Monday, February 28, 2011

Knicks in Florida, Retread

Opener:

Day two of the "Link Experiment" is in full swing, and the overwhelmingly positive response on day one was certainly the fuel this old goat needs to power out not only the usual original content, but find some intriguing other destinations for your sponge-like brain grapes.

Today, everyone is going to be talking about 'Melo and the Knicks heading into Orlando to try to sweep the Florida Two-Step. Something tells me the Knicks don't hold another opponent to 42-43% from the field...

Sports Wagering: NBA

New York Knicks @ Orlando Magic (-7) with a total 213;
These teams last met on December 30th, and Orlando won that game by 9 as a 7.5-point favorite. For our purposes, we can probably just toss that game out the window. Orlando scored 113 points in a high-scoring affair, but since then, things have had a bit of a shake-up, especially in New York. The Knicks, meanwhile, are coming off a marquee win over the Heat, on the road, on Sunday afternoon ESPN. Everyone that was already buying into the Knicks hype machine just got a shot of ephedrine right into the left ventricle, which also means money is headed their way. Now, New York could conceivably put together another hard-fought win, capped by a late Billups three, but something tells me that Miami's weak shooting and rebounding that comes almost exclusively from the small forward was a better matchup for the Knicks than the Magic. Since Dwight Howard called out his teammates, Orlando has crushed the Thunder and Bobcats, playing stifling defense and shooting over 50%. The Knicks can't guard Howard, and while Melo and Amar'e will "get theirs" I just don't see the Knicks somewhat unimpressive, disjointed offense being enough to slow down a team that can get a ton of easy buckets when they're right. It's a lot to cover, but I lean to the MAGIC and the UNDER.


New Orleans Hornets @ Toronto Raptors with a total of N/A;
Toronto is so horrible...I just don't have words. Fact is, it's not easy to get blown out repeatedly at home - on the road is one thing, but at home that crowd is supposed to propel you to a few more made buckets and maybe a defensive stop or a rebound. For Toronto, not so much, and now Andrea Bargnani is dealing with another injury. I know, I know, they beat the Bulls, but that was a fluke. An expression gets tossed around a lot regarding situations like that one: "even a blind squirrel finds a nut." Sometimes folks stretch the meaning of that expression, but that was truly the case with the Raps. Toronto doesn't rebound well, they don't get ANY easy buckets, and thanks to extremely soft players at 3 of the 5 starting spots, and an equally soft bench, they can't stop anyone. For New Orleans, they're actually playing a little better the last 3 games. They did suffer a loss to the Rockets in their last tilt, but Houston was on double home revenge, and New Orleans is trying to work Okafor back from injury and add Carl Landry into the rotation. I think the Hornets are poised to make a tiny push with Landry leading the bench. They traded away the electricity of Marcus Thornton, but in return they got a reliable scorer and rebounder, and that's invaluable to one of the weaker benches. This game comes down to one note for me, though - Toronto is so bad right now that almost no spread is enough. Lean to the HORNETS, who I do NOT think look ahead to Knicks, and to the UNDER.

Dallas Mavericks (-1) @ Philadelphia 76ers with a total of 201;
This game is a disaster, from a side-betting standpoint. The Mavericks went 11-1 SU in February, and 9-3 ATS, so they're cruising. The Sixers went just 7-5 ATS in February, but continue to put money in pockets, and as I've written a hundred times before, when two ATS champs go head to head, why bother? I'll give a few reasons, just for posterity, but you already all know where I'm headed. These teams haven't played since the second week of the season, a game Dallas won at home, pushing the spread. Doesn't matter. Dallas hosts Indiana in its next game, and Philly hosts Minnesota in its next game - completely innocuous opponents. Neither team is playing in a fatigue spot, and neither is dealing with large roster turnover. This game is just what it looks like - a wildly deep Dallas team that takes care of business on the road against a Philadelphia team that seems to get stronger by the month. I'm breaking out the gun for this one, putting it to my head, and force-leaning DALLAS, but barely, and both teams are hot from the field, so small lean to the OVER.

Golden State Warriors @ Indiana Pacers (-6) with a total of 215;
I'd like to launch into the strong angles at play in this game, but there aren't a great deal here, either. Golden State is playing its second game of a reasonably long road trip, and have lost 3 straight. Indiana is wrapping up a 4-game homestand, which very subtly should cause them to play a little harder and try to take some momentum on the road, but they've lost 2 in a row, as well. Someone has to win, though. What about revenge, you ask? Well, Indiana lost by 2 in Golden State in mid-January as a 5-point underdog. And now, with both teams rested, Indiana is laying 6. That's a pretty steep swing, considering both teams had their stars for that first meeting, and both do again, here. So are oddsmakers trying to tell us that the additional 5 points of line adjustment is because the Pacers had one hot stretch after a coaching change? I feel like I'm about to suggest you all run with scissors near a gate-less pool area, but sometimes you look at a game, size up what angles the teams present, and get a sensation in the gut. And, besides grumbling for dinner, my gut is telling me the Pacers win this game but fail to cover, just as Golden State did at home 45(ish) days ago. So, for so many reasons, and simultaneously for almost none, lean to the WARRIORS (not ML, though, that's for darn sure), and the OVER.

Los Angeles Lakers (-9.5) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total 205;
Those damn streaky Lakers have rattled off 4 straight wins and covers since the All Star Break, and while I'd love to get behind a Wolves team that got called out by its coach (and won its next game, a classic response), I'm not sure I can fade the Lakers when they're rolling. And hell, after trying unsuccessfully to do so on Sunday, the Lakers showed that they can shut down explosive offensive teams. Here's the bottom line - neither team is in a scheduling "spot," the Lakers have won both games this season, but the Wolves did cover 1 of the 2, which is probably a triumph for them, and those games came back in November. The way I see it, if Minnesota gets out to a strong start, it might not be a terrible idea to explore a second half play on either the Lakers or the Under, which would be the result of the Lakers ramping up defensively. Microscopic lean to the WOLVES, though I'd actually advice a pass on the side, and slight lean to the UNDER, given the Lakers recent re-commitment to defense.

San Antonio Spurs (-1) @ Memphis Grizzlies with a total 195;
This game is the second half of a home-and-home between these two teams, but of course, our lines are getting all discombobulated by the injury to Tony Parker. The Spurs were a 8.5-point home favorite, so we would have expected this game to appear somewhere between 1 and 2.5, varying based on revenge, but now it's tough to know exactly how much Tony Parker was worth. Was this line going to open at Spurs by 3, and dropped 2 points for Tony, or was it for revenge, and now, is the first move to Memphis because of Parker, or was THAT the revenge? However you shake it out, I'm trying to find a way to get on the Grizzlies. On top of the immediate revenge angle, the Grizzlies also dropped a game in San Antonio back in December, so Memphis is on double revenge, and Shane Battier is slowly figuring out all the little things Memphis is going to need him to do. For the Spurs, they don't lose a ton by bringing George Hill into the starting lineup, though Parker's ability to get to the bucket has been key in the Spurs up-tempo offense this year. I'm beating around the bush needlessly: lean to MEMPHIS and the OVER.


Detroit Pistons @ Milwaukee Bucks with a total of N/A;
I loathe handicapping Pistons games, lately, since we rarely know who's playing, and thanks to being within the Detroit radio area, I get to listen to the daily banter on the team. It sounds like, and this was sort of how I felt about the club anyway, Rip Hamilton is trying to work things out with Coach Kuester enough to get on the court, Tracy McGrady may or may not be truly hurt, Austin Daye gets playing time every so often, the fans go to games to see the opponents (when they're at home), and the team shows up about once every 4 or 5 games. In any case, Detroit has actually beaten the Bucks twice this year, once at each venue, so I'm inclined to think that, despite Milwaukee being the team asked to cover a spread (and they will be when the number comes out), and despite Andrew Bogut dealing with side pain, Milwaukee should want this game. Nobody likes to lose to the same team over and over, especially not one of the worst teams in the League and one that can't keep its problems behind closed doors. The Bucks are only 4 games out of the Playoff picture, and they know they need to do something quick if they have any shot. Lean to the BUCKS unless the number is outrageous, and the UNDER.

Houston Rockets @ Portland Trailblazers with a total of N/A;
What happened to the Blazers in that game with Atlanta? I still don't know. We didn't have any sort of play on the game, and Atlanta has certainly "woken up" after the trade deadline, but Portland just dozed its way through 3 quarters before trying, ultimately in vain, to come back in the 4th. Maybe some of it can be traced to fatigue, as Portland's overtime loss to the Lakers seems to have taken a slight toll, but Houston doesn't play much defense, and Portland would seem to match up well with the Rockets because of strength. That fact has played itself out in the two meetings that have occurred already this season. Of course, our normal course of action is to approach a game like this from the revenge side, and maybe that's where we should mosey. The Rockets are red hot, winners of 4 in a row (5, if you count Kevin Martin winning Player of the Week honors) and though the competition has been 75% fetid, the team has clearly built some confidence. Portland is in a mini-ATS slump, and my only concern is that the line might reflect that, and the value we could have nabbed with Houston might be diminished by Portland's 3-game ATS skid. We shall see. Without knowing the line, and without knowing the health of LaMarcus Aldridge, I would offer an early lean to the ROCKETS and a smaller lean to the OVER.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

An NBA Week Begins, Pt 18

Opener:

It's all business this week, after a strange weekend - teams that acquired a ton of new talent (Knicks, Utah, Denver) won their first games with new players and lost the second, while others (Thunder) lost two shorthanded contests. Still others (Cavs, Clippers, Trailblazers, Bobcats) are just now getting players into uniform

Sports Wagering: NBA

Chicago Bulls @ Washington Wizards with a total of N/A;
I think we all had a small inkling that the Wizards would come out fired up for that Mavs game after John Wall called his teammates mean names, but I can't say I'm quite positive how long the "effort" will last. Chicago is rolling, and outside of a look-ahead loss in Toronto, and an ugly one at that, this team is looking like they're pretty quickly adding Joakim Noah back to the mix. In the short term, Carlos Boozer has seen his production drop, but the energy level of Noah, combined with his ability to play on the road is going to help this team tremendously. And, while it's something we can cover in greater detail elsewhere, Boston's trade, in my opinion, brought them back to the pack, and if Chicago can improve on the road, they have as good a shot as anyone. Short term, this line is going to be huge, and I want almost no part of this game, or at least the side. In terms of revenge, Washington has lost twice to the Bulls, but I happen to believe the talent gap is such that revenge can mostly be tossed out here. We can, however, take a little something from the totals in those games. The first contest ended at 199, a bucket under the posted mark, and the second meeting featured just 167 combined points, well beneath the 194 posted mark. If oddsmakers bring this one out high, they might just tip their hand. Let's keep our eyes peeled. Tiny lean to WASHINGTON on the side, and looking to lean OVER, but time will tell.


