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SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
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The Celtics are in a great spot tomorrow. The Bulls psychologically know that there is no Kevin Garnett. Whether they like it or not that is in their head. The Celtics know that too. They will be twice as motivated tomorrow. Allen and Pierce and crew have heard that they are done. No KG, no success. I think this gives us a huge edge. I really like Powe and Perkins down low. Powe when he is healthy can be a very tough cover. Doc Rivers is a very good in game and defensive coach. Rondo has playoff experience now. A lot of good veterans and great coaching gives us a good 1st game edge. I feel this is the chance for the Celts to roll.
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
3 units on Boston -8.5
3 units on San Antonio -4
3 units on Portland -4.5
3 units on Atlanta +106
3 units on Chicago Cubs -130
3 units on LA Angels +113
3 units on NY Yankees -128
3 units on Seattle Mariners -125
3 units on Washington -200
3 units on Montreal +200
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
7* Daytime Dominator-TV
The Cubs and Cards opened a four-game set at Wrigley on Thursday, with the Cards winning 7-4. The Cards led the Cubs by a run with one out in the eighth last night but then Alfonso Soriano (who already had struck out three times in the game) hit a two-run HR, helping rally the Cubs to an 8-7 win. The Cubs were an impressive 55-26 in Wrigley last year and I expect them to be very tough again in "the friendly confines." The third game of this series matches Kyle Lohse against Ryan Dempster. Both pitchers are coming off impressive 2008 seasons. Lohse was 13-8 and 14-11 for the Twins back in 2002 and 2003 but then posted four consecutive sub-.500 seasons. He had a re-birth in St Louis last year, going 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA in 33 starts. He's off to a terrific start in 2009. Lohse threw a career-best three-hitter last Sunday in a 3-0 shutout win over the Astros at St Louis. He retired 24 in a row after giving up a single on his first pitch. He's s 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA, which is what the Cardinals expected of him after signing him to a four-year, $41 million deal last September. Sunday's win marked his fifth career shutout and just his seventh complete game. Lohse also won his first start this season against the Pirates and has allowed two earned runs and just eight hits this season in 16 innings. However, he'll face a Chicago lineup which was 40-20 at home last year vs right-handed starters and while Lohse posted a 3.32 home ERA in 2008, it was 4.43 in his 15 road starts. Ryan Dempster gets the call for Chicago. He was a starter in his early years with the Marlins but from 2005-07, was the Cubs' closer. He was converted back to a starter last year, with OUTSTANDING results. Dempster was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 33 regular season starts for Chicago, as the Cubs went 22-11 in those games. Most impressively, he was 14-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 20 starts (team was 16-4 or 80 percent!) in Wrigley last year. Lohse has not pitched at Wrigley since 2007 (with the Phillies) and went 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA in three starts against the Cubs last season, although the Cards did win his two no-decisions. Meanwhile, Dempster posted a 2.31 ERA in winning both home starts vs the Cardinals in 2008. The Cards are really depending on Lohse with Chris Carpenter on the DL (strained left ribcage) but there is nothing in his past which should lead anyone to believe that he's a "top of the rotation guy!" This is Dempster's first home start of 2009 and setting couldn't be better. It's a day game at Wrigley against the team's longtime rival (Cards) and it's on TV. The Cubs won 80% (16-4) of Dempster's home starts last year and have thrived at home vs right-handers (40-20 LY / 2-2 start TY).
