I couldn't help but notice that, for some reason, there are three games scheduled today instead of the usual two, and the Warriors-Rockets battle for the ages will not be televised.
No, I don't actually care, and that sarcasm was getting spread pretty thick, but on a Thursday when most of the nation is going to be flipping between ESPN and the NFL Network (Ducks/Beavers and Jets/Bills), there will be a guy named Dan that doesn't get NFL.TV, and has to mix in some Spurs-Celtics action, and if I/he am/is up late enough, Nuggets-Heat.
I think, looking back at yesterday, a lot of folks were fooled by the early monster line shift in that Pacers-Kings game. We talked about the game a fair amount on the podcast (which, if you're not listening, for shame...it's right here: http://bit.ly/47ECku), and I don't mean to be a contrarian, but on the actual show I said the line move was not enough to make me bet Indy. It's so important to be conscious of shifts like that one, but that should merely be confirmation for a play you were going to make, a tool in your grand arsenal, not an "all-in, make-the-play-right-now, be-all, end-all" of sports handicapping.
As a side note, I'm also going to be attempting to locate hilarious NBA pictures and try to get them up in this blog when I can find them. The above represents the Pistons' only hope of beating the Bulls last night -- the feared Armpit Scratch!
- The Spurs opened as 1.5-point favorites, and so it remains, with a total hovering between 186.5 and 187. This is an interesting match-up, to be sure, with the Spurs starting to gel, defensively, and Manu Ginobili getting closer to full strength. Hell, half the team is "getting closer" to full strength. The Spurs lost 5 of 7 from November 5-19, but have since rattled off 5 consecutive wins, covering in 4, and missing the cover in the 5th by just 3 points. This team is definitely coming together, and unfortunately, that means the value is rather low. Also unfortunate is that the Celtics, who almost immediately have terrible value when lines come out, have won 4 straight, and covered the last 2. The public is going to continue to love Boston, thanks to their greater name recognition, but I'm not sure either of these clubs poses a good value to the bettor. At just 1.5-points, the game could be decided on the final shot, and even though the Spurs are a ridiculous 8-2 at home, Boston is a triumphant 7-1 on the road! Looking at the individual match-ups, you have to think Boston has the edge. Between Perkins and Duncan, and even Rasheed Wallace, the Celtics can force Tim Duncan into tougher shots, and Rajon Rondo is one of the few guards in the League with the quickness and strength to at least limit Tony Parker's easy layups. I like the spark Manu could potentially bring off the bench, but let's be honest, the teams that can run are the teams that can give Boston fits, and for all the offsaeason moves, San Antonio is still pretty slow. No lean on the side. With both teams ramping up their defense, I lean slightly to the Under, but that being said, the Spurs usually shoot the ball pretty well at home.
- This line is OFF. I think this game may be a relatively tough spot for Houston. The Rockets played last night in Los Angeles, and while the travel between cities isn't terribly grueling, Houston had to play hard for most of the game, before pulling away in the 4th quarter. Truthfully, that game was decided at the 3-point line, where the Rockets nailed 12-of-23, and the Clippers clanked to a miserable 1-for-14 tune. The Warriors will let guys get open shots, but the question we need to ask first is whether we feel the Rockets hot shooting will continue, or cool off. I do think fatigue will play a factor in the long-distance jumper, though at the same time, I usually don't like to try to predict when a team will suddenly go cold. Also, the Warriors are returning home after a soggy, tired performance in Denver, and a young team might let that linger a bit more than a veteran club. One thing that is definitely working in the Warriors' favor is that they lost to Houston by a single point, at home, in the season-opener back in October. Golden State probably feels like they're a better team now with Stephen Jackson gone and Monta Ellis going ballistic on a nightly basis, and they'll want to show Houston that it's going to be much tougher to roll into "Oaktown" and push them around. Still, I expect the Rockets to be favored slightly in this one when the line opens, but when I say slightly, I mean awfully close to a pick. The total will probably be in the 215-218 range.
- Denver by 9 with a total of 211.5. Well, the Heat are coming off a pretty impressive win in Portland, but the Nuggets are coming off a ridiculous blowout of a tired Golden State team. From each team's last game, you'd have to say the Heat played the better basketball, but then we must remember that Portland is struggling mightily, was missing Lamarcus Aldridge, and forgot how to play defense. I'm just not sure any team can really keep up with the Nuggets at home, especially when they're playing hard. 9 is a lot of points to cover against a team that was able to get into Denver at a reasonable hour and get some rest...and also has Dwyane Wade...but amazingly, I'd actually rather lean Denver on this one. Still, the way this match-up shakes out, this game is more towards a no-play. What we saw from the Heat in Portland was a sustained offensive effort; they shot 53% for the game, which marked only the third time all season they had broken 50% for an entire game. Based on past results, I'd be more inclined to think they go back to shooting in the low-mid 40% window, and get pummeled. You know the Nuggets aren't going to take a team with Dwyane Wade lightly, which somewhat eliminates the concern that Denver will coast, and though the Nuggets play their next one in San Antonio, it's not until Saturday, so they do have an off-day to gameplan and travel. I'll be curious to see how money trickles in on the total, since both teams are coming off outrageously high scoring games. The Nuggets and Warriors combined for 242 points; the Heat and Blazers combined for 207, both extremely high numbers for the teams involved. It makes me think this total is somewhat inflated, and the value is clearly with the Under. The public appears to be moving initially to the Over, which could very well give us an extra point or two to work with later in the day, and if we can get this thing Under 213.5, that might be a play.
- He's definitely not worth a pick-up just yet, but 18 rebounds off the bench was enough to catch my eye. Roy Hibbert is slowing down, and the Pacers are going with the veteran more often. Someone to watch closely to see if he slots back into the starting rotation full time.