Thursday, March 10, 2011

Can Bulls Conquer Hawks?


The midweek winds to a close with some less intense games, but definitely ones with better angles to pursue - a team or two coming home, a few getting tired on the road, a rematch, and of course, plenty of injuries to track.

Can I convince a non-bettor to care about 80% of this card? Nope. Luckily, though, that's why we're here.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Portland Trailblazers @ Charlotte Bobcats with a total of N/A;
Charlotte might officially be in the radioactive category - they might get massive line value on a nightly basis between now and, well, when they win again, but this team is simply playing so horribly that I can't in good faith tell anyone to back them. As far as Portland is concerned, they won in Orlando and Miami, and they're hot. In fact, they beat Charlotte, at home, by 24 in the game just prior to this road trip. I don't want to back the Blazers with the Bobcats on revenge from that ugly loss, and I don't want to back the Blazers between games with Orlando, Miami and next, Atlanta. This is the sandwich affair, and I only wish we had any reason to act on Charlotte's behalf. Perhaps Tyrus Thomas and Stephen Jackson will play, and maybe then they'll have a little confidence? Sigh. Lean to CHARLOTTE and the OVER.

Los Angeles Clippers (-2.5) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of 191.5;
The Nets came through with a gusty win over the Warriors, netting us (pun intended) a nice little win on Wednesday in their first game without Deron Williams. However, his absence might just catch up with Jersey in this game. Why? Simple - Jersey was able to beat the Warriors because of Lopez and Humphries in the paint, dominating the glass. They won't be able to crush the Clippers near the rim the way they did the Warriors. Blake Griffin is a monster, and both DeAndre Jordan and Chris Kaman can rebound, as well. I like the confidence the Clips are showing, and they actually lost to the Nets, at home, way back in November. I also like that this is not the end of the Clippers road trip, so they'll try to keep the momentum going. The Nets host Boston next, so there's a slight potential to look to that game. Lean to CLIPPERS and the OVER.

Boston Celtics (-2) @ Philadelphia 76ers with a total of 188;
Boston's been an ATS mess lately because of porous defense, while Philadelphia continues to storm along, outside of a tough overtime loss to the Thunder in their most recent game. My concern with betting the side in this game is simply that the Sixers are going to try to bounce back from a heartbreaking defeat, while Boston laying only 2 is almost like a pick-the-winner spot. I believe this game will be hotly contested, since Philadelphia has done a nice job of hanging with Boston both times these teams have met, and though the Sixers haven't won either of those games, they've covered both. Not much else to say about this game - both teams want it, no real scheduling quirks, and no huge revenge angles, since the previous meetings occurred in December. PASS on the side, slight totals lean to the OVER, courtesy of Boston's weakened defense.

Related: Celtics Bigs Issue a Small One [ESPN Boston]

Indiana Pacers @ Toronto Raptors with a total of N/A;
Let's see, who is sucking harder? Is it Toronto, losers of 3 straight and 5 of 6? Is it Indy, losers of 5 in a row, and a team that somehow managed to shoot 29% for a GAME in Minnesota? Tough call. I guess Indiana is coming off the uglier game, and it at least looks like Toronto is trying a little more? I'm not sure I can advocate backing Indiana right now - this team is in freefall, and even though I tend to like teams to bounce back off nauseating performances like the one the Pacers had in Minneapolis, Toronto is the team on double revenge in this matchup, and even though Toronto's lost 3 straight, one of those was in 3-OT in London, and the most recent was a 2-point defeat at the hands of the Jazz. I think I'd probably value the double revenge and slightly better recent efforts at a little more important than the bounceback factor, so very small lean to TORONTO and the OVER, since I can't imagine Indy shoots under 30% again...can they?

Detroit Pistons @ Oklahoma City Thunder (-9) with a total of 206.5;
Let's get revenge out of the way quickly - these teams played on the second day of the regular season, and Oklahoma won by a single point in Motown. No one remembers that game. The more important stats on this game are that Detroit is playing an up-tempo brand of basketball, seemingly not concerned with results as much as just getting through the season without in-fighting. Fortunately, things were so bad in Detroit, that just "not fighting" for 48 minutes has been enough to cover some big spreads. Unfortunately, spreads are slowly coming down. Detroit was catching 12+ in San Antonio, and that's down to just 9 here. If I'm taking the Pistons, I'd want double digits. On the total, both teams are focused on scoring only - this might be a hair inflated, but I still think if the teams shoot the ball near their season average, we could squeak out a 210ish final score. PASS on the side, totals lean OVER.

Atlanta Hawks @ Chicago Bulls with a total of N/A;
And just when Chicago looked like the best team in the East, Carlos Boozer goes down with an ankle injury. He'll be back, but it does slow Chicago down just a hair. The question for us, though, isn't so much how Chicago will deal with his absence, since we know they can still win games a man short, but instead, whether Chicago can finally overcome the Hawks. I also wonder if the betting public will put more stock in Chicago's hot play or Atlanta's recent stretch of solid play against these very Bulls. I'm inclined to think the public is going to side with red-hot Chicago (pun intended, again), but then, what do I know. We should get a slightly deflated line with the Bulls in this game, thanks to Boozer's injury, so with revenge on the brain, I can't help but think I'm going to end up with the rest of the 4-sided fellas...square lean to CHICAGO and the OVER.

Utah Jazz @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of N/A;
I'm hoping we see a line that gives the Wolves some points, but something tells me it's going to look an awful lot like what we saw when the Jazz visited Toronto - very short. Utah is struggling to figure things out the second half of the year, and even though they've looked, let's say, a tiny bit more respectable the last week, some of that can just be pinned on playing beatable teams. The Jazz might get Mehmet Okur back, but I'm not sure he'll make much of a difference with the way that team plays (or doesn't play) defense. The Wolves, meanwhile, seem to be getting into another of those short stretches of games where they find ways to cover big numbers. This would be the 3rd or 4th time this year Minny has looked capable of covering, but because I'm expecting them to need to win to cover this one (or stay within a bucket), that might be asking a bit much. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Minnesota get its first division win in March, but I doubt it's a greater than 53% shot. Tiny lean to the WOLVES, and I mean tiny, and the UNDER.

Sacramento Kings @ San Antonio Spurs (-11.5) with a total of 208;
I don't know if the Spurs are necessarily slowing down, but it seems like the team's desire to crush opponents isn't what it was a few months ago. Sure, San Antonio made a statement in their win against the Heat, but the team has only covered 2 of 8 games since the Break, and lost the game right before the Break, as well. It just seems like the intensity isn't the same, and the first thing to go is usually defense. Teams are pretty consistently shooting in the mid-to-high 40% range against the Spurs, and that's allowing clubs to stay within 10 points. Will that be the case, here? I'm inclined to think that it will be. The Kings got blasted at home by the Spurs a little over a month back, so the Kings are on revenge, and on top of that, the Kings are still showing the ability to hang with most teams in the NBA, just not actually get a "W" against many of them. I think the Kings can stay inside that dozen - lean to the KINGS and the OVER.

