Things look a bit dicey for Rasheed...
Rumors are swirling about a few trades, so I thought I'd focus on those instead of just the 3 NBA games yesterday (during which we nabbed a close win with the Denver/Miami Under).
First, Andre Miller, who cannot actually be traded until December 15 because of free agent signing rules, is apparently on the trade block. Portland overspent on Andre, and for whatever reason, the team's shining star, Brandon Roy, prefers playing with Steve Blake. That is one of the most ridiculous decisions I've heard, though Blake's ability to shoot the 3 does spread the floor, and Andre Miller is a pass-first floor general, better suited to play with a bunch of young scorers who need someone to get them the ball at the right time. It just hasn't been a good match in Portland, but there are plenty of teams that could use Andre's services.
Second, apparently there are serious talks going on between the Knicks and Bulls of a Tyrus Thomas for Al Harrington swap. This would seem to be a pretty pointless trade, though New York is clearing even more salary cap space. This would have more fantasy ramifications than on-court, since Tyrus should see plenty of court time in New York, and the Bulls will continue to underperform until something wakes them up.
- Washington by 4 at home with a total of 216. Well, what can I say? We covered the Raptors on yesterday's podcast, so you know this team has officially bottomed out, giving up almost 150 points to the Hawks in a truly embarrassing loss. A season like the one Toronto is having is not going to keep Chris Bosh around, and it's looking like the addition of Hedo Turkoglu was not terribly important. This team has lost 5 in a row SU and ATS, and suddenly find themselves 8-12 ATS on the season, and 3-8 ATS on the road. They lose by an average margin of 11 points away from home. All that is just fine and dandy, but the one major concern in this one is that the Wizards beat Toronto in Canada just 3 days ago, and fact of the matter is that it is just not easy to beat a team twice that quickly. Washington is not a dominant club, so it's not as though they can just overwhelm the Raptors the way the Hawks did. I think Toronto actually has some value in this game, and while I'm aware of their road issues, this game feels like it has to be Toronto or nothing. Right now, I'm leaning towards nothing. In terms of the total, these teams played under 212.5 in Toronto, and now we're seeing a total 3.5 points higher. This seems to indicate that oddsmakers think the Raptors actually stay tough in this one and do some scoring. I lean slightly to the Over.
- Atlanta by 12.5, total of 217. This line is quite large. I realize that Atlanta is one of the better teams in the League, and New York is certainly not, but given the Knicks have actually played some decent basketball recently, I'm surprised to see a line this high. Atlanta is coming off a ridiculous beating of the Raptors where the team shot almost 60% for the game, and most of the club talked about that one as "just one of those nights where everything goes in." I'm not sure Atlanta can pull off that sort of offensive performance two straight games. Let's be reasonable: Atlanta will likely win this game, but eclipsing 12.5 means this thing is going to have to be a blowout, and it means the back-door is never quite shut. Atlanta is 13-5 ATS this year, but 2-4 ATS in their last 6, so the team might be slightly overvalued, and I also like that the Hawks are traveling to Dallas as soon as this one ends for a much more marquee match with the Mavs. The Knicks, meanwhile, have a date with the Nets on Sunday, so they can focus pretty hard on this one. The Knicks are a pathetic 4-15 on the season, but a slightly less dismal 8-11 ATS, but my favorite note on New York is that their home/road split is only 2.8 points. They really don't seem to care where they're playing, they lose by a handful, but if they can even put 2-3 quarters of decent basketball together here, they should be able to cover. Slight lean to NY. The total of 217 feels pretty accurate, though given Atlanta's last game potentially moving the total up a point or two, I'd lean Under.
- Oklahoma City collecting 3.5 at home with a total of 191.5. Obviously, Boston is in the worse of the two spots, here. Coming off last night's hard-fought TNT win over the Spurs, the Celtics have to get right back out there against a better-than-average Thunder club. Still, the overarching theme with the Celtics is that they do not mind playing on the road. They're 15-4 overall this year, 9-10 ATS, but 8-1 SU on the road and 5-4 ATS, so we certainly shouldn't count them out. This is a clear line movement watcher, since Boston has three days off after this game, and you'd imagine Doc Rivers has told his team to exhaust themselves to get a win, then they can take some time to recharge. The Thunder are coming off a win over the Sixers (and a cover), as they moved to 10-8 SU this year, and 11-7 ATS. The value here is obviously with the Thunder, but Boston seems to be on a bit of a mission on this road trip, so I'm leery about going in either direction. For the total, you just knew Boston and San Antonio would play a grinder last night, but the Thunder are suddenly moving things along a bit quicker. I trust Boston to control the tempo in this one since they're the veteran team, so I lean slightly to the Under, but truth be told, this one confuses me just a little. Oklahoma has been breaking 100 lately (aside from the loss to Houston), so they may very well push this score up. I can only shrug.
