To be honest, I'm almost tempted to just turn this blog into an opener-only, where we can discuss the trades (and there were quite a few) of Thursday, and their impact. Instead, and since I know you guys all prefer the game by game breakdowns, I'll just do my best to toss some thoughts into the individual paragraphs about any personnel moves a team made at the deadline.
Sports Wagering: NBA
Detroit Pistons @ Philadelphia 76ers with a total of N/A;
A rare game where we're not even thinking about trades. The Pistons, somehow, move into the stretch run with the same craptacular pieces they had a week ago, unable to jettison the likes of Rip Hamilton, and unable to get any sort of draft pick compensation for the other veterans that want out. What a mess. Interestingly, Philadelphia actually lost to Detroit in Motown in early January, so the Sixers are the slightly more motivated team, though with Detroit, it's nearly impossible to know when they're going to care. I'll be very curious to see where this line comes out, but if it's in that medium window (6-7 points), I might be inclined to glance at Philly. The bigger picture, for me, is that Detroit plays its 4th in 5 nights tomorrow, so maybe we ought to just wait and fade them then. Tiny lean to PHILLY and the OVER.
Sacramento Kings @ Charlotte Bobcats (-6.5) with a total of 201;
Both teams made some moves heading into the deadline, though Charlotte's was, arguably, the bigger of the two. The Bobcats have parted ways with Gerald Wallace, presumably freeing up playing time for Gerald Henderson (there's a pattern in there...), but also trying to save a few bucks. The Kings exchanged Carl Landry for Marcus Thornton, and add yet another wing player to a roster of misfits that somehow beat Orlando in a tough spot. And really, I can't help but think that the Kings are better equipped to deal with the trades. The problem, as I see it, is that the lack of Tyreke Evans is going to catch up with Sacramento at some point, and it's difficult to pinpoint exactly when that will happen. For now, the Kings are the team on revenge, they play the final game of a long road trip tomorrow and the 4th in 5 nights, so tonight feels like a better effort and tomorrow, weaker. Lean to SACTOWN and the UNDER.
Utah Jazz @ Indiana Pacers (-5.5) with a total of 207.5;
Indiana nearly had a deal in place to collect the weedy services of O.J. Mayo, but that one fell through at the last moment, so the Pacers will just have to play it out. Mike Dunleavy is hurt, which means Brandon Rush and Paul George will need to add a few minutes (and some production) to the ledger. But the team, overall, is still playing decent basketball. They escaped a tight one with Detroit to start the 2nd half with 2 wins over terrible teams, and now they get to pick on a reeling Jazz club that has lost 5 in a row, and every time it looks like they've bottomed out, things get worse. The Jazz are almost unbackable right now, though it's also pretty clear that this line is giving Utah zero respect. That combination of factors (inflated line, but a terrible team) makes betting the side dicey. Utah should be adding Devis Harris, so maybe they play a little better than they did in Dallas, but I don't think things are getting better overnight, and there aren't any huge angles (besides maybe some slight revenge for Indiana). NEARLY a pass on the side, maybe the tiniest of leans to INDY, and totals look at the UNDER.
Phoenix Suns (-3.5) @ Toronto Raptors with a total of 213;
Quietly, and we're talking barely a peep, the Toronto Raptors have covered 3 of 4, winning 2 of those games. Are the Raptors coming out of their season long funk? I doubt it, but even awful teams have a week or two where they play a little better. The shots fall and everything gets easier, and that might be what we're seeing here. Of course, the wheels can come off at a moment's notice, and because Toronto doesn't play any defense, the moment the jumpers start rattling out, the 20 points losses creep back into play. Amazingly, these teams haven't played since the 2009 calendar year, so no revenge angles, but in terms of scheduling, this is Phoenix's first game of a 6-game road trip. The Suns haven't played many road games lately, but they did win in Utah and in Golden State, so we know they're capable. They also picked up Aaron Brooks for Goran Dragic to, maybe, add a little more scoring punch off the bench. It's square, but Phoenix is actually in the better spot, trying to get the roadie off on the good foot. Lean to SUNS and the UNDER.