Orlando Magic (-5) @ Golden State Warriors with a total of 207.5;
It doesn't happen all that often, but in this particular case, the Magic are the team in the better travel situation, even though they're on the road. Golden State returns from a 7-game road trip that wrapped up with a loss in Jersey on Wednesday. This team hasn't rested in quite some time, so this first game back is a true sluggish spot. Yes, it is a tad disconcerting that the Magic beat the hell out of the Warriors when these teams met in Florida in mid-January, but Orlando's size advantage against a team that doesn't rebound that well cannot be overstated. The Warriors struggle with big teams (as well as teams that play like themselves, but better, like the Suns). The Warriors have success against balanced teams where they can try to exploit matchups. Here, Orlando should win the rebound battle, and it's tough to see the Warriors overcoming that, if indeed the Magic play with some heart. Yes, the first game home angle outweighs the revenge in this one - lean to the MAGIC and the UNDER.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

It's Getting Hot in Laker Land


Who doesn't love a nice Thursday of NBA?

We get a short card to work with, so the time consumption drops, and the games are always the most interesting of the week, outside of, perhaps, Sunday morning.

This time around, we have the Lakers-Heat rematch, with each team headed in complete opposite directions; we have the Knicks on the road in Big D; and we have the high-flying, ultra-deep Nuggets attacking the banged-up-but-playing-decent-ball Suns. Plenty of reasons to tune in...or really, plenty of reasons to get a 2nd TV for your living room, what with the College Hoops occurring simultaneously.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Los Angeles Lakers @ Miami Heat (Pk) with a total of 188;
To no one's surprise, this line zoomed to Lakers by 2, and that, good friends, makes this game very, very hard for me to bet. Considering that when these teams met in Los Angeles on Christmas and both teams were playing pretty well, the Lakers were a 3.5-point home favorite. I realize a ton of time has passed between then and now, but for the Lakers to go from being considered a half-point neutral court favorite to an opening number that corresponds to 3-points superior to a current line of 5 points better...well, that doesn't add up. On the Tuesday podcast, I wondered aloud how many games the Heat would have to lose before the value started to swing back onto them, but what I neglected to note was that it depends largely on the opponent. Here, Miami isn't the public choice, which will, for one day, at least, create some line value on the home team. Can I back the Heat right now? Maybe, but it would take a nice Pepto-Prevacid cocktail, but at this price (LAL -2) I don't think I can pay to play on LA, even with their 8-game win streak and 7-1 ATS mark in that same span. As far as totals go, the Lakers are winning games with defense, playing a slower tempo, executing in the half-court, and using their superior size to just push teams slowly out of the game. It's probably the so-called "obvious" play, but I can't help but be a tad scared to take any overs involving either of these clubs. Slight leans to MIAMI (shudders) and the UNDER.

Related: Phil Jackson Sympathizes with Heat [Sun Sentinel]

New York Knicks @ Dallas Mavericks (-7) with a total of 215.5;
Both teams are playing the second game of a back-to-back, so the first note that pops to mind is a potential Over play. Both clubs are huge Over teams when they're unrested (Knicks are 9-6 to the Over, Mavs are 10-4), and even though it's almost inarguable that this total is a hair inflated to begin with, I still think it could go up and Over. Let's hope both teams play slow, ugly games on Wednesday to help our cause. In terms of the side, this is a tough one to call - the Mavs are crazy-deep, so you'd think that they'd have a slight edge in the back-to-back spot, but the Knicks catching 7 points is tough to ignore. New York has enough scoring punch to stay within 7 points on most nights, and if Dallas doesn't shoot 55% (which they might), New York should be able to get to the foul line and keep the game close. I hate to have 2 games in a row where I know darn well I have at least one lean (maybe 2, here) that is to the squarer side of the ledger, but damn if I can't figure a way that the Knicks get blown out in a low scoring game. Leans to the KNICKS and the OVER.

Denver Nuggets @ Phoenix Suns (-4) with a total of 216.5;
These teams are two nice stories. Both made huge trades, and both seem to have benefited from them. Phoenix has leaned heavily on Marcin Gortat, and now healthy, Vince Carter is chipping in with some offense, as well. The Nuggets have put together a monster of a bench, and though Gallinari hasn't really been healthy since his arrival in Denver, the team is still playing pretty well. The Nuggets are coming off an absurd layoff, and my big question for this game is whether they come out rusty or energized, and whether all that time off was enough to get the new pieces a little more time to develop chemistry. The issue, as I see it, is that the Suns lost by 34 on their last trip to Denver. So, while the Nuggets might be the team developing chemistry, the Suns are the ones that would seem to want this win just a bit more. Phoenix got a tough win over Houston in its last game, and now playing its second game back home (with a rejuvenated VC and without Channing Frye), this would seem to be a decent spot for both teams. Maybe the way to go is to consider the Under, if indeed Denver's long layoff created defensive energy and/or any rust. Just some thinking or talking points. Leans to the SUNS and the UNDER.

Related: Iverson's Denver Mansion in Foreclosure []

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Dwight Sits on 16 T's


I realize this space of the blog is often reserved for content to get everyone excited about another day of NBA, but today, it's for a tiny oddsmaker-directed rant.

Why can't you post more than 3 out of 11 lines the day before??

Come on, man!

Thus, today's blog is going to be heavy on the theory and rather light on actual line analysis - I'm not one to pass the buck, but today, blame it on the bookie...or was that blame it on the boogie?

Sports Wagering: NBA

Chicago Bulls @ Charlotte Bobcats with a total of N/A;
After Chicago tackled some serious competitors on a recent road trip, they averted a letdown spot with a win (but ATS loss) at home against the Hornets. Now, back on the road just for a game, the Bulls take aim at a Bobcats team that holds a 2-1 season series edge over Chicago. Of course, this could be considered kicking a team when they're down. The Bobcats have lost 5 straight, a few in extremely ugly fashion, and though Ty Thomas and Captain Jack are both due to return for this game, I'm still not sure that the Bobcats can compete with anyone on the offensive end. Keeping this one simple - until Charlotte shows any level of competence, I can't back them. Very small public lean to BULLS and the UNDER.

Utah Jazz @ Toronto Raptors with a total of N/A;
Toronto got a nice little 3 day layoff after playing back-to-back games in London (the second of which went to 3-OT), and the status of some key players on both teams remains in limbo. Kirilenko and Millsap are both banged up for the Jazz, and the Raptors, who are supposed to get Reggie Evans back (to do some rebounding) had Andrea Bargnani come down with the flu on the flight home from Her Majesty's arena. Who is going to play, and does it matter? Utah is a mess, Toronto is a mess, and since the scheduling angles don't help, and these teams haven't played since early November, we have almost nothing to work with. Someone has to win, I guess. PASS on the side, and theoretically, we should have some value on an UNDER, but let's see on the line.

Golden State Warriors @ New Jersey Nets with a total of N/A;
The Nets are the other half of that London-layoff set mentioned above, and just like the Raptors, they are dealing with some personnel confusion. Deron Williams has left the team to be with his wife as they expect a child, so the Nets are going to have to rely on Jordan Farmar to run the show. He's not terrible, but he's also not Deron Williams, who could have pushed around the likes of Stephen Curry. This is a relatively bad spot for Jersey off the crazy travel and long layoff, but it's an even worse spot for the Warriors as they play the final game of a 7-game East Coast swing. Yes, the Warriors have actually played well in this type of bad spot before, so my desire to fade them isn't as strong as it might have been otherwise, but I think we'll get a favorable line without Deron, and I think the Nets should be able to control the glass. Lean to JERSEY and the UNDER.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Philadelphia 76ers (-1) with a total of 208;
This line surprises the hell out of me. The Sixers are playing a back-to-back and still laying points to the Thunder. This is either the gift of the century on Oklahoma City, or the screwball line of the year on the Sixers, and either way, I'm not sure I want anything to do with it. I've spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to find a reason why the Thunder are considered neutral court equals with the Sixers, and I'm struggling to do so. Oklahoma plays Detroit next, so it's not a look-ahead, they've won 3 of 4 in the month of March, and both superstars are playing. I guess we can wait and see how Philly's game in Indiana turns out, but I'm inclined to let this fishy one slip by. Lean to PHILLY because of the line only, and slightly to the OVER.