- Cavs by 12 with a total of 190. Well, these teams have already met in Cleveland once, and the Bulls won that game 86-85 against an 11.5-point spread. Deja vu? I doubt it. These teams have gone in decidedly different directions since that game, with Cleveland rattling off a 10-2 mark since Chicago beat them, and the Bulls going 4-7, including a 5-game losing streak. Chicago is coming off a home win (and an ATS push) against the depressingly undermanned Pistons, so I don't think we really learned much there. They have to go back on the road for this one, where they're just 2-8, and really, Chicago has been one of the worst ATS bets this season, at just 5-10-1 against the spread. It's tough to take either side, and of course the value is with the Bulls getting 12 points, but right now they may be so bad that I'm not sure I could advocate such a move. I'd like to see this line climb to 12.5 to build some confidence in the Cavs on the big cover; time will tell. The total of 190 is 19 points higher than the number these teams combined to hit earlier this year, and that tells us something, as well. Cleveland has been scoring with ease, lately. My concern is that the Bulls may not break 90. No lean on the total.
- Memphis getting 5 points at home with a total of 207. This is a nice value on the Grizzlies, but let's take a closer look. Memphis is coming off a road win over the hapless Timberwolves, but before that, two straight fetid defeats in Utah and against the Clippers. They have failed to cover in their last 3 contests, and are just 8-11 ATS on the season...BUT...Memphis is 4-3 at home SU against 3-8 on the road with a final score differential of 9.4 points, so clearly this team is much, much better on their home court. They seem to play better defense at home, more than anything else, though admittedly, the teams they've played in Memphis have been markedly worse than the teams they've played on the road. Dallas, at 14-5 SU and 12-7 ATS, is just flat-out good. They're coming off a 16-point beating of the Nets (that sent poor New Jersey to the worst start in NBA history), and they've actually won 9 of 11. Dallas is 8-3 on the road this year, so they're not afraid of playing outside of Dallas, a nice change from years past, but I'm not sure that's enough to give them this game. Dallas will be hosting Atlanta tomorrow, clearly a more important barometer game, so you just wonder if they'll be looking ahead a little. Memphis is just coming home from a 5-game road trip, so they might be sluggish. The better bet in this one might be the Under, if both teams are a bit distracted.
- Detroit laying 4.5 with a total of 186. Honestly, and I'd love to do a full breakdown, but without knowing what Pistons are playing, this one is a tough one to summarize. I've heard rumblings that Rip Hamilton is practicing aggressively, I've heard Charlie Villanueva is feeling better, and that Ben Gordon's ankle is still swollen and sore, but that he'll play through it, so, who the heck knows? With all these guys laid up, or playing through bumps and bruises, you have to believe the Pistons aren't going to be doing much in the way of pushing the ball. I'd go out on a limb and say I think this one goes Under, except the Bucks have played to the Over in 8 straight ballgames. There's a Milwaukee Under-Gravy-Train that's coming, but we just have to figure out when...
- The Hornets by TEN at home with a total of 200. I mean, I just look at this game and think, "What business does New Orleans have laying 10 points to anyone or anything?" and really, they have no business doing so. I know the Timberwolves are just awful, but this line is out of control. So, let's dig deeper. New Orleans MIGHT get Chris Paul back tonight, as his ankle has apparently healed much faster than was originally suspected, but even if he does return, he'll be rusty, and you have to believe there will be an adjustment period. Alright, so we have the 7-11 Hornets (9-9 ATS) laying double digits. Looking at their games this year, the Hornets have actually only won ONE game by more than 10, and that was a 28-point win in Southern California over the Clippers. Is this a trap line to get people to take Minnesota? I don't think so. The public is going to look for every reason NOT to take the Timberwolves, so my guess is that oddsmakers really feel this game ends near a 10-point margin. Interestingly, the Hornets are a perfect 4-0 SU and ATS at home since November 17. The Wolves, meanwhile, are a stunningly bad 2-16 SU, 7-11 ATS, but have actually played "okay" in their last 2 games. Al Jefferson and Ryan Gomes have both showed up, so you just wonder what kind of effort we'll see from these guys tonight. They do host Utah tomorrow, and you hate to talk about look-aheads with a 2-16 team, but Utah is a divisional game, so it's possible. Still, I lean to the big dog, and to the Over, since I think the Hornets have been pushing the pace, and I think Minny actually keeps up.