Phoenix Suns (-1.5) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of 206;
The Nets lost in Phoenix earlier this year, somehow only as a 6-point underdog, and not surprisingly, based on that line, the Suns covered. Now, the rematch, with Phoenix somehow sneaking out an overtime win in Indiana after blowing a 10-point 4th quarter lead yesterday morning, and the Nets not looking a whole lot better with Deron Williams. Given time, I have to think Jersey will win at a slightly greater clip with Williams at the helm, but in the short term, while he's trying to get acclimated to his teammates, and while the Nets' shooters are battling injuries, I'm not sure I can get behind Jersey just yet. My concern with this game is more than the Suns seemed to run out of gas in the 4th quarter yesterday, so how will they finish today? This is the type of game where I start with the short home dog and try to talk myself out of it, and in this particular case, I believe I have enough evidence to support a move away from Jersey (new roster, apparent lack of chemistry and depth), but not sure I have enough to talk us onto Phoenix (not on revenge, playing back-to-back). If I had to offer a lean, I imagine I would continue to fade the team with new pieces and lean PHOENIX, and it looks like Jersey is running a tad more, so OVER.

Atlanta Hawks @ Denver Nuggets (-5.5) with a total of 200.5;
Believe it or not, Atlanta actually played really well the last time they flew into a difficult altitude spot, dominating the Utah Jazz with one of their hottest shooting nights of the season. In general, though, this is a very bad scheduling spot, and Atlanta is heading to Denver off a tough game with Portland on Sunday night. If Atlanta can twice take care of altitude back-to-backs, more power to them, and to their credit, they seem to be just a little more awake post-trade deadline than before. That's my one true reason to be cautious about a pure Atlanta fade. Of course, this one might just be as easy as playing against the exhausted road team, given Denver should be improving by the game with their new players, especially Raymond Felton, as he learns the Denver offense. Let's wait a bit and see how that late game goes in Portland - since, as I've noted before, a struggle would certainly help our current lean - which is to DENVER and the OVER.

Boston Celtics (-4) @ Utah Jazz with a total of 191;
Utah returns home off a 3-game road trip, which is roughly one game below the cutoff for road trips that we normally consider. Plus, Utah is going through a bit of a transition, with Devin Harris learning the ropes, and the team "becoming" property of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. And therein lies the issue - the Jazz have two solid big men, even if Millsap is a hair undersized, but no one on that team plays defense. Utah played plenty well to beat Detroit in their last game, but didn't guard the 3-point line at all, and doesn't seem concerned with defending. You just can't do that against the Celtics, or they will rip you apart. Of course, Boston is on the final game of a 4-game West Coast swing that began with the starting lineup heading to the All Star game, and they're dealing with the hurt of losing every big man on the roster...more or less. Will they be anxious to get home to host the Suns? I'm not sure that's a huge deal, since Boston has shown over the last 3-4 years an ability to take care of business in rough road trips. They have won both final games of 4 game trips this season, though each was relatively close to the cover. I'm torn. Utah and Boston are both in relatively tough spots, Boston has been in an offensive slump the last 2 nights (though they did win 1 of 2 thanks to strong defense), so the question is whether they snap out of it or Utah is able to grind out a cover. STILL MULLING over the side, and the OVER.


Los Angeles Clippers @ Sacramento Kings (-2) with a total of 207;
This is an awful spot for the Kings, returning home off a painfully long road trip that started on the 13th and spanned the All Star Break. On top of that, Sactown is set for its 5th game in 7 nights since the aforementoined Break. The Clippers, meanwhile, finished their 11 game road trip with an ugly loss at the Lakers (whatever that means), then opened their non-road slate with a home loss to the Celtics. Tonight, though, you have to think the Clippers are finally settling back into some sort of rhythm. They know this is a winnable game, they know they're done with the Lakers/Celtics duet of nearly unwinnable games, and they know Eric Gordon is about to come back. Chris Kaman has retaken the starting job from DeAndre Jordan (it seems, based on his work in the second half of the Clippers last game), and his offensive ability will drastically improve the Clippers interior play. It also seems that, based on the Kings last 2 games, the lack of Tyreke Evans is starting to catch up with them. If it wasn't totally obvious based on the paragraph leading up to this sentence, I lean CLIPPERS and the UNDER.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Trade Aftermath

Opener:

To be honest, I'm almost tempted to just turn this blog into an opener-only, where we can discuss the trades (and there were quite a few) of Thursday, and their impact. Instead, and since I know you guys all prefer the game by game breakdowns, I'll just do my best to toss some thoughts into the individual paragraphs about any personnel moves a team made at the deadline.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Detroit Pistons @ Philadelphia 76ers with a total of N/A;
A rare game where we're not even thinking about trades. The Pistons, somehow, move into the stretch run with the same craptacular pieces they had a week ago, unable to jettison the likes of Rip Hamilton, and unable to get any sort of draft pick compensation for the other veterans that want out. What a mess. Interestingly, Philadelphia actually lost to Detroit in Motown in early January, so the Sixers are the slightly more motivated team, though with Detroit, it's nearly impossible to know when they're going to care. I'll be very curious to see where this line comes out, but if it's in that medium window (6-7 points), I might be inclined to glance at Philly. The bigger picture, for me, is that Detroit plays its 4th in 5 nights tomorrow, so maybe we ought to just wait and fade them then. Tiny lean to PHILLY and the OVER.

Sacramento Kings @ Charlotte Bobcats (-6.5) with a total of 201;
Both teams made some moves heading into the deadline, though Charlotte's was, arguably, the bigger of the two. The Bobcats have parted ways with Gerald Wallace, presumably freeing up playing time for Gerald Henderson (there's a pattern in there...), but also trying to save a few bucks. The Kings exchanged Carl Landry for Marcus Thornton, and add yet another wing player to a roster of misfits that somehow beat Orlando in a tough spot. And really, I can't help but think that the Kings are better equipped to deal with the trades. The problem, as I see it, is that the lack of Tyreke Evans is going to catch up with Sacramento at some point, and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when that will happen. For now, the Kings are the team on revenge, they play the final game of a long road trip tomorrow and the 4th in 5 nights, so tonight feels like a better effort and tomorrow, weaker. Lean to SACTOWN and the UNDER.

Utah Jazz @ Indiana Pacers (-5.5) with a total of 207.5;
Indiana nearly had a deal in place to collect the weedy services of O.J. Mayo, but that one fell through at the last moment, so the Pacers will just have to play it out. Mike Dunleavy is hurt, which means Brandon Rush and Paul George will need to add a few minutes (and some production) to the ledger. But the team, overall, is still playing decent basketball. They escaped a tight one with Detroit to start the 2nd half with 2 wins over terrible teams, and now they get to pick on a reeling Jazz club that has lost 5 in a row, and every time it looks like they've bottomed out, things get worse. The Jazz are almost unbackable right now, though it's also pretty clear that this line is giving Utah zero respect. That combination of factors (inflated line, but a terrible team) makes betting the side dicey. Utah should be adding Devis Harris, so maybe they play a little better than they did in Dallas, but I don't think things are getting better overnight, and there aren't any huge angles (besides maybe some slight revenge for Indiana). NEARLY a pass on the side, maybe the tiniest of leans to INDY, and totals look at the UNDER.

Phoenix Suns (-3.5) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 213;
Quietly, and we're talking barely a peep, the Toronto Raptors have covered 3 of 4, winning 2 of those games. Are the Raptors coming out of their season long funk? I doubt it, but even awful teams have a week or two where they play a little better. The shots fall and everything gets easier, and that might be what we're seeing here. Of course, the wheels can come off at a moment's notice, and because Toronto doesn't play any defense, the moment the jumpers start rattling out, the 20 points losses creep back into play. Amazingly, these teams haven't played since the 2009 calendar year, so no revenge angles, but in terms of scheduling, this is Phoenix's first game of a 6-game road trip. The Suns haven't played many road games lately, but they did win in Utah and in Golden State, so we know they're capable. They also picked up Aaron Brooks for Goran Dragic to, maybe, add a little more scoring punch off the bench. It's square, but Phoenix is actually in the better spot, trying to get the roadie off on the good foot. Lean to SUNS and the UNDER.

Washington Wizards @ Miami Heat (-15) with a total of 203.5;
How do you know when things have gotten bad? When you're a 15-point underdog and the favorite is the team playing the TNT back-to-back. Yes, Miami comes home from an extremely hard-fought game in Chicago, loses an hour to the time difference off a relatively long flight (not painfully long, but not a 45 minute jaunt, either), and the Heat are still a 15-point chalk. I hate this game. Flat out. I can't back the Heat laying this kind of number, even if they could win by 30, and I struggle to find a good reason to back the Wiz off two embarrassing post-Break losses. The only factor that pushes me even the slightest bit towards Washington is that John Wall apparently called his teammates out after the butt-kicking they took in Philly, and after a yelling match between McGee and an assistant coach, Washington can't really play any worse. Famous last words? Small lean to WIZARDS and the UNDER.