Los Angeles Clippers @ Boston Celtics (-10) with a total of 193;
The Clippers are a perfect 3-0 in March, and while I think that zero will likely become a one at the end of this game, I'm not so sure that the Clips won't stay competitive for 44 minutes. The question is, when Boston finally decides to turn up the heat, will they go up by 12 or by 8, and will LA make that one bucket in 4-5 tries that we'll need to cover. I think I'd be willing to take that chance with the underdog. The Clippers were 8-point home underdogs to the Celtics in LA and Boston took that game by 7. I think the Clippers are getting some confidence back even without Eric Gordon healthy, and with Griffin doing the rebounding and the Celtics not nearly as formidable inside as they were 2 weeks ago, LA could get a few 2nd chance points and that might be enough. Chris Kaman is getting closer to full strength, Mo Williams is more of a threat from the outside than Baron Davis, and the decent play of Eric Bledsoe and Randy Foye is helping make up for Gordon's loss. And something still isn't quite right with Boston's defense. If the Celtics keep having to run D-Leaguers out there for the second unit, I think they'll struggle to pull away. Lean to the CLIPS and the OVER.

Dallas Mavericks @ New Orleans Hornets with a total of N/A;
I'd be surprised if Chris Paul returned this quickly from a mild concussion, but that's most likely why we're without a line, here. Tyson Chandler is slated to come back for Dallas, so that helps the already insanely-deep Mavs up front, and outside of that, we have a Dallas team that got a win up in Minny (but a failed ATS effort) to start a new winning streak, and a Hornets team that was just starting to show some signs of life before Paul went down. We also have two rivals that haven't played since a home-and-home back in November, and we have Dallas hosting the Knicks and Lakers after this game. And finally, we have Mardi Gras in New Orleans and a Hornets team coming home from a 5-game road trip (because of said party) - you have to think the home team might be a little anxious to snag a few beads in their day off. Small lean to DALLAS if the number is decent, and the UNDER.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Milwaukee Bucks with a total of N/A;
Isn't this the game we've all been waiting for? Can't win versus can't score. Hooray. The season series is tied at 1 game apiece, so no real strong revenge angles. Neither club is good enough to worry about a look-ahead to some sort of rivalry, so nothing there either. And both teams are playing the second half of a back-to-back, so that doesn't help us pick a side, either. You know what? Screw it. When a game just isn't interesting, we can't manufacture angles. PASS on the side, OVER lean on the total from both teams playing tired.

Indiana Pacers @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of N/A;
Kevin Love's knee is a genuine concern, and though a missed game for the rebounding menace might not be a bad idea for his health, I can't see the Wolves making up for his skills. Fact is, they don't have the guys on the bench that can step up and rebound like Love can, so the Injured Star Theory, to me, doesn't really apply. It's not like losing a scorer, where someone else can usually can a few shots - this is the one guy on the Wolves that consistently gets second chance opportunities and makes sure the opponents don't. Without him, the Wolves are a jump-shooting, poor-rebounding team. They're Toronto, but younger. Indiana is slumping too, so they're not exactly a tempting play, but I can't back the Wolves without their only rebounder. Tiny side lean to the PACERS, and the OVER, since this one could turn into streetball.

New York Knicks @ Memphis Grizzlies with a total of N/A;
From an entertainment perspective, I like this game quite a bit. The Knicks are retooled, showing signs of playing some defense, and looking poised to be "that team" in the Playoffs, and the Grizzlies are using their superior strength to beat teams into submission with quality offense out of the half-court. The problem is that, from a betting standpoint, we don't have a whole lot to stand on. The Knicks play in Dallas tomorrow, and the Grizzlies play in Miami in 3 days. I suppose you could argue the Grizz have a look-ahead, but the long layoff nullifies that, to some degree. In addition, these two teams play again, in New York, in about a week. I'd rather just watch this game and see how the two teams attack one another, then make a move in the rematch. This should be a damn good game, though. Miniscule lean to the GRIZZ and the OVER.

Related: Knicks Bench Steps Up [NY Mag]

Detroit Pistons @ San Antonio Spurs (-12.5) with a total of 203;
A pretty high total is the first thing I notice about this game, but then, maybe it's not so crazy. Okay, yeah, it's pretty crazy. These two teams played each other in Motown on February 8th and the posted total was 188.5. The final total? 189. You'd think oddsmakers might feel inclined to, oh, I dunno, leave it pretty close to the same, but instead we're seeing a number 15 points higher? Mind-boggling, and possibly a hand-tip. Yes, Detroit has been playing a faster tempo since the player boycott (and subsequent roster shuffle), but 15 points? Detroit happened to be a 6.5-point home underdog in that game and lost by 11, so the venue adjustment is about right if we disregard revenge...which we're not. I think there's a little bit of value on the Pistons side (even though the Spurs might want to beat up on someone after that Lakers mess), and I think the high total is telling us that the teams are going to put some points on the board. Lean to the PISTONS and the OVER.

Orlando Magic @ Sacramento Kings with a total of N/A;
And finally, we arrive at the very last game on the board, yet another contest without a line. Why? Who the heck knows. I don't believe Tyreke Evans is expected back just yet, and we know darn well that Dwight Howard served his one game suspension. Oddsmakers, time for you to take your balls and remove them from the tea-cozy. Maybe they're all tired of getting beat like bongos, courtesy of a few red-hot Pregame peeps. Anyway, angles: Orlando is playing the first game of a 5-game trip, so they may very well put a nice effort out there; Orlando lost at home to the Kings only a couple weeks back, and that loss started the Magic on their hot run that took a hit with an exhaustion-aided loss to the Bulls and a suspension-aided loss to the Blazers; Dwight Howard will likely return to the lineup with a certain level of anger; the Kings got creamed by the Rockets in their last game, and DeMarcus Cousins turned an ankle late in that contest. Supposedly the sprain wasn't that bad, and if that's really why this line is off, I think I might have a tantrum. Either way, squares get the vote here - lean to the road MAGIC and the UNDER.

Related: Fran Vazquez, the One that Got Away [Business Insider]

Monday, March 07, 2011

Big Heatles Don't Cry


Not a particularly compelling day of NBA - in fact, I might rank two of the games among the least interesting of the month. I suppose you could argue that every Miami Heat game is worth talking about, but after the fiasco this last weekend, I almost feel like I'm rubbernecking when I talk about that team.

