More Winter Meetings work to be done, and a podcast to record, so another blog without a clever introduction. Let's rock.
- Charlotte getting 3 points at home with a total of 203. Steamtrain Denver pulls into Charlotte, and is laying just 3 points over the Bobcats. This is a very interesting line, and not one I'm sure I want to mess with -- the Nuggets have won (and covered) 4 straight games, including a 10-point win last night in Philadelphia to spoil Iverson's return to the Sixers. They might very well be a tad tired, as last night's game was not of the "pretty" variety, but it's tough to bet against the Nuggets right now, tired or not. Also, Denver's next game is in Detroit on Thursday, so there is zero look-ahead issues. It's a pure fatigue play if you like Charlotte, which I'm not sure that I do. The Bobcats are slumping a bit, but this line wouldn't really seem to indicate as such. Charlotte has failed to cover in all 3 of their games in the month of December, which includes a home loss to the Celtics, a road loss to the Nets (yikes!), and then a 1-point victory over the 76ers in Charlotte. You could certainly see a short losing skid or mini-slump coming when Charlotte rattled off 4 straight wins then got pounded by the Celts, but the question is how long it will last. A one point win can often be enough to get a team back on the good foot, and undoubtedly the public will be on the red-hot Nuggets. This game smells like a no-play on the side. Denver is coming off an extremely low-scoring game and 3 straight Unders, while the Bobcats have played to 3 straight Overs, so the total is a bit sketchy, too. I'd lean Under, given Denver's potential fatigue, but only very slightly.
- Toronto laying 8 at home with a total of 212. The Raptors have started to turn things around after bottoming out against the Hawks last week. Back-to-back nice road wins will often do that for a team, and the books are adjusting quickly, giving the Raptors a rather large spread to cover against the hapless Timberwolves. I hate to sound square, but I have trouble looking at the dog in this one. Toronto is a team on a mission right now, and until their current stretch of solid play ends, I'm not sure I can go against them. That's not to say I want to make a play ON the Raptors, but it does make taking the other side extremely difficult. That being said, the Wolves have covered 4 straight (and won 2 of them outright) to improve to 3-17 SU on the year, and 9-11 ATS. They're not playing great ball, but they're playing well enough to stay in most games, and that's what dog players are hoping for in this one. I'm not a huge fan of the side, if you haven't gathered, and taking a quick peek at the total reveals, in my opinion, reveals an opportunity for an Over. The public seems to be thinking about an Under because they believe Minnesota is terrible and the Raptors just held the Bulls to 78 points in their last game. For this reason I believe there is some value on the Over.
- Boston by 12.5 with a total of 191. At first glance, I look at the Bucks, but let's take a deeper look. Boston has won 7 straight and covered the last 5 in a row to improve to 10-10 ATS on the season. All this winning definitely creates some value, and despite Boston's 7-3 home record SU, they are a sputtering 4-6 ATS at home. We haven't seen many opportunities lately to put against Boston, considering the run they've been on, but giving away almost a baker's dozen at home (where they have consistently played down to their competition) is an awfully rich spot, as the Celtics are in the first home game after 4 road contests, as well. My concern is clearly with the Bucks. I love the value on the dog in this game, but can Milwaukee actually put together a reasonable 48 minutes of basketball? This team is coming off an awful loss to the Cavs, where they appeared to be stuck at 17 points for almost the entire second quarter. They've lost 3 straight and 7 of 8, and have covered just 2 of those 8 spreads. That does make it a little nauseating to back Milwaukee, I will admit. Still, getting that many points against a team that seems to relax at home is a pretty good value, and I lean to Jennings and co. On the total, the Bucks just snapped a stretch of 9 straight Overs in that ugly loss to Cleveland, and I'd be inclined to think we're getting some Under value simply because of all those Bucks poor defensive efforts leading up to the last one.
- Grizzlies getting 7.5 points at home with a total of 193. I got burned betting against the Cavs in their last game against Milwaukee (with a pretty similar spread, mind you), and I must say, I'm reticent to go against them again. Still, we have to explore the value pick, and that is almost always going to be the home dog when we're dealing with a marquee team like the Cavs. The public, no doubt, will be on Cleveland like white on rice, as the Cavs are 15-5 on the season, 11-9 ATS, and a solid 7-3 away from home (SU and ATS). The Cavs have also won and covered 4 straight games, they've scored over 100 in all 4, and have held all 4 opponents under 100, a pretty good indication that Cleveland is rolling. Of course, this isn't a simple spot for them, with a game in Houston tomorrow, so Cleveland might be thinking about saving some strength, though admittedly the Rockets aren't the look-ahead they used to be with Yao. Memphis, on the other hand, doesn't play again until the 11th, when they host the Thunder, so this game is a huge one for them, as they try to upset a top tier team. The Grizz are deceptively good at home, at 5-3, and they're coming off a 16-point beatdown of the Mavs, so confidence is high. I can't help but feel a slight attraction to Memphis in this one, and a slight lean to the Under thanks to the Grizzlies uncharacteristically solid home defense.
