make Milwaukee worth a look. Carlos Delfino is expected back at some point, soon, and Brandon Jennings is on schedule for a return in a couple weeks. Milwaukee needs some damn health, because really, they're a pretty fun team to root for, but not when they're playing at half strength. You guys know my feelings on Cleveland - they're too unbelievably bad to back, and Mo Williams is out a few weeks with his lingering hip issues (take some Geritol, Mo!). I guess if I had to pick a lean, it'd have to be to Milwaukee and the Under, but I didn't even capitalize the words to show how little I care.

Phoenix Suns @ Washington Wizards (Pk) with a total of 213;
This line is giving a ton, ton, TON of credit to the Wizards at home, and I guess it makes sense - Washington has won its last 4 games at home to improve to 12-8 on their own court. Meanwhile, the Wizards are still 0-20 on the road. What a shame - this team could be in the Playoff hunt with even a 33% winning mark on the road. In any case, Phoenix is quietly playing a little better, too, winning 4 straight against some weaker competition. I don't consider the Wizards tough competition, but I also wouldn't make too much of Phoenix's short winning streak. They could rattle off a few more, since I don't see Washington being disciplined enough defensively to guard the Suns, but Phoenix, right now, is firmly in the lower part of the middle of the pack. In this one, I have to ride the team that just wins at home and lean to the WIZARDS, but I actually think it's a close game that just barely stays UNDER.

Houston Rockets @ Memphis Grizzlies (-4.5) with a total of 202.5;
This one is easy. Houston possesses Grizzly Bear kryptonite, whatever that is. For some reason, Memphis just matches up terribly with Houston, and cannot solve the Rockets. Memphis will get the better of Houston eventually, but there are simply teams in the NBA, or any sport for that matter, that just own other ones, and this seems to be that type of matchup. It's most likely the public side, but hell, Houston is playing well right now, Memphis is a little hit-or-miss of late, and I don't see why this time should be any different. Lean to HOUSTON and the OVER.

New York Knicks @ San Antonio Spurs (-9) with a total of 212;
The Knicks are struggling on offense right now, and when those long range bombs aren't dropping, they look pretty pedestrian. Amar'e is slowing a tad, though there was almost no way he could keep up his earlier pace, and the injury to Gallinari took away New York's most versatile player. Yes, Gallo is back, but he's not quite at full strength, and the rest of the starters look a little listless to me. A big game with San Antonio might be just what the doctor ordered, though that doesn't guarantee anything. The Spurs lost by 13 to the Knicks in New York earlier this month, so they would, presumably, be a team looking to take out some revenge, and the fact that the Knicks had only 6 turnovers in that entire game was a pretty strong indication of just how well they played. Covering 9 is never easy against as skilled an offensive team as New York, but I think the SPURS might be able to just barely able to squeak by, maybe win by 11, and keep this game UNDER.

Los Angeles Lakers @ Denver Nuggets (Pk) with a total of 211.5;
The Lakers played some downright poor defense against Dallas, but anyone that watched the game probably noticed that the Lakers tendency to fire from outside was probably their biggest problem. The long rebounds led to disjointed defensive sets, and Dallas shot the lights out. Here's my issue with the Lakers - that was not a one-time thing. They don't stay focused on the road against good teams, and I believe they're a disastrous 1-5 against winning teams when playing away from Staples. A veteran team should be better than that. Denver beat the Lakers in the Mile High City once already this year, and I don't believe revenge comes into play, since, really, most teams want to beat L.A. more than the Lakers want to avenge some stray loss. This series has been fairly well dominated by the home team, and with the way the Nugs play in their building, I have to think they can snatch a SU win, which ought to be enough - lean to NUGS and the UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors (-7) with a total of 216;
Call me crazy, but should the Warriors really be laying 7 points to anyone? Maybe Cleveland, but as we saw against Jersey, 7 is pushing it. Yes, the Warriors covered that game with a nice little surge to push a lead up to 13 (and hang on to win by 9), but the Kings are quietly covering almost every night. They played Portland tough before falling in OT (thank goodness), and the Warriors spanked the Kings in Sacramento in late December, so there may be some small tinge of revenge on the brain. The Warriors find ways to win games at home, as evidenced by their win over the Pacers, but they still don't play consistently enough to warrant laying big numbers, and the Kings, while clearly still not ready to win in the 4th quarter, are getting closer. Lean to SACRAMENTO and the UNDER.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Clippers on TNT!?