New York Knicks @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of N/A;
It's B-Diddy time in Cleveland! Or wait...maybe Melo is the bigger news between these two teams. However you shake it out, there has been some serious personnel movement prior to this game. The Knicks sold the farm for Anthony, and they'll be looking to rely even more heavily on starters, and the Cavs got rid of one of their larger contracts, picking up an equally disgusting contract (in Davis) as well as a draft pick. The Cavs also lost Jamario Moon, who was playing well, but won't really factor into how this one turns out. My opinion, simply put, is that New York's lines are going to be inflated for a couple weeks, and if we can find the right time to fade them, we can cash in. This game has some of the makings of a fade spot, but the fact that Cleveland actually beat the Knicks once this year makes me wonder if that gives the Cavs confidence or upsets the Knicks. Something tells me that, because the Knicks are about 40% different, it actually works in Cleveland's favor. If we can get 7-8 points, it might be worth a shot. In terms of the total, the last game hit 211 right on the nose, so oddsmakers might tip their hand a tad... Lean to the CAVS and WAIT AND SEE on the total.

New Orleans Hornets (-5.5) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 195;
This is a hard game to handicap, because, simply put, the situational angle at play is extremely rare. You don't often see a playoff team (in this case, the Hornets), 9 games over 500, and even with the recent cold spell (due to Okafor's injury) solidly in position to get a decent seed, LOSE TWICE to a team with a grand total of 13 wins on the season. But yet, here we are. Normally, you'd figure a double revenge game for New Orleans would push me toward the Hornets, but here, I'm not so sure. This has a number of the tell-tale signs of a team that just doesn't match up well against the other. The Hornets prefer to slow it down and grind it out, and the Wolves seem to be able to, somehow, power through that defense. Kevin Love's rebounding is always a factor, but more than that, the Hornets haven't shot the ball well against Minny, and the Wolves have been extremely proficient from 3-point land against the Hornets. That might not continue, but then, it might not need to, since the Wolves are getting 5.5 points. Mind you, the Hornets are a perfect goose-egg (0-5 ATS) as a medium road favorite. Surprising lean to the WOLVES and less surprising lean to the UNDER.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Orlando Magic (-5.5) with a total of 207;
First, this line jumped to 7 after the announcement of the Jeff Green trade, so we can go ahead and use 7 as the working number. And that, to me, seems like an awful lot. I'll be curious to see how the betting public reacts to the Thunder's trade because, on paper, I don't think it hurts them all that much. Green is a decent piece, if only because he's versatile, but the Thunder, when they get all their new equipment, will have some true size in the paint, some bodies that can push people around not named Krstic or Collison. The reasons to be afraid of backing the Thunder? I can think of 3. The line is eerily high, the Magic are on a bounceback game after getting upset by the Kings (Dwight Howard told his teammates to stop playing if they're not going to care), and the Thunder have a pretty huge revenge game coming up, at home, against the Lakeshow. It's probably not enough to push me all the way over to a Magic lean, but it's enough to keep me off O-K-C. Microscopic MAGIC lean, I guess - please don't ask me for more info, it's a weak lean - and a totals lean to the UNDER, since I can see the Magic playing angry.

New Jersey Nets @ San Antonio Spurs (-11.5) with a total of 193;
Does this line seem oddly low to anyone else? These teams played in Jersey just 10 days ago (give or take a day), and the Spurs clobbered the Nets as a 7.5-point road favorite. So, without personnel moves, you could have reasonably expected the Spurs to open as a 13.5-point home fave. Then, factor in the notion that the few remaining yahoos that had the stones to bet Jersey in that meeting on Valentine's Day probably won't this time around, and the line should have moved up a hair higher. What I'm gathering from all this is that oddsmakers are telling us Deron Williams is worth 2.5 to 3 points over the combination of Devin Harris and Derrick Favors. And maybe, long term, he is. But in the short term, Williams doesn't know the Nets offense - if we can call it that - and the disjointed nature of working a superstar into a team that has been festering in the cellar for a few years can lead to some missed covers. I admit, though, I'm leery of the number. Still, revenge or not, I can't ignore the overadjustment - lean to the SPURS (I know, what??) and the UNDER.

Atlanta Hawks @ Golden State Warriors (-2.5) with a total of 199;
I said it on the podcast - I think ANY trade the Hawks made would have been a good one. All we've been hearing out of the Atlanta camp is that the team is stagnating, the same guys in the locker room still unable to clear the hump and get into the truly elite. And this, at least, shakes things up a tiny bit. Kirk Hinrich will bring some defense to the point guard spot, and an ability to do something besides shoot the 3, because, let's fade it, Bibby's fat ass wasn't good for much else. Does this trade really make the Hawks any better? Not really, but maybe it wakes them up. All that said, I'm having a whale of a time finding a reason to actually back the Hawks - they're nearing the end of a long road trip, they've lost 3 straight by double digits, and the Warriors are the team on revenge in this matchup. The Hawks are going to surprise someone eventually, but I don't want to be that bonehead that backs them every day for 2 weeks until they finally play a good game. Small lean to ATLANTA and totals lean to the UNDER.

Denver Nuggets @ Portland Trailblazers (-5.5) with a total of 205;
This handicap starts and ends with how Denver looks against Boston. If the Nuggets come out and play a great game on TNT, I believe they'll collapse in this game with Portland, exhausted from the emotional drain and from the travel. If Denver looks awful against Boston, this line will probably move up, and the value will get sucked out. If Denver plays a perfectly middle-of-the-road game against Boston, they'll probably come back with a similar, if slightly lesser performance in Portland. Outside of the TNT game, this series has been dominated by the home team, with Denver taking down Portland twice at the Pepsi Center, and the Blazers winning (and barely covering) at the Rose Garden. I suppose we should just figure we'll see more of the same. It's not clear if Portland's newly minted Gerald will be around just yet, but I do have an early expectation of a lean to PORTLAND and the UNDER.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers with a total of N/A;
This is another confusing game to handicap since, for our purposes, we're trying to decide if this is the Clippers' final game of an 11-game road trip, or if it qualifies as the first game back home. That is to say, what truly makes that "first game home" such a soft spot? Is it family obligations? Is it that the team just feels an emotional letdown finally getting back into the normal practice facility and knowing they won't have to take a long flight for a bit? Either way, the Clippers aren't in a good spot. They're either in an exhausted road spot or a sluggish home spot, and the Lakers are a team playing with momentum and purpose. So, we know we'd prefer to back the Lakers, but with the Clippers losing Baron Davis and picking up Mo Williams (keeping this line off), how much will oddsmakers factor the home court? It's tough to get a strong opinion without a line, but my belief is that oddsmakers only adjust by 1.5 or 2 for these fake "road" games in LA. We may see a line near 10, as a result, and that's just about high enough to ruin my interest in the Lakers. Either way, I can safely say I don't like the Clippers here, so lean to the MAMBAS and the UNDER.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trade Deadline Thursday

Opener:

I'd say we're just about back into the normal flow of the season after a couple post-All Star days of going ultra light. Of course, just in time for the tiny TNT Thursday card. At least, for our sake, the teams involved should be hugely entertaining.

NBA has been going well, winning 5 straight NBA cards to keep pushing that unit total up, slowly but surely, and I'd love to take some momentum into a nice Friday card, so let's hop to breaking down the TRADE DEADLINE slate.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Miami Heat (-1) @ Chicago Bulls with a total of 192;
The Chicago Bulls have, time and again, showed how strong they can be at home, but this opening number scares the bejesus out of me. How Chicago could close the first half of the season as a 2-point favorite to the San Antonio Spurs, the team with the best record in the NBA, and, with back-to-back adjustment, open as a 1-point dog and quickly move to a 2-point dog is, well, a little intriguing. It's not an overwhelmingly strong line for the Heat, but I do think it says something that the Bulls are a home underdog. It could, I suppose, have something to do with the return of Joakim Noah, though you'd normally expect that to move the line in Chicago's favor, as opposed to getting adjusted for the normal "disruption" that occurs when an important cog comes back. However you shake it out, Miami lost its previous meeting with the Bulls, here in Chicago, in a game LeBron sat out, so you have to think they'll bring their A game, and you also have to think Chicago plays a better game than they did last night in Toronto. How does that all play out? My assessment is that the Heat's revenge factor probably gets them just a tiny bit of value, but probably not enough to warrant a play, or at least not a full size play. I also think oddsmakers have done a nice job with the total, since a slightly defensive game should put these teams right around that listed mark. Thus, very, very small leans to the HEAT and the OVER.

Boston Celtics (-3) @ Denver Nuggets with a total of 204;
As good as Denver looked in their first game out of the Break, I wouldn't be surprised to see them look that bad, tonight. Denver is going to be introducing a handful of former Knicks, that, independently, are solid basketball players, but in trying to learn a new system, might run into some difficulties. Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari each figure to play some minutes, with Mosgov logging significantly fewer, but trying to get all the pieces in the right spots can be a royal pain, especially against a lockdown defensive club like Boston. And to Boston's credit, they lost 3 of 4 in a mini-slump, but have come right back with wins over the Heat, Nets and Warriors, each decisive in its own right, and the final win (over GS) snapping a skid at Oracle Arena. Boston has had a day off, so the altitude shouldn't be a huge issue, and you can tell they would like to bring home the best record in the East. The only problem, from where I stand, is that Denver is the team on revenge - but really, I believe we can partially toss that angle out the window since the two team leaders on Denver (Melo and Billups) aren't around to rally the troops. The Injured Star Theory COULD carry over for a few games for Denver, but if any opponent can take the shine off, it's the ultra-physical Celtics. Lean to BOSTON and the UNDER.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Back in the Flow

Opener:

As I wrote in one of my comments in yesterday's blog, February 22 was the birthday of my friend that passed away back in October, so bear with me if the timing on this blog is a little weird, or if I seem to lose focus for a moment every now and again.

As far as the NBA is concerned, this colossal Wednesday card is going to start getting teams back in the "flow" of the season. We were very cautious on Tuesday, we'll be fairly cautious today, and by Thursday or Friday, we'll be back in the swing of things, just like the players. Why bet big when even the players don't know how they're going to perform?

