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PB: On the Grizzlies bringing blues to Beale Street

Thread Starter PB: On the Grizzlies bringing blues to Beale Street
David Malinsky
Joined: 08/11/2014
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Point Blank – March 13, 2017

On the Grizzlies bringing blues to Beale Street…Will the Wizards order one more on “Last Call” or just head home…Yes, the Timberwolves really have been the NBA's best team in March (how's that for Madness)...

Yes the NCAA brackets are dancing around the heads of most folks in the sports betting arena like visions of sugar plums at Christmas time (I’ve honestly never had one but it does allow for a somewhat literate opening). But today it is time to detour to the NBA for some key talking points, the final furlong of that regular season schedule having become so much more interesting.

Tomorrow will be Bracket Tuesday, and it is in the early stages of filling one out that this particular NCAA tourney brings such a fascination – it really is that wide open. The NIT has also been able to put a quality field together, and I will touch upon one of the key issues for that tourney tomorrow as well (to get a head start on that one you can begin looking up which of the first round home teams are on spring break, an item that can have a significant impact on the crowds). I can also save you the time of typing if you have questions about the CBI or College Insider tourneys – I do not follow them at all.

Now time for the Monday NBA hardwoods, and I’ll begin by revisiting Memphis, where the struggles of the Grizzlies were first detailed here last Thursday. Since then things have gone from bad to worse…

Item: It got even more grisly for the Grizzlies since our last visit

Memphis opened 36-25 in the first campaign under David Fizdale, and off of the injury-riddled 42-40 of last season there should have been plenty of optimism, and the consideration that the Grizzlies were being successful. Yet back-to-back losses led Fizdale to make that major lineup change last Monday vs. Brooklyn, JaMychal Green and Tony Allen out of the starting lineup and Andrew Harrison and Brandan Wright in, and it led to a dismal 122-109 loss to the Nets, who were +10.5 point underdogs.

A winning team on the way to the playoffs does not lose at home to the Nets by 13. Hence the focus last Thursday on the “why” behind Fizdale’s move, and whether it was a coach that had lost patience with his team, perhaps not accepting their true realities. Then things got worse.

Fizdale stayed with Harrison/Wright as starters for Thursday’s game vs. the Clippers, and instead of having Green step back in for the injured Chandler Parsons it was James Ennis starting. The Grizzlies got routed 114-98. On Saturday vs. Atlanta Parsons was able to return, but it was Wright back to the bench and Ennis staying in the starting lineup. The Hawks played without Dwight Howard, yet rolled 107-90.

Add the three games up from a market standpoint and it is about as bad of a week as a team can have – in going 0-3 SU and ATS Memphis lost to the projections by 65.5 points. The question now becomes what happens next – is there an inevitable pendulum that should have them swinging back in a positive direction, or is that general rule something that has been shattered by Fizdale potentially not having a good grasp right now?

The HC offered a rather troubling - “We’re just bad right now and for whatever reason we can’t get it together” in the aftermath of the loss to the Hawks, when I would have been more comfortable hearing him talk about the tweaking having backfired. More to the point is this from Mike Conley -

"We're in our own heads right now. Individually, we are hesitant and we are doubting ourselves. We have to look in the mirror and figure out what we can do to be better individually and as a team. We have to get this thing in the right direction and not let go of the rope."

  

If we want to make it more tangible from a purely basketball standpoint, the downfall has been almost entirely about defense and rebounding, and the numbers are rather alarming -

                          Def PP100           Reb

Pre-Break          102.8 (#4)           50.5 (#10)

Post-Break        114.5 (#30)          48.6 (#24)

Last 3                 117.3 (#30)         45.5 (#30)

That is a shocking decline. Some of it can be attributed to the shuffling of the rotation, and the impact that has on chemistry. This team was going to compete best by scrapping on defense and hitting the boards. But might there also be some lack of effort that is a part of it, perhaps what can happen when a team loses faith in their coach?

There is plenty to focus in on here, and there will also be an interesting case study in effort taking place in Minneapolis this evening…

Item: Will the Wizards place an order on “Last Call”, or have they already had enough

The Wizards close out a difficult cycle of five road games in seven nights this evening, playing in the third different time zone, and having been through a pair of the toughest back-to-back cycles a team could face. On Wednesday they had the difficult setting of a second night being at the altitude of Denver, and Saturday they had to play in Portland after a draining rally from down 15 to win in overtime at Sacramento the previous night. So what did they do vs. the Trail Blazers? They fell down by 21 but rallied again to win in OT (* - sort of) setting some NBA history in the process – no team had ever rallied from 15 points down on the road to win in OT on back-to-back nights.