- Bobcats laying 5 in Jersey with a total of 181. Yikes, where do I begin? We all know the Nets are 0-18, and just 5-13 ATS, so not only have they been losing, but they've been losing bad. Given that we've never seen a team start 0-18, it's tough to know how Jersey will respond in this one. Maybe the pressure will be off, allowing them to finally loosen up a little and win a game; the pressure might continue to mount as the goose-egg just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I'd avoid this side under almost all circumstances, but we can take a look at Charlotte for the hell of it. After winning and covering 4 straight, the Bobcats got creamed by the Celtics, so they're liable to be angry going into this one, but at the same time, young teams often lose a couple in a row after winning a few. Make no mistake, this Charlotte team is really starting to gel. They do have a home game tomorrow against Philadelphia, but that's not a team that is going to create a look-ahead spot. In fact, playing an 0-18 team is precisely when you will not look ahead, as you know you're getting the hungriest, most irritated opponent in the NBA. I think this side is pretty sharp. I think the side has a shot of going Over, just because it's so low, but again, tough game to call.
- Utah by 8.5 with a total of 210. I just can't even believe what I'm seeing, with almost every early dollar coming on Indiana, and the only thing I can think is that the RIDICULOUSLY STUPID John Morrison system is moving lines again. I'm tempted to just say take Utah, because no one is slowing this team down, but let's actually handicap this game and make sure we're getting the value I initially think we're getting. Okay, for one, Utah has woken up at home. They're now 7-3 at whatever they call the Delta Center these days (is this place Energy Solutions Arena?), and they've won and covered 3 straight at home - BIG. Utah beat Chicago by 19, Portland by 16 and Memphis by 27, shooting over 60% twice and 58% in the other win. They're having fun, and they're steamrolling. Utah plays in Minnesota tomorrow, so the look-ahead isn't a huge issue at hand, so there's very little reason to think they won't put forth another solid effort. Not sure about 60% shooting again, but you just never know with these guys. The Pacers have lost 7 of 8; they've failed to cover in all 7 of those losses, and this team is now 6-10 both SU and ATS this year. They have plenty to look forward to, with bodies getting healthy and rotations getting set, but right now they're not shooting the ball that well and not playing very good defense. I lean Utah, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Jazz hit 115 points, so I lean slightly to the Over.
- Wow, tough, tough spot for Miami. Lakers by 11 with a total of 197. The Heat are being asked to really pull off a miracle in this one, at least to win the game. Miami got their clock cleaned in Denver late last night, then had to travel West to take on arguably the best and hottest team in the NBA. We all know what Miami's been up to, since we covered them in great detail in yesterday's RoundUp (losing a lot, getting one win in Portland), but what about the Lakers? Los Angeles is 14-3 on the season, but just 8-9 ATS. If we take a narrower window of time, the results are actually better, believe it or not. The Lakers have won 7 straight games, every single game by double digits! Because they're the Lakers, that still translates to just a 5-2 ATS record (there were some huge spreads in there), but right now no one is even coming close to competing. I see no reason to think Miami has a shot. You know D-Wade will come ready to play, but the Lakers ridiculous size on the inside, strength on the wings, and deeper bench should take care of Miami the same way they've taken care of these other teams. You figure either Kobe or Ron Artest will be on Wade, which does not bode well for Miami, and every other match-up in this game strongly favors LA. The total of 197 looks low to most bettors, but we must remember that the Heat will actually need to break 90, and I'm not sure they will. No lean on the total, lean to the Lakers on the gargantuan side.
- Chris Andersen is starting to wake up. I don't know if it was a bit of a stoner daze, but the Birdman was just not blocking shots the first couple weeks, but he's starting to pick up the pace, and I think this might be the start of a nice stretch of defense.