Daytime Dominator on the Chi Cubs
Las Vegas Insider - NBA
Is the news of Kevin Garnett likely being out for the entire postseason a 'death sentence' for the Celtics? One thing's for sure, it wasn't good news. I read a preview of this series somewhere in which the author said, "this year's Bulls actually remind me of last year’s Atlanta Hawks. They are young and athletic, plus they’ve struggled with questionable coaching." Well most may remember that the Hawks took the Celtics to seven games last year but it should also be pointed out that the Hawks "never came close" in any of the four games played in Boston, losing on average by 102.3 PPG-to-77.0! The Bulls enter having won 12 of their last 16 games but going just 9-7 ATS. The Bulls were an impressive 14-2 SU at home after the All Star break but were hardly a good road team this year, going 13-28 SU (although they did go a much more respectable 20-20-1 ATS). Deng (14.1-6.0) is out for the year but he was not having a good season. The acquisitions of Salmons (17.6-4.1) and Miller (11.8-7.4) have been HUGE, as the Bulls are 16-11 in the 27 games they've played in for them, including that strong 12-4 finish. Gordon (20.7-3.5-3.4) led the team in scoring, while backcourt partner Rose (16.8-3.9-6.3), is a virtual 'lock' for rookie-of-the-year. Hinrich (9.9-3.9 APG) missed 31 games because of an injury and for the first time since entering the league, failed to increase his scoring average from the previous season. Tyrus Thomas (10.8-6.4) and Joakim Noah (6.7-7.6) have both played well at times in Chicago's frontcourt, while Tim Thomas has averaged 8.1 PPG and 3.3 RPG in his 23 games with the Bulls (his THIRD team this season). The Bulls are NOT a good defensive team, allowing 102.5 PPG and the Celtics shot 48.6 percent as a team, the second-best mark in the NBA. Of course, Garnett's (15.8-8.5) absence is HUGE, especially on the defensive end, as the Celtics finished with the third-best scoring defense in the league (93.4) plus the league's top-ranked defensive FG percentage (43.1).Garnett will be missed but Perkins (8.5-8.1) will get capable help inside from Powe (7.7-4.9), Davis (7.0-4.0) and even Mikki Moore (4.8-4.4 in 23 games with Boston). Rondo (11.9-5.2-8.2) proved himself in last year's postseason plus the Celtics have House (8.5) and Tony Allen (7.6) available. Boston fans are hoping Rivers keeps Marbury on the bench! The two remaining members of Boston's "Big Three" are Pierce (20.5-5.6-3.6) and Ray Allen (18.2-3.5-2.8). Pierce should welcome the challenge of trying to "win without KG" and I expect a HUGE first game out of last year's Finals MVP. The Celtics were are 18-7 SU without Garnett but well under .500 ATS without him. That's the key in this series. Few think it likely that the Bulls will be able to get past the Celtics but can Boston cover the almost double-digit pointspread they face in this game? In betting the NBA playoffs, I believe one is best-served by not considering before the start of a series, which team will win but rather to evaluate things on a game-by-game basis, adjusting to the flow of the series. "Gut instinct" often plays a key role and my gut says lay the points with Boston in this one.
Las Vegas Insider Bos Celtics
9* PERFECT STORM - NBA
The Mavs opened the year 2-7 (0-4 at home) but rallied down the stretch to finish with 50 wins, the ninth consecutive season in which they've reached that plateau, as well as marking the team's ninth straight postseason appearance. The Mavs' strong finish allowed them to move up into the No. 6 seed in the tightly-bunched West and lo and behold, look who is waiting for them in the first round. None other than the hated San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs clinched the Southwest Division title on the final day of the regular season and enter the postseason as the West's third seed. While Dallas will be in its ninth consecutive postseason, the Spurs own the longest active postseason streak of any team, with 12 consecutive playoff appearances. More importantly, while the Mavs have never won an NBA title, the Spurs own four titles ((99, 03, 05 and 07). This is a bitter rivalry, fueled by the Spurs success and the Mavs lack of it. The 2005-06 season may have been the worst for Dallas fans, as the Mavericks eliminated the Spurs in the second round that year, by winning a Game 7 overtime contest in San Antonio and then advancing to the franchise's first-ever NBA Finals. The Mavs took a 2-0 lead on the Heat that year but fell part, losing four straight games. I've heard from a number of people that they feel this is a good matchup for the Mavs. The Spurs are an aging team and with Ginobili unavailable, they may just be right. Conventional wisdom says that the Mavs should be able to get past the Ginobili-less Spurs in the first round but I'm not so sure. I sure don't like the Mavs in Game 1. They made a huge comeback vs the Rockets on Wednesday, to send the Rockets reeling to a 5th-seed, while clinching this matchup with the Spurs for themselves. However, the recent Rockets are known best for their inability to win important games, while the Spurs are known for winning the big ones. Nowitzki (25.9-8.4) comes in having scored at least 20 points in 24 straight games, Terry (19.6-3.4 APG) is arguably the league's best sixth-man, plus Howard (18.0-5.1) has been getting by just fine on his