I don't even want to talk about yesterday's one Premium Play. I was hoping to be able to title this blog "Hitsville, USA" after the Motown Museum in Detroit, but had to go back and change that word to better reflect how the game actually went. I gave the card away for free, but I know most of you would rather I take it back! The Pistons never showed up, Ben Gordon left mid-game (joining Pau Gasol on my fantasy team injured bench, along with Josh Howard and the since-dropped Greg Oden), and Chicago rolled Detroit for the 3rd time this year.
Pistons @ Wizards - Washington by 5 with a total of 197. I mean, man. What can you say about the Pistons? They've lost 13 in a row, Ben Gordon limped off the floor AGAIN, Charlie Villanueva is clearly playing hurt, and they let the Bulls shoot over 60% until garbage time dropped that final number down. This team has hit rock bottom. If it weren't so terribly nauseating, playing Detroit again in this game might be a great value, but at this point, it just doesn't seem like any number of points are enough, and with the public on a little bit of a strong NBA run, taking the Pistons here feels like a disaster. I think it may be time to look for the games with what I like to call "fair" line movement, where the line is moving with the money; nothing fishy, nothing crazy, let's just revamp things a tiny bit, and when sharp money starts dominating again like it did from mid-November to the end of the year, we can rework things again. That's one of the true beauties of handicapping and also one of the most frustrating parts. Things are not the same, ever. You can do what works, and with a long term approach, you will make money, but I believe you can make money faster and shorten losing streaks by being proactive. Right now, comparing your handicapping to sharp money is not the best way to handicap, though long term that will lead to the most success. Still, there is nothing written in the handicapping code of laws that one cannot, if the situation presents itself, grab a play that does not strictly follow those notes. This is one of those games. The Wizards SHOULD, by all accounts, win this game big. They are a distressed franchise, but they have significantly more talent than the Pistons, and they aren't playing on a back-to-back. Unless this line drops precipitously, the Wizards should be able to cover, and I realize that is square beyond square, but right now, squares are cashing, and we should be, too. Everything in moderation, though. Plenty of teams won last night that weren't public favorites, so it's all about being judicious and not getting trapped by factors you didn't handicap. You also have to like the Under here, after Detroit let Chicago put up 120, I can't imagine Washington getting quite that high, and Detroit will continue to score in the 80's, and at most, mid-90's.
Rockets @ Bobcats - Charlotte by 3 with a total of 191. This could actually be a fun one, with the defensive-minded Bobcats going up against the offensive execution-minded Rockets. Houston, after opening the season very strong, have slowed a bit on the road, losing their last 4 games away from home and failing to cover 6 straight. It makes this team an extremely dangerous play on the road. The side also seems to indicate that the Rockets and Bobcats are evenly matched, and I'm not sure I agree with that, as Houston is a robust 21-16, playing mostly in the Western Conference, and the Bobcats are 16-19. I believe we're seeing a larger than average home court advantage here, potentially as high as 4.5 points, given Charlotte's strong play in their home building (13-4 SU, 10-7 ATS), and the aforementioned road struggles of the Rockets, who continue to try to unload Tracy McGrady. Houston is coming off a nice home win over the Knicks, and the issue in this game, to me, is deciding whether that win is a jumping point for the Rockets to get some confidence heading on the road, or simply the product of playing one home game between a couple road contests. I'm inclined to believe Houston plays well in Charlotte, but not well enough. The Bobcats are in their second game of a long homestand, a spot where you generally see teams excel. Charlotte escaped a game with Memphis where they just looked lost in the first half a few days back, but I think we'll get a better full-game effort from the Bobcats here in this one, and I think they have something to prove, having lost 4 straight to the Rockets over the last couple seasons. Houston is hugely a road Under team, and Charlotte is basically 50/50 at home in terms of the total, so I have to lean to the Under early, as well.