The Lakers continue their post-Break schedule with a trip to Atlanta; it should be mildly interesting to see if LA can get back up after the whooping they put on the Spurs. The Lakers are hot, the three 7-footers are dominating the paint, and this road trip is absolutely worth monitoring.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Milwaukee Bucks @ Washington Wizards with a total of ;
I think it was one of the regulars (maybe Hags) that repeated the line, "Nobody beats the Wiz at home...sometimes!" That's more or less how I feel about this game. Milwaukee is struggling, more injuries rendering them a fairly incompetent offensive team. They held a lead over the Celtics in their last game and just did manage to hang on and cover (losing the game), but for this team, narrow losses just aren't enough. More and more you can see them losing interest, even though Charlotte's simultaneous freefall makes jumping them and challenging the Pacers for the final spot not that unlikely. Problem is, Milwaukee might be feeling a bit sorry for itself, and without the guns to compete, they're just rolling over. Hell, they haven't shot better than 43.9% from the field in 6 games! The reasons to skip this game entirely? Well, Washington isn't really beating many teams even at home, aside from the Wolves (who were, at the time, playing a 4th in 5 nights). The Wiz are having their own offensive issues, and they did beat Milwaukee here in Washington less than a month ago. The two totals this year for these teams have been 187 and 185 - if the teams could get up near 46-47% shooting, we should see a game in the 190's, but there's no guarantee there, either. Tiny lean to the BUCKS and the OVER.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Indiana Pacers (-1.5) with a total of 205.5;
The Pacers have, pretty quietly, lost 5 of 6 games. While the most recent 3 were road contests at the Thunder, Mavs and Rockets (all tough games), I think it's safe to say the Vogel shine has come off Indiana, and they're rapidly falling back to sea level. In terms of pure hotness, the Sixers have the edge. Philadelphia has won 8 of 10 dating back to mid-February, though their scheduling has been fairly easy over that stretch. Regardless, I wouldn't really call a game with the Pacers a "toughening up" of the schedule, either. Philly has shown that they can win on the road, and they trail this season series 2 games to 1 after falling to Indy at home in mid-January. Not much to note on the scheduling front, but considering Indy was catching 5.5 in Philadelphia in the last meeting, there may indeed be some value to exploit in the line. Sum up the factors, and you've got yourself a smallish lean to the SIXERS and the UNDER.

Golden State Warriors (-3) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 216;
The Warriors are the team of near-misses right now. They came up a buck short in Boston (covered), then took the Sixers to OT before falling there, too (failed to cover). I actually like how the Warriors have played on this road trip, but I wonder when the constant inability to get over that hump and actually put a road "W" on the board will wear the team down. Will it be in this game, the 6th out of 7 games on the voyage? Will it be tomorrow, the final game, a somewhat meaningless battle with the Nets before heading home to host the Magic? It's going to happen, and I'll admit when I'm scared - and right now, I'm a little nervous to back the Warriors, even though I like how hard they've been playing. The Cavs aren't a whole lot better - they covered for a few weeks when everyone was kicking them, now they've lost Antawn Jamison and Baron Davis is trying to convince the world he's willing to play for an awful team, and, frankly, I don't see Cleveland's cover-fest continuing for much longer. I might lean a little square on this one, since the Warriors might just have one more bullet in the chamber, but it's probably a coin-flip. Cleveland lost by 20+ in Oakland, but does it matter? Small lean to GOLDEN STATE and the OVER.

Los Angeles Lakers (-3.5) @ Atlanta Hawks with a total of 185.5;
I have a strange feeling we'll see some value on Atlanta in this game when all is said and done. It might not be the opening number, but it's going to be there. Or hell, maybe it will be the opener. All I can say is that not 2 weeks ago the Lakers crushed Atlanta by 24 to open the second half of the season, and since then, the Lakers have annihilated all opponents, ranging from the lowly Wolves to the league-best Spurs. And that most recent blowout win over San Antonio was certainly an eye-catcher. The Lakers have Miami on deck in a revenge game, and even though LA is probably the hottest team in the NBA, I can't help but think those few key angles are pointing the other way. Now, don't get me wrong, Atlanta has looked pretty bad the last 2 games, but I believe they'll get up for this one, and I can't see the Lakers playing even close to as well as they did in San Antonio. Lean to the HAWKS and the OVER.

Related: Lakers Getting Groove Back []

Portland Trailblazers @ Miami Heat (-8) with a total of 189.5;
This is a tough one, because we really haven't seen anything like the Heat in the NBA in the last couple decades. A team that, because of 2 free agent signings, gets media attention when they take their morning leaks, well, it's just tough to know how people are going to react to every move. With a normal team, I'd be inclined to say that another meltdown and subsequent locker room campfire/feelings session would create value on that team, but with the Heat, it seems like every move they make, every minute of coverage on ESPN just serves to keep that buzz at its peak. You'd think that negative attention would make people want to fade Miami, but it seems like even the negative press just creates the notion of "Oh, Miami is all set to bounce back now." It's weird, really. So, the Heat have lost 4 straight, and everyone just keeps riding them, thinking they'll bounce back. Frankly, I'm done. I'm not betting on the Heat until they get it turned around, and even then, I still might not bet on them. Am I betting Portland? Probably not - they had to fly cross-country with only one off-day and now step into the media whirlwind in South Beach. This one is a chaotic travesty. PASS on the side is my recommendation or make a halftime play, and slight lean to the UNDER.

Related: Knicks Laugh at Heat's Tears [Yahoo! Blogs]

Houston Rockets @ Phoenix Suns (-5.5) with a total of 216.5;
Obviously, our feelings on this game will depend heavily on how the Houston game in Sacramento plays out, and that one has yet to even begin as I type this, but the expectations are pretty clear, and I laid them out in yesterday's blog. Houston is coming to Phoenix off a late game in Northern California, losing an hour to time zones, and then trying to keep up with a very up-tempo Suns team. Plus, Houston hosts the Suns in a few days, so if they do come out flat and tired, we'll have a great opportunity to back Houston then. For me, this comes down to Steve Nash. He knows the Rockets schedule, he's a smart player, and he'll just keep running until the Rockets are sucking wind. Houston isn't that deep of a team, and though Courtney Lee has been playing better and Dragic will likely bring a nice effort against his old team, if Houston gets exhausted in Sacramento, we'll see a game similar to the one they played against the Clippers, but even a shade more tired, thanks to the time difference. It's not official yet, but without knowing the Houston result from Monday, I lean PHOENIX and the UNDER.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

An NBA Week Begins, Pt 18


I hate to make this opening section a mere reflection of what the general media is discussing, since that's probably not going to shine any more light on topics already combed to death by ESPN, but...

I have to laugh at the Miami Heat, just once, here in the opener, before continuing. Hah!

Okay, now really, what's going on? I know these games are emotional and the Heat are under the microscope, but the Heat, according to the Yahoo! game recap, "shed emotional tears" in the locker room after the game. Maybe those guys should talk to the roster of the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Washington Wizards if they want to know what it's like to truly play through an impossible season. How would it feel to spend your livelihood working for zero purpose? Man up, Heatles.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Los Angeles Clippers @ Charlotte Bobcats (-2.5) with a total of 189.5;
Eric Gordon's return was short-lived, as a face-smashing foul from Timofey Mosgov sent Gordon to the deck, and in his effort to brace himself Gordon reinjured his wrist, this time creating bone chips. Unfortunately, his outside game made the Clippers a decent team, and his absence is going to hurt them quite a bit. I'm interested, though, to find out if Mo Williams' shooting can help cover for Gordon, and if Chris Kaman's slow return to full strength can make up for some of Gordon's lost points. This is a fairly neutral spot for the Clippers, all things considered - the start of a 5 game road trip is usually a spot to play hard, but the loss of their key cog is a potential letdown. The real note on this game is that Charlotte had only 1 day between games in Portland and back home. If Charlotte wasn't playing so horribly, and most of the value wasn't already sucked out of the game by the Bobcats poor play, I'd be inclined to fade them coming home off an extended western swing. And yes, when I say the value is sucked out, I'm referring to the fact that by the mid-evening on Sunday, this line is down to 1.5 already. Slight lean to CLIPPERS and the UNDER.

