Monday's NBA Tip Sheet

Monday's NBA Tip Sheet

NBA PLAYOFFS

(5) Washington (43-40, 46-37 ATS) at (4) Cleveland (46-37, 38-45 ATS)


The Wizards try to bounce back from Saturday’s tough Game 1 loss when they take on the Cavaliers in Game 2 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference playoff series inside the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

LeBron James & Co. outscored Washington 28-17 in the fourth quarter Saturday and escaped with a 93-86 win, cashing as four-point home favorites. James had 32 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 22 points and 11 boards to lead the charge for Cleveland, which is still only 6-7 in its last 13 games (4-9 ATS).

The Cavs have now beaten the Wizards seven straight times in the playoffs over the last three postseasons (5-2 ATS), including a 4-0 sweep in last year’s first round (3-1 ATS). In 2006, the Cavs won in six games, going 3-3 ATS.

Including Saturday’s contest, Cleveland is now 3-2 SU and ATS against Washington this year, with the home team winning all five contests (3-2 ATS). Even though the Cavs cashed in Game 1, the road team is still 5-3 ATS in the last eight clashes overall.

The Wizards are on a 14-7 ATS run as an underdog and have additional positive ATS trends of 8-4 as a road pup of less than five points and 11-6 as a road ‘dog of any price. But they are 1-5 ATS in their last six conference quarterfinal games (all against Cleveland) and 1-5 ATS in their last six after a SU loss.

The Cavaliers are 6-2 ATS in their last eight as a playoff favorite, but otherwise they are mired in several ATS funks, including 4-8 against the Eastern Conference, 2-4 as a chalk, 2-4 against the Southeast Division, 2-5 as a home chalk, 2-6 overall at home and 1-5 against teams with a winning record.

For Washington, the over is on streaks of 8-4 overall, 4-1 after a SU loss, 21-8 against the East and 5-3 in the playoffs (all against Cleveland), but the under is 12-5 in the Wizards’ last 17 on the highway and 11-4 in their last 15 as an underdog. For Cleveland, the under is on streaks of 7-0 overall, 17-5 at home and 12-2 as a home favorite. Finally, with Game 1 staying well below the total, the under is now 15-6 in the last 21 series meetings (playoffs included) at Quicken Loans Arena.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER


(4) Utah (55-28, 47-36 ATS) at (5) Houston (55-28, 47-34-2 ATS)

The Jazz will try to make it a two-game road sweep when they meet the Rockets for Game 2 of their best-of-7 Western Conference opening-round series inside the Toyota Center.

Utah shot better than 52 percent from the floor and got balanced scoring from Andrei Kirilenko (21 points), Deron Williams (20 points and 10 assists) and Carlos Boozer (20 points and 16 rebounds) en route to Saturday’s 93-82 win as a one-point ‘dog, The Jazz, who are on a 10-3 SU and ATS run, weren’t too shabby defensively either, limiting the Rockets to 36.7 percent shooting, including 27.3 from beyond the 3-point line.

Jerry Sloan’s club has now beaten Houston in three straight playoff games (3-0 ATS) going back to last season’s seven-game first-round series. The Jazz took Game 7 in that one on the Rockets’ home court, the only win for a road team in last year’s series. Utah is on an 8-1 overall ATS run against Houston.

Utah is on ATS streaks of 24-8 against the Western Conference, 7-1 against the Southwest Division, 5-1 as an underdog (all on the road), 37-16-1 against winning teams and 9-0 on Mondays.

Houston is just 1-3 SU and ATS in its last four overall, and the straight-up winner is 11-0 ATS in the team’s last 11 contests. Aside from their current 0-6 ATS nosedive in the playoffs, the Rockets are on myriad positive pointspread streaks, including 36-18-1 overall, 16-6-1 at home, 21-6-1 as a favorite and 15-5-1 as a home chalk.