Opener:

Sometimes all I can do is scratch my head. On the betting side, we had YET ANOTHER game that was looking good after 36 minutes of action only to flop harder than Rob Schneider's latest flick. No excuses - time to pick a side (or total) that is still covering after that cursed 4th quarter ends. I know the jerkoffs at the "other" sites will claim I make excuses for talking about both wins and losses, but I'd rather talk about a loss than sweep it under the rug. Also, if we can continue to be winning a wager after 3 quarters every night, we will end the year at 55%. Simple as that.

In terms of the NBA as a whole, the huge news from yesterday is that Nets owner (and Russian billionaire) Mikhail Prokhorov broke off talks with the Nuggets regarding Carmelo Anthony. Everyone should tune in for some TiSB talk about this situation. I know I have some thoughts, and Mike always does, so that should be fun!

Sports Wagering: NBA

Philadelphia 76ers @ Charlotte Bobcats (-4) with a total of 187;
This is one of those screwball rematch games, since Charlotte lost an overtime affair with the Sixers as a 5-point underdog, but did manage to cover. So, how does that emotion roll into this game? Something tells me we get another close one. I think Charlotte might have the gusto to grab the win when the final buzzer sounds, and given that Philadelphia had to play a heartbreaker in Orlando last night maybe they run a tiny bit low on gusto. Still, this is going to be heated. Neither team has forgotten about the fight that took place a couple days back, and Charlotte remembers giving back what appeared to be a win. Also, this line is on its way up, thanks to Philly's OT tilt. Still, it's not much travel time, and Charlotte has found itself in a number of close games lately. In fact, the Bobcats have played 5 straight games decided by 7 points or less, and 4 of those 5 have been decided by 5 or less. Makes it tough to lay more than that, doesn't it? Lean to PHILLY and the OVER.

Dallas Mavericks @ Chicago Bulls (-3.5) with a total of 183;
Chicago sure looks like the easy side, given their impressive home record, and the fact that no one expects them to lay an egg at home in back-to-back games, but I watched that game with Charlotte, and the Bulls looked desperate many, many times on offense. They ran almost every single play through Derrick Rose, and on the three or four plays per quarter that Rose didn't touch the ball, the Bulls looked confused, disjointed and unable to score. What we saw from Charlotte, and I have to think the Mavs will employ a similar technique, is to double-team Rose beyond the 3-point line. The Bulls have about 2 shooters on their team, and they aren't in the game most of the time, which means that the defense often has time to recover off the double-team. With Boozer around, the Bulls have someone else that needs to be covered at all times, can make the 15-footer, and take it to the rim strong. He's expected to miss another game or two, so this is going to have to be the Rose show, and if Tyson Chandler can stop barfing for a few hours, I actually think the Mavs win this sucker straight up. Lean to DALLAS and the UNDER.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Portland Trailblazers (-4.5) with a total of 195;
Both teams played last night, and right now, the Clippers are the more energized team. The only problem is that most of the Clippers' recent damage has been done at home, and I'm not sold on how well they can play on the road. We know the Clippers can score, though Eric Gordon seemed to hurt his hand in last night's game with the Wolves, the question is whether they can defend, and from the looks of things, no, they cannot. The Clippers home/road splits are pretty laughable in that regard - LA scores 98.5 points per game at home, and 99 on the road, but they allow 97.9 at home, and a ridiculous 106.3 on the road, a different of over 7 points! That's not going to cut it. You can score 100 all you want, but if you're allowing near 110 points to your opponent, you're not going to win. I hate to lean against one of the hottest teams in the NBA, so I'm not going to, but I will tell everyone to be careful before taking the +4.5 and thinking it's the easiest wager of the century. WAIT AND SEE on the side, to check out how last night's games end, and a lean to the OVER on the total.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Another Jumbo Card

Opener:

Pretty short NBA slate from Tuesday to discuss, though I suppose the news that LeBron wasn't quite at full strength should be the all-time non-shock of the year. What's that? Miami lost a few games and James rushed back? Big deal.

Another 13-game card on the docket for today, so I'm going to shorten up the paragraphs a hair, just for my own mental stability. Streamlining, that's my new goal!

