NBA News and Notes Saturday 1/2
NBA News and Notes Saturday 1/2
NBA RoundUp For 1/2
By Dan Bebe
Cavs @ Nets - Cleveland by 11 with a total of 192.5. This is quite a road line, but damn if the Cavs haven't been the most impressive road team in the NBA over the last 2 weeks. Still, I think Cleveland is ripe for another win and failed cover, coming off those incredible games with the Hawks. I think the Cleveland defense has clearly been the reason they've been winning, and I believe they may take the Nets a little lightly here, giving Jersey a chance to hang around just long enough to get a cover. Still, I have to be pretty damn sure before I recommend anything related to the 2-covers-in-3-games New Jersey Nets. I would also like to congratulate Jersey on getting their 3rd SU win of the season, a monumental step for a team headed for 70 losses. The total of 192.5 is an interesting one, and my feelings on it are a little flimsy thus far. I think the Cavs low energy might show itself more on the defensive end, since they are rested, but not going to be fully focused. The Nets are coming off a nice shooting game against the Knicks, and if they can break 90, I think this game has a very nice chance of going Over the posted total. Still, weak feelings on this game, to say the least.
Bobcats @ Heat - Miami by 6 with a total of 185. That is a total that could make me cry, a number that jumps out as accurate just because of how low it is. The Heat come home off a terrible back-to-back in New Orleans and San Antonio, capping the short 2-game trip with a 30-point loss to the surging Spurs. I have to say, this is a rare spot where we might get some value with the Heat, since the 2 losses and 2 failed covers (not to mention the 5 straight Unders) have given the world the perception that this team not only can't score, but can't guard teams with even mediocre talent, and that's just not true. The two road venues where the Heat played were two of the tougher spots in the NBA, and now they get to come home to face a team that has done ZIP on the road. The Bobcats are an horrific 1-14 on the road, though they did just barely cover their last road loss, in Toronto on the 30th. I think we may see some authentic Bobcats flavor in this one, as they just don't play well away from home, and facing a tough Miami defense should force the Bobcats into difficult shots and a score that, well, will help us get near that 185 combined mark. I lean to the Heat, as the value, amazingly, is with the home favorite. I also lean to the Under, as the Bobcats score just 88 points per game on the road, and this one might very well fall beneath that mark.
Spurs @ Wizards - This line is OFF, presumably because the Washington locker room is reenacting the ending scene in Reservoir Dogs. Something I've talked about on the podcast at great length with Mike Hook and, more often than not, RJ Bell, is how a team in disarray is a great fade. The Wizards are a team that can't even get along with one another, so how are they going to show decent chemistry on a basketball court, especially against a Spurs team that looks to be turning the corner, like they always do. The Spurs have won, and covered, 4 straight games, 2 at home and 2 on the road, and they've won those games by an average of over 17 points! Only one of those wins came by less than 10, in fact, and as we saw above, they beat the Heat by 30. What's the key to all this? Manu Ginobili. There's just no way to avoid how blatantly obvious his importance is to this team. Ginobili is finally healthy, and he is knocking down threes, making his trademark wild drives to the hoop, getting the opponents in foul trouble, distributing the ball, and maybe most importantly, he creates turnovers for easy buckets. His skill turns the Spurs second unit into one of the best in the League, and those minutes between the first and second quarter have become a time when San Antonio seems to consistently go on runs. The Spurs do play in Toronto tomorrow, but that's hardly a look-ahead spot, and the Wizards, with their 3 straight losses (1-2 ATS) are ripe for another clubbing. I expect to see this line open up higher than you'd think, potentially in the 6-7 range, and I think we'll see a total around 200. If those numbers are true, I lean Spurs, and I lean Under.
Wolves @ Pacers - Indiana by 4.5 with a total of 207.5. This line would seem to expect a decent effort from the hapless Pacers, and this clash of the titans might only be worth watching if you put the deed to your home on one of the teams, an action I do not recommend. Minnesota is on the second half of a back-to-back, and I believe that is a large reason why we're seeing the line as hefty as it is, since really, the Pacers aren't a couple points better than the Wolves on a neutral court. It's tough to handicap these games between two terrible club, since one can never tell if the awful offenses will outshine the awful defenses. Will the tempo be so fast that the total simply HAS to go Over, or will the shooting be bad enough that it doesn't matter how fast the teams play? The question list goes on and on and on. In terms of the situational side, clearly Minnesota is in the tougher spot, traveling for a back-to-back while the Pacers can camp out at home and wait. In the same vein, Indiana has lost 8 in a row and failed to cover the last 4 straight, and without both Troy Murphy and Danny Granger, they just don't have any options on the offensive side of the ball. Still, this game strikes me as one of those spots where the home team realizes they have a rare opportunity to snag a win against a weak, tired club, and might play a little harder and less discouraged. I lean Indiana, but again, a very weak lean. The total looks a bit high, but then, the Wolves are pushing the tempo, and I'm curious to see if the Pacers might actually be able to make a few buckets. I suppose I lean to the Over, but this is another gun-to-my-head type game. Wishing, right now, that more of the games on this card compelled me to consider watching them.
