What a swell Friday, eh? 4-0 on NBA plays for the 2nd straight Friday, and I'm slowly falling in love with that day of the week...onto Saturday, the Game of the Week, and a nice crop of NBA games with quite a few scheduling angles (I'm looking at you, Jeff!)
I'm shrinking the old Friday blog just so I still have it on hand, but no one is really inclined to go back and read the wrong day...
Sports Wagering: NBA
New York Knicks @ Philadelphia 76ers (-3.5) with a total of 209;
This is the first half of a home-and-home between the Knicks and Sixers, and you cats know how I love to handle these situations: watch the first game, go a little big on the second. And, frankly, I don't see any reason to change my approach here. Philadelphia is playing excellent basketball, and with Andre Iguodala back at full strength, the team is able to play him at a point forward position, an awfully tough defensive assignment for most opposing small forwards. The Knicks can deploy a handful of athletic wing players, so we might see the Sixers go to a more traditional offense. I rather think Elton Brand is a decent defensive challenge for Amar'e Stoudemire, too. The Knicks are on revenge from a home loss to Philadelphia back near the beginning of the season, which makes me think they might actually win this one. What does all that garbage mean? PLAY THE NEXT ONE on the side, and slight totals lean to the OVER.
Orlando Magic (-6) @ Washington Wizards with a total of 199;
I really, really want to find a way to back the Wizards in this game, with Orlando coming off a huge showdown, at home, on TNT, with the Miami Heat, but I'm struggling to do so. Washington is playing its first home game off a 4-game road trip that, not surprisingly, went poorly. I suppose you could argue a letdown for Orlando; I suppose you could argue a sluggish spot for Washington; I also suppose you could say Washington is on revenge, though a 1-point loss to the Magic at home was almost a revenge win. Tiny lean to WASHINGTON, though ultimately, I will likely pass, and lean to UNDER.
Miami Heat (-6) @ Charlotte Bobcats with a total of 188;
Much like with Orlando, the Miami letdown argument is going to be at the forefront, but much like with the Wizards, Charlotte is playing its first home game in a long, long time. The Bobcats were on the road for 6 games in 9 days, and this home game absolutely falls into that sluggish category. And, wouldn't you know it, we have competing situational/scheduling angles, yet again. Charlotte is on double revenge, so they have that going for them, but I don't think I can ever find a good enough reason to take a team returning home off a 6-game road trip, especially not a club that traveled as far as Charlotte. The Bobcats' trip was rather poorly planned, it seems, jetting from Sacramento to Phoenix, back to Northern California, LA, Utah, and Detroit. That's too much. This line is coming down because of the potential for a Miami letdown and the Charlotte double-revenge, but I don't buy it. Slight lean to MIAMI and the UNDER.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Toronto Raptors (-3.5) with a total of 215;
This is a pretty prominent revenge game for the Raptors, considering they only see Minnesota twice a year, and they just happened to have played the Wolves within the last week. Yes, Toronto had some travel issues, and they might be a hair tired, but I happen to think they'll be quite pleased to get back home, where they play 5 of the next 6. This line is a pretty strong indicator that Toronto brings a solid game, too. I admit, I can't stand the Raptors these days - they're weak on the boards, they rely far too much on jumpshots, play zero defense, and seem to have at least one quarter every game where they tank, but for any team that has lost 13 in a row to be laying 3.5, I can't argue with the line. Lean to the revenge-minded RAPTORS and the OVER.
Portland Trailblazers @ Indiana Pacers (-3) with a total of 194;
This line surprises the hell out of me - I know the Pacers won a couple, but those wins came against, arguably, the two worst teams in the NBA. I'm not convinced the "new" Pacers are any different. We've been told they're going to run the offense through the point guard quite a bit more, which is great for Darren Collison's fantasy stats, but it remains to be seen if it's going to change the Pacers fortune much. The Blazers are coming in off an ugly loss to Denver, but they never play well at the Pepsi Center. Portland is going to try to slow the game down and make it a defensive struggle, and frankly, I don't see much of a reason to think the Pacers really are as good as this line indicates. Small lean to PORTLAND and the OVER.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Atlanta Hawks (-7.5) with a total of 196;
The Clippers may have gotten a little ahead of themselves, and after a red-hot stretch, have now lost 3 of 5. The Clips are still a terrible road team, but this is a rather unique situation, because, basically, LA is playing a quarter of its road games all at once. This game marks the start of an epic 11-game road trip for the Clippers, and if history has taught us anything, it's that teams tend to give their best efforts on long road trips near the beginning. In fact, even recent history seems to suggest the same - the Bobcats won 3 straight to open their recent 6-gamer, then lost 2; the Nuggets won 3, then lost 2; the Bulls covered 6 of 7 games on their Circus trip back in November, etc. The Hawks shouldn't be laying more than a handful to almost anyone - the team defense is suffering, as Atlanta seems content to rely on offensive firepower to win, and the Clippers strike me as a team that's going to give max effort for 48 minutes, and it's a revenge game, to boot. Lean to the CLIPSHOW and the OVER.