So now as they take on the Timberwolves to close out this most adventurous week, let’s focus in on the minutes for the key cogs across those Friday/Saturday marathons -

                  SAC            PORT

Wall           40:39           40:21

Beal           42:44           32:52

Porter        39:22           39:44

Morris        25:44           42:46

(* as for that sort of, Markief Morris stepped out of bounds before making the game-winning shot, but according to league rules that particular aspect of the play was not reviewable).

It isn’t like there is a lot of downtime ahead – they only get Tuesday off before a home game vs. the Mavericks on Wednesday. Hence it brings up a key notion – instead of ordering another round for the Last Call of this trip, might Scott Brooks opt to get his team home while they are still sober, and back off a bit this evening?

Here is part of the problem facing the HC – 11 of the last 17 Wizards games are on the road, and there is yet another difficult trip out to the west coast ahead. Brooks has to be well aware of that in the back of his mind, especially since there won’t be consecutive days off for another two weeks. Yet that must also be juggled with the coach’s own words before the game vs. Portland tipped off -

“We all have 82 games to play and coach, and you have to do your best each game. You can’t give into the schedule. If you don’t, you’re going to be embarrassed. There’s going to be nights when you don’t have it, and I get that. You have 82 games, and some teams are just going to have a hot game. You have to at least give yourself a chance.”

Would bucking the Wizards tonight fly in the face of that? Perhaps, although the draining nature of the win over the Trail Blazers might also impact Brooks and his game plan going forward. But there is also a pertinent handicapping point to be made – Washington already looks like a tired team (Wall is #5 in the NBA in minutes per game and Beal #20).

In going 5-1 SU over the last six games there may not be much reason for anyone to be thinking that way, but there was some bad basketball out there. They lost 114-106 to the Lowry-less Raptors as a home favorite, then had to chase down Orlando to escape 115-114 as -12.5, trailing by 10 points with 10:00 remaining. In the first game of the road trip they trailed Phoenix by 11 points midway through the third quarter. The win at Denver the following evening was made much easier by Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Juric and Kenneth Faried not be available for the Nuggets. And I have already recapped what happened over the weekend at Sacramento and Portland.

The bottom line for the Wizards is that they have trailed in double figures in the second half in five of the last six games, none of it vs. top-flight competition, yet had the talent and the will to claw back and win four of them. Some of that is the grit they bring, but those rallies were also made possible by the competition being poor.

Tonight it might be a tougher challenge than many will perceive…

Item: Minnesota may be "getting it" on defense

Let’s start this with a fun contrast – take those Washington deficits over the past six games, and factor them based on the competition, and then look at this four-game sequence for the Timberwolves last week, measuring their best scoreboard moment in the fourth quarter, all against difficult competition –

A. Led by 29 at Utah

B. Led by 9 at San Antonio

C. Led by 20 at home vs. LAC

D. Led by 12 at home vs. Golden State

You have to be playing some damn good basketball to do that, and except for a late-game fail vs. the Spurs, they won the other three. Following that victory vs. Golden State was a clunker at Milwaukee on Saturday, but that can be excused to a degree – play those four Western powers consecutively and you are entitled to a physical letdown, and after beating the Warriors you can also be emotionally drained a bit as well.

So let’s start with one premise – in the month of March, Minnesota has been the NBA’s best team. Factor the scores and the competition and it is an easy case to make. But now the second part – after focusing in as a lead topic here earlier in the season about whether or not Tom Thibodeau could get this ultra-talented young roster to learn defense, they may indeed be “getting it” -

Minnesota Defense PP100

Pre-All Star Break        108.3 (#23)

Post-All Star Break       100.0 (#2)

And again note how challenging the schedule has been over that time, not only the four game cycle noted above, but also a road game at Houston, the single toughest defensive challenge in the league right now (in truth, they did not handle that one particularly well, yet still rate #2 in the league since the break).