For Utah, the over is on streaks of 7-3 as a playoff underdog, 42-22 as a road pup of less than five points, but the under is 10-3-1 in the team’s last 14 against the Southwest Division and 14-6 in its last 20 conference quarterfinal playoff contests.

For Houston, the under is on a bevy of runs, including 5-0 at home, 10-2 against the Northwest Division, 5-1 as a home chalk of any price and 9-3 as a home favorite of less than five points.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER

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Monday’s best NBA bets
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Washington at Cleveland -1½, 186½

The Washington Wizards have tried talking to LeBron James, knocking him down, and getting in his face whenever possible. So far nothing’s worked and you can understand their frustration.

The Cavs, who have beaten Washington in the first round the last two years, aren’t backing down. James continues to drive into the paint to take the contact despite his troublesome back and Cleveland’s defense held Washington to fewer than 90 points for third time in the last four meetings between the two clubs on Saturday.

A fully healthy Gilbert Arenas would have a lot to say about that, but he’s working his knee into shape even though he did managed 24 points in about 27 minutes of work on Saturday. The problem is that Washington needs those points down the stretch, not in the first quarter.

Pick: Cavaliers


Utah at Houston -1, 183½

Houston reeled off the second-longest winning streak in NBA history in the regular season and notched 55 wins despite playing without Yao Ming for a quarter of the year. But that was in regular season play.

Utah gave the Rockets a slap in the face in Game 1, scoring 50 points in the paint during a 93-82 victory after oddsmakers set Houston as a one-point favorite in the game. The books have the Rockets favored again tonight in a contest that is a lot more important following Saturday’s loss.

"This is a must-win," Tracy McGrady told reporters. "It's tough to win in the regular season, but it's a totally different ballgame. That's a hostile environment. They play extremely well in Utah, on their home court, we don't want to go there 0-2."

Rockets point guard Rafer Alston has Game 3 circled as a possible return date from his pulled hamstring, but Houston needs this one before it looks ahead too much.

Pick: Houston

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Inside the Paint - Monday
By Chris David

The NBA playoffs continue Monday with a pair of games on the hardwood and both contests will be televised nationally on TNT.

Let’s take a closer look!

Game 2: Washington at Cleveland


Recap

Game 1 was set up perfectly for head coach Eddie Jordan and the Wizards, as the club entered the fourth quarter with a 69-65 lead. Unfortunately, his club couldn’t make a clutch shot down the stretch and Cleveland did. With the score knotted at 84-84, LeBron James hit back-to-back buckets and the Cavaliers closed the game with a 7-2 run in the final 90 seconds for a 93-86 victory in the first battle.

James finished with 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting from the field and 8-of-14 shots from the charity stripe. Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 22 points and 11 boards for the Cavs, while Delonte West finished with 16 points.

Washington’s Antwan Jamison had 23 points and 19 rebounds in a losing effort, while Gilbert Arenas came off the bench with 24 points, including four bombs from 3-point land. The Wizards relied on the jump shot too much and watched the Cavaliers shoot 20 more free throws (37-17) in Game 1.

The combined 179 points dipped ‘under’ the closing total of 187 ½. The Wizards (40%) and Cavaliers (39%) both struggled from the field. The two teams shot a combined 11-of-43 (25.5%) from 3-point land.

Gambling Notes

Cleveland backers saw their team cover as four-point home favorites for the game and watched the club cover as a 3 ½-point favorite in the second half as well.

The setback for the Wizards was their eighth consecutive Game 1 postseason loss.

Even though the Cavaliers improved to 28-14 straight up at home with their victory on Saturday, Mike Brown’s team is only 16-26 against the spread at home.

Those following Cleveland lately should know that the ‘under’ has cashed in seven straight games and eight of the last 10.

Both Washington (24-21 SU, 25-20 ATS) and Cleveland (26-16 SU, 19-23 ATS) have been decent on one day of rest. One angle that stands out is the total for the Cavaliers, which has watched the ‘under’ go 27-14 (66%) on one day of rest.

