Sometimes my opening remarks are going to tail a day behind the action, simply because of when I type them. And it occurs to me that that's not very interesting, topical, or helpful. I'll try to figure out how best to deal with this.
Idea number one is to type the opener after the blog, so at least maybe there'll be something in the card to mention as a larger theme. Let's see if that helps... (waits) ...
That wasn't an awful idea, since waiting allowed me to watch the first 2 hours of basketball tonight, and as I type this, Indiana is once again playing the better teams in the NBA tough. Before making a play on tomorrow's game, we need to go back and really dig deep to see how Indiana responds to big wins.
Sports Wagering: NBA
Orlando Magic (-2) @ Philadelphia 76ers with a total of 197;
Two teams on back-to-back, and between the two, I'd argue the Sixers are playing the better basketball. Does that translate to a win, or cover? Not necessarily, but it doesn't hurt. The Magic did battle with the Clippers last night at home, while the Sixers return home from a game in Atlanta. The key with this game, at least if I had to try to isolate one factor, is that the Sixers have played Orlando tough in both meetings this year. Philly actually beat Orlando in 1 of 2 meetings in Florida, and lost the other by a single point. Now, on the road, will Orlando be looking to avenge the home loss, or will they just continue to try to find a rhythm? In my opinion, the oddsmakers are pretty close to accurate with this line, but because Philly just seems to match up well with the Magic, I lean to the SIXERS. And because the previous two meetings featured poor shooting, no offensive rebounding, but a decent tempo, this one might sneak OVER due to tired legs on defense.
New Orleans Hornets (-1.5) @ New Jersey Nets with a total of 184;
Who doesn't love handicapping a game between two teams that are each ice cold? The Hornets have lost 3 in a row, and are on a rather ugly 0-6 ATS run, while the Nets are 1-5 both SU and ATS in their last 6 games. The problem for each team has been different, though. The Hornets lost 2 of their 3 key defensive players (Ariza, Okafor), so the struggle has been on defense. The Nets are just in a shooting slump, simple as that. And, unfortunately for us, everything going on with these teams is pointing in different directions. One team is allowing too many points, the other can't score; both teams are losing, etc. Chris Paul could potentially will his team to a win, but I don't want to bet on either team waking up just in time. PASS ALL AROUND.
Milwaukee Bucks @ Washington Wizards with a total of N/A;
I'm not 100% sure why this line is OFF, but I'm sure we'll get more information soon. This is another battle of slumping teams, but this one at least has a tiny angle or two we can discuss. Washington is the team on revenge, but then, they've lost every road game they've played, so I'm not sure how much that truly matters. Milwaukee is set to play the second half of a back-to-back, but they've shown over the last couple seasons that the 2-point fatigue adjustment to the line is actually too much. That's well and good in most spots, but Washington hasn't played since the 5th, so they're not only rested, they're ultra-rested. I just wish Washington was still showing some signs of life at home - instead, they're just getting blasted every which way, losing 8 straight games overall. I want to lean to the WIZ, but I'm not quite there, and I expect some ugly UNDER ball.
Detroit Pistons (-2) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 196;
Could this be the one? The line sure seems to think so. I know we can't take a ton from a line, but considering the Cavs haven't won a game in 2011, you know darn well that oddsmakers are going to need to continue to inflate Cleveland lines to get action on both sides. And yet, this one isn't, really. I realize Detroit isn't a team garnering a ton of betting love, but they've certainly been better than Cleveland. Indeed, the Cavs haven't seen a line this close to a Pick since January 5, and sportsbooks know that. Screw it, let's place our collective balls on the line. Lean to the CAVS to snap their losing streak in an OVER.
San Antonio Spurs (-7) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 202;
This is a lot of points to cover on the road, but if any team can hover right near the number for 45 minutes, then outscore an opponent by 10 down the stretch, it's San Antonio. San Antonio was 15-7 ATS in road games (pending the outcome in Detroit), so they're not afraid to beat someone in that someone's house. There may be a tiny bit of revenge for the Raptors, but again, the Spurs are just sort of in a class all their own this year, more or less immune to normal situational angles and scheduling anomalies. Point in case, they've played to 2 Overs and 2 Unders in the last 4 back-to-backs, covering 3 out of 4. Toronto doesn't play any defense, and like the Spurs, they haven't been predictable on back-to-back games, either, at least not lately. This is a very tough game, since the line value is pushing me towards Toronto, but the Spurs ability to win big on the road is making me want to stay away. Gun-to-head lean to RAPTORS, and slight total lean to the UNDER.