So you can probably figure out where I am going with this – I will have #510 Minnesota (8:05 Eastern) in pocket at -1. This price point shows that the markets have not accepted how well the Timberwolves are playing right now, nor how sloppy the Wizards have been. To put the numbers into perspective the net Offense/Defense PP100 for Minnesota has been a +7.2 since the All Star break, #4 in the NBA, while for the Wizards it is a +0.5, for #15. And the T’Wolves have done that against a far tougher schedule.

  

The complete Point Blank Archive

@PregamePhd (a work in progress, feedback appreciated)

benjy
Joined: 03/07/2015
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Hey Dave,

The following schools are on spring break this week and have NIT home games:

Syracuse, Monmouth, Indiana, Colorado State, Alabama, Utah, UCF, Iowa, Houston, TCU & Illinois State

sportsinvestingtoday
Joined: 10/25/2014
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Hi David,

at 9/1 to win the east region, i think there is tremendous value on SMU. Duke and Villanova will cover up some challenges.  interested to get your thoughts here?

at 12/1 to win the midwest, i think there is tremendous value on Iowa State.  to get there, its wins over Nevada, possibly Purdue, Kansas (which they did in the regular season, nearly twice) the bottom part of the bracket could produce one of three teams, Louisville, Oregon or OK St.  Louisville has had challenges versus gifted offensive teams, that defense being vulnerable, Oregon without Boucher not the same, and OK St is a favorable match-up.  Do you see value at 12/1 on Iowa St?

David Malinsky
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Posts: 12329
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benjy

The following schools are on spring break this week and have NIT home games:

Syracuse, Monmouth, Indiana, Colorado State, Alabama, Utah, UCF, Iowa, Houston, TCU & Illinois State

Well done, and I will bring that list back in again tomorrow for easy tracking, since many of the first round winners are going to get another quick home game.

There is also an important point the often gets neglected - while there is the obvious notion of fewer fans, for many of the players, who have been through a long grind and did not get n NCAA tourney reward, it means that they have to keep practicing and playing instead of getting to go on break themselves. There may be some that would genuinely prefer to be on a beach somewhere than having to keep playing, with the NIT filled with teams that lost in their final game.

David Malinsky
Joined: 08/11/2014
Posts: 12329
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sportsinvestingtoday

Hi David,

at 9/1 to win the east region, i think there is tremendous value on SMU. Duke and Villanova will cover up some challenges.  interested to get your thoughts here?

at 12/1 to win the midwest, i think there is tremendous value on Iowa State.  to get there, its wins over Nevada, possibly Purdue, Kansas (which they did in the regular season, nearly twice) the bottom part of the bracket could produce one of three teams, Louisville, Oregon or OK St.  Louisville has had challenges versus gifted offensive teams, that defense being vulnerable, Oregon without Boucher not the same, and OK St is a favorable match-up.  Do you see value at 12/1 on Iowa St?

One of the prime considerations, which will be a lead topic tomorrow, is whether one can get a better return by rolling over a team on the Money Line, as opposed to buying a future's ticket. For both SMU and Iowa State, two teams that I like a lot, the M.L. option may be a bit better. SMU has not been a "public" team at all this season, with no better indication of that then a 22-6-1 ATS tally, the markets never really catching on. The prospect of facing Duke and Villanova back-to-back, two of the most "public" teams out there, could mean a fair bit of value in those particular games. So I believe 4 straight SMU money line bets would return better than a 9-1.

The value equation is a little different with Iowa State, which has a better following, to the point at which the Cyclones might be favored vs. Purdue in the second round, despite being a #5 vs. a #4. But I still tend to believe that rolling over 4 money line tickets will bring back more than 12-1.

wbunting4
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Dave, I am curious to get your initial thoughts on the USC vs. Providence matchup.  Providence could have some difficulty slowing down Metu and Boatwright.  I couldn't find a matchup for Providence where they had to face a pair of skilled bigs like this.  In fact, the whole Big East looks kind of small on the front court.  This length disparity seems like a huge advantage for the Trojans.  

benjy
Joined: 03/07/2015
Posts: 1598
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Hey Dave,

Syracuse may be ripe to lay an egg on Tuesday at home vs. UNC Greensboro.  Here are some quotes from HC Jim Boeheim:

"All that matters," the big man stated without a hint of equivocation, "is what you do in the NCAA Tournament. That's all that matters." (from an interview in January 2017)

"Everybody's disappointed," Boeheim glumy confessed soon after the 68-team field had been identified and his outfit had been shunned. "That's only what you would expect. Nobody's happy."