Raptors @ Celtics - Boston by 6.5 with a total of 197. We're not going to see Boston only laying this many points at home very often, but injuries being as they are, the Celtics just simply aren't the same team, and 3 straight losses are pretty good evidence of that. It's often tough for a team coming home off a difficult road trip, but this "first game home" is accompanied by the fact that the Celtics had a bad trip. It makes this line seem awfully short for Boston to cover against one of the worst road teams in the NBA, but I think the line is pretty accurate. The Raptors have fairly quietly won 5 in a row, though only one of those wins came on the road, and it was against a Pistons team throwing mostly benchwarmers out there. The angles on this game juts don't add up quite right. I like the fact that we can get the Raptors when they're "warm" and fade the Celtics when they're cold and coming home (where they're 5-9 ATS this season), but I also really don't like the fact that the Raptors value is low from the home wins, and the Celtics value is relatively high (compared to normal) with the high-profile loss to Phoenix reminding the public of how bad Boston can be without their big guns. I lean a bit to Toronto, but the 6.5 points aren't that much, and that's a little concerning. The total of 197 is too low; the Raptors are going to push the pace, and the Celtics reserves are going to get caught up in it.
Rockets @ Hornets - New Orleans by 2.5 with a total of 194.5. To the Hornets credit, they just keep winning at home. After a 4-point win over the Heat (and a cover), the Hornets are 12-3 on their home court, and somehow are still in last place in the Southwest Division. Oh, right, it's probably because they're 2-13 on the road. But hey, this is a home game, and it's a divisional home game, so I expect a top notch performance from all the key parts. Chris Paul, David West, and so forth should be ready to go, knowing damn well the best way to climb within the West is to climb within the division. The Rockets have been, let's say, a marginal road team; not great, not bad, but certainly ripe for a loss off a monster win over their rivals, the Mavs, on New Year's Eve. I think if ever there were a time that the Rockets might be caught napping, this would be the time. Houston plays in Los Angeles in a few days, and while it's not a standard look-ahead spot, I think the off-days and the big game might just creep into their minds. I really like the Hornets to play like they have something to prove in this one. Plus, they lost by 8 in Houston just a few days ago, and revenge creeps into the picture. Also, interesting to note that the game in Houston hit 208 total points, and this line is almost 14 points lower than that. Oddsmakers feel the Hornets will slow the pace, keep Houston in the half-court, if they can, and try to keep this game in the high-180's. I like the Hornets and the Under.
Magic @ Bulls - Orlando by 3.5 with a total of 194. Man, how lines can change in a matter of days. Chicago, who just a few weeks ago was a double-digit home dog to the Lakers, is now getting just 3.5 points to the road warrior Orlando Magic. The Bulls are definitely starting to get some respect again, and you have to believe it has something to do with winning and covering 3 in a row. Unfortunately, none of those wins really came in tough spots, knocking off a pair of bad road teams in Chicago before polishing off the Pistons in Detroit. Still, this line is very low, and you have to think that there may be a reason. The Magic are finishing up a back-to-back here after beating the Wolves in Minnesota (and covering), so they may be a tad fatigued, but they have played dominant basketball in the second half in each of the last two games, so they are clearly still a team to be feared. I like the Bulls energy right now, and we may very well see them take care of the Magic outright. They've had 2 days of rest, and often you will see a fairly hefty foul discrepancy when you have one team with no rest taking on a team with multiple days of sleep. I like Chicago here, with the points. I like the total to go Over, since I think we see the Bulls get to the line and put points on the board with the clock stopped, a huge key to getting Over, and I think a game decided late can have a few bonus points in foul-time at the end.
Thunder @ Bucks - A pick in Milwaukee with a total of 195.5. This line is intriguing to me. The Bucks are cold as ice, right now. They've lost 4 straight and 7 of 8 to fall to 12-18 on the season, and have only covered 1 of their last 6 games, as well. They've shot under 40% in 3 of their last 4 games, and haven't cracked 43% shooting for a game since December 12th - awful numbers! The Thunder, meanwhile, have won 5 straight games for the first time since they moved to Oklahoma City and are an impressive 18-14 on the season. Make no mistake, this team is solid. Kevin Durant is one of the best offensive players in the NBA, and he's been surrounded by a good core group of guys that are learning to play together and getting better every game. They failed to cover in their last game, a 1-point win over visiting Utah, but they have covered 5 of 6 games, and prior to a bit of an offensive dud against the Jazz, they had averaged almost 107 ppg. My concern is that, and I didn't watch the game, so perhaps all you loyal readers can fill in a few of the details. My question is, did this Oklahoma City team, who shot over 47% from the field, really play bad enough to only score 87 points? They clanked 50% of their free throws, and turned the ball over 19 times, and I must say that those numbers make me a little nervous for this road game. Young teams tend to play streaky basketball, and one bad game isn't usually by itself. I have NO LEAN on this side until I get an idea of where the line is headed, since all signs point to an easy Thunder win, but Oklahoma is, for lack of a better expression, due for a loss. I think this total may stay Under, as well, with the way Milwaukee's been shooting.