Charlotte Bobcats @ Indiana Pacers (-4.5) with a total of 190;
If we're going to just cut straight to the chase, this game marks a double-revenge spot for the Bobcats, as Indiana has knocked off Charlotte once in both venues. My concern about betting this game stems from Indy's game on Tuesday night against the Heat, in Miami. I worry that everyone is going to see Indy is in a potential "letdown" spot, and should be "tired," and Charlotte is on double-revenge, and so on and so forth, and that will drive bets to the Bobcats. But maybe I'm just psyching myself out - perhaps all those angles really aren't as obvious as they feel, and perhaps Charlotte parlays a big monkey-off-the-back win against the Celtics into a nice little hot run. Something tells me the wheels come off the Pacer-Vogel honeymoon shortly, and I'm trying to find reasons not to back the Bobcats. Until further notice, at least, lean to CHARLOTTE and the OVER.
Los Angeles Clippers @ New York Knicks (-6.5) with a total of 214;
Yet another Clippers revenge spot, but I'm not sure we can really play that card on a nightly basis. Still, based on how the last meeting went, the Clippers are not going to be all that overmatched by NY. I would argue that LA is the superior rebounding team, the better team (as a whole) in the paint, though certainly Amar'e is a one-man gang, and the Clippers are potentially the team with more desire. That last one is up for argument. In any case, the Knicks are coming off a ridiculous shooting exhibition against the Sixers, and I just can't see that sort of display occurring two times in a row. The issue with backing the Clippers is that the trip up from Orlando isn't all that short, and battling with Dwight Howard for 48 minutes could take a little of the wind out of LA's sails. This is a scary game, in my opinion, since we really just don't know what to expect out of the Clippers on an 11-game road trip. Can they bring the fire 2 nights in a row? Will the Knicks have a tiny letdown off the home-and-home with Philly? So many damn questions. Tiny lean to the CLIPPERS when we sum it all, and lean to the OVER.
Chicago Bulls @ Utah Jazz (-2.5) with a total of 193;
This game is a little more interesting from a pure basketball perspective, but is yet another in a long list of games, today, that have weird competing angles. The Bulls are in the middle of a strange slump, but one that isn't that surprising. The NBA season is very long, and teams tend to play in waves, and right now, the Bulls defense is a little suspect. They've lost 2 in a row on this 5-game west coast swing to fall back below 500 away from home, and there's a little tension among the team to get things right in road spots. When teams press, they usually doesn't help. Utah, meanwhile, is trying to pull it together after a pretty significant rough patch. Deron Williams is back, and though his hand isn't quite right, he's playing, and that's huge. Something tells me Utah just wants this one a tiny bit more, so I do have a small lean to the JAZZ, but the low total would almost seem to point the other way. But then, I thought that about the Jazz-Bobcats game, and was way off. Lean to UNDER.
Dallas Mavericks (-4) @ Sacramento Kings with a total of 196.5;
Dallas looks like they might be going back to being road warriors. The Mavs are in a stretch of games where they're on the road for 6 of 7 games (two sets of 3). Based on what we saw in November and December, before the Mavs ran into a buzz-saw of injuries, the 3-0 mark they posted this last week would not have been surprising. Neither would the failed cover at home against the Cavs. So now, in a line that is beginning to get inflated to the pre-hurt Mavs area, Dallas is laying 7 against a Kings team that does have a knack for keeping games close. At the same time, the Kings have been cooling just a tad in the last week, and showing signs of the mistakes they made early in the year. This is a home revenge game for Sacramento, potentially avenging a 2-point loss to Dallas earlier this year when the Mavs were a 7.5-point favorite. Yeah, I know, there's a lot going on. At this partially-inflated number, I lean square and look to the hot MAVS to cover another road game with the total going OVER.
Denver Nuggets @ Golden State Warriors with a total of N/A;
This line is off because half the Nuggets are bruised. Chauncey, Nene, possibly some other gentlemen we can refer to by one name (or ones that might just have only one name), all battling naggies issues. In terms of the game itself, the question that needs answering is what happened to the Warriors against Phoenix? Was that a sign that Golden State is set to slip into a multi-game offensive slump, or just a minor blip? Will Golden State avenge a beatdown they took at the hands of the Nuggets back in late November here in the Bay? Looking at that game, it's tough to see Denver playing much better - they shot 12-for-21 from 3-point land, made 24-of-26 free throws, and outrebounded the Warriors by 11 while holding Golden State to just 40% from the field, and 6-of-26 from long distance. This game should be much closer, but "should" is such a loose term. Lean to the WARRIORS, but this one could come down to the wire, and I look to the UNDER.