Sports Wagering: NBA

Philadelphia 76ers @ Orlando Magic (-10) with a total of 199;
You could argue this is a revenge game for Orlando, but with half the team dealing with a nasty stomach virus, I'm not sure they even remember that home loss to the Sixers. Orlando comes home off a tough 5-game road trip where the red-hot Magic went just 2-3, culminating with a loss in Boston, and an ATS push. This game could potentially be a tough one, given the huge spread. Philadelphia continues to play games close, though their team defense has taken a step back the last week or so. The angles on this game balance out a little, but I'd weight the first-game-back angle a smidge heavier than the kinda-revenge. Slight lean to PHILLY and the OVER.

Phoenix Suns (-7) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 213.5;
There will come a time when the Cavs lines are inflated far enough for us to play another one, but I simply can't get behind this NBDL team in their first home game off a grueling 5-game road trip through both altitude cities. The Cavs last relatively close game happened to come in Phoenix against these very Suns when they lost 108-100 as a 10.5-point underdog. But, let's be serious. The Suns should have opened as a 4.5-point road favorite based on those numbers. Have the Cavs really gotten 2.5-points worse in a little over a week? Probably not, so there's definitely "value" on that side. My issue is simply that Cleveland isn't hanging within 20 points of anyone these days, and I don't know if they're bettable. Electron-microscopic lean to CLEVELAND, slight lean to the OVER.

Utah Jazz (-6) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of 194;
I realize the Nets have had something of a knack of hanging with better teams, covering some bigger spreads by a bucket or two, but this one is different. Utah is coming off an ugly loss in Washington, a game where the Jazz just simply didn't have energy, or if they had it, didn't show it. Utah has had a couple days to rest up, a couple days to practice, and let's not forget that prior to that disaster in D.C., the Jazz were one of the best road teams in the NBA. The Nets, meanwhile, are coming off a tough 4-game trip out West, and if any of you have taken the coast to coast flight the Nets most recently dealt with, you'll know there's a decent probability that Jersey doesn't put their best foot forward. I'd be surprised if the Nets were competent offensively beyond the usual suspects, and I lean to the JAZZ and UNDER.

Detroit Pistons @ Boston Celtics (-12.5) with a total of 192;
I'd be all over Detroit if they hadn't smacked Boston upside the head the last time they met. Instead, with Boston in a little bit of a "letdown" game after taking some aggression out on the Magic, Detroit on a little 3-game win streak, and Boston will some small modicum of revenge on the brain, this one stinks of pass, at least on the side. I still don't really trust Detroit to score enough on the road, though both teams have been locking horns in higher-scoring games recently. I suppose, if I must...tiny leans to DETROIT and the OVER.

Washington Wizards @ Milwaukee Bucks (-6) with a total of 186;
Will this be the game, at long last, that Washington finally breaks through on the road? The problem with the Wizards is that road lines are getting inflated for opponents that don't normally deserve it, and home lines are actually starting to get a little inflated for Washington, at least against the lower third of the League. Believe me, I'd love to be the guy that bets Washington the day they do finally win on the road, but I don't want to be the guy that bets them every game until that happens. So, by default, lean to BUCKS, and Milwaukee has a way of slowing games down to ugly speed, so small UNDER lean, too.

Memphis Grizzlies @ New Orleans Hornets (-4.5) with a total of 183;
This game is a total wash, in my opinion. These teams split 4 games last year, each going 1-1 on the road. These teams have not met yet this season. Neither club is on a look-ahead, and neither club is in a letdown. Neither team is playing especially well or especially poorly over the last week, and neither is freakishly good or bad at home or road. Absolutely, positively, NO LEAN on the side, tiny UNDER lean on the total.

Toronto Raptors @ San Antonio Spurs (-12.5) with a total of 205;
Somehow, Toronto continues to hang tough with most of their opponents. I'm not exactly sure how they're doing it, but Toronto has lost 4 games in a row, but covered 3 of them. That makes them very dangerous, especially in games where the Raps are catching over double digits. Of course, the Spurs are knee-deep in another 6-game win streak, with the last 2 wins each coming by double digits. To me, this game is pretty close to where it should be. The Spurs have the offensive and defensive firepower to break this thing open. Butterworth alert! Fact is, Toronto hasn't lost by more than a handful since a clunker in Boston 6 games back. Lean to TORONTO and the UNDER.