- Chicago laying 7 with a total of 192. The Bulls don't really have business laying 7 points to anyone, but coming off the stomping they received at the hands (or feet, rather, to keep the metaphor intact) of the Raptors, this is a monster bounceback spot for Chicago, and the Nets may have to feel the brunt of the impact. Both of these teams are complete and utter messes. It really seems like an exercise in futility to try to pick a winner between two clubs that are just tumbling, sinking, crashing, whatever you want to call it. The Bulls are a supremely disappointing 7-11 on the season, 5-12 ATS, have lost 7 of 8 SU, and thanks to an anemic offfense, they've gone Under the total in 3 straight. The Nets, as everyone knows, are 1-19, 6-14 ATS, and are coming off a late-game meltdown in New York where they led by as many as 9 points in the second half, and lost by that same number. The value is with the Nets, since Chicago has the players the public has heard of, but this may be one of those games where you just shrug your shoulders, say (out loud if you like), "Why?" and move on to the next one on the card. Even the total is ugly, though I like the Under given the way both teams move the ball (poorly) and score (slowly and infrequently).
- The Hornets are laying 7.5 points with a total of 211.5. I'll be straight with you - I really don't want to make a play on a Hornets game right now, while Chris Paul gets adjusted to being back in the lineup, and his teammates adjust to having wide open shots again. Almost anything could happen. I think this line is fair, though I lean slightly to New Orleans, as the Kings have a game tomorrow in San Antonio, and that sort of back-to-back can be quite daunting for anyone, especially a young team headed back out on the road. The Kings are 13-6 ATS, and it feels like that team for them to regress back towards .500 ATS, at least sooner than later. The Hornets won Paul's return by 9 over the Timberwolves, which was actually a failure to cover, but this team is somewhat scary at home, where they simply seem to shoot the lights out from 3-point land. Still, this is a gun-to-my-head type game where I lean to the home team and to the Under, and I really don't want any part of it.
- Dallas laying 4 at home with a total of 214.5. This should be a great game. Nowitzki and Nash always play amazing contests against one another, as the good buddies generally bring their A-games for these hotly contested (but generally well-intentioned) showdowns. The Mavericks are coming off back-to-back ugly losses, one in Memphis and the other at home hosting the Hawks, so they'll be looking to get on track. At 14-7, they're still doing just fine in the grand scheme of things, but nobody wants to lose 3 straight. The Suns come to Dallas after getting manhandled by the Lakers, in LA, for the second time in as many tries. It seems the Suns simply can't compete with the Lakers superior size and strength, and unless they play the perfect game (which most teams don't, especially on the road), the Lakers are just going to have the Suns' number. That being said, this game doesn't feature quite the imposing big men that their last did. Sure, Dirk is an outstanding basketball player, but he's not a back-to-the-basket, hammer-blocking type like Andrew Bynum, or an all-around star like Gasol. The Mavs' interior defense is mostly Erick Dampier with a dash of Shawn Marion, though both have lost a few steps over the last half-decade. I think Phoenix should be able to play with Dallas, basket for basket, and this one could go down to the wire. Thus, I feel the Suns getting points are the slight value play. The total is a confusing point for me, since the Mavs are coming off two insanely low-scoring games, and the Suns have actually played 5 straight Unders, so I suppose I would have to lean just to the Under.
- Clippers getting 7, total of 193.5. This one might not be watchable. The Clippers are, admittedly, playing better of late, having won (and covered) 3 of their last 4 games, but now they have to face off against one of the better road teams in the NBA. Orlando is 9-2 away from home, 7-4 ATS, so they don't miss many opportunities to embarrass their competition in front of the road fans. The Magic are giving 7 points for a reason, and it's because they have a dominant big man, and pieces around him finally getting healthy and into a rhythm. I have no lean on the side in this game. The total intrigues me, since Orlando is coming off 2 games against the Knicks and 1 against Golden State. Hence, the public has seen a ton of ultra-high scoring games out of this marquee team. The Clippers, meanwhile, have played to 3 straight Unders, each uglier than the last. I lean to the Under, as well.