The Cavaliers are listed as two-point favorites in Game 2, with the majority of books expecting the public to bet on Washington and its hope for a split. The total is hovering between 186 and 187.

Cleveland is listed at a minus-200 price (Bet $200 to win $100) on the series, while Washington is a plus-170 choice (Bet $100 to win $170).

Handicapper Analysis – Matt Moore

“I was impressed with Washington’s defense early on against LeBron James, but the Wizards live and die by the jumper too much. The best way to get your offense on track is to get to the free throw line and that’s what Cleveland did. The Cavs have witness the ‘under’ go 14-7 in their last 21 playoff games. Based on their pace of 75-80 shots a game, I don’t see either team eclipsing the century mark anytime soon unless you have a blistering performance from the outside.”

Game 2: Utah at Houston

Recap

Houston and its All Star Tracy McGrady have been known to start out fast in the playoffs recently and then fade. Unfortunately, the Rockets started this year’s playoffs flat and Utah took advantage by capturing a 93-82 decision in Game 1 on Saturday.

Carlos Boozer dominated the paint with 20 points and 16 rebounds, while Deron Williams poured in 20 points and 10 assists. The Jazz were ranked second in the league in field goal percentage (49%) and Jerry Sloan’s team didn’t disappoint in Game 1 by hitting 52 percent from the field.

While the Jazz were hot, the Rockets were not. The club connected on just 36 percent (29-of-79) from the field, including a dismal 6-of-22 (27%) from downtown. Sean Battier was the only player to find his stroke, hitting all seven of his shots for 22 points. All-Star Tracy McGrady faced double-teams the entire night and wound up with 20 points, seven assists and six boards in the loss.

Houston got more whistles than Utah, but it didn’t matter considering the Rick Adelmen’s team shot an embarrassing 62 percent (18-of-29) from the free throw line. Considering the team lost by 11 points, the 11 misses definitely played a factor.

Gambling Notes

Including Saturday’s win and cover, Utah is a blistering 10-4 SU and 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games.

The Jazz have had the Rockets number of late, going 8-1 ATS in their last nine head-to-head battles.

Last year, the Jazz and Rockets watched the ‘under’ go 4-3 in their best-of-seven conference quarterfinals.

The Rockets have been listed as one-point favorites for Game 2, while the ‘over/under’ is listed at 184. Don’t be surprised to see the total drop further, which it’s done in every previous meeting.

Oddsmakers listed Utah as a minus-200 favorite to win the best-of-seven series and after stealing Game 1, the Jazz are now a heavy 1/7 (Bet $700 to win $100) ticket.

Handicapper Analysis – Mark Fox

“Anytime you see a double-digit postseason victory, it’s usually based off a great performance versus a poor effort and that’s what happened in Game 1. Houston played horrible and Utah took away the all-important home court edge. Beating the Jazz on the road has been next to impossible, so this game is huge for the Rockets. Unfortunately, Houston is so overmatched from top to bottom in this battle, a sweep seems very likely.”

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A King's ransom: Handicapping Cavs-Wizards Game 2
Covers.com

Superstars like LeBron James are worth their weight in gold to sportsbooks; everybody loves watching them play and square bettors love wagering on their favorite player’s team.

That means big time bank for the books, but oddsmakers often need to shade their lines accordingly to keep action on both sides even, which can be a challenge when a team like LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers has dominated the Washington Wizards like they have.

Cleveland took Game 1 from the Wiz on Saturday and covered the four-point number in the process, marking the fifth time the Cavs have grabbed the loot in the last seven meetings and notched their seventh straight playoff win over Washington.

But by no means did Washington take the loss sitting down. The Wizards put a physical pounding on James and any other Cavalier that dared to dance in the paint and things nearly got ugly when LeBron was dropped by a tough screen from Brandon Haywood near the end of the first half. Tempers cooled after a few technicals were issued but the Wizards definitely got their point across.

You could see this coming a mile away.