New York Knicks @ Houston Rockets (-2.5) with a total of 218;
Houston is heating up again. They knocked off Atlanta on the road, then Milwaukee at home, and they're getting production from Jordan Hill that might be the biggest reason they can compete on a nightly basis. Certainly his defense is much-needed. The Knicks have lost 3 in a row, though you have to think they'll get it back in gear shortly. This line is giving the Rockets an awful lot of credit considering the Knicks have actually been a very solid 12-9 SU on the road. This line is also an exact duplicate of the number the Knicks were catching in Phoenix at the start of their last road trip, a game New York dominated from start to finish. I lean NEW YORK, though likely I'll pass, given the Knicks struggles of late, and I believe this one sneaks UNDER.

Los Angeles Lakers (-3) @ Dallas Mavericks with a total of 190;
Make no mistake, this is a big game for both teams, and we're seeing a pretty motivated bunch of Lakers over the last couple weeks. Dallas has lost 6 games in a row for the first time since the year 2000, and it's perfectly evident that Dirk isn't quite healthy. Yes, he's playing, and that helps Dallas, but Tyson Chandler's flu, Caron's Butler's season-ending injury, and Dirk's banged-up knee have combined to take a devastating toll on the Mavs. I hate to say it, but while I'd love to go right back to fading the Lakers, I just can't advise it. I believed strongly that the Thunder would man up on Sunday, but I don't have that confidence in Dallas. And given that the Lakers beat the Thunder, my hopes for the Mavs aren't too high. Lean to LA and the UNDER.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Denver Nuggets (-3.5) with a total of 218;
I'll admit, I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this one right off the bat. Denver continues to be incredibly impressive at home and fairly pedestrian on the road, and Carmelo Anthony could disappear at any moment, which makes them tough to back anywhere. The Thunder are very good off SU losses, and they suffered such in Los Angeles on Sunday, but at the same time, this could be a bit of a letdown spot, it's not an easy place to play, and Denver is on revenge from a pretty sound defeat at the hands of the Thunder back in December. I suppose when I talk it out like that, I like DENVER a little, and first team to 120 wins.

Portland Trailblazers (-2) @ Sacramento Kings with a total of 195.5;
This looks like the fishiest line on the planet, but I'm actually trying to talk myself out of the public side, if you can believe that. Sacramento returns home off a difficult 6-game eastern road swing where the Kings went just 1-5 SU but a remarkable 5-1 ATS. It's not easy to "slip under" the spread in every game and still fail to come up with a win, but Sacramento found a way. Still, I can't help but think that the travel will finally catch up with the Kings, and even the not-so-great on the road Blazers will find a way to sneak past. Lean to PORTLAND and the UNDER.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Clippers (-6) with a total of 213;
This darn line is already on the way up, and I'm not surprised given the fanfare the Clippers are getting for their short-term success. Don't get me wrong, I actually find the Clippers to be incredibly entertaining, and Blake Griffin is relentless in his efforts to rebound and score, but are the Clippers worthy of laying 6 to 7 points to other teams in the NBA yet? I'm thinking probably not quite yet. The Wolves are going to bring some scoring punch, and Kevin Love is one of about 3 or 4 guys in the entire NBA that can have some mild success boxing out Griffin. Of course, the other 4 Wolves on the court probably can't. This line is about where it should be, though the Clippers are playing with a new sense of purpose, and I think they make that one big bucket to win by 8. Very small lean to the BLAKESHOW/Clips and the OVER.

Indiana Pacers @ Golden State Warriors (-4.5) with a total of 213;
This is another line that's probably about where it should be, but again, when push comes to shove, I'm trying to find a way to back the team that's hotter. This spread, unlike the Clippers game above, is coverable even in a close game, and that's a little comforting. Indiana has stopped playing much defense even though it was working nicely earlier this year, going instead to a small-ball lineup that can't compete with the bigger, stronger teams in the NBA. The Warriors aren't particularly large, but they can definitely out-run the Pacers, and at home, probably outgun them. The Warriors also realize they need to win these home games to get back into the West's mix, and the Pacers are vulnerable. Lean to the WARRIORS and the UNDER.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Ups and Downs

Opener:

Those of you that were part of the MLK Day blog, thank you! It was a damn fine time, we nailed 5 of 6 free plays (to make the afternoon even a little better), and we churned out one of the biggest NBA blogs since I've been at Pregame.

