Two years ago I uttered the following phrase:
"It will be a cold day in Hell before I ever give props to Tracy McGrady."
Last night, Hell got a light breeze, as our Paid Play on the Knicks came in strong, thanks in large part to T-Mac's potent offensive numbers against the tired, undermanned Pistons. So, Tracy, nice job.
Also worth noting, I think, is our recent run of success on games involving the Pistons. Maybe living in Ann Arbor is starting to make an impact, because we've placed 4 wagers on games involving Detroit over the last week-plus, and we're a perfect 4-0. Go figure.
We dropped our Free Play on the Dallas-Minnesota Under, as the late scratch of Jason Kidd turned the Mavericks back into pre-All Star Break, hectic, discombobulated Dallas, instead of the new, execute-first Dallas. If I had known Kidd was a potential DNP, that game would have never made the card -- his court savvy has played an enormous role in Dallas's recent surge of confidence and their ability to win in the half-court. Oh well, burned by injury; not much we can do about that.
Big TNT Thursday tonight, so let's have at it!
Grizzlies @ Bulls - This line is OFF. This line is presumably off because of Luol Deng, who is supposedly "probable" for this one. This is going to be an awfully tough spot for the Grizzlies, though Memphis just seems to have all systems chugging along when they're on the road. The Grizz picked up an improbable victory last night in New Orleans despite trailing by 7 points very late. Some hustle, some ball, and a Zach Randolph BANK-three got them back in the game, and Memphis took the lead late on a layup -- way too easy if you're the Hornets. Of course, all that energy expended last night is going to have to get recovered somewhere, and when you're not getting any sleep, it's awfully tough to catch up on Z's. Still, I'm not sure I can advocate going against the Grizzlies JUST based on fatigue, since they've actually won their last 3 back-to-backs to improve to 7-8 ATS in those spots. It's funny, too. Memphis was one of the worst in the League on back-to-back games before this 3-game back-to-back winning streak, going just 1-11 SU and just 4-8 ATS. So, what changed? Well, interestingly, Memphis LOST the first game of all 3 of those back-to-backs, so it was almost like they were annoyed by the failure the previous night. Memphis is suddenly all over the map, winning consistently on the road and tanking at home. These teams haven't played this year, so there isn't any previous meeting to go off, which makes this game all that much more difficult to predict. What we do have is a Bulls team coming off a tired, lackluster, INJURED effort against the Hawks, and the Grizzlies coming off an emotional divisional road win. I can't help but think Memphis might suffer a slight letdown, but can Chicago get the juices flowing and keep one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA off the glass? They certainly couldn't stop the Hawks. I am inclined to think the Bulls are in a nice spot to appear weak and fragile, while the Grizzlies look like they're dominating, but this line is going to do a lot to convince me one way or the other. I lean Bulls without knowing the status of Deng, but if any more bodies are missing for the Bulls, I would just take a pass. On the total, the Bulls have been playing terrible defense, and the lack of rebounding has a fair amount to do with it. The Grizzlies give up a lot of points on back-to-backs, and I can't help but lean a little bit to the Over.
