For the next few days, I want to try titling the blog based on the temperature of our group handicapping. Last week, things were a tad frigid. Sunday, we put together a strong day to get to "Lukewarm," and after a winning Top Play and some hugely profitable leans that went unplayed, I'd say we qualify for "Warm."
As far as yesterday is concerned, we did pick up a supremely easy winner on the New Orleans Hornets, who didn't need the points. The first line of the analysis, for those that bought the play, indicated that the Hornets were going to win the game outright, so hopefully some folks put a tiny nub of their recreational bankroll on the money line. If not, no big deal; we got a winner, and the Hornets biggest crowd of the entire season caused just the kind of havoc we expected.
During the week, you guys know you're getting a chunky-size blog, but I want to also do a better job of recapping most of our leans from the day before, time permitting. We mentioned on yesterday's podcast with RJ Bell the need to analyze winners and losers from the day before and really try to learn from these games, so without further ado, the newest addition to the blog: "The Leantracker in Hindsight"
We eliminated the Bobcats play early in the day when the line jumped up almost a full point, then stopped moving. Clearly, oddsmakers were content with the money split, and the line had gotten too high. We were correct in eliminating that play.
We eliminated the Nets play because of the volatility of a late injury scratch. When Manu Ginobili went down, I actually had to scrap about 300 words of analysis on the Nets, as I was one mouse-click away from submitting them as a play. Obviously, we should have kept that play alive, but I'm not upset, because in the long term betting against teams losing a key piece is actually a bad value. Last night it worked, but it's a scary spot.
And finally, we eliminated the Mavericks lean because of Dallas's home record. This is the one eliminated lean that left a bad taste in my mouth, since our reasons for laying off the play were not that strong. The reason listed, that "Dallas is bad at home" is a somewhat remedial reason to avoid a play this late in the season, and Dallas went on to crush the Nuggets handily. Denver had no energy on the last game of a long, brutal road trip, and looked tired on the back-to-back. Dallas came to play, and with a win later in the night, Utah moved past Denver for the Northwest division lead. Big day for the Jazz, and foolish move on our part to skip this lean. Lesson learned.
Kings @ Pacers - This line is OFF. I suppose Tyreke Evans is nearing a return, but I don't know his status just yet. Let's assume he's still out. With that in mind, we have to decide if the fairly large number that the Pacers are laying is going to be too many. I'm pretty well convinced that Indiana is going to win this game. They're playing good basketball, and even in the loss in Atlanta, they looked better at the defensive end of the floor - they just didn't make shots. That problem doesn't usually come into play at home against a poor defensive team. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pacers laying 6 or 7 points, here, maybe even as high as 8, but with the way they've been playing, that's not that crazy. If this number is on the lower end of that spectrum, that could be a value with Indiana. The Kings won the first game without Evans, but since then have lost 4 straight, and while they did cover the most recent two games, those games weren't really close, the Kings were just getting a ton of points. In this one, neither team is in a great situational spot - the Pacers are a young team coming off a win streak, and the Kings are missing their best player and coming off games with Boston and Cleveland. I'm just not sure the Kings care about these games near the end of the season, at least not the ones on the road. The effort hasn't been that great, and I'm inclined to believe Indiana surprises Sacramento with a way tougher game than they expect - lean to Pacers. On the total, I would love to see a number near 210, since Indiana's improving defense could mean some value with the Under, but the posted total has to help us out a little here.
Thunder @ Sixers - Oklahoma by 6 with a total of 195. One of the League's best road teams, the Thunder, with a game tomorrow in Boston, taking on one of the League's worst home teams, Philadelphia, with a game tomorrow in Charlotte. I would certainly say that between those two look-ahead scenarios, the one facing the Thunder is a little more extreme. However, as we've covered many times over the last 2 weeks, at this point in the season, I'm just not sure that the idea of the look-ahead truly exists. This is a part of the season where the good teams hunker down and take care of business against every opponent, good or bad, hot or cold. And right now, the Thunder are embroiled in a ridiculous cluster of teams out West all battling for home court and battling to avoid the Lakers in the opening round. Oklahoma is in decent shape, a little ahead of the bottom of the pack, but there's more than enough time left for anybody to slide into 4th...or 8th. This game is interesting in that the Thunder are laying more points than they did against the Clippers, and that doesn't seem quite right. The Sixers have actually won 2 in a row, pretty decisively might I add, and I just don't think they're going to be the pushovers everyone seems to think. Young teams playing with confidence are dangerous to fade, and the Sixers are clearly a value play. But can they cover? I think that, given the situation, you have to at least give a look to the home team, and I figure we'll see a pretty goodly home/road split of money on this one, as well. I lean to the Sixers by a nose. The total of 195 is spot on, I believe. The Sixers haven't been playing all that fast, but they've been making shots, and if the Thunder play defense, this one could just barely sneak Under.
