I think maybe the most fun we can have in the opening paragraph is to try to predict how the talking heads are going to fill airtime leading up to games in the evening. While we concentrate on games with scheduling angles, revenge, under-the-radar injuries and matchups, you know darn well that Chris Paul's Madison Square Garden performance, and whether he'll end up there soon.
As David Stern has noted multiple times, it's just a shame that every day has to be spent postulating where superstar players will go when their contracts run out, but that's the NBA landscape right now, with every "expert" trying to get his 15 minutes of fame by breaking a story first.
Slightly shorter writeups today due to the double-digit card size, but we'll get the meat of each game analyzed, as always!
Sports Wagering: NBA
Golden State Warriors (-1) @ Washington Wizards with a total of 214;
Golden State gets set to play a back-to-back on the road, and after being home for almost the entire 2011 calendar year, this could be a bit of a culture shock. The Warriors are an extremely streaky team, and though there may be some value to dig up, depending on whether the Warriors show any signs of life on the road, I'm just not that married to betting this game. Golden State just bought out Troy Murphy, so they've unloaded some cash, and that's never good for a team's confidence. These two teams have not yet met this season, Washington showed signs of life for 1 game after being called out by their rookie point guard, and then went right back to getting creamed in their next. The Warriors had lost 3 straight prior to last night's game Indiana (result pending), so why waste our time trying to decide between two teams that could lay an egg at any moment? Golden State is going to be the public side, and honestly, while I'd love to make a case for Washington, I'm not sure we can trust that young team right now. At least the Warriors are still showing signs of giving a hoot. I'd rather pass, but I suppose I'd sooner lean WARRIORS than the other way. Washington's lack of offensive rhythm pushes me towards the UNDER.
San Antonio Spurs (-9) @ Cleveland Cavaliers with a total of 201;
Here's an interesting one...or not. This one comes down to weighing two factors side-by-side. The first is recent ATS play of the two teams - the Cavaliers have been a covering machine, slipping just under the spread repeatedly while squeaking out a win every so often. The Spurs win games, but San Antonio has slowed considerably ATS as oddsmakers have finally gone ahead and overinflated their lines. The Spurs are also without Tony Parker for a few weeks, and Tim Duncan is battling a few nagging injuries of his own, and the Cavs just lost Antawn Jamison for the season. The second question is whether the Spurs are motivated enough to win by double digits on the road? They've done it before, and that's sort of the reason to be cautious, but given the injuries and the Spurs catbird seat in the West, I don't expect them to pour it on...though, now that last night's results are in, maybe they do get a little pissed and beat someone silly. NO real lean on the side, and the OVER.
Chicago Bulls @ Atlanta Hawks with a total of N/A;
I would assume this line is off because of the injury to Josh Smith. No matter the reason, the Hawks, who, to their credit, are playing better, are in a terrible scheduling spot, here. Atlanta has been out west since the All Star Break, and they've been on the road since the 14th of February. This is a true sluggish spot. The Bulls, meanwhile, are playing dominant basketball, working Joakim Noah back into the mix perfectly, aside from a first game hiccup against Toronto. Since that loss, the Bulls are 3-0, including 2 road wins, Chicago's only real weakness. Interestingly, these teams have not met this year, so no revenge to speak of, and each team has a pretty meaningful game coming up on the schedule. All other things equal, I can't ignore Atlanta's return home being a rough spot for them - lean to CHICAGO and the UNDER.
New Orleans Hornets @ New York Knicks (-3.5) with a total of 201;
This is one of those spots where the Hornets are going to try to just hang around, and hang around a little more. They know they're going to be at a huge disadvantage on the offensive end, and that's the case for New Orleans in about half their games, but if the Hornets can clamp down those defensive hooks and just keep it close, anything can happen. Both teams are playing the second half of a back-to-back, with New Orleans traveling in from Toronto, and New York returning from Orlando. This game is going to be one of the more heavily bet contests of the night, courtesy of the Chris Paul in New York angle, and though that should create some built-in line value on the road team, the Hornets are a little unpredictable these days. Is playing New York the easy side? Absolutely, but I think they've got as decent a shot as the Hornets at covering this number. Don't overthink things too much - tiny lean to the KNICKS and the UNDER.
Minnesota Timberwolves @ Detroit Pistons with a total of N/A;
I think we'll learn a fair amount about the Pistons from last night's game when it's done. As I type this, Milwaukee is out to a very early lead, but to me, betting this Pistons-Wolves game comes down to what we think we can expect from Detroit. The Pistons have gone back to square one, and Coach Kuester, who still has a job, amazingly, has said that effort level will determine playing time, that he's not going to pick favorites, and if you show up and play hard, he'll get you in the game. That should, on paper, make sense for a Pistons team that has been in turmoil for darn near 3 months, but only time will tell if this plan makes any sense. It feels like Detroit is just looking for a stop-gap to get them to the end of another lost season, but hey, what do I know? Full disclosure - I actually don't even care what Minnesota's doing. My handicapping of this game is entirely Detroit, since I believe we'll see a line that is just an oddsmaker's best guess. Can we exploit it? Possibly. Let's WAIT AND SEE.
Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics (-7) with a total of 197.5;
Cursed competing angles. The Celtics haven't been home in over 2 weeks, spending the All Star Break in Los Angeles before kicking off a road trip on the West coast. Now, coming home, this is the type of spot where I would normally be salivating to fade Boston. Unfortunately, Boston has revenge from an awful performance in Phoenix a shade over a month ago. Boston was exhausted in that game, and I can't help but think they'll want to show Phoenix that the Suns can't just run up and down the court in their house. Phoenix, somewhat quietly, put together a nice little 9-3 SU February, and they closed the month witha 4-game win streak, albeit on a series of heart-stoppers. I'm curious to see how the betting public reacts to this game, since the line strikes me as a bit of a throw-away. Considering Boston was a 4.5-point road favorite on the second half of a back-to-back, and now lay just 7 at home, I'd love to fade the team coming home, but there just isn't much value there. Microscopic lean to the visiting SUNS and the OVER.
Indiana Pacers @ Oklahoma City Thunder (-7) with a total of 210.5;
I guess the question in this game is whether either team will put any effort into playing defense. We know the Pacers can walk the ball up the court when they have to and dump it to Roy Hibbert, but that hasn't been the plan under Coach Vogel. Indiana played to quite a few overs before a few poor offensive performances this last week. The Thunder have played some lower scoring games, but that has been largely because of the ridiculous size of the two opponents (Lakers, Magic). You have to think the Thunder are going to look to get back into their quicker tempo, especially against a Pacers team that should be willing to let that happen. The Thunder did beat Indiana on the road earlier this year, so there could be just a tiny flavor of revenge, though I'm not sure it's enough to shift me to the Pacers side, not when the Thunder are as good as they are coming off losses. I suppose I could offer a very small side lean to the THUNDER and a slightly larger lean to the OVER.
Charlotte Bobcats @ Denver Nuggets (-7.5) with a total of 202;
I wonder if Denver swung from underrated to overrated in one game. It's quite possible, though it's also possible that this line is exactly where it should be. The one thing I don't believe to be the case is that this line is deflated. Denver has come out since the trade deadline move and has covered every single game. That can't go on forever. The Bobcats began a very difficult road trip with a decisive loss in Orlando, now they play in Denver before heading to LA and then Portland. The ultimate conservative play would be to fade the Bobcats when they head home, since the return trip from Portland is going to tire them just as much as the trip itself, but if we're going to try to find times to bet on Charlotte games between now and then, we need to be extremely deliberate. Both teams in this game have lost some valuable pieces, and gained some others, and I can't help but think the Bobcats will cover a few spreads, eventually. Alright, enough fluff - very small lean to DENVER in this one, and I mean extremely small, and I would take a peek at the UNDER, since both teams are going to be a little disjointed at times.
Portland Trailblazers (-4.5) @ Sacramento Kings with a total of 198;
This line isn't right. Portland is hosting the Houston Rockets as we speak, and oddsmakers feel they're strong enough to still lay 4.5 in Sacramento, a pretty darn tough place to play? I'm not sure I'm buying it. Portland was laying just 1.5 points the last time they visited Sacramento, and they weren't on a back-to-back in that one. Is Tyreke Evans really worth almost 5 points? I'm not in love with the Kings by any stretch, since we know how they can go through brutal offensive slumps mid-game, but in terms of pure line value, I just don't believe the Blazers are 9.5-points better than the Kings right now. Of course, if Portland's starters only play 25 minutes against Houston, that's another story, but with Roy likely sitting this one out, Camby not quite at full strength, and Aldridge starting to cool a tad, the KINGS might just slip through and win one, and we know Portland tends to run a little more when they're tired, so slight OVER lean.
Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Clippers with a total of N/A;
The possibility of Eric Gordon's return makes me want to watch this game and see how he looks. We know how strong the Clippers can be when Gordon and Griffin are running an inside-outside game, but if he's not completely healthy, he's going to move the line unnecessarily, and the Rockets, a very good offensive team, can take advantage of the type of long rebounds that long, missed shots lead to. The Clippers are not a good bet right now, and we only got on them in their last game because I felt Sacramento would come out much flatter than they ultimately did. Unless we have a great reason to back Griffin and company, they are a team best avoided. LA heads back out on the road after a game with Denver, too, so things aren't going to get any easier. At some point the value will pass through that midpoint, and we can start watching LA more closely, but as long as they're working Mo Williams into the offense, and Gordon is going to try to get back into game shape, they're a fade or an under play until further notice. No real lean on the side, though HOUSTON has been hot, and some offensive funkiness on the Clippers side just might keep this under, if the total is high enough.