Sports Wagering: NBA
Phoenix Suns @ Miami Heat (-9) with a total of 208;
If we've learned anything from watching the Heat, it's that they have two weaknesses - opposition with "power" bodies, and opposition with tremendous point guards. Of course, a team like Utah, that has both Deron Williams and Paul Millsap, we shouldn't have been that surprised that Utah played a strong second half. Outside of Utah, Rajon Rondo has been a problem-causer (twice), and Chris Paul (once). What does Phoenix have? Basically just a point guard and a bunch of pieces that look a whole heck of a lot better because of said point guard. Steve Nash should be able to get his teammates open, and Phoenix has actually been playing with some nice fire the last few games. They beat the Lakers with a superior shooting exhibition, and then beat the Nuggets with some actual defense (or at least some effort). This is going to be a heck of a test, but considering the Heat rely on team defense, and no one can guard the opposing PG, lean to PHOENIX and the UNDER.
Toronto Raptors @ Philadelphia 76ers (-4.5) with a total of 206.5;
Two teams that played last night, so the results will certainly spill over into our handicapping of this one. Philly plays in Cleveland to end a 5-game road trip, and one that featured quite a few days off, so they haven't been home in ages. Toronto played in Washington last night, so both teams are traveling here, and neither is particularly deep. Last year, Philly was decent on back-to-back spots, and the outside shooting Raptors weren't, so much, but without Chris Bosh, Toronto is a team that needs to rely on getting better shots, and teamwork, and I also feel like Toronto is in the "something to prove" mindset, at least here in the early going. There's no question Philadelphia out-classes Toronto in pure talent, but Philadelphia is fairly mistake-prone, and aren't in a particularly good situational/scheduling spot. Lean to TORONTO and the OVER.
Washington Wizards @ Boston Celtics with a total of N/A;
This line is going to be hefty, if indeed John Wall has to miss more than one game. The Wizards are playing a back-to-back, Boston is well-rested, and Washington's current injury situation is only going to drive even more money to the Boston side. So, what does that mean? You guessed it, potential value on Washington. No one is going to want to touch a Washington team without John Wall, and even though a rested Celtics team can certainly dish out a beating, we've seen Boston slack off at home more often than on the road. And, on top of that, Boston is playing its first home game off a 4-game road trip, and one that saw them win in Oklahoma City, Miami, and Memphis, and only drop a game in Dallas (and a close one, at that). This is a bit of a letdown game, even for the Celtics, and having 3 days to come home and try to keep their focus at top level might actually work against them. It'll be a tough game to bet, but the value is with the visitor -- lean to WASHINGTON and to the OVER.
Los Angeles Lakers (-7.5) @ Detroit Pistons with a total of 205;
This is an awfully high total for a Pistons game, or at least that's the first thing that jumps out at me. They've had 2 totals over 200 so far this year, both against the Warriors, and both games have gone Under the mark. But those totals were high because of the Warriors. This one feels different. The Lakers are actually (or were, probably still are, we can check) the highest scoring team in the NBA, but I feel like it's actually still surprising oddsmakers and bettors. The Lakers are 7-3 O/U this year, only failing to break 100 in a truly ugly game with the Wolves. The Pistons are a team that slows things down, but with the Lakers on back-to-back, I imagine their defense will be lacking just a tad. I could see this one sneaking up to around 100 apiece, so a few shots should decide it. As far as the side goes, I know it looks awfully high, and truth be told, it is high, but with Detroit coming home off a long west-coast road trip, I can't get behind them, here, even with some line value. Slight lean to LAKERS, and OVER.
Dallas Mavericks @ New Orleans Hornets with a total of N/A;
Obviously, the hope with the first meeting between these two teams was that whichever team won the game would also cover, so we could just bet the other side and feel good about ourselves, but sometimes the world doesn't help out. Dallas beat New Orleans, dealing the Hornets their first loss, but failed to cover. This leads to some slightly weirder angles. For instance, does the first loss lead to a letdown for New Orleans? Does Chris Paul stay out of foul trouble in this one and lead the Hornets to a win? Does the revenge factor play a huge role, or a small one? All things worth considering. Maybe the simple answer is still the best, though. Dallas doesn't cover at home (they didn't), and they do on the road (maybe they will?). Let's wait and see about this line, but if revenge history is any indication, the line should swing a solid 7-8 points from where we saw that Dallas line open. Will this be another close game? I have to think so. The Hornets aren't going to want to lose, but Dallas is a strong road team. We might very well see a Hornets win and a Dallas cover. Should be a good one. Lean to MAVERICKS and the UNDER.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Minnesota Timberwolves (-3.5) with a total of 208.5;
The Wolves are playing better, and the Clippers are a disaster, but simply put, I'm not ready to back the Wolves as a favorite yet. Sure, they might be the better team here, so the line of 3.5 isn't necessarily crazy, but we've seen the Wolves commit 27 turnovers in a game already this year, so it's not like they're a reliable bet. They also host the Lakers again in their very next game, and we know how Kurt Rambis is going to want to make sure his guys are ready for that one. Of course, the flip side is that Minnesota likely sees this game as a rare "truly" winnable game, and the Clippers are even worse now than they were to start the year. This is just one of those games that would be best left unplayed, and unwatched. NO LEAN on the side, and tiny lean to UNDER.
Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder with a total of N/A;
This game sort of strikes me as a possible "sandwich" game for the Thunder, and if they weren't seemingly bent on trying to improve every game, I might be inclined to suggest a fade. The Thunder are coming off an emotional road win over the Jazz in their last game, and their next contest is on the road in Beantown, a revenge game against the vaunted Celtics. There's a definite possibility for a letdown in this game in between, especially with Houston playing as poorly as they have to start the year, and even moreso with the Rockets having played last night, at home, against the Bulls. Still, the Rockets don't strike me as a team that wants to get blown out. They've lost a few games so far, that's true, but only once did they lose by double digits, and that was to the Nuggets, an up-and-down opponent where it seemed like everything just sort of lined up. Outside of that, Houston has lost to the Lakers by 2, the Warriors by 4, the Hornets by 8, the Wizards by 7 (this was a bad one), and the Spurs by 3 in bonus basketball. If they can continue to keep games close, and the Thunder continue to play less-than-stellar defense, why not this one? Lean to the ROCKETS and the OVER.
New Jersey Nets @ Utah Jazz with a total of N/A;
We have to ask ourselves a few questions before jumping into this one. First, are the Nets as good as they've looked in their last 3 games? They beat the Cavs, lost to the Magic on a last-second shot, and beat the Clippers to start this road trip. I do think Jersey is improving, and Avery Johnson is a solid coach, but they're overperforming right now, and that means we can either hope it continues and ride the wave, or fade it as soon as they're showing signs of slowing. Utah, meanwhile, had a road trip to remember, but came home and got beat in a classic letdown game by a Thunder team on revenge. Are they in bounceback mode? Possibly, but this line is going to be quite beefy, and we've seen how Utah can lose focus for half a ballgame. This is another game I'm strongly leaning towards a pass and never looking back, for the reasons above, but as I've been doing, we'll have one game per blog where it's gun to my head time...lean to JERSEY and the UNDER, as I feel like Utah can't possibly be involved in a much higher scoring game than the one with the Thunder. I guess we'll see.
Chicago Bulls @ San Antonio Spurs (-7) with a total of 207;
I'm sensing a pattern, one that seems to want the Spurs to start the season with a good record. See, to the untrained eye, San Antonio is playing tremendous basketball...and I'll give them credit, they're outperforming my early-season expectations. However, upon closer inspection, this is San Antonio's 6th home game, and they've hosted teams playing a back-to-back in 4 of those 6. Now, I'm not saying that the Spurs wouldn't have beat those teams, but most of the time, it's a b2b as part of a division road trip. So, they're catching teams, for the most part, off difficult games with teams like Dallas, Memphis, and so on. Well, here we are again. Chicago, off a game in Houston last night, heads into whatever they call the Alamo Center now for another cherry-picking chance for the Spurs. Something tells me this is too many points, though. The Spurs have been playing some truly high scoring games, but Chicago is going to want to try to dig in, and the return to health of Tim Duncan (off a battle with the stomach flu) should actually slow the game down just a tad. On the flip side, Chicago on b2b could mean less defense, and the Spurs are shooting the lights out at home. If you're concerned about the side, the total might lend an opportunity, too. Slight lean to CHICAGO, and slight lean to the OVER, though let's see how the action comes in.
New York Knicks @ Sacramento Kings (-3.5) with a total of 208;
Both of these teams are finding it's tough to win games if you don't play any defense, and it's really an "I told you so" moment for all of us that expected very little from each club. This line, though, really spits on the Knicks. The Knicks come to town off a game in Denver yesterday, so that partially explains why the line sits at 3.5, but the Knicks awful play certainly contributes. This is game 2 of a 4-games in 5 nights roadie for New York that might actually serve to bring the team together a little bit. Adversity outside the locker room can take the spotlight off the problems within for a few days, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Knicks actually put together a few decent performances. That being said, when teams go on these tough trips, it's best to play each game by looking at the previous. So, let's see how New York looks in Denver, and react accordingly. I'll tell you all right now I've got my eyes on the NEXT 3 games after this one. WAIT AND SEE on the side, and UNDER lean on total.