You also are among the few aware that the "Recap and Promo" sections are being eliminated from the blogs to help streamline my operation. It allows me to post the blog when I'm done (instead of waiting for games to end), and if any of you is truly interested in my wares, you all know my Pro Page is DanBebe.com.

I'll keep reminding everyone of this change throughout the week, but starting in a few days, this "Opener" section will be populated by random NBA musings - the type of idiotic thoughts that pop into my head while I watch a game, and the type of asinine humor that I know you'll all enjoy as much as I do.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Atlanta Hawks @ Miami Heat with a total of N/A;
I don't really like the spot either team is in, though my hesitance to back Miami is scheduling and situational, and my reticence on Atlanta is just simply that they're not playing much defense. Is the Atlanta comeback against the lowly Kings a sign of better things to come? Possibly. Is the revenge factor coming into play in some small fashion? That's also possible. I'm just not completely sold on any of our normal "factors" being a big deal for an Atlanta team that seems convinced, suddenly, that they can take care of business with just offense. Miami, meanwhile, is coming home for the first time off a 5-game road trip. The one advantage the Heat have over most teams coming home from a long roadie is that they have sort of worked their way across the nation, playing in Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago. So, Miami is only changing one time zone, even though the travel miles are adding up. The concern for the Heat, of course, is the health of the superstars. If LeBron and Bosh are both out, I'm just not sure Wade can do it himself. I'd quote the injured star theory, but there really isn't anyone on the Heat bench that can "step up" and take on a bigger role. Injuries will absolutely be a factor in this contest, but given what we know now, very early, I lean to the HAWKS if the number is high enough, and the OVER.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Chicago Bulls (-7) with a total of 184;
It's a damn shame we didn't know the Bobcats would lose in OT, because this line is on its way up, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it "re-open" in the morning even higher than it sits now. And the worst part (or maybe it's the best part) is that I still want to find a way to back Chicago, even laying some pretty hefty chalk. The Bulls are a strikingly good home team, and Charlotte just laid a beating on Chicago only a few short days ago. The Bulls are showing signs of ratcheting up that defense again, and even though maybe they played a bit over their heads in game one without Carlos Boozer, we've seen plenty of times that Derrick Rose is a machine, and he can take care of business with or without his partner in crime. Hell, I happen to think Taj Gibson is actually a better defender than Boozer. Yes, Rose will have to carry almost the entire offensive load, but I can't see Charlotte doing much in the way of scoring. Put all that mess together, and I'm looking at the BULLS and the UNDER.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

MLK Day Spectacular

Opener:

Because I loved the rant so damn much, I'm taking a page out of the Greg Shaker handbook and eliminating the Promo section ALMOST entirely.

I know the Promo stuff is minimal compared to the over 2,500 games I've previewed in the last year, but no one wants to hear about my weekly package when I'm coming off a losing week. Thus, barring a monster run, these blogs are going to be all business, no frills. Of course, if we rattle off 10 straight, I might mention it.

The other change is that, because it is often difficult for me to be home to write the "Recap" section at 1a.m., when most Pacific games end, that section is going to be eliminated, too.

Basically, the blog is going back to how it started -- thoughts from the dark recesses of my mind, and then game breakdowns. Personally, I'm looking forward to these little changes, as they'll save me time in the short and long term, and I can talk more about the subtle nuances of the NBA without constantly thinking about presentation. Booya.

As far as today is concerned - I'm thinking ALL DAY LIVE CHAT to celebrate MLK Jr...who's with me?

Sports Wagering: NBA

Utah Jazz (-5) @ Washington Wizards with a total of 199.5;
The first of 3 games at 1pm, this game is the ultimate fetish for people that enjoy team names near the end of the alphabet. These two clubs are similar in "first letter" only, though, as Utah heads into Washington on a 3-game win streak, powered largely by (and I know some might call me nuts for this) Raja Bell and C.J. Miles. A couple of role players have stepped up to drain a ton of shots for Utah, and the Jazz have been able to get out to better starts (because of Raja), and are getting stronger 2nd-quarter bench play (because of Miles). Utah still doesn't play much in the way of defense, but they're so difficult to guard they can overcome that enough to get wins on the road. Washington remains a full predictable young team - 11-8 at home, 0-19 on the road. With no particularly interesting scheduling or situational notes outside of the early start time, you have to go on the assumption that Utah will score 100 points, and the bet becomes whether Washington can get near the century mark, too. I'm inclined to think UTAH is in better shape with the early start (since they rely on execution, not pure talent), and the UNDER, also because of the start.