Washington Wizards @ Miami Heat (-15) with a total of 203.5;
How do you know when things have gotten bad? When you're a 15-point underdog and the favorite is the team playing the TNT back-to-back. Yes, Miami comes home from an extremely hard-fought game in Chicago, loses an hour to the time difference off a relatively long flight (not painfully long, but not a 45 minute jaunt, either), and the Heat are still a 15-point chalk. I hate this game. Flat out. I can't back the Heat laying this kind of number, even if they could win by 30, and I struggle to find a good reason to back the Wiz off two embarrassing post-Break losses. The only factor that pushes me even the slightest bit towards Washington is that John Wall apparently called his teammates out after the butt-kicking they took in Philly, and after a yelling match between McGee and an assistant coach, Washington can't really play any worse. Famous last words? Small lean to WIZARDS and the UNDER.
New York Knicks @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of N/A;
It's B-Diddy time in Cleveland! Or wait...maybe Melo is the bigger news between these two teams. However you shake it out, there has been some serious personnel movement prior to this game. The Knicks sold the farm for Anthony, and they'll be looking to rely even more heavily on starters, and the Cavs got rid of one of their larger contracts, picking up an equally disgusting contract (in Davis) as well as a draft pick. The Cavs also lost Jamario Moon, who was playing well, but won't really factor into how this one turns out. My opinion, simply put, is that New York's lines are going to be inflated for a couple weeks, and if we can find the right time to fade them, we can cash in. This game has some of the makings of a fade spot, but the fact that Cleveland actually beat the Knicks once this year makes me wonder if that gives the Cavs confidence or upsets the Knicks. Something tells me that, because the Knicks are about 40% different, it actually works in Cleveland's favor. If we can get 7-8 points, it might be worth a shot. In terms of the total, the last game hit 211 right on the nose, so oddsmakers might tip their hand a tad... Lean to the CAVS and WAIT AND SEE on the total.
New Orleans Hornets (-5.5) @ Minnesota Timberwolves with a total of 195;
This is a hard game to handicap, because, simply put, the situational angle at play is extremely rare. You don't often see a playoff team (in this case, the Hornets), 9 games over 500, and even with the recent cold spell (due to Okafor's injury) solidly in position to get a decent seed, LOSE TWICE to a team with a grand total of 13 wins on the season. But yet, here we are. Normally, you'd figure a double revenge game for New Orleans would push me toward the Hornets, but here, I'm not so sure. This has a number of the tell-tale signs of a team that just doesn't match up well against the other. The Hornets prefer to slow it down and grind it out, and the Wolves seem to be able to, somehow, power through that defense. Kevin Love's rebounding is always a factor, but more than that, the Hornets haven't shot the ball well against Minny, and the Wolves have been extremely proficient from 3-point land against the Hornets. That might not continue, but then, it might not need to, since the Wolves are getting 5.5 points. Mind you, the Hornets are a perfect goose-egg (0-5 ATS) as a medium road favorite. Surprising lean to the WOLVES and less surprising lean to the UNDER.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Orlando Magic (-5.5) with a total of 207;
First, this line jumped to 7 after the announcement of the Jeff Green trade, so we can go ahead and use 7 as the working number. And that, to me, seems like an awful lot. I'll be curious to see how the betting public reacts to the Thunder's trade because, on paper, I don't think it hurts them all that much. Green is a decent piece, if only because he's versatile, but the Thunder, when they get all their new equipment, will have some true size in the paint, some bodies that can push people around not named Krstic or Collison. The reasons to be afraid of backing the Thunder? I can think of 3. The line is eerily high, the Magic are on a bounceback game after getting upset by the Kings (Dwight Howard told his teammates to stop playing if they're not going to care), and the Thunder have a pretty huge revenge game coming up, at home, against the Lakeshow. It's probably not enough to push me all the way over to a Magic lean, but it's enough to keep me off O-K-C. Microscopic MAGIC lean, I guess - please don't ask me for more info, it's a weak lean - and a totals lean to the UNDER, since I can see the Magic playing angry.