Portland Trailblazers @ Orlando Magic (-3) with a total of 188.5;
Red alert! Dwight Howard is suspended for this game, so don't go throwing your life savings on the Magic before taking note of that fact. And let's face it, the Injured Star Theory might apply a little, but I'm not really sure the Magic are much of a team without Howard in the middle and without Gortat backing him up. This is the start of a 4-game trip for the Blazers through the Southeast, and I'm tempted to say that this is a good spot to pass altogether. Portland is playing off a long day of travel, and though they're still putting together marginally decent ball, if Orlando's non-Howardians step up, Portland could be in a little bit of a tired spot. On top of that, the Blazers play in Miami tomorrow. What we HAVE seen this year, though, is that teams have a tendency to cover one of the two games in the Florida two-step then get blown out in the other, and though I don't have to stats offhand, I tend to think the first of the two games is a bit more energetic. Another problem with taking Portland is that Orlando got blasted in Oregon back in December, so the non-Howard roster might use that as some fuel, and might play a little above themselves to show their team leader that if he gets flagrantly whacked, lashes out and gets suspended for picking up a T, they can hold it together for one game. We shall see. Microscopic, smallest of leans to ORLANDO and the OVER.

Howard "Not a HotHead" [Orlando Sentinel]

Utah Jazz @ New York Knicks with a total of N/A;
New York just can't beat Cleveland, but fortunately for the Knicks, they shouldn't have to deal with that issue for a little bit. Here, New York should be a decent sized favorite over a struggling Jazz team that did get a win over the Kings in OT, but still looked far from convincing. Paul Millsap was hurt in that win, and while Devin Harris is settling in fairly well and the Jazz are starting to slow things down and run some offensive sets, the team is still lacking in...something. It's tough to pinpoint the exact issue with Utah - certainly, the defense could use some work, and the shot-making, and the rebounding...nothing is completely broken, but nothing is quite right, either. I'd love to back Utah and claim it's a value play, but I don't have the trust to do it, and New York is, against everyone besides the Cavs, actually playing some defense. The Knicks are in a back-to-back off a win on Sunday early evening in Atlanta, so there may be some slight fatigue, but I don't think it's an issue, really. Very small lean to the KNICKS and the UNDER.

New Orleans Hornets @ Chicago Bulls with a total of N/A;
Just as we noted a few days back, the Hornets would, just when the bettor least expects it, figure something out, turn "it" on for a few games, and then probably slip back into semi-mediocrity for another short while. Where are we on that curve? Well, "curve" is the right word for it, considering Chris Paul suffered a head injury in the Hornets' win over the Cavs, and was taken off in a stretcher. New Orleans has won 2 straight, so I'd argue we're somewhere in the middle-to-end portion of a hotter streak, and that makes me think there might be some value on the Hornets, since the two wins have been, let's say, a shade under the radar. On the other side, the Bulls' wins have been anything but off the radar - Chicago went 4-1 on a rough Milwaukee-Washington-Southeastern road trip, including marquee TV wins over the Heat and Magic. The Bulls stock has never been higher, which, for those unfamiliar with stocks, is when you consider selling. There's the possibility the stock could inch a tiny bit more into the stratosphere, but we're right around that cusp, and with the Hornets having lost to the Bulls at home a month back and Chris Paul playing with a little more purpose, I think we might just get a slightly chunky line - lean to the HORNETS and the OVER.

Dallas Mavericks (-6.5) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 209;
This game is zero fun to handicap. The Mavericks dropped a heartbreaker to the Grizzlies on Sunday evening after being well ahead at the half. The Wolves won in Detroit to start their short 3-game trip, then fell in Philadelphia (in a game that, frankly, they should have covered - Rambis is dead to me) and Washington. Now back home, the Wolves have had a day to rest up, and Darko Milicic is supposed to return to the team to provide just a small measure of interior shotblocking. It's not much, but it's more than Pekovic can do. In essence, I don't want to back either team, but when you look at the situational angles, a Dallas team that had a long win streak snapped in dramatic fashion traveling a pretty fair distance to a place where the Mavs have very little to gain makes me lean just a bit to the MINNESOTA side, against the nausea it causes, and the OVER.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Memphis Grizzlies (-2) with a total of 203;
Both teams played yesterday, but only one of the two teams went to OT, and that was the Thunder. Oklahoma had to go an extra 5 minutes with the Suns, while the Grizzlies staged a tremendous comeback win over the Mavericks. My issue with this game is as follows: the Grizzlies lead the season series 2 games to 1, so the Thunder should want to win this one to exert some sort of dominance; the Grizzlies won the last meeting in Oklahoma City only a month ago, so, again, the Thunder should want some revenge; both teams expended a ton of energy yesterday, with the Thunder going to OT and the Grizzlies needing a huge run to beat the Mavs. So, I ask you all, what's the point? Why take a stab at which team comes to play when either team could just as easily lay an egg? I think the one key point worth remembering is that Memphis winning 2 of 3 isn't a fluke. The Grizzlies have dominated the paint against the slightly undersized Thunder, and if they stick to that plan, they could win again. If the Thunder want it more and still have something in the tank off yesterday's tough game, they might pull off the upset. Too many "mights" for my liking. Gun to head lean to THUNDER and the UNDER.

Houston Rockets (-4) @ Sacramento Kings with a total of 216.5;
I'm not sure I'm on board with the Rockets laying a medium-sized number on the road, even with how hot they've been. Houston has definitely been kicking some serious butt the last few weeks, polishing off Indiana handily in their most recent game, but given Houston is 2-0 against the Kings already this year, including a win at Arco in December, and the Kings are finding ways to cover thanks to some renewed energy in DeMarcus Cousins, I could see the Kings surprising the Rockets. Of course, the flip side of that coin is that the Kings have a rich history (or at least 2 years of history) of hanging tough for 45 minutes only to get blasted in the final 3. Or, hell, maybe hang tough for 50 minutes, as was the case in Utah, in a game they barely covered even catching 8 in OT. I think the best course of action is to see how this game goes and react accordingly on Tuesday - the Rockets have to travel from Sacramento to Phoenix for a 1-hour-earlier run-run-run game with the Suns, and though I expect Aaron Brooks and Goran Dragic to play hard against their old teams in THAT game, it's a spot where the Suns should be able to take advantage of the Rockets, if and only if the Kings can do their part to exhaust Houston, just a little. Teeny, tiny lean to HOUSTON, amazingly, on the side, just because I think they sneak over the cover by a bucket, and the UNDER.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Miami Can't Beat Good Teams


Hidden among some truly unspectacular games on this Friday card are a handful of compelling matchups, a couple each from the betting and viewing standpoints.