Sports Wagering: NBA

Washington Wizards @ Philadelphia 76ers (-8.5) with a total of 196.5;
Washington won both home games over Philly in nailbiting fashion, and Philly came back with a home win (and cover) in early January. Interestingly, Philadelphia has actually covered all 3 meetings, which makes me think this line might actually settle a tiny bit higher than the opening mark. As far as the total goes, these teams have played to 3 Overs this year, though the final score of the most recent meeting was considerably lower than the previous 2 (partially due to a lack of overtime). I can't expect a clean sweep, and I lean WASHINGTON to stay within the number in a rather ugly tilt that goes UNDER.

Chicago Bulls (-8.5) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 199;
Toronto is playing a back-to-back tonight in a series that has been completely, positively controlled by the Bulls. Chicago has won the 2 meetings this year by 17 and 20, once at each venue. It's almost impossible for me to back the Raptors given how little energy they exert on defense and how few easy buckets they collect, but at the same time, Chicago has Miami on the docket tomorrow (on TNT), which makes this game a potential look-ahead. And considering it's the only event separating the All Star Break from that Miami game, it's also something of a sandwich affair. I hate to say it, but I lean TORONTO and if Chicago's not focused, that means less defense, so OVER.

Detroit Pistons @ Indiana Pacers (-7.5) with a total of 203;
Here we have both teams on the second half of a back-to-back, though the total is already a tad on the high side because of the large number of points these teams put up in Detroit's Overtime win just before the Break. I would argue that this line is about where it should be. Indiana was a 1.5-point road favorite in a game that, in truth, ended in a tie, and now they're favored by 6 more points. Given you have to think Indiana is considering this a revenge game, and Detroit has been less than stellar in back-to-backs, the first look has to be to Indy. Is it enough for me to call it a lean? I suppose, though Detroit is in "fight for its life" mode, and how they appear to play on Tuesday will go a long way towards whether I can trust them moving forward. Small lean to the PACERS and the OVER.

Houston Rockets @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of N/A;
Houston heads to Cleveland off a game in Detroit, but off the All Star Break, I don't think a back-to-back is going to be as exhausting as it might have been in the middle of January. Cleveland returns to the court after a hiatus that followed an emotional revenge win over the Lakers. Can Cleveland put together a rare 2-game win streak? I'm not that confident, but at the same time, there aren't really angles that push me in either team's direction. Cleveland is on revenge, but they're on revenge against everyone, so...itsy bitsy CLEVELAND lean on the side, and totals lean to the UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ Orlando Magic with a total of N/A;
Orlando gets to pick over the carcass the Heat are leaving behind, and that's all you really need to know. This is definitely not a game where I'd want to back the Kings, regardless of how the game in Miami goes. We've seen time and again that teams forced to play the Heat and Magic back-to-back get bashed in one of the two games, at least. Dallas and Utah are the exceptions to the rule. There are no other scheduling quirks, no revenge angles, no situational notes to assess, so if we're just going on the notion that the Kings could be tired, I suppose that means small lean to ORLANDO, though I expect the line to be too rich for my blood, and the UNDER.

Milwaukee Bucks @ New York Knicks with a total of N/A;
The story of the night, for sure, as New York gets a chunk of Denver in uniform for the first time (most likely). How do we approach it? Well, for one, we can basically ignore any other situational or scheduling notes. Milwaukee creamed the Knicks a few months back, but that doesn't really matter. The Bucks are playing a back-to-back, but that doesn't really matter to me, either. The big issue is how the new Knicks fit into the D'Antoni system. Can they understand the movement, the tempo, and can they completely abandon defense? We know Carmelo can, since I've really yet to see him try on defense, but I'm more concerned about how the ball can STOP when it hits his hands. I'm inclined to say that we should treat the Knicks now like we did the Heat at the beginning of the year, and fade/Under-train the team until they figure it out. Lean to MILWAUKEE and the UNDER.

Memphis Grizzlies (-3) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 205;
Two more teams on back-to-back, with the Grizz coming to town from Denver (a return to sea level) and the Wolves coming home from Milwaukee. I suppose that means we should start by considering the Over and see if we can talk ourselves out of it. And honestly, a quick assessment tells me that I can't, really. The Grizzlies can play some defense when they want to, but we've also seen them get pulled into high-scoring shootouts. The loss of Rudy Gay might hurt them in that regard, since Tony Allen is a defensive-minded replacement, but if the back-to-back has any impact, it would probably be on defense. Memphis has destroyed Minnesota twice so far this year, and neither game was ever really close, but something about this one feels a little different. If Minnesota is to compete, they'll need to keep Memphis from locking down in the paint, and that means leans to MINNESOTA and the OVER.

Los Angeles Clippers @ New Orleans Hornets with a total of N/A;
I can't help but wonder if Chris Paul is seeing all the wheeling and dealing in the NBA and is getting a little misty. He hasn't looked like himself the last couple weeks, and it's either mental (not enjoying himself, perhaps missing Okafor to throw the ball to near the rim), or physical (persistent ankle injuries). We'll know soon, since his ankle should have improved over the Break, and Okafor is due back any day now. The Clippers have split 2 games with the Hornets this season, and this is the penultimate game on their 11-game road trip, ending back at "road-home" against the Lakers. Are the Clippers going to look forward to getting back to SoCal? That's about all we've got to go on, so tiny lean to NEW ORLEANS and the UNDER.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ San Antonio Spurs (-7) with a total of 206;
San Antonio just seems to have the Thunder's number. And yes, that rhyme was just a byproduct of me typing without thinking ahead. In any case, the Spurs have won 5 in a row against the Thunder dating back to mid-2009, and that, to some degree, explains this line. The line also jumped a couple points because the Thunder are playing a back-to-back, so we're left to decide whether we think the Spurs dominance continues, or if the Thunder finally get their act together and overcome what has become something of a nemesis. I almost tend to think that having played last night is actually a good thing for the Thunder, since they'll have the rust off, while the Spurs might take some time to get into their sets. The older Spurs probably don't mind the time off, but something tells me this game is closer than the last few, and I lean THUNDER and just slightly to the OVER.

Utah Jazz @ Dallas Mavericks with a total of N/A;
Dallas has, not too surprisingly, won both meetings so far this year, and I can't help but think they're about to win another. I know double revenge is a pretty strong factor, and truth be told, that's probably enough to keep me off this side altogether, but with the way the Jazz are playing, backing them has to occur in only the most specific and specialized spots, kind of like how we had the home-and-home with Phoenix. It will help Utah's cause to get Raja Bell and Andrei Kirilenko back, but I'm not sure it's going to be enough if Deron Williams continues his recent shooting funk. Let's wait and see where this line comes out, though I wouldn't be surprised to see something in the 7 range given Utah's slump and Dallas's hot play. Leaning to a PASS on the side, or perhaps a tiny look at Dallas, and the UNDER.

Atlanta Hawks @ Phoenix Suns (-2.5) with a total of 200.5;
This is a pretty tough spot for Atlanta, and one that might get overlooked by some. They're not heading into altitude, but they are losing an hour on start time, and playing a team that hasn't hit the court in a week. My only concern is that Atlanta is busy getting throttled by the Lakers, and they might be a little irked (and not as tired) if the starters are only playing 25 minutes of basketball in LA. So, all I can hope is that Atlanta makes a valiant second half comeback and gives us a potential fade candidate. Phoenix played decent ball heading into the break, aside from one poor game with Sacramento, so they should be able to take care of business against a rather crummy road team. Let's have a wait-and-see approach, but for those that desperately need an early lean, it is to PHOENIX and the UNDER.

Los Angeles Lakers @ Portland Trailblazers with a total of N/A;
I'm actually a little afraid of the Lakers right now - this is a time of year when they get things together, and you know darn well LA was not happy with the way they went into the Break. Of course, in the same vein, the Lakers tend to have some issues with the Rose Garden, and LA is playing a back-to-back with some decent travel against a rested Blazer team that might be getting some key pieces back (which could be good and bad, depending on chemistry). The question is whether LA is going to want to dominate, or whether Portland wants to get a small measure of revenge from an early-November clobbering. I really want to try to find a way to back the Blazers, so I guess you could say I lean to PORTLAND and the UNDER, but the Lakers, as noted up front, scare me a little as an opponent right now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Back from the All Star Break

Opener:

Ah, the All Star Break...it comes and goes so fast. We cashed some juicy tickets with John Wall as the Rookie/Sophomore MVP (at +900), Team Atlanta in the Haier Shooting Stars Competition (at +250), and Steph Curry in the Skills Challenge (at +300). We gave back small amounts with a few hedges on MVP plays, and the Dunk and 3-Point Shootout, but overall, we were well in the black.

It was also nice to have a few real days off from NBA handicapping, outside of the couple hours I sunk into All Star money-making.

Of course, the Break happened to occur when we were heating back up, so that's unfortunate. Heading into the All Star layoff, we had hit Paid Plays on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and despite going just 2-2 on Free Plays over those 3 days, we won both of the 1* Freebies, and lost the half-unit plays. Hopefully, the rust of a break has a bigger impact on the teams than it does on our collective handicapping.

As I'll try to elucidate in the coming weeks, this is a good time to really focus hard on the "bubble" teams, those hovering between the 6th and 11th spots in each Conference, and needing a strong finish. I think we'll find a few of those teams in the next week, and we can really focus hard on backing them, rather than jumping around. These first two days after the Break are tough, though, since it's a matter of figuring out which teams are going to show the most rust. I'll do my best to put some thoughts on each game, but the next couple days could involve a tiny bit of finger-crossing...

Sports Wagering: NBA

Toronto Raptors @ Charlotte Bobcats (-8) with a total of 195.5;
This game is a double revenge spot for the Raptors, but Toronto is a team that can easily lose by 8 or more. Charlotte went into the Break playing solid ball, beating the Lakers, Celtics, and Hawks in the week before the Break, but they lost to Indiana and Jersey, as well, so it's tough to know exactly what to expect. Generally, I would prefer to fade teams like Charlotte that took momentum into the Break, since the layoff can break the positive vibes. Of course, Toronto is a total mess no matter when they play. The Raptors have covered 2 in a row, but does that mean anything? I'm hard pressed to believe in Toronto against a decent rebounding team like Charlotte, but I can't lay 8 with a rusty team that tends to play to the level of its competition. Slight lean to TORONTO and the UNDER.

