Sometimes watching Steve Nash, I start to think, to quote a rather famous film, that he's a "sophisticated [dribbling] robot sent from the future" to destroy defenses, but every once in a while it's nice to know he can't singlehandedly beat everyone. But I'll be damned if the Suns aren't still one of the best shows out there.
- Orlando by 13.5 with a total of 210.5. This line looks enormous right off the bat, and I think we'll see plenty of money on the Knicks as a result, a great deal of which will come because of New York laying a beating on the Phoenix Suns. I'm not a huge fan of this game, and with New York in a very bad situation, staring an emotional letdown right square in the face, this game could get opened up to 20 points in a hurry, and then if we're on Orlando we'll be sweating the backdoor, and if we're on New York we'll be praying Orlando lets up a little in the 4th quarter. This is just all bad. Orlando comes into this one having won 3 straight, and their last win was actually in New York. So the Magic have had plenty of time to rest up for the rematch, but we have to remember that it is not easy to play the same teams over and over again. Slight lean to the Magic, as I see Orlando hitting the free throw line a ton in this one, and the total staying Under. These are very weak leans, I reiterate.
- Wizards at home by 2.5 with a total of 196.5. This game has an absolute ton of factors worth handicapping, so we'll try to spend some time on it both now and throughout the day. First, the Wizards. Washington has really been bouncing between good and terrible performances, though frankly, the terribles have outnumbered the goods. Washinton beat Miami on the road 2 games back, got waxed by the Bobcats at home, then went on the road and outplayed Toronto in the 4th quarter to get a tough win in Canada. Now, the very next day, they have to travel all the way home, where they're just 3-4, to host a Bucks team that can't BUY a road win. Mathematically, this is a very tough spot for the Wizards, but the Bucks are just 2-5 on the road (7-2) at home, so it makes them a tough sell. Andrew Bogut returned to the lineup with a monster game against the Bulls, a game that saw the Bucks completely blow what looked like a sure cover in the waning moments, and surely a conclusion that has left some unpleasant flavors in the mouths of bettors everywhere. Since neither team looks well-prepared for this one, I simply have to lean slightly to the home team. The total might contain the better value, though, as Milwaukee has gone Over the total in 7 straight games; not always by a ton, but they're going Over no matter how you cut it. The Wizards, meanwhile, have gone Under in 3 straight, and I'm inclined to believe the fatigue factor, and the return of the Bucks big man should slow this one down a bit, and I lean Under.
- Atlanta by 9 with a total of 211.5. When will Toronto get its act together? This team is far too talented to hit tailspins like this one, and while we've already seen the 0-17 New Jersey Nets fire their head coach, Jay Triano of the Raptors might be next. At 7-11 on the season, this loaded club is easily, in my opinion, the biggest disappointment in the NBA. The Raps have lost 3 straight, and have failed to cover in all of them. Moreover, this team is 2-8 on the road, and just 3-7 ATS. This is also a pretty bad spot for Toronto, given they're coming off a 4th quarter meltdown at home against the Wizards, and now they have to travel roughly 1000 miles South to Atlanta for what's sure to be a tough, tough game with the Hawks. I also like the fact that the Raptors next game is in Washington, a rematch of a game they just lost, so there is the slight possibility that they might not be 100% invested in this one, perhaps a bit still annoyed with the home loss to the Wizards. On Atlanta's side of things, this team hasn't been playing quite as well over the last week as they did beforehand. Yes, the record is still solid at 12-5, and the home mark of 7-1 is one of the best in the NBA, but the Hawks have actually lost 3 of 4, and only covered in the one win mixed in there. One angle on this is that we have a little more value with Atlanta since the line won't be quite as inflated as if they were on a 6-game win streak, but at the same time we need to be careful because teams don't lose 3 of 4 unless they're slumping a bit. Still, I lean Atlanta to win a late blowout, and I lean to the Over with Toronto's miserable defense in the mix.
- Cleveland by 8 at home with a total of 213.5. Call me crazy, but I think it's Suns or nothing in this one. That may be a little nuts, given the circumstances, but I'm not sure I can back the Cavs to beat a really, really good team by 9 points or more. Of course, we've seen spots like this before, where the big underdog getting points seems too good to be true, and we've been burned before, so let's go through some breakdown and see if we can't change our own minds. The Cavs have been playing pretty well, that's where we'll start. Cleveland has won 9 of 11 games, but have covered just 6 of those same 11 games, so we can't take a great deal from that. Looking at the individual games over the last week or two gives us a little more information. Cleveland's 2 losses in those 11 games have come in Charlotte and in Washington, where the Wizards always give the Cavs fits, and the Bobcats put something in the water. So, really, the Cavs, when focused, have been dominant. Still, you very rarely see a Suns team go from a 7-point favorite on the road to an 8-point underdog the very next day, and that really gives me pause. The 6.5 points the Mavs were getting weren't even close to enough when they got blown out in Cleveland. Is this that point in the season where the Cavs go on a vicious run? Well, as a final thought, the Suns have been 7.5-point underdogs on the road twice before, and twice they've been absolutely blown out (Lakers, Magic). Weird game here, and it'll take more of our time to really figure it out. In terms of the total, I think you have to lean slightly to the Over, with Cleveland doing a much better job of scoring lately.