Last month Washington guard DeShawn Stevenson made headlines by stating King James was “overrated,” adding fuel to an already tense rivalry that’s blossomed over the last two years while the teams went head-to-head in the first round.

Now, in the aftermath of Saturday’s scrappy game, oddsmakers opened with Cleveland set as a two-point favorite for Game 2, but that line is already down to -1 1/2.

"The Game 1 line was inflated," says betED.com Sportsbook Manager Randy Scott "This was because of it being a playoff home opener and LeBron was well rested and 100 percent healthy. As the series wears on, so will LeBron's back. However, Game 2 still has the Cavs as the favorite."

"Oddsmakers usually always fade the losing team in this playoff series," adds Peter Childs, from Belmont.com.

So, while finished with 32 points in the opener, his back is still a major concern for the Cavs and for bettors because he has a bull’s-eye on his back every time he touches the ball.

"When LeBron drives, he's getting hit, hit, hit," Cavs coach Mike Brown told reporters after the game. "Yes, he had 14 free throws, but if you go back and watch the tape, he's getting clobbered. He has to make sure that he goes in there and protects himself so he doesn't get hurt.

"One thing he can't do, is stop driving the ball."

And everybody knows that. LeBron's the key to the offense, but also contributes a little - or a lot - of everything else. So when he's banged up everyone feels the impact, especially in a nasty series like this.

"A healthy LeBron is easily worth between an additional 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 points depending on the opponent of course," says Scott, while Peter Childs figures James could be worth as many as six points on the line, depending on the situation.

As if this line wasn't tricky enough already, oddsmakers also have to evaluate how healthy Washington’s Gilbert Arenas is on a daily basis. Arenas, managed 23 points in almost 28 minutes of work on Saturday, but he tired down the stretch and fouled out with 13 ticks left in the fourth quarter. If he can get his legs under him, oddsmakers may be forced into further adjustments.

"I'll start off hot in the first half and cool off in the second half,” Arenas told reporters. “It comes from sitting. They're trying to manage my timing, and it's kind of difficult to get my rhythm."

Kind of like handicapping this series. Oddsmakers currently have Monday night's total at 186 1/2.

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3-Straight Loss Playoff Teams
By Marc Lawrence

We’ve seen it time and again. Teams scratch and claw to land a spot in the NBA playoffs and before they realize it they are in over their heads and are soon headed home.

This is especially true for teams that have lost three straight playoff games in a row. Like a boxer taking a standing 8-count, these teams are wobbly and ready to fall.

From our trusted database, let’s take a look at how playoff teams perform in games immediately after suffering three punches (read: losses) in a row. All results are ATS (Against The Spread) since 1991, unless noted otherwise.

GOING DOWN, ANYONE?

For openers, NBA teams that have lost three straight playoff games are not trustworthy. That’s confirmed by their 24-36 SU and 24-34-2 ATS mark when looking to stay alive.

Dress them up as favorites and prepare to watch your money go up in flames. That’s because these hat-trick artists are 9-12 SU and 6-15 ATS when laying points.

Furthermore, three-straight loss teams are just 4-21 SU and 5-18-2 ATS in games in which they own a win percentage of .600 or less. Put these same cast of characters in an elimination game in which the Over/Under total is 191 or less and they will need a paramedic, going 1-15 SU and 1-13-2 ATS!

GET OUT THE BROOMS

One other take on three-straight loss playoff teams. When they are down 0-3 in the series you can dust off the brooms and get them ready for Game Four.

This situation has occurred 34 times since 1991. These teams are 11-23 SU and 11-22-1 ATS when looking to avoid the Grand Slam. Worse yet, if they did not lose to the spread by double-digits in their most recent defeat, they dip to 4-12 SU and ATS. Or, if they are a sub .580 team, they stand little-to-no-chance of surviving, going 2-10 SU and 1-10-1 ATS.

Keep this ‘Down for the Count’ theory handy throughout the course of the playoffs. It won’t help the teams about to face elimination, but it could save you.

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