"The year before last was kind of mediocre," said Boeheim only a few days after his January rejection of all things not NCAA Tournament. "This year is kind of mediocre. And that happens in this business. It's hard not to have that happen. We've done it eight and 10 years in a row. And some people have gone 20 years in a row, but that's very hard. It's a very difficult landscape in college basketball. There's parity and other stuff. You can slip very easily.

"We've had three or four different times in 40 years where we were going to struggle. Sometimes it's harder than others. Then there's always a re-birth when you get a couple of guys and you get back. But through our history, we had a couple of NIT years and then we got good. Then, we had an NIT year and a mediocre NCAA year. We've had two or three of those times."

With the students on Spring Break, word is that they are concerned about being able to get fans to come to the game, and tickets have been put on sale for $15, so the environment will be flat to say the least.

Do you see UNC Greensboro as having enough talent to stay within the current market of 12?

Bama man
Joined: 10/15/2012
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Hey Dave I've noticed that the Twolves have jumped out to 1q and 1H leads and sometimes give it up for  the game. Any thoughts on playing Minny 1q and/ or 1H as well as the game in tonight's game?

benjy
Joined: 03/07/2015
Posts: 1598
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Hey Dave,

The vibes from Colorado State about the NIT are the polar opposite from Syracuse.  The Rams are excited to continue playing, and the coach is enthusiastic about the opportunity.

Gian Clavell, Emmanuel Omogbo and the rest of the players on CSU's men's basketball team aren't done just yet. They're having too much fun playing together.

So they'll be ready Tuesday night when the Rams open play in the NIT against the College of Charleston at Moby Arena.

"We still have more energy, more guys ready to go. We're all young, and we just want to play," Omogbo said Saturday, after the Rams' 79-71 loss to Nevada in the title game of the Mountain West tournament.

That desire to keep playing, to advance deep into the tournament, is the key to participating in postseason events, CSU coach Larry Eustachy said Sunday night.

Colorado State University's team didn't have it in 2015, when the Rams, as a No. 1 seed, dropped a first-round home game 86-76 in the NIT to South Dakota State after failing to receive an NCAA tournament berth they felt they had earned with a 27-6 record and No. 29 RPI. They didn't have it last year, either, he said, when the Rams turned down invitations to participate in the College Basketball Invitational and at least one other lower-tier postseason event.

"Last year's team was just so burned out; they didn't want to go to the CBI or anything," Eustachy said. "So I asked them point blank (after the MW title game), 'If we're going to go into a postseason tournament, we really want to try to win the whole thing.'

"They really want to play; they're excited. I think that's more than half the battle."

"We've got an opportunity to play (more games) with this team together, and that's what I'm looking forward to," said Clavell, the MW Player of the Year.

Do you see value on laying 3.5 with Colorado State in this matchup?

Coolfish7
Joined: 03/19/2016
Posts: 90
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David Malinsky

benjy

The following schools are on spring break this week and have NIT home games:

Syracuse, Monmouth, Indiana, Colorado State, Alabama, Utah, UCF, Iowa, Houston, TCU & Illinois State

Well done, and I will bring that list back in again tomorrow for easy tracking, since many of the first round winners are going to get another quick home game.

There is also an important point the often gets neglected - while there is the obvious notion of fewer fans, for many of the players, who have been through a long grind and did not get n NCAA tourney reward, it means that they have to keep practicing and playing instead of getting to go on break themselves. There may be some that would genuinely prefer to be on a beach somewhere than having to keep playing, with the NIT filled with teams that lost in their final game.

It is interesting that this year there are so many schools on spring break.  I looked up last year's bracket and their academic calendars and only found 4 schools on break.  Here are the results:

Florida State (4) vs Davidson, 84-74

Monmouth (1) vs Bucknell, 90-80

George Washington (4) vs Hofstra, 82-80

Ohio State (3) vs Akron, 72-63

Unfortunately I don't have a quick way to look up the spreads from last year, so if someone out there has that ability, we might be able to quantify the ATS performance of the spring break theory, albeit with an extremely small sample.

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