Indiana Pacers @ Washington Wizards with a total N/A;
We could, maybe, possibly, be seeing a slight, baby surge by the Wizards...sorta. Going into the Break, Washington looked like they had found some sort of rhythm, winning a rare road game (yes, over the Cavs, but still), and taking care of Milwaukee at home a few days prior. Washington lost to San Antonio and Orlando (on the road), but that's nothing to be ashamed of, and playing at home out of the Break is a tiny bit easier, in terms of getting a practice in. Indiana had a hot run under new Coach Vogel, but they stumbled heading into the Break, and I can't help but think a little of that foul scent carries over. Lean to WASHINGTON and the UNDER.

Houston Rockets (-2) @ Detroit Pistons with a total of 203;
This is a weird one to handicap. The Houston Rockets are actively trying to add Centers and Forwards while simultaneously trying to jettison contracts belonging to Forwards and maybe some Guards. It's tough to back the Rockets when they're a favorite for a few reasons, one being the aforementioned personnel question marks, and another being that they don't play defense and rarely win (or lose) by more than a few buckets. This line is probably pretty close to correct, though if there was one spot where I might consider backing Houston, it would be against the Pistons, somehow still coached by John Kuester. What a mess they've got in Detroit right now - they did beat Indiana in overtime heading into the Break, but Detroit has been awful since the latest Stuckey/Rip/Kuester showdown, and I can't back a team in disarray. Tiny, tiny lean to HOUSTON on the side, and the OVER.

Sacramento Kings @ Miami Heat with a total of N/A;
I see no great reasons to back anybody, here. The Heat are likely a little more tired, given all 3 Heatles played minutes in the All Star game, and LeBron and Wade played pretty big minutes. Wade turned his ankle again, and a cross-country flight is rarely good on those types of swelling injuries. On top of that, Miami heads to Chicago for their next game, and the Bulls are set to get Joakim Noah back for what's sure to be a pretty good game. Sacramento is starting a 4-in-5-nights stretch through the Southeast, and I'm hoping to fade them at the tail end of that tiring run. At the beginning of a road trip, you tend to get a team's best effort, but the first game out of the Break is usually a little ugly. I suppose with the line set to come out in the teens, SACRAMENTO should be able to hang within 14-15 points, perhaps, and I'd be surprised to see a ton of defense, so maybe a little OVER lean.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Oklahoma City Thunder with a total of N/A;
The Clippers 11-game road trip resumes in Oklahoma after a short layoff, and continues through New Orleans, and then back to LA for a "road" game against the cross-town Lakers. I honestly wish I could step up and say, definitively, "this is how a team will react to this situation" but I cannot. This is an extremely rare spot, for a team to be on an 11-game roadie through the Break, especially any team other than the Spurs. The Clippers have Chris Kaman back to add some actual post moves to their lineup, and they won their final game before the Break after ugly losses in Cleveland and Toronto (among others). Long story short, Blake Griffin didn't really get any time off, Durant and Westbrook partook of All Star festivities, too, and while I'd love to back the Clippers, who probably want to finish the road trip strong, Oklahoma is actually the team on revenge. This is going to be a big line, and one I'm not sure I can lay the chalk. I'm tempted to PASS on the side, but maybe a small lean to CLIPS, and I prefer the UNDER.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Milwaukee Bucks with a total of N/A;
Milwaukee strikes me as one of those "teams to watch" down the stretch. It is, to steal a lame cliche, put up or shut up time, and if the Bucks want to make a run at the postseason, they're going to have to put together a nice stretch run, and that is going to desperately need to include wins over lackluster opponents like Minnesota. That doesn't mean I want to back either team, but you can be darn sure I'm planning to watch this game to see if the Bucks can get things kicked into high gear. Milwaukee is on some tiny level of revenge from a loss back in November, so I'm not sure we can even count that, and both teams went into the Break with zero momentum. PASS on the side (but watch the game for research), and another UNDER lean, as both teams went into the break playing a very slow, clunky tempo.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Denver Nuggets with a total of N/A;
I wanted to back the Grizzlies because I thought the team would do a nice job of rallying around the loss of Rudy Gay, but to some degree, I wonder if this is one of those rare cases where the team had time off, and "missed the boat" on the adrenaline that might result from an Injured Star game. Tough to say. Meanwhile, Denver recently lost a game in Memphis to a full strength Grizzlies team. Denver beat Memphis early in the year, but something tells me that both teams remember the recent game a little better. This is a difficult spot - do we ignore the Injured Star possibility and roll with the Nugs, who may or may not have Carmelo Anthony for this game? That's a pretty saucy play. My lean is certainly to DENVER and the UNDER, but Denver is a bit of a question mark these days...

Atlanta Hawks @ Los Angeles Lakers (-8) with a total of 190;
Lakers are playing their first game home off a long road trip, but at the same time, they've been home since Thursday, so I'm not sure that angle actually matters. Atlanta, meanwhile, opens up the post-break experience with 5 straight on the west coast (or thereabouts). As we've said, we're likely to get the Hawks best effort in this first game, and Al Horford and Joe Johnson are already in LA, so while I expect the Lakers to win the game (since we know darn well they're not going to respond kindly to a loss in Cleveland), I'm not positive LA is all that interested in covering. LA has a tough one in Portland tomorrow, and Atlanta has a tough one in Phoenix tomorrow, so maybe our time would be best spent fading these teams on Tuesday. Just sayin'. Very, very small lean to ATLANTA and almost as small of a lean to the UNDER.

Boston Celtics (-4.5) @ Golden State Warriors with a total of 197;
These two teams play again in about 10 days, so maybe our best course of action would be to wait and see how this one goes, and try to exploit some value in the repeat. This one is extremely tough, since this is normally a spot to consider backing Golden State (the team that hasn't had to travel), but most of Boston's roster was in LA for the All Star game, so they're only flying the 350 miles to the Bay. Boston is a strong road team, and they get a day off between every game on this road trip. I would wager Doc Rivers is currently dropping a cool hundo off to the schedule-makers for somehow getting away without a back-to-back on this roadie, and given Boston's success away from home, this line is probably pretty close to where it should be. The Warriors have been playing better defense against everyone not from Phoenix, so they'll be a tough competitor, but I don't see any angles strong enough to push me in either direction. Tiny lean to BOSTON on the side, and totals lean to the UNDER.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pre-All Star Break Addendum

No new blog...just adding this to the old one!

San Antonio Spurs @ Chicago Bulls (-2) with a total of 190.5;
The Spurs have been nearly immune to scheduling, situational, and all other angles that we can throw at them, but it would take the willpower of a beastmaster to overcome the letdown that has to come with the final game of a 9-game road trip, and the final game before the All Star Break. Then again, maybe not. I decided to do a little digging, and checked out the Spurs last few seasons of Rodeo-ness, and as it turns out, their road trip usually continues on the other side of the Break. This is a rarity, that the trip ends as the Break begins. The last time that happened was in 2008, and they won and covered the final 2 games of their trip that season. In 2009 the Spurs lost their game before the Break, but won the final game of the Rodeo trip, which ended a few days after the Break. In 2010, the Spurs won the final game before the break, but lost the last game of the trip. So, what we're finding is that there's almost zero consistency. It seems like the Spurs rarely win both letdown games, but often win one. But here, they only have one, and it has both angles rolled together. Chicago is on revenge, so they're in the better situational spot, and are also at home, which, as we're seeing, is a decent angle going into the Break. I know Coach Pop isn't going to let the Spurs take a night off, but I wouldn't be completely surprised if they weren't fully focused. Truth be told, this game isn't a great value either way, but given the info, or lack thereof, I lean to the BULLS on the side, and the OVER.

Dallas Mavericks @ Phoenix Suns (-1) with a total of 207;
Don't look now, but the Mavericks just got a pretty intriguing player back from injury, and he's flying way, way below the radar. His name, Roddy Beaubois. I think people forgot how skilled a scorer this kid is, and in 20 minutes of garbage time in his first game back all season, Beaubois put up 13 points, 6 dimes, 3 steals, and banged in a three. If not for the Caron Butler injury, which, by the way, he's now saying he can return for the Playoffs, the Mavs might really be in business. And here, on the second half of a back-to-back, Dallas has the depth to deal with potential fatigue. I'll admit, with Phoenix playing better basketball, on revenge, and beating good teams lately, this isn't really a game I want to bet. The Suns are hot, the Mavs are hot, and you have to figure both teams want to head into the Break with good feelings. Unfortunately, only one team can. More interestingly, at least in my estimation, the Suns are playing significantly improved defense. The Suns are still playing high scoring games, but they're holding opponents to under 47% shooting. What's causing the change? Is it a renewed interest in defense? I'm inclined to believe that because the Suns are more content running a half-court offense, it's just simply easier to play transition defense, and teams aren't going to get as many easy buckets. Regardless, the Suns are playing to the Under. Only problem here is that Dallas is going the offensive route. When it all gets boiled right down to the nubs, this game is a perfect no-play all around. Of course, I know that answer doesn't satisfy many of you, and you're still going to ask my opinion on this game. So, for you junkies who won't take my pass in stride, slight lean to Dallas and the Under. Don't do it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dan Defeats the Flu

Opener:

A night of guzzling orange juice, advil, tylenol, robitussin, matzo ball soup, and rest definitely did a body good. Those old milk commercials didn't know what they were talking about.

The NBA is drawing awfully near to the All Star Break, and you know darn well I'm going to be perched in front of my TV all weekend long, ready to scream at the awesomeness that is Saturday. We'll definitely get some prop bets going to make the weekend a little more interesting, and I'd love to have the weekend thread PACKED with shouts of madness. Until then, let's try to pick our spots and make sure we don't miss any weird angles in the days leading up to the break.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Washington Wizards @ Orlando Magic (-11) with a total of 200;
So far this year, Orlando has beaten Washington 3 times, blowing them out twice, and sneaking by with a 1-point win the other time. Both teams are off until after the All Star Break after this game, so no real scheduling edge. Orlando is coming off a solid win over the Lakers, which makes me think they could get going in the right direction, but Washington is coming off getting their first road win of the year. Do they play with the monkey off their back, or suffer a letdown? I don't want to try to call it. PASS on the side, slight totals lean to the OVER.