For instance, we are, despite all signs pointing that it shouldn't be this way, forced to ask ourselves if the hapless Cavs just match up well with the Knicks? Cleveland has won 2 in a row against the newly minted Carmar'elos (that sounded better in my head), and how much do we think the Knicks want revenge?

The Heat travel to San Antonio off a home showdown with the Magic - how do they respond?

Finally, the Lakers host the one team that gives them trouble more than any other: the Charlotte Bobcats. Will Charlotte pull it together in time to compete with LA, or is another 40 point disaster on the way?

Sports Wagering: NBA

Toronto Raptors @ New Jersey Nets (-2.5) with a total of 200.5;
These teams have both been stinking it up, though I suppose you could argue that Toronto is, at least, coming off a win, whatever that's worth. The big issue with this game is that it's taking place across the pond, as is the rematch tomorrow. Without getting into a ton of detail, I'd rather just play this home-and-home like we've done with so many others. Watch the first game, react and make some money in the second one. Somewhat irrelevant, considering my plan, but Toronto won the only game in this series so far this year, and if I absolutely had to try to make a prediction on this game, I'd expect Jersey to barely cover this one in a game that stays UNDER the total.

Chicago Bulls @ Orlando Magic (-2.5) with a total of 187.5;
Chicago still hasn't quite proven to me that they can do it on the road, though I would assume the quick note on this game is that the Magic are playing a back-to-back off a very rough game with the Heat last night, on TNT. I'm not that concerned with that, barring a ridiculous conclusion. My feelings on this game are simply that until Chicago shows me that they can beat the best teams away from home, they're not a team I can back in games like this. Chicago is 1-1 against Orlando, both games at home, so this is the real test of the season series, thus far, and if the Magic continue to play strong basketball through the game in Miami (results pending), I think they could potentially do it again. Small lean to ORLANDO and the OVER.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Philadelphia 76ers (-9.5) with a total of 205;
As noted, we're keeping things very straightforward on Fridays, since this is sort of the day of the week where we can apply strategies from the week into a card more quickly. Minnesota recently hosted the Sixers and lost by 20, at home. Embarrassing. The Wolves are coming off a win in Detroit and the Sixers recently suffered a home loss. There aren't many scheduling or look-ahead-type angles to explore, so this one comes down to oddsmakers giving us 9.5, a dubious number. I think Minnesota continues to play hard and struggles to a tough loss, keeping it close enough for a WOLVES cover in a game that sneaks up and OVER the total.

Golden State Warriors @ Boston Celtics (-10.5) with a total of 201.5;
This is another potential revenge game, though it's pretty clear the Warriors don't have the discipline to truly compete with the Celtics when Boston is focused. Boston is banged up, but they're still Boston. Still, the Celts beat the Warriors by 22, outshooting Golden State 56% to 39%. I'm tempted to say that both of those numbers regress a tad, but I'm not certain the Warriors shoot all that much better. Still, I can't argue with the motivational edge that getting spanked at home brings out. I do, however, think the total has been more than adequately adjusted for the last game going over. Lean to the WARRIORS and the UNDER.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ New York Knicks (-12) with a total of 218.5;
This game, to me, is a lot like the Hornets recent trip to Minnesota. The bad team, of the two, had won both meetings this season, and now we're left trying to determine if that bad team is just feeling confident, or if the good team is going to take the game a little more personally. New Orleans seemed to take the losses to Minnesota hard - will New York do the same? If so, New York could conceivably win this game by 25 points. If not, Cleveland might just give them another run for their money. I'm inclined to think there's just a hair more of a chance that the Knicks bring a fire, but you have to give Cleveland credit for at least trying. If New York plays the defense here that they did against New Orleans, Miami, etc., the KNICKS should be able to just barely get it done on the cover, and they'll accomplish it by keeping the Cavs UNDER their expected total.

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Atlanta Hawks with a total of N/A;
I don't much like this game, since Atlanta is playing better since the trade deadline, and the Thunder snapped out of their mini-funk with an easy win over the Pacers. Playing this side is like trying to predict which team is going to slip first, and that's no fun. That's just guesswork. The one very small factor at play is that Atlanta is in the midst of a very tough homestand with the Knicks coming in next, then the Lakers before a road game in Chicago. If the Hawks were to lose focus for any of the games, you'd think maybe this one, though they're on revenge from a game much earlier this year. This is a damn tough side to call, though both teams have stepped up defense in the last game or two. Miniscule, teeny side lean to the THUNDER, if we're catching a few points, and smallish lean to the UNDER.

New Orleans Hornets @ Memphis Grizzlies with a total of N/A;
New Orleans is a total mess right now, and it's not clear if it's Chris Paul's ankle to blame, or just the team coming back to Earth after a good first half of the year. Either way, the Hornets have lost 3 straight and 10 of 14 dating back to the start of February. I don't think I can back them until they show signs of pulling out of this nosedive. These teams have met just once this year, which means a few more meetings are coming up, and also means this one is going to be the toughest of them to handicap. The Grizzlies lost by a point on the road in January, so will they come back with a better than average effort, or will we see a slight letdown off the home-and-home Memphis played against the Spurs? I can't help but feel like the Grizz are confident right now, and if this number is in the small/medium range, I'd look to MEMPHIS to keep the ball rolling, and to do so with a methodical UNDER, defensive attack.

Indiana Pacers @ Dallas Mavericks (-8.5) with a total of 208.5;
The Pacers actually beat the Mavs in their only meeting this year, but the Mavs were short a superstar at the time, if I'm not mistaken, so we can almost throw that game out. The angle I'm most interested in, in terms of betting the current Pacers road trip, is scheduling. Indiana played a home game against the Warriors, won it, got thwacked in Oklahoma City the next night, had a day off, and now play back-to-back contests in Dallas and Houston. I'd almost prefer to hop aboard the fade train when Indy is playing its 4th in 5 nights tomorrow, and let them tire themselves out with a better effort tonight. We're in no position to fade Dallas, with as well as they're playing, but I still think INDIANA just barely sneaks inside the spread in a game that stays UNDER.

Phoenix Suns (-2.5) @ Milwaukee Bucks with a total of 193.5;
I hate to say it (mostly because I know a lot of my favorite readers are fans of the team), but Milwaukee might just be cooked. This poor team cannot get healthy. There's a team like that every year where the moment one key cog comes back, another goes down. Now it's Bogut (again), this time with an oblique issue that saps the Bucks of their only true interior player. He's been battling a defunct elbow for some time, Drew Gooden is seemingly dead, Ersan Ilyasova is out, Delfino just finally returned, the list goes on and on. Oh well. Phoenix is the square beyond square side in this game, but I think Milwaukee is actually worse than people even think. I realize the Bucks are on revenge from an ugly loss in Phoenix, but they've got nothing left. Very small lean to the SUNS and the UNDER.