New Jersey Nets @ San Antonio Spurs (-11.5) with a total of 193;
Does this line seem oddly low to anyone else? These teams played in Jersey just 10 days ago (give or take a day), and the Spurs clobbered the Nets as a 7.5-point road favorite. So, without personnel moves, you could have reasonably expected the Spurs to open as a 13.5-point home fave. Then, factor in the notion that the few remaining yahoos that had the stones to bet Jersey in that meeting on Valentine's Day probably won't this time around, and the line should have moved up a hair higher. What I'm gathering from all this is that oddsmakers are telling us Deron Williams is worth 2.5 to 3 points over the combination of Devin Harris and Derrick Favors. And maybe, long term, he is. But in the short term, Williams doesn't know the Nets offense - if we can call it that - and the disjointed nature of working a superstar into a team that has been festering in the cellar for a few years can lead to some missed covers. I admit, though, I'm leery of the number. Still, revenge or not, I can't ignore the overadjustment - lean to the SPURS (I know, what??) and the UNDER.
Atlanta Hawks @ Golden State Warriors (-2.5) with a total of 199;
I said it on the podcast - I think ANY trade the Hawks made would have been a good one. All we've been hearing out of the Atlanta camp is that the team is stagnating, the same guys in the locker room still unable to clear the hump and get into the truly elite. And this, at least, shakes things up a tiny bit. Kirk Hinrich will bring some defense to the point guard spot, and an ability to do something besides shoot the 3, because, let's fade it, Bibby's fat ass wasn't good for much else. Does this trade really make the Hawks any better? Not really, but maybe it wakes them up. All that said, I'm having a whale of a time finding a reason to actually back the Hawks - they're nearing the end of a long road trip, they've lost 3 straight by double digits, and the Warriors are the team on revenge in this matchup. The Hawks are going to surprise someone eventually, but I don't want to be that bonehead that backs them every day for 2 weeks until they finally play a good game. Small lean to ATLANTA and totals lean to the UNDER.
Denver Nuggets @ Portland Trailblazers (-5.5) with a total of 205;
This handicap starts and ends with how Denver looks against Boston. If the Nuggets come out and play a great game on TNT, I believe they'll collapse in this game with Portland, exhausted from the emotional drain and from the travel. If Denver looks awful against Boston, this line will probably move up, and the value will get sucked out. If Denver plays a perfectly middle-of-the-road game against Boston, they'll probably come back with a similar, if slightly lesser performance in Portland. Outside of the TNT game, this series has been dominated by the home team, with Denver taking down Portland twice at the Pepsi Center, and the Blazers winning (and barely covering) at the Rose Garden. I suppose we should just figure we'll see more of the same. It's not clear if Portland's newly minted Gerald will be around just yet, but I do have an early expectation of a lean to PORTLAND and the UNDER.
Los Angeles Clippers @ Los Angeles Lakers with a total of N/A;
This is another confusing game to handicap since, for our purposes, we're trying to decide if this is the Clippers' final game of an 11-game road trip, or if it qualifies as the first game back home. That is to say, what truly makes that "first game home" such a soft spot? Is it family obligations? Is it that the team just feels an emotional letdown finally getting back into the normal practice facility and knowing they won't have to take a long flight for a bit? Either way, the Clippers aren't in a good spot. They're either in an exhausted road spot or a sluggish home spot, and the Lakers are a team playing with momentum and purpose. So, we know we'd prefer to back the Lakers, but with the Clippers losing Baron Davis and picking up Mo Williams (keeping this line off), how much will oddsmakers factor the home court? It's tough to get a strong opinion without a line, but my belief is that oddsmakers only adjust by 1.5 or 2 for these fake "road" games in LA. We may see a line near 10, as a result, and that's just about high enough to ruin my interest in the Lakers. Either way, I can safely say I don't like the Clippers here, so lean to the MAMBAS and the UNDER.