Miami Heat (-9.5) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 202.5;
It's a double revenge game for the Raptors, and you can bet the fans are going to come out to boo Chris Bosh, but to some degree, I just don't care. The more important note on this game is that Miami played in Indiana last night, and are still laying 9.5 points on the road. Would Miami really lay 17.5 points at home to the Raptors? The Heat went 16-of-26 from long range in a win over Toronto a few weeks ago, at home, and though I feel strongly Miami wins this game, LeBron hasn't been shy in the past when he would prefer to be in LA, partying with Kenny Smith. Lean to the RAPTORS and the OVER.

Indiana Pacers (-1) @ Detroit Pistons with a total of 198;
Detroit is a MESS. Mess, mess, mess, mess, mess. Do not bet on teams that are in turmoil, simple as that. I'm not saying that we should be laying points with a resurgent Pacers club coming off a home game with the Heat, but I certainly wouldn't bet the Pistons. Coach Kuester appears to be hanging by a thread, his rotations all over the map, and his players no longer listening. The team is being sold, the management is in as much trouble as the players, and there's no telling when this team will wake up and play a good game. I can't back a team with that many problems behind mostly closed doors. Slight lean to INDY and the UNDER.

Atlanta Hawks @ New York Knicks with a total of N/A;
It seems Stoudemire and Gallinari are both dealing with some nagging injuries, so this line might not pop up until pretty late. Regardless, I'm trying to find a way to back the Knicks. The Hawks have taken down New York twice this year, each time by 9 points, most recently at the tail end of January. But let's remember, that game came on a back-to-back for the Knicks after they beat the Heat at home. A letdown spot, if ever there was one. If the Knicks are healthy, they have a perfectly reasonable shot to win this game. The Hawks are hugely inconsistent, and a win over Detroit probably felt nice, but doesn't say much about them. Lean to the KNICKS and the UNDER.

New Jersey Nets @ Boston Celtics (-12) with a total of 184;
This one is a toss-up, to me. Boston is coming off a big win over the Heat, but they don't tend to suffer letdowns unless it's a back-to-back and the Celts just get tired. Jersey, meanwhile, has lost to Boston twice this year to no one's surprise, and while they managed to keep one of the two games close, it seems almost like both teams are just going to spin the wheel, and if it comes up "max effort" they'll cover. I want no part of a giant spread game like this one where the road team isn't playing that well. PASS on the side, totals lean to the UNDER.

Los Angeles Lakers (-11) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 204;
I almost can't believe what I'm about to say...I love the Cavs. Not in general, but in this game, for sure. The only problem, from what I can see, is that the Cavs have been so bad that they've been getting a ton of attention, and ESPN is going to be rolling highlights of the Lakers beating them by what felt like 200 points a couple months back. Simple as that. Cleveland got a win, then they had a letdown game, lost to Washington, and now it's time to avenge one of the ugliest losses I've ever seen on an NBA court. Lean to CLEVELAND and the OVER.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of N/A;
The Clippers are sputtering, big time. Losses in Cleveland and Toronto have, hopefully for them, bottomed out LA, but then, they have this one more game before the All Star Break, and you have to think they're looking forward to a few days off from this horrendous road trip. Meanwhile, the Wolves have been stinking up the joint themselves, and after beating the Clippers on opening night, they've been blown out by LA, in LA, twice. So, there's a little revenge for Minnesota, the Clippers are clearly exhausted, and as we've noted before, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin cancel each other out, to some extent. Lean to MINNESOTA and the OVER.

Sacramento Kings @ Dallas Mavericks (-11) with a total of 201;
So many garbage lines on this card, and here we have Dallas laying double digits to a team they've defeated twice in Sacramento, and each time by just 2 points. The line is crazy, the matchups are unpredictable (especially with the Kings internal issues), and Sacramento is coming to Dallas on a back-to-back from a game in Oklahoma City. To be quite frank, I don't really know what to expect, though with the Kings heading into the break after this one, and Dallas still with a game to play, that might be a tiny edge for the Mavs. I'd rather leave another of this monster lines alone. PASS on the side, totals lean to the UNDER.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Houston Rockets (-4) with a total of 204;
This is another tough game to handicap, even though the line is significantly more workable than the double digit Goliaths above. Houston is coming off stomping Denver for the second time in as many tries, and the Sixers are playing the second half of a back-to-back that started last night with a revenge game in Memphis. Do we think Houston can win? Do we think they can cover? This line, to me, looks about right, though I suppose the Rockets, one could argue, "need it more." That expression doesn't make a ton of sense, especially since Houston has a tendency to play very close games. Tiny, tiny lean to HOUSTON, but likely a pass, and totals lean to the OVER.

Denver Nuggets @ Milwaukee Bucks with a total of N/A;
Denver has been a total disaster lately, winning an odd game here or there, but for the most part, the team defense has been epically bad. I would have more confidence in fading them if I had more confidence in Milwaukee's offense, but considering the Bucks are on revenge, and trying to make some sort of push now that a few of their previously injured bodies are coming back, I can't help myself. Carmelo is day-to-day with an injured shoulder, so that could derail any plans we might have of betting this game, but if everything shakes out in a normal fashion, I can't expect the Nugs to win on the road - lean BUCKS and the UNDER.

Golden State Warriors @ Utah Jazz (-6) with a total of 207;
Golden State is playing pretty solid basketball, but they haven't really been on the road in ages. The Warriors have played 15 of 17 games at home, so heading into altitude on the second half of a back-to-back is sort of the "trial by fire" road test. Add to that the Warriors and Jazz are both heading into the All Star Break off this game, and you have to think the home team is going to have both the adrenaline and energy edge. On top of that, the Jazz were held to just 37% shooting when they traveled to Oakland a few weeks back, and scored only 81 points. I hate asking a slumping team (Utah) to cover 6 points, since a win is rare enough, but I don't think I can back the Warriors here as they try to do anything on the road, and nearly a mile high to boot. Lean to JAZZ and the OVER.

New Orleans Hornets @ Portland Trailblazers (-4.5) with a total of 183;
Portland is hot right now, and you can tell the team is excited by the returns of Marcus Camby and Brandon Roy, though the offense will, as Coach McMillan has noted, continue to be run through Aldridge. I'm not a huge fan of Portland's scheduling situation, considering they had a pair of 3-game road trips around a home game with the Bulls, but over the Blazers 5-game win streak, scheduling spots haven't really mattered. They're scoring, they're defending, and they're taking momentum into the Break. New Orleans, on the other hand, has very little momentum, and are coming off a sprint-fest in Golden State. Portland should win this double revenge game, but covering is another story. I think PORTLAND does get it done, but it could be closer than people expect, and the total is spot on.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dan Fights the Flu, Day 2

Opener:

Still fighting whatever this cursed bug is...and honestly, I can't remember the last time I got sick this many times in a one year span. I blame Michigan...

Sports Wagering: NBA

Miami Heat (-5.5) @ Indiana Pacers with a total of 205;
Rematch time, but I'm not sure this one is going to work like a typical revenge spot. The Pacers did EVERYTHING in their power to beat the Heat, and still came up just a hair short. This game reminds me an awful lot of the Heat's recent trip to Detroit, with a few small differences. One, the Pacers are still playing pretty well. I'm not willing to crown Coach Vogel the hero of Indianapolis, but the team is hot, and that can't be argued. Two, the Heat are coming off a loss in Boston that snapped the team's 8-game win streak. You all know how I like to fade teams off a long win streak, though the Heat have shown some solid resiliency off a loss this season, aside from when 2/3 of the Heatles got hurt. And three, the Heat just fell out of the top spot in the East, and something tells me LeBron doesn't take kindly to that. I know this line is inflated, and I also realize that the 5.5 is a dubious number, but I think Indy fired their bullets in Miami - lean to the HEAT and the UNDER.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Memphis Grizzlies (-4) with a total of 190.5;
I find it unfair that oddsmakers would force two of the hotter teams in the NBA to play one another. Throughout most of the season, these two teams have been some of the best ATS wagers in the League, so picking between the two seems almost sacrilegious. Hoowwweevverr, the Grizzlies beat the Sixers on a ridiculous comeback effort on the road just about 3 weeks ago, and something tells me Philly hasn't forgotten that game, even if a lot of us have. I love the way Memphis is dominating the painted area (quoth the Hubie Brown), but with this being the Grizzlies' final game before the All Star Break, and Philly on revenge with another game to go before their own hiatus, I can't help but like the SIXERS and the OVER.

Sacramento Kings @ Oklahoma City Thunder with a total of N/A;
It would appear Durant's day-to-day status is keeping this line off the board, and I suppose he's high profile enough to warrant it. Between his injury and the potential revenge angle, I'm not 100% sure what to make of this game. The Thunder beat Sacramento by just 2 points in Northern California only a couple days ago, but Sacramento destroyed Oklahoma on the glass, and it almost seems like, from looking at the box score, the Kings should have won that game. So, do we see an extra-motivated Thunder team coming home, trying to show that Sacramento "hanging tough" was an aberration, or do we see the Kings come out with confidence, feeling like if they make a few shots, they can beat the vaunted Thunder? Tough to say, and without knowing Durant's status, and given the locker room mess coming from the Kings side, they would be a tough team to back. PASS on the side, most likely, small totals lean to the OVER, line depending.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Chicago Bulls (-9.5) with a total of 182.5;
Fatigue versus sluggishness in the ultimate battle of who can be more off their game. In general, I'd probably err towards backing the team that could be considered fatigued, but this matchup is striking in that the better of the two teams is actually 0-2 against the lesser. Is that a sign that Charlotte just matches up well with Chicago? Maybe. Did Charlotte catch Chicago at a couple of bad times? That's tough to argue, really. I would certainly argue that Chicago coming home off a 5-game road trip isn't a particularly good spot for the Bulls, but Charlotte traveling to Illinois off a game with the Lakers. This total is probably pretty close to where it should be, but given how poorly the teams have shot in both previous meetings, I could see this squeaking by. Slight leans to CHARLOTTE and the OVER.

