Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Battle for Florida, Found 4

Opener:

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]

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