bum ankle, as long as he's not asked to play back-to-back games (not the case here, or in any game in this series). Kidd (9.0-6.2-6.7) has clearly lost a step (or two) but he was a team-leader down the stretch. Duncan (19.3-10.7) is one of the league's all-time greats and still has something left in the tank. Parker (22.0-6.9 APG) is WAY too quick for Kidd which has been a problem, as he has abused by most of the quicker point guards in the West (Parker is right there near the top of that list). Mason (11.8-3.1) and the 6-10 Matt B (8.2-4.8) have shot 41.1 percent and 44.0 percent respectively, from three-point range, as the Spurs have been at or near the top in three-point percentage all season (finished 3rd-best at 38.6). Finley (9.7) has done a solid job and I like the late addition of Gooden, who averaged 9.8-4.4 in his 19 games with the Spurs. The Spurs still are capable of playing great defense (93.3 PPG ranked them No. 2 in the league), while the Mavs rank 15 in PPG allowed (99). Winning in Dallas, where the Mavs won 32 of their final 37 home games, will not come easily for the aging Spurs (especially without Manu), so 'holding serve' here at home, will be a must. Are the Spurs up to the challenge of this year's postseason? I can't imagine them beating the Lakers but they are sure 'live' against any of the West's other teams. As for Dallas in this series, I don't want to get ahead of myself, but Popovich has seen his team eliminated in just ONE of his 11 previous first round series and I see little reason to expect his team to "bow out early" this year. Expect the Mavs to have somewhat of a let down off their huge comeback win on Wednesday and for at least this first game, the Spurs to "wake up the echoes," as I still a phrase from Note Dame.
PERFECT STORM on the SA Spurs
Las Vegas Insider - MLB
I played the Twins last night and here's what I noted in my write-up at the beginning. The Twins have lost five of their last six games overall, hitting .230 as a team during the slide, while scoring a total of only 14 runs (2.3 per). Minnesota is off to a 4-7 start in 2009 and the pitching staff owns a 5.91 ERA. The team's starters are a collective 2-6, with an ERA of 5.40. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after Thursday's game, "People jump off the bandwagon all the time and I'm sure we knocked a few people off the wagons tonight, but you can jump back on with us because we're going to keep playing." I also pointed out that the Angels have had to endure the tragedy of their young pitcher, Nick Adenhart. He and two friends were killed a week ago Thursday after the Angels' 6-4 loss to Oakland. The car he was a passenger in was struck by a driver, whom police say was drunk. I went on to say that the Angels could easily be distracted, as last night's starter (Dustin Moseley) attended Adenhart's funeral services in Maryland on Thursday with manager Mike Scioscia plus a handful of teammates and team officials. Last night's results couldn't have been much worse for the Angels. Moseley had pitched fairly well in his first two starts, which is what the Angels really need with John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Ervin Santana on the DL. However, he left Friday's game after three innings with elbow stiffness. The Angels took a 9-4 lead into the bottom of the eight inning in last night's game but three relievers allowed seven runs, capped by Jason Kubel's grand slam. Minnesota's 11-9 win sure didn't help the Angels' "state of mind." More bad news came LA's way prior to the game, when the club announced that it was placing former MVP Vladimir Guerrero on the DL with a torn muscle in his chest. He's expected to be out until at least late May. I mentioned in yesterday's write-up that I liked Gardenhire and that the Twins have been an excellent home team for the better part of this decade. Minnesota was 53-28 at home last year and the team's moneyline mark of plus-$1,854 made them MLB's second-biggest "moneymakers" in home games during the 2008 season. Kevin Slowey gets the nod for the Twins tonight. He's off to a poor start but let's not judge too quickly. Slowey has allowed 22 hits in 11.1 innings this season, including a career-high 13 in 5.1 innings Monday against Toronto. Let me note that Slowey went 4-1 with a 4.73 ERA in 2007, making 14 appearance (11 starts / team was 7-4). He was solid last year, going 12-11 with a 3.99 ERA in 27 starts, which included the Twins going 8-4 in his home starts (3.37 ERA). Slowey had an excellent spring and no one is really worried about his first two outings. As for the Angels and their beleaguered staff, they will turn to Darren Oliver to step in for Adenhart's spot in the rotation (no pressure there!). The left-handed Oliver began his career way back in 1993 and was actually 14-6 in 30 starts with the Rangers in 1996. However, his last ML start came back in 2004. Oliver did not play in 2005 and from the beginning of the 2006 season through the early going of this year, all 162 of his appearances have come out of the bullpen. He'll face an outstanding home team (Twins may be "hitting their stride") which was a dominating 18-5 vs left-handers in the Metrodome last year (5.3 RPG) and has opened this season 2-1 vs lefties at home (that's 20-6 or 76.9 percent!). I'm backing the Twins again tonight and this time, I don't expect to need any late-game heroics.