Utah Jazz @ Phoenix Suns with a total of N/A;
We'll keep this one relatively simple - the Jazz got beat by Phoenix like a schoolyard bully takes down the first kid to get glasses, and the post-Sloan era kicked off with a whimper. Luckily, Utah gets to travel to Phoenix on a ton of rest and try to atone for that loss very, very quickly. It's rare when a team can make up for an ugly effort so quickly, but Utah has this opportunity, and I expect them to shoot a whole heck of a lot better than they did at home. Utah forced only 6 turnovers by the Suns (committing 14, themselves), got beat on the offensive glass, and shot only 12 free throws. That is some weak, weak aggression. Utah turns it up in this one, there's zero question in my mind. Is that enough to overcome the lack of true leadership? Only time will tell, but I have to like UTAH on revenge, and some significantly less hideous offense from both sides leans me OVER.

New Orleans Hornets @ Golden State Warriors (-1.5) with a total of 201;
So far, the road team has won each game in this series, this year. And, if it wasn't completely evident by the short paragraph that follows, this is not one of the games on the card that I find particularly compelling. The Hornets have been wholly unimpressive since losing Emeka Okafor to injury, and while they did pick up a somewhat unexpected road win in Orlando, they came right back home and got spanked by Chicago. The Warriors can't beat Phoenix, but they're playing alright against everyone else. I happen to think this game is, in fact, decided by a bucket or two, and while I think Golden State has the better offensive firepower to get it done (certainly without Okafor defending the paint), it's not among my list of games I want to bet. Tiny, and I mean tiny side lean to the WARRIORS, and with both previous meetings going well over the total, I think this one is a little more plodding, lean UNDER.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An NBA Week Begins, Pt 17

Opener:

A true clunker of a betting weekend - if we could perhaps channel Gob Bluth of Arrested Development and steal a few "Forget-Me-Nows" I don't think any of us would complain.

With the All Star Break approaching, this is most certainly not a week to go nuts on the card - some teams will pack it in a little early, and the red-hot teams will generally keep that strong play going right up to the Break. It's one of those weeks where we can weigh the situational angles about the same as usual, but we need to add in the factors related to potential time off. It's complicated, at times, and because of that, we'll play conservatively.

I also fear that my lovely fiancée has bestowed a moderate bronchitis upon my breathin' tubes, so you'll all pardon some measure of brevity in the writeups here in the blog, and in the plays in the next day or two, while I dose the hell out of myself and try to get better quickly.

Sports Wagering: NBA

San Antonio Spurs (-8.5) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of 191;
We'll keep this one simple -- this line is definitely inflated, but if any team can handle the b.s., it's San Antonio. The Spurs are simply a team on a mission, and every time I think it's too late to back them, or the right time to fade away, I get a swift kick to the groin-style reminder than there might not be a time that it's too late. This is game 8 of the Spurs monster Rodeo Road Trip, and after showing some signs of fatigue in Philadelphia, they came storming back with a beatdown in Washington. I guess they're not tired. PASS on the side, and the total posted total makes me think we'll get a Jersey tempo - lean UNDER.

Los Angeles Lakers @ Charlotte Bobcats with a total of N/A;
Interestingly, some outlets are showing this game with the Lakers as a 5-point road favorite, but I think it's officially "down" right now. Regardless, the Lakers play their 4th in 5 nights against a Bobcats team that usually gives LA a pretty good fight. I realize the history isn't much, but Charlotte has covered 5 of the 6 meetings between these teams over the last handful of years, including a clubbing of LA last season in Charlotte. Can the Lakers get their energy back up after apparently running out of gas in the second half down in Orlando? Maybe. They have appeared to be on a mission, but heading into the All Star Break, this wouldn't be all that uncommon a spot for some of LA's veterans to put it in cruise control. Lean to the BOBCATS and the UNDER.

Atlanta Hawks (-3.5) @ Detroit Pistons with a total of 184.5;
Detroit beat the piss out of the Hawks the last time they visited Motown, which begs the question of why Atlanta is sitting at exactly the same line this time around. The Hawks aren't exactly playing good basketball, blowing a big early lead to the Bobcats in their last game, and losing 2 straight. On top of that, they play 2 road games before the Break, and then recommence with 5 more road games, so the Hawks aren't coming home for a while. Will the road trip galvanize them like it has seemed to do for the Lakers? Something tells me Atlanta would still prefer to be at home. I admit, I don't much like that Detroit is playing a back-to-back, a spot where I'd rather not back them, but I could certainly see Atlanta roll into town and get spanked again. Add it all up, very small lean to DETROIT, and the UNDER.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Milwaukee Bucks (-5) with a total of 190;
The Clippers are spiraling on this road trip, and after getting out to a half-decent start (at least ATS-wise), the Clippers have lost to Cleveland and Toronto, and the need for Eric Gordon, a proven scorer, is being exposed. Now, onto Milwaukee to face the defense-first Bucks, and on the second half of a back-to-back. This line is probably about where it should be - I can see Milwaukee taking care of business, because, simply put, they need it more. The Clippers have been on the road for quite some time already, and they're not but half-way through the 11-game marathon trip, looking forward to the All Star Break. The Bucks are still struggling to score, but the Clippers play next to no defense on the road, and right now, they're a 1-man gang away from home. Slight lean to BUCKS and the UNDER.

Portland Trailblazers (-3) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 201.5;
Portland has won all 3 games in this series to this point, and all 3 games have gone Over the total. Something's gotta give, doesn't it? Between those 2 plays, though, I'd have far more faith in the Under. Portland is a post-entry team, for the most part, and while Aldridge has been shooting the lights out, if he even settles back near 50%, it's a tempo that isn't conducive to running and gunning. Yes, Portland has been playing some higher scoring games, but looking at yesterday's contest with Detroit, the teams combined for a ridiculous 61 points in the 4th quarter. That game should have stayed under 200. But that's neither here nor there. More importantly, the 3 games between Portland and Minnesota this year have hit 209, 206 and 215, going Over the posted totals each time, despite each posted mark hovering right near 200, just like this one. And in each of those games, an anomaly presented itself. The teams combined for at least 30 offensive rebounds in all 3 games, and in the most recent tilt, the teams combined to shoot 70 free throws. Both of those numbers come down in this slightly fatigued spot for Portland, and revenge spot for Minny. Lean to WOLVES and more strongly to the UNDER.

Denver Nuggets @ Houston Rockets (-2.5) with a total of 222;
This game strikes me as a potential revenge spot for Denver, a team that just lost to Houston at the very difficult-to-win Pepsi Center. It might not be, though, given Denver won the first 2 meetings this year, one at each venue. Maybe more interesting than the revenge angle is that these teams have met 3 times already, and the totals have reached 201, 219 and 211, and yet this total comes out higher than any of those 3 games. Maybe that's because, despite the 200+ points scored in the previous games, neither team has really played all that well, offensively. Neither club has eclipsed 47% shooting in any game, and we've had a 20-turnover effort from Denver mixed in. Yes, there have been quite a few free throws in this series, but that would seem to be the norm. Clearing 222 isn't going to be easy, but something tells me this one gets there. Lean to DENVER in a shootout that goes OVER.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Friday and Weekend NBA Primer

Opener:

Jerry Sloan...end of an era.

GOW 3* winner on the Lakers-Celtics Under yesterday, 1* Free loser, and the NBA slow profit grind continues in the positive direction!

Sports Wagering: NBA

New Jersey Nets @ Charlotte Bobcats (-7.5) with a total of 186.5;
I love finding ways to fade the Nets on the road, and I think the Bobcats are a decent ATS play these days, but this line, flat out, is too high. Charlotte simply doesn't have the offensive firepower to pull away from most teams, and while the Bobcats have sufficient balance and defensive skill to keep almost any game close, I don't believe they are a strong enough club to lay more than 5-6 in any game not involving an opponent in a scheduling spot. This is a double revenge spot for the hapless Nets, suffering a narrow loss at home, and a half-point missed cover on the road, losing by 7. Now, with this number opening up as high as it is, and considering the lack of scheduling notes, I lean to the NETS to lose by less than the spread (probably won't win), and with the underdog playing better, I'd look at the OVER.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Indiana Pacers (-8.5) with a total of 216;
This game strikes me as another where the team laying points doesn't really have much business choking down nearly double digit chalk, especially not with as solid as Minnesota has looked in the last couple games. I'm going to try my best to not get too longwinded on these big cards, so cutting to the chase - there are no real strong scheduling spots, no real strong situational or revenge spots, and no giant matchup edges on either side worth noting. Yeah, there are some small ones, but this one comes down to public perception giving too many points to Kevin Love and his 3-point shooting merry men. Lean to the WOLVES and the OVER.

San Antonio Spurs (-3.5) @ Philadelphia 76ers with a total of 197;
These teams are sort of the king and queen of ATS wagering this season, but just like in any functional monarchy, only one can have the final say. Okay, that doesn't make much sense, and the metaphor sucked, but my point is that trying to pick between two terrible teams is no different than picking between two tremendous ATS teams. Both teams are playing a 3rd in 4 nights, so fatigue is close to equal, and San Antonio is rolling on this road trip. The Spurs just have a knack for covering spreads like these, and while the Sixers have been a cashing machine all year long, I can't go away from San Antonio until they give me reason to (and going 7-1 SU and ATS is absolutely not that reason). Philly does have revenge, so maybe that's a reason to head back the other way, but...(shrugs)... Lean to SPURS and the UNDER.