- Mavs laying 7.5 on the road with a total of 188.5. The counter just keeps clicking north on the Nets, losers of their first 17 games, and now being forced to deal with a very good team from Dallas. The Mavs have been slumping a little bit, lately, though, getting blasted in Cleveland before eking one out at home over the undermanned 76ers. This, coming after blowout wins at Houston and at Indiana, so the Mavs still haven't really settled into the December consistency we like to see when handicapping. I don't think they lose this game, but covering seems tough given their recent play. We all know what the Nets have been doing, so I won't get into all the details. Suffice it to say they're coming home after losing all 4 games of their just-concluded road trip, so they're not necessarily in a good spot to get their first win. Also worth noting is that the Nets have been an Under team so far, but the Mavs have hit 4 straight Overs, so this game might just be a wash all the way across. No leans.
- This line is OFF, and for once I don't blame oddsmakers. The Pistons are about 25% dead, so the potential return of any of their stars (or semi-stars) is reason enough to wait on putting a line out. I'm not seeing anything to indicate guys playing or not playing, so we'll just have to wait, but given the Pistons lack of firepower and stink-tacular 2-7 road mark, it's tough to envision this thing opening at anything less than Bulls by 5 or 6. Time will tell. Interestingly, the Pistons have been something of an Over team after starting the year with 4 straight Unders, so we'll keep an eye on the total. The Bulls, remember, haven't done much, either, so we're looking at two floundering clubs in this one -- the Pistons, because they've lost 3 starters, and the Bulls, because, well, they're just struggling. This is Chicago's first game back home after a 1-5 road trip, so they'll be dealing with the typical adjustment period, but I almost feel like the relief of being back where fans cheer for you should outweigh the sluggishness that comes from trying to recalibrate yourself to family life. Let's wait on the line, then make some decisions.
- This line is OFF, too. But how about them Wolves? I'm really curious how the oddsmakers set this one up, since Minnesota finally got their second win this year, and it was a fluke road victory over the Nuggets, of all teams. Was that the start of a short win streak? Well, I usually do like to back a supremely young team coming off a long losing streak, just the way I like to fade a young team coming off a winning streak, so we'll see. The Grizzlies had a great road win in Portland, but then went to LA and had one of the worst 4th quarters I can remember. That bad "juju" carried right on into a game in Utah where the Grizz got blown out by 27 points. Obviously, a game against the Wolves is a nice time to get fat, but can Memphis get their act together in between road games? That's the issue at hand. The Grizzlies were just starting to play better before that epic meltdown in Los Angeles, so we know they have the talent, but they regressed a great deal in the last 5 quarters. I'd think this line opens with Memphis favored by a few points, since the Grizzlies are a better team than the Wolves, but might shade down towards Pick because of the Grizz's recent struggles.
- Thunder by 6 with a total of 198. The Sixers are a terrible team that just keeps covering. It's almost a wonder of modern sports. They've lost 7 straight games, but they're 5-2 ATS over that same stretch, including back to back covers against the Spurs and Mavericks. That being said, this is a bad spot for Philly. You can only play tough teams close for so long before you get frustrated and take a night off. I think someone wins this game in a blowout, and I'm inclined to think it's the Thunder, but I'm not sold on it. Oklahoma has been playing excellent ball on their home court, though the Rockets outrebounded them by 12, and that led to a rare home loss for the Thunder. You might be surprised to notice that Oklahoma is actually 9-8 on the season, and has been equally good both at home and on the road, and that truly comes with playing a little defense. You just have to like where this team is headed, but we're not concerned with where the Thunder are in 4 months; we care about tonight. I do lean slightly to the Thunder, but we need some line confirmation on anything. I also like the Under, since I feel the Sixers take this one off.
- Sacramento by 2 at home with a total of 217. This line seems a little odd, though looking at some of the numbers, the early money is coming in on Indiana, and the line did take a dip from -3 to -2. So, everyone needs to take a step back and be careful before pouring their life savings on the Kings. Sacramento looks like the obvious play, but things are rarely that simple. The Kings have won 3 straight at home and covered in all 3. The Pacers have lost and failed to cover in 6 of 7, yet they're getting just 2 points against one of the hottest teams in the NBA. This game smells like a trap. Indiana is getting healthy, and they simply won't be as bad as we've seen all season long. If Granger can stay out of foul trouble, and Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, and Roy Hibbert can all play even partly to their potential, the Pacers should actually be a team to reckon with. They've also played to 4 of 5 Overs. The Kings are 4-1-1 O/U with a push mixed in, as well, so the play might be on the Over. I think this game stays close down to the wire, against most people's predictions, which also leads to a possible Over.
- This line is OFF. I must have missed something on this one, since I thought these guys were healthy. Hopefully someone can clear it up. In any case, the Clippers have actually been playing a bit better. I still expect to see the Rockets as a very slight road favorite, but LAC has managed to climb to only 2 games under .500 on the season thanks to winning 4 of 5. Wins in Detroit, and at home over Denver and Memphis were all relatively impressive, at least compared to how the Clippers usually perform. I'm not sure this is a team we can just call a fade or a no-play anymore. With Al Thornton and Eric Gordon both getting healthy, the Clippers starting 5 suddenly looking pretty formidable. If Blake Griffin ever gets on the court, I might actually kind of like the Clips. They've also been ratcheting up the defense, too, so the Under is in play. The Rockets, their opponent tonight, ended a short 2-game losing streak with a road win over the Thunder, and with the victory moved back to 1 game over .500. They are also riding a couple consecutive Unders.
- It might be time to start thinking about picking him up and stashing him on the bench for a week or two. His minutes are into the 20's, and it might be while he's with the second unit, but he's been taking almost a shot a minute.