Las Vegas Insider Min Twins
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
100* Play Boston (-270) over Baltimore
50* Play Tampa Bay (-160) over Chicago White Sox
50* Play Toronto (-140) over Oakland
100* Play Dallas (+4) over San Antonio (NBA)
San Antonio is 3-10 ATS in home games when the total is between 185 and 189.5
San Antonio is 4-10 ATS coming off a division game this season
San Antonio is 6-14 ATS coming off three or more wins this season
100* Play Houston (+4.5) over Portland (NBA)
Houston is 8-2 ATS coming off a loss by 10 points or more
Houston is 7-2 ATS after scoring 85 points or less this season
Houston is 7-2 ATS in road games when the total is between 180 and 184.5
Other Hoops & Hockey Plays
50* Play Boston (-230) over Montreal (NHL)
Re: SATURDAY PREMIUM SERVICE PLAYS
15 Dime Celtics - Not sold on the defending Eastern Conference champs bowing out as easily as everyone believes. Do you realize the odds to win the NBA title never wavered when the announcement about Kevin Garnett came out? Not one bit, and that's because of the experience this team has, and the stars that are on this team.
Let's not forget that Boston enters the postseason on runs of 12-2 straight-up and 9-5 against the books, while it has won nine consecutive home games. And since the Celtics are a perfect 4-0 both SU and ATS the last four times they've hosted Chicago the past two seasons, winning by margins of 18, 16, 23 and 25 points, and the fact the favorite is 6-1 in the last seven series meetings.
15 Dime Cavaliers - Cleveland has all the momentum in the world right now, and with a presumable collision course with L.A. looming, I don't see LeBron James opening the playoffs with anything less than spectacular today. The Cavaliers were 39-2 straight up and 28-13 against the spread at home this past regular season. And keep this in mind, the straight-up losses came against the Lakers and in the season finale against the Sixers ... the latter of which four Cavaliers regulars didn’t suit up, including James.
Back to full strength, nothing will stop this team, not even a Pistons squad that has made it to six straight Eastern Conference Finals. Cleveland was an impressive 10-3 versus the books in the playoffs last season, including a stellar 5-1 ATS at home. On the other hand, the Pistons hobble into the postseason on slides of 0-3 on the hardwood and 0-4 against the number. The Cavaliers have covered 11 of the last 16 meetings with Detroit, and that included a 5-2 run in Cleveland. Finally, the favorite is on an 8-1 ATS the last nine battles, so lay the chalk with the No. 1 seed.
15 Dime Mavericks - Meeting for the fourth time in the postseason since 2001, these two Texas rivals might finally be the closest they’ve ever been at this point. The Spurs obviously have the more impressive postseason resume, sporting three NBA titles, but the absence of injured swingman Manu Ginobili levels the playing field a tad. Both teams roll into the postseason playing well, as Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki is peaking at the right time, and since the health of Tim Duncan remains a question for the Spurs, could very well give Dallas the advantage in this Texas tussle.
The Mavericks certainly have the stronger bench, led by Jason Terry, and that’s an intangible that will come into play late in the game when the physicality of this rivalry kicks in. The underdog has covered 15 of the last 20 meetings, while the road team is on a 14-6 ATS run. With veteran Jason Kidd running the show, the Mavs have a strong chance to steal Game 1. They come in on a 9-2 spread streak the last 11 times they’ve been to San Antonio, so I’ll grab the points with the Mavs.
FREE - Trail Blazers
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At 8:05pm our Major League Baseball Game of the Month is on the Texas Rangers over the Kansas City Royals.
At 12:35pm our selection is on the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Atlanta Braves.
At 3:40 pm (time change) our selection is on the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers 'under' the total.
At 8 pm, our selection is on the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs 'under' the total.