New Orleans Hornets @ Orlando Magic (-9.5) with a total of 191.5;
This game marks the start of a very long homestand for the Magic, one that will take them clear through the All Star Break, and then some. This game also marks the second of the Hornets short 2-game road trip, but one that began with a rather disappointing loss to the Nets. New Orleans is struggling without Emeka Okafor, and the loss of Ariza hasn't helped matters, either. On top of that, the Magic are on revenge from a 3-point loss down in Nawlins back in mid-January. That game was extremely ugly, and low-scoring, and I can't help but think that without Okafor, Dwight Howard is going to own the paint, and the Magic should be able to get a significant number of open looks. Unfortunately, oddsmakers are thinking similarly, giving us this outrageously high opening line. Is this line just high for a reason, or will the Hornets pull their usual "close game" act? I lean slightly to the MAGIC to win by 12-13, and I think this one slides OVER.

Portland Trailblazers (-3) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 196.5;
This game seems like a tough scheduling spot for Portland, but perhaps they'll prove me wrong. Portland had a 3-game road trip through Denver, Indy and Cleveland, came home for one game with Chicago (won it), and now head back out for 3 more quick ones before the All Star Break. This trip makes logistical sense, hitting Toronto, Detroit and Minnesota, but it is very, very cold, and Portland seems to be fluctuating wildly between being hot and firing up airballs. We're also hearing now that Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby are due to come back soon, though this game would seem to be a bit on the early side. I can't help but think that the news of their return is going to inspire the Blazers to some sort of success. This is the square side, but Toronto is a pathetic mess, and they're nearly unbackable without a huge reason to...lean to PORTLAND and the OVER.

Los Angeles Clippers (-3.5) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 208;
I have to admit, I thought Cleveland would find some sort of way to sneak a win at this point, and unfortunately, because the losing streak has reached such monumental lengths, the Cavs are now becoming a "cool" team to bet. We saw it happen with Detroit in the last game with the line swinging hard towards Cleveland, followed by Detroit just owning Cleveland from start to finish. And here, I just don't see how Cleveland beats the Clippers if LA is awake. Blake Griffin is a force, and there really isn't any one player on the Cavs that can slow him down. Beyond that, the Clippers showed that they can win on the road, as they're coming off a victory in New York. All that being said, laying points on the road with a weak road team (LA) is never a wise move, and even though I lean to the CLIPPERS, it's a small one, and I would consider the OVER.

Miami Heat (-8) @ Detroit Pistons with a total of 193;
The Heat are very dangerous on the road, given that LeBron actually seems to play better away from home. And more than that, I feel like because the Heat nearly lost to Detroit the last time these teams met (and probably should have lost, except for a weird last-second foul), Miami won't take the Pistons so lightly this time around. I know that means Detroit is on revenge, but I find it hard to believe the Heat play as poorly again this time, or let Detroit dominate them to the tune of 17 offensive rebounds. The one big issue, besides, of course, laying 8 on the road, is that Miami is set to head into Boston on the 13th, just 2 days after this one. Miami hasn't shown a huge look-ahead tendency, but that's probably enough to keep me off that side. PROBABLY PASS on the side (maybe a tiny look to Miami), and totals lean to the OVER.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Memphis Grizzlies with a total of N/A;
This is something of a revenge spot for the Bucks, who just got popped by the Grizzlies, at home, about 2.5 weeks ago. Only problem is that the Bucks are all over the map. They beat the pants off Toronto at home, then went on the road and laid an egg in Washington. Which Bucks team do we get for this contest? I would expect a better than average effort because of revenge, but it could be almost any level from nearly zero to maximum. The things that Milwaukee does have going for it is that suddenly they are the more healthy team in a game. Memphis lost Rudy Gay for the last contest, and Zach Randolph hurt his ankle in the Grizzlies overtime win against the Thunder. Without Zebo, the Grizzlies rebounding edge goes down the drain, and I wonder if the Bucks can exploit that by locking down on the perimeter players. Let's see where this line opens before making any sort of move, and you all know how cautious I tend to play games with injuries. I would advise letting this one sneak by, but given the revenge and Memphis losing so much depth, I might lean MILWAUKEE and slightly to the UNDER.

Los Angeles Lakers (-3) @ New York Knicks with a total of 211.5;
This game certainly depends largely on how the Lakers-Celtics game unfolds, but to some degree, I'm looking to find a way to back the Knicks. New York got creamed by the Lakers in LA, as Pau and Bynum simply pushed the Knicks around in the paint, slowed the game to a crawl, and imposed themselves on the smaller, quicker team from NY. At home, something tells me the Knicks have a little more success implementing their up-tempo style. On top of that, the Lakers are fatigued, which makes using the "power" approach that much more difficult. The line is pretty close to where it should be, if a tiny bit inflated on the Lakers side, but beyond that, the revenge and back-to-back are almost enough for me to make a play early. The concern? Kobe. Dude can straight up ball at MSG. Lean to the KNICKS and the OVER.

Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz (-6.5) with a total of 208;
I'm so upset with the Jazz, I almost can't do a writeup. Jerry Sloan is out, and the team opted to cater to Deron Williams over a coach that has turned some real turd rosters into 8th seeds, and has turned some decent talent into contenders. I'm curious to see what happens with this team now that Deron is basically the on-court coach. Yeah, someone else is wearing the suit on the sidelines, but let's not kid ourselves. I know there's often a bump after a team gets rid of a coach not doing his job (see, Indiana Pacers), but this is Jerry Sloan we're talking about. From a scheduling standpoint, Phoenix is in the difficult spot of traveling into altitude to face a team trying to prove it's better without Sloan. 6.5 seems like a fair amount to cover, and lord knows we've been burned by an Amar'e Stoudemire last-second three-ball to cut a 9-point lead down to 6...and as I stated above, I'm almost against the idea of backing Utah, but the angles point to the JAZZ and the OVER.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Showdown on Parquet

Opener:

This opener is easy - just take a look at the TNT early game. It's time for mayhem, for a number of reasons. The Lakers head into the TD Garden for a rematch with the Celtics, losing in LA not but a week and change back, Ray Allen is within a single three-pointer of Reggie Miller for the all-time mark, Reggie Miller will be doing his best to butcher the broadcast courtside, and Paul Pierce is battling the flu. It's perfect.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Los Angeles Lakers @ Boston Celtics (-3.5) with a total of 187.5;
I guess the question is whether the Celtics desire or Lakers revenge is more important, and on the surface, it's tough to say. Boston was a 3-point underdog in Los Angeles and beat the pants off the Lakers with a dominant second half. It probably also didn't hurt Boston's cause that they shot an absurd 60% from the field in that game, including 9-of-17 from distance. Boston outrebounded the Lakers 43 to just 30, and despite turning it over at a greater clip, those outrageous shooting numbers were far more than the Lakers could overcome. Yes, the Celtics are the best shooting team in the NBA, but 60% for a game against the Lakers massive front line is a sure indicator that those bigs just weren't involved. The box score bears that out, as well: Pau Gasol was just 5-for-13 from the field, Ron Artest was 1-for-10, and got benched when it was clear to the Zen Master that Ron-Ron just had his head somewhere else. The simple solution would be to come out in this game and play with a purpose, but will they? Gasol has a track record of playing a little soft in big, regular-season games, and no one knows what to expect from Artest on a game-to-game basis. The difference-maker, in my opinion, is going to be Andrew Bynum. The kid logged only 28 minutes in the last meeting, picking up 5 fouls that curtailed his aggression. If he can keep his cool and defend without fouling, this game should be a heck of a lot more of a slugfest, and consequently, anyone's game. I wouldn't be surprised to see this one come down to the final shot, so with that in mind, I lean slightly to LAKERS, but the fact that the last game hit 205 points, and this total only moved 1.5 points, well, that pushes me to the UNDER.

Golden State Warriors @ Phoenix Suns (-6) with a total of 217;
Can the Warriors finally wake up and give the Suns a better game? I'm honestly a little surprised at the ownage Phoenix is flexing over Golden State this season, since, on paper, these games should be about as close a back-and-forth game as we can expect between any two teams. Oh well - guess that's why they play. However you cut it, Golden State is now on double home-revenge with a team they should be able to handle. Certainly, the large line is a result of the Warriors playing a late game with Denver last night and creating a scheduling fatigue spot that could only be worsened if Phoenix was at an altitude. Still, we've seen teams make this trip and perform just fine (Charlotte, most recently, from NorCal to Arizona), and I'm inclined to believe the Warriors take offense to the way the Suns have slapped them around at Oracle Arena. The Suns have been far better this year as the underdog, a flimsy defense keeping them from covering spreads as a favorite, and this game falls right into that wheelhouse. If the Warriors could perhaps consider making a 3-pointer and cracking 70% from the free throw line in a game with the Suns, they SHOULD be able to hang right with them. Instead, the Warriors almost seem like they try to change their style of play to mess with Phoenix, and instead, it just ends up creating discontinuity on offense and ugly basketball. I think the WARRIORS get things squared away and get off to a better start, and some game in this series has to go OVER, doesn't it?

Dallas Mavericks @ Denver Nuggets with a total of N/A;
Road warriors in Denver, but both teams flying into altitude off a West coast game the night before. This game has sluggish plastered all over it. This game also has "wait and see how the two teams handle the Bay Area" before making a play. If we are going to look at this game in a vacuum, however, you have to like Dallas. The Mavericks play the better defense between these two teams, they aren't afraid of Denver (or the Pepsi Center), and they're hotter. The teams split the two meetings earlier this year, with each club taking care of business on the road, and I don't see any reason why that trend doesn't continue. Denver has been decidedly Melo-centric, and that is not a way for them to win games. Everyone else bails out on defense, and the fast breaks disappear. Again, though, let's see if either of these teams has especially easy or difficult games on Wednesday night that could impact them, here. Also worth noting that this game is an 8:30 local start, meaning that the time difference is not a factor. The altitude and back-to-backs are, and somehow Dallas has shown a knack for keeping the defensive intensity even when tired. I can't argue with the fact that Dallas allows fewer points on back-to-backs than the team's season defensive average (93.5 vs. 94.6). Lean to DALLAS and while my brain is currently debating whether sluggishness will lead to missed shots or missed defensive assignments, I want to see the line, but early tilt to the UNDER.
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