Phoenix Suns @ New York Knicks (-6) with a total of 223.5;
Another early game, this one a rematch of a game in Phoenix just a shade over a week ago. In that one, as many of you likely recall, the Knicks took the Suns out behind the shed and delivered a sound beating. Interestingly, though, the Knicks' domination wasn't all about offensive execution. In fact, I'd argue that the rebound disparity was the bigger issue, with New York outrebounding Phoenix 65-42. That is unacceptable, especially against a Knicks team that really isn't all that big and strong. I expect better energy from Phoenix in this rematch. Phoenix shot just 42% in that game, as well, so I wouldn't be surprised to see slightly better effort from the field, as well. Maybe the biggest indicator is that the total in Phoenix was set at 220, and the game went Under, yet oddsmakers had the audacity to bring this one out a couple buckets higher. The high total and revenge make me think two things -PHOENIX makes New York work this time around, and with both teams scoring, this could approach 240, if the start time doesn't rust 'em up.

Chicago Bulls @ Memphis Grizzlies with a total of N/A;
Don't look now, but Memphis, at 19-21, is just a game and a half out of the playoffs in the West, and with Denver most likely losing Carmelo at some point, and Portland playing patch-work basketball, Memphis does have an opening (or two) into the playoffs, if they play well enough. And to their credit, after a pair of subpar road performances, the Grizzlies seem to be getting things back in order. And it's easy to forget that just a week ago, Memphis was one of the hottest teams in the West, beating the Lakers, Thunder and Jazz in a row. The big note on this entire game, though, is that both teams are wildly different at home versus on the road. Memphis is 12-6 at home and 7-15 on the road, while Chicago is a devastating 18-3 at home, and just 9-10 on the road. I wouldn't be surprised to see Chicago come out near a pick, courtesy of their win over Miami, and though they did play a strong game against Indiana before that, Chicago's road play still isn't impressing me. Also, it appears Carlos Boozer will sit this one out, so that'll move the line back a point or two. As far as Chicago, they just seem to know the Pacers, and I don't think they have that same familiarity with Memphis, a stronger, faster opponent. Until the Bulls beat a truly good team on the road, I'm not behind them in spots like this. I lean MEMPHIS on the side, and Chicago's road defense leaves something to be desires, so I'm glancing at the OVER.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Philadelphia 76ers (-5) with a total of 191;
Is this a revenge game? Maybe a little. It's certainly an odd start time, at 2pm. Charlotte got slapped around in Philadelphia on December 4, but that was before the team changed its style of play, so I wonder if they're even thinking about that game, or if they're more focused on improving themselves. Either way, the one thing we know for sure is that lines have finally caught up with Philadelphia. For almost 2 months, Philadelphia seemed to get about 2 points better every week, and the line couldn't adjust fast enough. Now the Sixers have leveled off a bit, the line kept moving, and I'm of the belief that Philadelphis is now fade material. The Sixers seem to be losing a little of their edge on defense, giving up 112 to Detroit (in OT), 111 to Indiana, and 95 to the offensively challenged Bucks. That's a big reason they're 0-3 ATS in those games. Charlotte is a tough team, if nothing else, but the one monster factor that will likely keep me off this game is that these two teams play again on the 20th, just 3 days from now. Let's see how this one goes, and react accordingly. PASS on the side, total lean to the OVER.