Clippers @ Grizzlies - Memphis by 6 with a total of 199. What's it going to take for the Clippers to get some respect, I wonder? This line definitely deserves some attention. This is the 4th meeting between these two teams this year, and the home teams have won every game so far. The Clippers barely nibbed the Grizz in LA in the first game, lost by 15 in Memphis, won by 10 in LA, and now they're back, with the Grizzlies clearly shooting for a split. Still, I don't know if I'd call this a typical revenge spot, because I feel like the strong recent play of the Clippers might give them the gusto to try to take the season series. I believe both teams play equally hard when comparing motivation. The Clippers have been playing very well of late, and that's what makes this line a bit confusing. They've won 5 of 6 games, covering the spread in all 6. Admittedly, the recent surge has come at home, where the Clippers have improved to 12-8, and their road record of 5-10 remains fairly disgraceful, and I think that's what oddsmakers are counting on. The Grizzlies have been surging, just like the Clippers, but they've been doing it both at home and on the road, but they do remain a much tougher nut in their building. The Clippers are an awful 1-9 ATS against the Southwest conference, so this isn't their best spot, and I have to lean Grizzlies, if only because this line looks outrageously high. I can be swayed on this one. The total is interesting to me, as well, since we've seen some line-bouncing. The first game had a posted total of 201, and it went Over, the second game went Under 199, the third game went Under 197.5, and now this one seems to have crept back up. I lean Over.
Lakers @ Spurs - This line is OFF. A showdown! This should be a fun one, and I'm just glad I'm still in Los Angeles, so I get to watch it on some sort of standard cable channel. Believe it or not, these teams haven't played yet this year, so we don't have any revenge angles to work on. The Spurs haven't played the Lakers all that tough over the last year or two, but something about this meeting feels different. The Lakers are so banged up right now, with Kobe's finger only getting worse, Pau Gasol likely out another week or two, Ron Artest now has 2 sore feet and a memory issue, Lamar Odom is getting over gastritis, and on and on. Andrew Bynum is playing better in Gasol's absence, but other than that, and other than the Lakers dismantling the weak, pathetic Bucks, the Lakers look awfully worse for their wear. So it goes with the Spurs, though, that as Manu Ginobili plays, the team plays. He is coming off a nice game against the Nets, but Manu will have his hands full going against the likes of Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest, and dealing with Odom and Bynum when he tries to go to the rim. I'm extremely curious where this line opens up, and I have to think that the Spurs open as tiny favorites. This might be one of those games where the value is barely on San Antonio, but almost anything can happen. I have to like the home team, though, since they remain a very tough club in San Antonio (16-6 SU, 12-9 ATS), and the Lakers, one of the League's best road teams last year, are 8-5 SU away from home, but only 4-9 ATS, so they're just not covering. I lean Spurs, but let's get a look at the line. I also expect a defensive game - the Lakers are clamping down, and I just don't see either team really wanting to get into a track meet.
Magic @ Kings - This line is OFF. I have to think it's Vince Carter-related, though who the hell knows these days with all the injuries piling up for every team. In any case, the Magic may have gotten their act together in the last game, absolutely leveling the Hawks to snap a 4-game losing skid. This game in Sacramento kicks off a 4-game Western Conference road trip that heads to Denver, Portland and LA (Lakers), so this is one of those times that Orlando better get it together, or they might be looking at another 4-game losing skid. Obviously, the Denver game is going to be a rough one, heading east into the altitude extremely late, then having to deal with the mostly-healthy Nuggets on zero rest. And honestly, I'm inclined to just wait and take the value in that game. This first game of the road trip we're likely to see a strong effort from the Magic because they know just how brutal tomorrow will be when they have to deal with a rested Denver team (I thought about making a mile high club joke here, but felt it was in poor taste once the sentence was done). Anyway, back to the game at hand. The Magic have decent value right now, though the 32-point win over Atlanta helped chop some of that off. The Kings continue to tease bettors with tough losses, though they did finally pull off an intense comeback over the Nuggets in their last home game. I'll be quite curious to see where this line opens. I have to believe Orlando will be a small favorite, and we'll all be tempted to jump back on Sacramento, but if Orlando is getting a run going, I'm not really all that excited to step in front of a freight train. I do think there may be some value in the total, though, since Orlando stepped up their defense, they haven't been shooting well, and the Kings have been dealing with some outrageously inflated lines.