Clippers @ Bucks - Milwaukee by 10 with a total of 193. The Clippers are the worst team in the NBA again, somehow. It just boggles my mind that a team with Baron Davis (or some strange doppelganger that can't play basketball in Baron's body), Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and a host of competent backups (Drew Gooden, Rasual Butler, Craig Smith) still can't beat anyone, and can't even stay close to most teams. Somehow, though, one of the few games that saw the Clippers give a decent effort was a home game against these very Bucks. Milwaukee's been struggling a tad, so for them to be laying 10 points right now is a little suspect, and honestly, I don't like either club. Milwaukee isn't beating anyone by double digits right now, and the Clippers aren't really hanging tough most nights. Feels like a coin-flip, though the Bucks do have a game in Cleveland tomorrow, and might want to use that one as a proving ground. Still, we talked already in this blog about how much weight a look-ahead really carries at this stage of the year, and it's not as much. I suppose you have to like getting 10 points when the home team isn't in a good situational spot, so teeny tiny lean to the Clippers. The total seems too high, to me. the Clippers beat the Bucks 101-93 in LA, shooting 53% at home. Clippers won't shoot 53% again, and while the Bucks might shoot a bit better, this one should stay in the 180's. Lean to the Under.
Suns @ Bulls - Phoenix by 3.5 with a total of 217.5. I know this sounds nuts, but the Bulls actually match up pretty well with the Suns, but oddsmakers don't have a strong feel for Chicago lately, I believe. The mere fact that we saw the Bulls as 2-point dogs in Detroit was proof enough that the books have no clue what to expect from them. That game was a back-to-back, which obviously played a role, but for Phoenix, one of the best teams in the West, to only be laying 3.5 points in Chicago is going to draw an absolute ton of attention. Is this a particularly good or bad spot for either team? Not really. The Suns play in Jersey tomorrow, and Chicago has a couple days off before a game in Washington. We know the Bulls are playing for their lives, but the Suns would seem to want these games pretty badly, too. I think we get two highly motivated teams, and I'd love to say I have confidence the Bulls get it done, and while they have beat the Suns once already this year, I have no lean on the side...yet. The total of 217.5 is pretty accurate, I believe, since both teams could get to 110, but if either club has an off-night, this one stays under. Coin-flip, so I'd advocate waiting and seeing if we get some value over the course of the day. As of now, I would err just slightly to the Under, since teams that are normally running like crazy are slowing things up just a bit.
Wizards @ Rockets - This line is OFF. I don't think either team really wants to be involved in this one, and that means that my first thought is to look at the total. So, let's flip things around, and check out totals numbers first. The Rockets are coming off a high-scoring game with the Lakers, as LA just made everything from the field, and Houston actually came out firing in the second half in sort of a last-ditch effort to make themselves feel better. I honestly let out a little laugh when I took a look at how these teams have been doing, especially straight up. Washington is zero for March, and in jeopardy of going winless over an entire month (currently 0-15). The Rockets have lost 4 straight, and they should prove to be a marginal favorite in this one. Do the Wizards have the gusto to actually compete this close to the end of the season? There has been word of some turmoil brewing between budding star Andray Blatche and coach Saunders, and that might partially explain why a team playing such awful basketball can't even find their way into a back door cover, lately. But hey, no team likes to lose, and I wonder if we don't get a relatively strong effort from Washington, secure in their lottery position. The Rockets' best interest right now is to lose games, and with a more interesting game with San Antonio coming up tomorrow, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Rockets take a night off. Lean to Washington on the side. This total might be a bit inflated from the Rockets high scoring game with the Lakers, but Washington can't score, and they prefer a slower game. I think we'll get some value on the Under, assuming the line doesn't come out too low to begin with.