Toronto Raptors @ New Orleans Hornets (-8.5) with a total of 195.5;
Into the afternoon we go, for those on PST. This game is a tale of two teams that can each do one thing relatively well. The Raptors are a decent offensive team, carrying an array of guys that can each create his own shot (Bargnani, Barbosa, Calderon come to mind). Unfortunately, none of those guys can defend a junior varsity athlete, and with Reggie Evans out, Toronto is constantly at a disadvantage on the glass. New Orleans plays tremendous team defense, but is a very slow, plodding offensive unit. They rebound better than some, worse than others, though I'd definitely give the Hornets the "power" edge over a finesse team like the Raptors. I will give Toronto credit, though - they tend to keep games somewhat close, winning or losing, since the team is predicated on trading buckets. New Orleans plays close games mostly because they just want to limit possessions. Which of these factors plays the biggest role? Well, New Orleans' last 8 wins have come by less than double digits. Some trends are more than just random stats packed together, and New Orleans' ability to get into slugfests means that every point is going to be tough to come across. In a rather odd combo, I believe TORONTO keeps it within reach and the total stays LOW.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Houston Rockets (-4) with a total of 195;
Another 3pm contest, and one that, at first glance, sure looks like a nice opportunity for Houston, but let's make sure. The Rockets are starting to ramp up their offense again after a slow post-Christmas stretch that took them into the New Year. They have, now, won 2 of 4, which doesn't sound all that impressive, but those 4 games have been against some of the League's finest. When Houston makes shots, they can beat almost anyone, but they can be pretty inconsistent. Milwaukee, on the other end of the spectrum, can't score to save their lives, but remain one of the most consistent teams in the NBA because of solid defense, and zero tolerance by the coach for anything less than max effort. My problem with Milwaukee is that, despite the effort, they just aren't winning games. They don't have the weapons to compete with most teams, and now that Houston has 3 guards, and Rick Adelman can go to whichever ones are hottest, they would appear to be a little more reliable. Houston is also on revenge from a loss in Milwaukee on December 10, where they were a 4-point underdog. Since then, Houston has gotten healthier, Milwaukee has lost Jennings, so this line, to me, is a little too low. Lean to the ROCKETS and the UNDER, but barely on that total.

Indiana Pacers @ Los Angeles Clippers (-4.5) with a total of 198;
This line seems to have been yanked off the board after opening at the above numbers, and one has to think the line uncertainty is largely due to the Clippers scuffle with the Lakers and possible suspensions for players. That sounds like a pretty good reason to dodge this game, but what do I know? It's a relatively early affair, at 12:30 in Los Angeles, so you can expect both teams to be a little sleepy, and if LA is without any of its top guys, they may be a bit flat. The Clippers are coming off a huge game with the Lakers, too, another potential letdown spot. That doesn't necessarily make me like Indiana, though, since the Pacers played a terrible game against Chicago, and are set to open up a 4 game west coast road trip with this one. We may see some tired legs, so I'm inclined to think that the total is probably a more workable number than the side. I don't mean to "go Butterworth" on this one, but player personnel late-breaking news games are just not ones I like to bet, and you can all save yourself a ton of strife by just letting these pass you by, too. PASS ALL AROUND.

Dallas Mavericks (-4) @ Detroit Pistons with a total of 191;
This game starts at the same time as the above Clippers contest, but at 3:30 local, sleepiness shouldn't be much of an issue. The Mavs have their savior back, but after being ejected in his first game since returning, we still don't really know how much Dirk has in the tank. Without getting too much into the individual teams' recent play (Dallas has been a disaster without Dirk, Detroit has won 2 straight against weak competition), the reason I want nothing to do with this game either is that BOTH teams are playing a look-ahead game. Detroit heads to Boston to do battle with those darn Celtics, and Dallas heads home to host the Lakers. And yet, each team has a reason to care about this one. Detroit is hovering just outside the Playoffs in the East, somehow, and Dallas desperately wants some positive momentum, and to get off their current 5-game skid. Each team has one glaring Pro, each team has one glaring Con. What do we do? PASS on the side, that's for sure. And Detroit's been playing some strikingly high-scoring games, so I'd take a peek at the OVER.

Sacramento Kings @ Atlanta Hawks (-9.5) with a total of 201;
I hate backing a team laying 9.5 points, especially when that team isn't playing a ton of defense, but Sacramento is not in a particularly enviable scheduling spot. This is the final game of a long road trip for the Kings, one that has seen them travel to Toronto, Washington, Boston, New York, Detroit, and now to the South. That's a ton of travel for a team that has been able to hang in there in 4 of the previous 5 games, but failed to cover one of the two spots on this trip you might mark as a fatigue game. Of course, they covered on the 4th-in-5 game, so what do we know about scheduling? In any case, Atlanta had its road winning streak snapped by a hot-shooting Houston team, so I wonder if that doesn't remind the Hawks that they won those other games with defense and team basketball. To me, this game ends in a blowout about 35% of the time, a close game about 35% of the time, and somewhere between 8 and 12 the other 30%. With that in mind, I can't help but look at the HAWKS to squeak by the spread, and to play some defense and keep it UNDER.