New Jersey Nets @ Detroit Pistons (-5) with a total of 187;
Double road revenge for the Pistons would seem to be the one key angle at play in this game, as Detroit has had to play the first 2 meetings of the year in Jersey, and has dropped them both. Now, the Nets have to fly to Motown and try to solve their road issues against a team that may very well be out for blood. Interestingly, Detroit remains not-that-far out of a Playoff spot, and while it would seem to be a bit of a stretch (given Charlotte and Philadelphia playing better), it's not out of the question, and beating teams like Jersey could go a long way toward getting that win count up. The Nets are an horrid 3-23 road team, so put that together with Detroit's slightly improved offense, and you've got yourself a lean. Look at DETROIT and no real lean on the total, but if I must, I'd lean OVER.
Dallas Mavericks @ Boston Celtics (-6.5) with a total of 190;
This is one of those games where the only thing I want to know is how the public is going to bet it, because I just don't know for sure. Boston is definitely the more public club, though Dallas's throttling of the Knicks at MSG brought them back into the spotlight. Dallas had lost enough of its public love during a cold stretch, that I think, and I could be wrong, that this line should get relatively split action. And that's fine, because I like Dallas here. I'm not sold that they win the game, but I get the feeling they keep it close. Boston is playing its first home game off a 4-game West coast swing through Portland, Phoenix, LA and Sacramento. They went 3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS, but that sort of success should be enough to get Boston to relax for a quarter tonight. Dallas is ramping its game back up, and I might even consider the moneyline, but Boston is on revenge from a 2-point loss in Dallas. This could very easily be a 2-point game the other way. Lean to the MAVERICKS and the UNDER.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Memphis Grizzlies (-13.5) with a total of 202.5;
Cleveland is finding ways to cover games lately, due to some absurdly inflated spreads, but a blowout loss is always just a few turnovers away. There aren't any especially evident angles, though I suppose Memphis did lose to Cleveland back in November, but I'm not sure how a team "gets up" to play the Cavs, even if there's a smattering of revenge involved. PASS ALL AROUND.
Oklahoma City Thunder (-1) @ Phoenix Suns with a total 216;
Here we have home revenge for the Thunder, and something tells me they remember that loss. The Suns were shorthanded, but rolled into Oklahoma City and shot nearly 58% in a narrow 3-point win over the Thunder, and if Oklahoma plays even a shred of defense, they win that game going away. Now, Phoenix is playing pretty well right now, largely because of my new NBA hero, Marcin Gortat, but the Thunder are simply too talented. No one on the Suns is going to be able to handle Westbrook or Durant, and as Phoenix generally relies on outscoring teams, the Thunder have no shortage of offense with which to combat that tactic. I like the energy of the Suns lately, but the Nash-to-Lopez/Gortat combo isn't going to be enough. Lean to the THUNDER and the OVER.
San Antonio Spurs (-5.5) @ Sacramento Kings with a total of 198;
Unlike the Magic and Heat games we discussed earlier, in this one, the Spurs are in a potential letdown, but the home team isn't returning from a long road trip. Instead, the Kings are playing their best basketball of the season, are covering games (winning some, even), and are well rested. This is the first meeting of the season between these two teams, and I'll admit, from a matchup perspective, Tim Duncan might be the biggest challenge a suddenly surging Demarcus Cousins will face, but I can't help but think the Kings have the confidence to keep it close. Beno Udrih will be facing his old team, the Spurs have had a tendency to get off to slow starts, and if San Antonio is fighting back all night, they might win by 2-3 and no one would leave the arena surprised. Lean to SACRAMENTO and the UNDER.
Utah Jazz @ Denver Nuggets with a total of N/A;
I think I saw everything I needed to when the Jazz went into Oakland and got completely shut down by a crummy defensive Warriors team. Without Deron Williams and without Andrei Kirilenko, the Jazz become one-dimensional. They feed the ball to Millsap and Jefferson in the post, and hope for the best. And yes, against a weaker Rockets team, it was almost (and probably should have been) enough. Against the bigger, faster Nuggets at the mean, nasty old Pepsi Center, I can't see Utah keeping this thing within striking distance. That is, of course, assuming Deron misses another game or two. Last I heard, he couldn't shoot outside of 11 feet, so even if he does play, what sort of level of effectiveness will he have? Utah is on revenge from opening night, but it just doesn't have that normal sting. We can back the Jazz when they're healthy and hosting Denver, but here, I can't help but lean to the NUGGETS to win relatively large, and the Jazz's offensive woes point to an UNDER.