Lakers @ Heat - Los Angeles by 4 with a total of 187.5. I actually believe that the fact that the Lakers WEREN'T looking ahead to this game in their Tuesday throttling of the Pacers is a good sign for the Heat. Miami may have been looking ahead, as they barely squeezed past the Warriors on that very same night, and the combination of those two factors makes me think the Heat have been gearing up for this early TNT match with the defending champs. The Heat are just 12-17 ATS at home this year, so that won't inspire your confidence, but they're 17-15 ATS as an underdog, and a solid 21-15 ATS against high-scoring opponents. But really, these ATS trends don't mean much. We can't really interpret how the Heat play against high-scoring foes, if only because they tend to play a slower style of game, and have a knack for keeping games close when they look like they might get socked upside the head. The more important note on this game comes from the land of revenge. As you may recall, the Heat paid a visit to Southern California way back on December 4th, and appeared to have that game won when Kobe pulled a Kobe and banked in a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to spoil Dwyade Wade's day and deal the Heat a loss they never should have had to suffer. I don't know what it is about this matchup, but the Heat play the Lakers TOUGH, as tough as any team in the NBA. They have covered 3 straight, but the real key is that all 3 of those games have been decided by a combined 6 points. Honestly, if Miami makes a few free throws in LA back in December, they win that game going away! I know this line looks extremely low, and the Lakers must appear to be an extremely sexy play, but I would offer a word or two of caution. One of my favorite ways to see how far a line is away from the true power ranking is to look at games against common opponents. Both of these teams played the Dallas Mavericks recently, so let's peer at those games. First, the Heat -- Miami played at Dallas on February 20th WITHOUT Wade, and was getting 10.5 points. We can logically assume that line would have been right around 7.5 if Wade was playing, maybe as low as 7 since there are very few guys that can move the line as much as Wade. Both teams were playing a back-to-back, so we can disregard that factor. Thus, Dallas would be ranked as a 4.5 point favorite on a neutral court. The Lakers played in Dallas 4 days later, themselves on a back-to-back, and were a 2-point underdog. Without the back-to-back, it's safe to assume this game would have been close to a pick. Okay, so the Lakers are 7 points better on a neutral court, which matches up with this TNT game. But WAIT, the Heat covered against the Mavs, and the Lakers didn't, which inherently means those lines were wrong! We can see right there that while it's never perfectly transitive, the Heat should have been less than a 10.5-point underdog, and the Lakers should have been more than 2. We can see right there that this line, Heat getting 4, is value on Miami. I lean to Wade and company. This total is just insanely low, which makes me think we have to at least look at the Under, since books wouldn't put a Lakers line in the 180's unless they absolutely had to. The Lakers have only had one total all season long in the 180's, and it went Under. I think they may be due for a follow-up.
Jazz @ Suns - Phoenix by 1 with a total of 213. This game has the potential to be all kinds of enjoyable. From a betting standpoint, it may somewhat tough, but let's see what we can find. The Jazz are coming off an outright loss to the Clippers in LA in a game where it just didn't look like Utah wanted to be there. I'm not sure if the Jazz are slipping a little, since they've lost back-to-back road games in Sacramento and in SoCal. In fact, they've lost 3 of 5, though the third loss was a home game against the Hawks where Utah was coming off a very, very late game on the West coast and had to fly back into the altitude. The problem certainly hasn't been offense. The Jazz have broken 100 in 4 of those 5 games, but they're not stopping anyone. They have allowed over 100 in 4 of 5 games, as well; that, coming after a stretch where they held 6 straight teams under 100 points, and won 5 of those 6 games straight up. This is only the second meeting this year between these two teams, and Utah won the only meeting, in Utah, 124-115, soaring over the posted total of 221.5. First, that makes this a revenge spot for Phoenix. Second, this total is 8 points lower than that one despite a combined scoring mark of 239 points. I don't think this game is as cut-and-dry as "play the under", since the first meeting was almost 2 months ago, but I do think it says a great deal about the Suns newfound commitment on the defensive end that a Jazz/Suns game would have the lowest posted total since December of 2008. Utah also happens to be on a run of 5 straight Overs, and with every one, the impending run of Unders gets closer and closer. On the Phoenix side, the Suns are coming off beating the living snot out of the Clippers, yet again. When you talk about a team that just OWNS another club, that is the case with Phoenix. The Suns shot over 50% from long range last night, and scored over 30 points in 3 of the 4 quarters. The odds of Phoenix duplicating that sort of performance on a back-to-back is a little on the low side. Phoenix is 6-9 ATS on back-to-back games, and actually 7-8 O/U, so they do have a tendency to slow down and get out of their normal rhythm. I realize the Suns are on revenge, and they're playing inspired ball, but every other angle points to the Jazz to bounce back off that ugly game in LA. I lean Utah. On the total, it's Under or nothing -- there's no value left in the over, not with Phoenix coming off this crazy game with the Clippers, and the Jazz on their run of overs. I'm not saying the Under is the play, but the value on the over is gone. Lean to the Under.