New Jersey Nets @ Golden State Warriors (-7.5) with a total of 206;
New Jersey could, in my estimation, get run right out of the building. They've been able to keep most of the games on their current 4-game road trip close, losing in OT to the Suns, and falling by mostly respectable numbers to the Lakers and Blazers, but with their 4th road game in 6 days here this afternoon, and then a cross-country flight to host Utah and start a 5-game homestand. Meanwhile, the Warriors are up to their old tricks, putting up monster offensive numbers at home, and coming off an impressive win over the red-hot Clippers. Maybe people don't realize how truly solid that game was. The Warriors were outrebounded by 20 in LA, and despite losing the rebound battle again at home, they hit their free throws, made their long range shots, and beat one of the League's scarier teams (the Clips, I know it sounds crazy) by 10. Jersey is in a sluggish spot, Golden State is happy to be hosting some home games for once, and happy to be mostly healthy for the first time since the season's opening weeks. WARRIORS should take this one by 9-to-12 points, and I think that total is about where it should be.

Orlando Magic @ Boston Celtics with a total of N/A;
Yes, we had fun games all day, but TV networks had a few aces up their sleeves with these late tilts. This game starts a evening/late-evening double-header that should give us some real enjoyment. We'll get to the other. As far as these two teams, we're looking at a game where Boston may very well get Kevin Garnett back, and might want to atone for a Christmas Day dud in Orlando. The Magic got their precious playoff revenge in that game (we cashed on that notion), but now this is a completely different Orlando team, and one that, in my estimation, hasn't been playing all that well, at least not the last week. Yes, the recordbooks will show that they beat Minnesota by 9, but that was a 3-point game with 15 seconds left, and Minnesota managed to foul their way right out of a cover. Orlando backers might not realize how that game ended, and if Minnesota doesn't foul, down 7 points with 4 seconds left, and Orlando doesn't flyswat away a Minnesota layup as the game expired, Orlando would have dropped 3 straight ATS. Boston, meanwhile, continues to shoot over 50% from the field in a fantastic display of offensive cohesion. The problem lately has been that without KG, the defense is suffering. He's the glue, and if he's back, even if he's limited, I think Boston should win this game, and cover a short number - plus, Orlando finishes a 5-game road trip tonight, so despite their best efforts, I think we see some slight fatigue. Lean to CELTICS and the UNDER.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Portland Trailblazers with a total of N/A;
Trying to find a reason to care about this game in between Magic-Celtics and Lakers-Thunder is pretty tough, I know, but perhaps we can find some reason for optimism if we dig deep enough. Maybe not, but we might as well leave no stone unturned. Can we play a revenge card? I'm not sure, to be quite frank. Portland has indeed won both contests with the Wolves, but the teams are 1-1 ATS against each other, and Minnesota is likely without the team's top offensive weapon, Michael Beasley. Portland, somehow, keeps finding ways to win at home, and at 2-19 on the road, Minnesota isn't exactly breeding confidence. Blech, screw "no stone left unturned," this game is a disaster. PASS on the side, UNDER lean on the total.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Los Angeles Lakers (-5) with a total of 203;
Blogite "TK" pointed it out yesterday, this is the season's final playoff revenge game, and anyone who knows my style knows I don't pass up on these opportunities unless there has been some significant player turnover, as we saw with Miami and Cleveland. When it comes to matchups, the Lakers have a pretty significant size advantage, but put simply, Kevin Durant has been completely unstoppable lately, and Russell Westbrook is a runaway freight train. There isn't a player on the Lakers that can even come close to guarding Westbrook in the half or open court, and if Durant heats up, Oklahoma isn't going away. The key is going to be whether the Thunder can stop the Lakers a few big times down the stretch. If that takes place, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Thunder win the game outright, but I strongly feel that this game comes down to the final 30 seconds. I'd take 5 points in that spot just about every time. Strong lean to OKLAHOMA and small lean to the OVER.
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