Miami Heat @ San Antonio Spurs (-1.5) with a total of 196.5;
Everyone knows the Heat's struggles with the best teams in the NBA, and while I'd love to go against Miami, the Spurs haven't looked that sharp over the last couple weeks - namely, since the Break. Miami is in a tough travel spot off a home game against Orlando, and LeBron and Wade are coming off tremendous offensive showings, and while many will insist that they will balance that out with some poor performances, I tend to think momentum carries over pretty well in back-to-back games. The other issue, and this is for both teams, is that Miami comes back home to host Chicago after this game, and the Spurs host the Lakers next. These teams meet in Miami in 10 days, too. Small lean to the SPURS, though I'd prefer to wait, and I'd consider the OVER.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Los Angeles Lakers (-12.5) with a total of 191.5;
The Lakers have been steamrolling since the Break, winning and covering 5 straight games, but if ever there was a confluence of angles that make me think they might skip a beat, this game has 'em. First, the Bobcats are eerily tough for the Lakers. It doesn't make a ton of sense, but Charlotte just gets up for LA, and the Lakers bog down against Charlotte. On top of that, the Lakers play in San Antonio on Sunday, so this could potentially be a look-ahead spot. And finally, Charlotte lost by FORTY in Denver in their last game, so you have to think they'll be thinking about trying to shake that stink. The Bobcats are on a tough road trip, so there are no guarantees they wake up at all, but I think there's a better chance they keep this one tight than lose by 30. Lean to BOBCATS and the UNDER.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Battle for Florida, Found 4


It's that time again - TNT time. Generally, Thursdays bring us extremely short NBA cards, but often the most compelling games of the week.

This is an interesting time in the season, if only because the rest of the week has been notable for its interconference showdowns, and now tonight we're getting two division rivalries, one of which is important for Eastern Conference dominance, and the other to see which altitude-based team got a better trade deadline haul.

Let's crack these nuts.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Orlando Magic @ Miami Heat (-5) with a total of 198.5;
Doesn't this game just feel like it has all the makings of an epic finish? My gut has certainly been wrong before (see yesterday's prediction that the Warriors would just barely sneak under the number in Indianapolis), but with the way this season series has unfurled, I can't help but feel this game gets that playoff feel. The first meeting, way back in October, Miami crushed Orlando by 26, easily covering a short 3.5-point spread and keeping the total 22 points under the posted mark of 188; the second meeting occurred a month later, and the Magic got their revenge, beating Miami by 9, covering their own 3.5-point chalk in a game that went over the posted mark of 189 by 10 points. Flash forward to meeting 3, much more recent, and the Magic lost, at home, as a 1-point favorite, allowing the Heat to shoot 50% from the field and send the total over by a handful. Now, finally, back in Miami, the Heat laying the biggest number of any game in this season series, but each game's final result getting closer, and each game has actually had a higher total each time. I think one of those trends continues, namely, the close result, and I think the other breaks - that is, I expect a little more defense from both sides, a tempo more like the first meeting, but the Magic will shoot better than 30% from the field. Miami, as you've gathered, leads the season series 2-1, and I fully expect a red-hot, motivated Dwight Howard to completely dominate the paint, and if he can stay out of foul trouble, force this game to stay close the whole way through. A final note - these teams have taken 150, 152 and 157 shots in their meetings - a tempo that should look more like a mid/high 180's final score, not 200. I lean to ORLANDO and the UNDER.

Denver Nuggets @ Utah Jazz (-3) with a total of 210;
The Nuggets are actually a pretty fun team to watch these days, with that Melo-shaped monkey off their back and one of the deepest rosters in the NBA on display. Of course, 2 games into his altitude career, Danilo Gallinari is out for 2 weeks with a broken toe, but the depth is still pretty substantial. Maybe the most amazing part of the post-trade Nuggets play is the team's energy on defense. See, the talent has always been there - Denver has (and had) some extremely gifted athletes that, if they bothered, could certainly play some defense. Nene is a mobile big, Ty Lawson is quick as heck, J.R. Smith is extremely strong for his size, Kenyon Martin is best suited to play defense, and now they've added a stout leader in Ray Felton, and shot-blocking wings named Chandler and Gallo. The issue here isn't skill, since Denver has the edge in that department - the issue is energy. If Denver fatigues, which they very well might given the back-to-back games being played at an elevation, Utah could exploit the somewhat discombobulated Nuggets offense by forcing more outside shots and then run on a tired Denver defense. The easy play in this game is on Denver, for sure. They're playing better (covering 5 straight with a Charlotte game pending), and actually defending some, as noted above. Utah is focused entirely on the offensive end, scoring 218 points in their last 2 games, combined, but allowing a ridiculous 227. Utah is playing at a breakneck speed, which doesn't make a ton of sense given that the team's strength is on the interior. But hey, who am I to judge? That team is trying to find a post-Sloan identity, and the quest continues. In terms of the season series, Utah lost its season-opener in Denver, but won there a month ago, so I'm inclined to think that, though Denver's roster looks pretty different, they might have about a quarter-point worth of revenge floating around, and the only scheduling note is that Denver is coming off a game yesterday. We don't have much to work with, in terms of the Nuggets new roster playing back-to-back games, though they did seem to poop out in the 4th quarter in Portland a few days back. The team is deep enough to have success in fatigue spots, so, while I'd love to back Utah to get some confidence-boosting win, I think I have to ride the hot hand. Leans to DENVER and the OVER.

New Nuggets Clickin' [Bleacher Report]

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Paul's Preview in the Big Apple


I think maybe the most fun we can have in the opening paragraph is to try to predict how the talking heads are going to fill airtime leading up to games in the evening. While we concentrate on games with scheduling angles, revenge, under-the-radar injuries and matchups, you know darn well that Chris Paul's Madison Square Garden performance, and whether he'll end up there soon.

As David Stern has noted multiple times, it's just a shame that every day has to be spent postulating where superstar players will go when their contracts run out, but that's the NBA landscape right now, with every "expert" trying to get his 15 minutes of fame by breaking a story first.

Slightly shorter writeups today due to the double-digit card size, but we'll get the meat of each game analyzed, as always!

Sports Wagering: NBA

Golden State Warriors (-1) @ Washington Wizards with a total of 214;
Golden State gets set to play a back-to-back on the road, and after being home for almost the entire 2011 calendar year, this could be a bit of a culture shock. The Warriors are an extremely streaky team, and though there may be some value to dig up, depending on whether the Warriors show any signs of life on the road, I'm just not that married to betting this game. Golden State just bought out Troy Murphy, so they've unloaded some cash, and that's never good for a team's confidence. These two teams have not yet met this season, Washington showed signs of life for 1 game after being called out by their rookie point guard, and then went right back to getting creamed in their next. The Warriors had lost 3 straight prior to last night's game Indiana (result pending), so why waste our time trying to decide between two teams that could lay an egg at any moment? Golden State is going to be the public side, and honestly, while I'd love to make a case for Washington, I'm not sure we can trust that young team right now. At least the Warriors are still showing signs of giving a hoot. I'd rather pass, but I suppose I'd sooner lean WARRIORS than the other way. Washington's lack of offensive rhythm pushes me towards the UNDER.

San Antonio Spurs (-9) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 201;
Here's an interesting one...or not. This one comes down to weighing two factors side-by-side. The first is recent ATS play of the two teams - the Cavaliers have been a covering machine, slipping just under the spread repeatedly while squeaking out a win every so often. The Spurs win games, but San Antonio has slowed considerably ATS as oddsmakers have finally gone ahead and overinflated their lines. The Spurs are also without Tony Parker for a few weeks, and Tim Duncan is battling a few nagging injuries of his own, and the Cavs just lost Antawn Jamison for the season. The second question is whether the Spurs are motivated enough to win by double digits on the road? They've done it before, and that's sort of the reason to be cautious, but given the injuries and the Spurs catbird seat in the West, I don't expect them to pour it on...though, now that last night's results are in, maybe they do get a little pissed and beat someone silly. NO real lean on the side, and the OVER.

Chicago Bulls @ Atlanta Hawks with a total of N/A;
I would assume this line is off because of the injury to Josh Smith. No matter the reason, the Hawks, who, to their credit, are playing better, are in a terrible scheduling spot, here. Atlanta has been out west since the All Star Break, and they've been on the road since the 14th of February. This is a true sluggish spot. The Bulls, meanwhile, are playing dominant basketball, working Joakim Noah back into the mix perfectly, aside from a first game hiccup against Toronto. Since that loss, the Bulls are 3-0, including 2 road wins, Chicago's only real weakness. Interestingly, these teams have not met this year, so no revenge to speak of, and each team has a pretty meaningful game coming up on the schedule. All other things equal, I can't ignore Atlanta's return home being a rough spot for them - lean to CHICAGO and the UNDER.

New Orleans Hornets @ New York Knicks (-3.5) with a total of 201;
This is one of those spots where the Hornets are going to try to just hang around, and hang around a little more. They know they're going to be at a huge disadvantage on the offensive end, and that's the case for New Orleans in about half their games, but if the Hornets can clamp down those defensive hooks and just keep it close, anything can happen. Both teams are playing the second half of a back-to-back, with New Orleans traveling in from Toronto, and New York returning from Orlando. This game is going to be one of the more heavily bet contests of the night, courtesy of the Chris Paul in New York angle, and though that should create some built-in line value on the road team, the Hornets are a little unpredictable these days. Is playing New York the easy side? Absolutely, but I think they've got as decent a shot as the Hornets at covering this number. Don't overthink things too much - tiny lean to the KNICKS and the UNDER.

Related: Dwight Howard or Chris Paul to New York? [Bleacher Report]

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Detroit Pistons with a total of N/A;
I think we'll learn a fair amount about the Pistons from last night's game when it's done. As I type this, Milwaukee is out to a very early lead, but to me, betting this Pistons-Wolves game comes down to what we think we can expect from Detroit. The Pistons have gone back to square one, and Coach Kuester, who still has a job, amazingly, has said that effort level will determine playing time, that he's not going to pick favorites, and if you show up and play hard, he'll get you in the game. That should, on paper, make sense for a Pistons team that has been in turmoil for darn near 3 months, but only time will tell if this plan makes any sense. It feels like Detroit is just looking for a stop-gap to get them to the end of another lost season, but hey, what do I know? Full disclosure - I actually don't even care what Minnesota's doing. My handicapping of this game is entirely Detroit, since I believe we'll see a line that is just an oddsmaker's best guess. Can we exploit it? Possibly. Let's WAIT AND SEE.

Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics (-7) with a total of 197.5;
Cursed competing angles. The Celtics haven't been home in over 2 weeks, spending the All Star Break in Los Angeles before kicking off a road trip on the West coast. Now, coming home, this is the type of spot where I would normally be salivating to fade Boston. Unfortunately, Boston has revenge from an awful performance in Phoenix a shade over a month ago. Boston was exhausted in that game, and I can't help but think they'll want to show Phoenix that the Suns can't just run up and down the court in their house. Phoenix, somewhat quietly, put together a nice little 9-3 SU February, and they closed the month witha 4-game win streak, albeit on a series of heart-stoppers. I'm curious to see how the betting public reacts to this game, since the line strikes me as a bit of a throw-away. Considering Boston was a 4.5-point road favorite on the second half of a back-to-back, and now lay just 7 at home, I'd love to fade the team coming home, but there just isn't much value there. Microscopic lean to the visiting SUNS and the OVER.

Indiana Pacers @ Oklahoma City Thunder (-7) with a total of 210.5;
I guess the question in this game is whether either team will put any effort into playing defense. We know the Pacers can walk the ball up the court when they have to and dump it to Roy Hibbert, but that hasn't been the plan under Coach Vogel. Indiana played to quite a few overs before a few poor offensive performances this last week. The Thunder have played some lower scoring games, but that has been largely because of the ridiculous size of the two opponents (Lakers, Magic). You have to think the Thunder are going to look to get back into their quicker tempo, especially against a Pacers team that should be willing to let that happen. The Thunder did beat Indiana on the road earlier this year, so there could be just a tiny flavor of revenge, though I'm not sure it's enough to shift me to the Pacers side, not when the Thunder are as good as they are coming off losses. I suppose I could offer a very small side lean to the THUNDER and a slightly larger lean to the OVER.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Denver Nuggets (-7.5) with a total of 202;
I wonder if Denver swung from underrated to overrated in one game. It's quite possible, though it's also possible that this line is exactly where it should be. The one thing I don't believe to be the case is that this line is deflated. Denver has come out since the trade deadline move and has covered every single game. That can't go on forever. The Bobcats began a very difficult road trip with a decisive loss in Orlando, now they play in Denver before heading to LA and then Portland. The ultimate conservative play would be to fade the Bobcats when they head home, since the return trip from Portland is going to tire them just as much as the trip itself, but if we're going to try to find times to bet on Charlotte games between now and then, we need to be extremely deliberate. Both teams in this game have lost some valuable pieces, and gained some others, and I can't help but think the Bobcats will cover a few spreads, eventually. Alright, enough fluff - very small lean to DENVER in this one, and I mean extremely small, and I would take a peek at the UNDER, since both teams are going to be a little disjointed at times.

Portland Trailblazers (-4.5) @ Sacramento Kings with a total of 198;
This line isn't right. Portland is hosting the Houston Rockets as we speak, and oddsmakers feel they're strong enough to still lay 4.5 in Sacramento, a pretty darn tough place to play? I'm not sure I'm buying it. Portland was laying just 1.5 points the last time they visited Sacramento, and they weren't on a back-to-back in that one. Is Tyreke Evans really worth almost 5 points? I'm not in love with the Kings by any stretch, since we know how they can go through brutal offensive slumps mid-game, but in terms of pure line value, I just don't believe the Blazers are 9.5-points better than the Kings right now. Of course, if Portland's starters only play 25 minutes against Houston, that's another story, but with Roy likely sitting this one out, Camby not quite at full strength, and Aldridge starting to cool a tad, the KINGS might just slip through and win one, and we know Portland tends to run a little more when they're tired, so slight OVER lean.

Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Clippers with a total of N/A;
The possibility of Eric Gordon's return makes me want to watch this game and see how he looks. We know how strong the Clippers can be when Gordon and Griffin are running an inside-outside game, but if he's not completely healthy, he's going to move the line unnecessarily, and the Rockets, a very good offensive team, can take advantage of the type of long rebounds that long, missed shots lead to. The Clippers are not a good bet right now, and we only got on them in their last game because I felt Sacramento would come out much flatter than they ultimately did. Unless we have a great reason to back Griffin and company, they are a team best avoided. LA heads back out on the road after a game with Denver, too, so things aren't going to get any easier. At some point the value will pass through that midpoint, and we can start watching LA more closely, but as long as they're working Mo Williams into the offense, and Gordon is going to try to get back into game shape, they're a fade or an under play until further notice. No real lean on the side, though HOUSTON has been hot, and some offensive funkiness on the Clippers side just might keep this under, if the total is high enough.

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