Nuggets @ Jazz - This line is OFF. Can the Nuggets regain my respect? Probably. But I doubt it'll be done overnight. Denver has fallen to a hugely disappointing 7-10 on the road while remaining 13-2 at home, and the loss of Chauncey Billups has completely ruined this team's tempo and chemistry. The Nuggets have lost 3 in a row, 5 of 6, and 6 straight road games. That being said, Denver hasn't played since the 28th, so to say they're well-rested is the understatement of the century. The part of this situation I like, though, is that when a team is off for almost a week, a certain small level of rust can set in, and I think we see the Nuggets come out slow. Jazz should be favored by just a couple points in this game, but I think the best bets are to bank on Utah getting out to a lead and the Nuggets battling back to make a game of it late. I don't like either side for the full game, at least not without some line to work off and subsequent monetary confirmation, but I do think we can play the rust card to our advantage. I would like to see the total before offering any life-changing thoughts on it, but for what it's worth, the Nuggets have gone Under in 2 straight and the Jazz have gone Under in 3 of 4.
Grizzlies @ Suns - Phoenix by 8 with a total of 227. This should be a good one, and I'm fully glad that we finally got to a few games here, late on the card, that make me want to turn the TV on. This one seems like a fun, offensive madhouse, with two teams that can run, and two teams that can SCORE. Phoenix averages a whopping 115.4 points on their home court, and are coming off 5 consecutive games of 110 points or more. They've also gone over the total in all 5 of those games, and Memphis plays terrible road defense. The Grizzlies allow about 100 ppg at home, but a colossal 109 points on the road, a combination that does not bode well for winning this one. The Suns might be prime for a small letdown after the wins over the Lakers and undermanned Celtics. I'm not sure I buy into that all that much, though. The Celtics lost most of their relevant players, and the Suns still stuck it to them, so why wouldn't they come out to play against a Memphis team that is pretty talented. The Grizz have won and covered 5 of their last 6 games, and they, too, have gone Over the total in 4 games in a row, so both of these teams are shooting the ball well. I think these lines are pretty fair, overall. The last meeting between these two clubs in Phoenix hit 237 points, but oddsmakers aren't going to set the line that high, and Phoenix won that game by 15. I have to lean Phoenix, despite the revenge angle, and I also kind of like the Over. I'm going square on this one!
Warriors @ Blazers - This line is OFF. Another good game tipping late tomorrow. There was a long stretch of time about a month ago where I was mostly interested in games tipping at 7et, and now suddenly the far more interesting ones seem to tipping between 9 and 10:30et. In any case, the high-octane Warriors take their circus into the Rose Garden. I want to break down both teams, then point out one key note. First, the Warriors. Golden State has covered 4 games in a row, 2 at home and 2 on the road, but as expected, the only SU wins came at home. This team is playing decent basketball, but they're just not getting the job done defensively, and it's so tough to stop teams from scoring when you don't defend on the road. It's the same crap with all these small, quick teams. They can outscore you when you play in their house, but take that on the road, and it's curtains. Just look at Phoenix. They are a much better team than Golden State, but even the Suns are 13-2 at home and 8-10 on the road. Same for the Nuggets, etc. Anyway, I digress. The Blazers bounced back off a tough home loss to the Sixers by squeezing out a tough win over the Clippers. They have lost 2 in a row ATS, though, and that is going to be my biggest concern when the line on this one comes out. I expect to see Portland favored by 7-8 points, and I'm not convinced they can cover that without any big men to protect the rim. I think the Blazers win this game, since the home team almost ALWAYS wins in this series, but covering a decent chunk isn't going to be easy when Golden State is liable to get a fair share of open looks. I expect this total to eek over 200 into the 205 range.
Mavs @ Kings - This line is OFF. You have to feel bad for the Kings these days. No team plays harder than Sacramento only to, as they say, "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory", somehow creating losses where wins should be happening. Once again, the Kings push the Lakers to the brink only to leave Kobe Bryant open for a game-winning 3 pointer, and the Kings are now 1-4 in their last 5 games, losing in OT to the Cavs, 2OT to the Lakers, at the buzzer to the Lakers, and then just getting beat by Philly. So now, demoralized and scratching their heads (while Kobe Bryant was being interviewed on Fox Sports last night, you could actually see Kings guard Omri Casspi LITERALLY scratching his head in the background), and I just don't see how this team can get up to play the Mavs. All of that screams "play the Mavs" through a bullhorn, but there's one problem - the Mavs play tomorrow in LA, against the Lakers. So we've got the rested Dallas team in a look-ahead spot against the downtrodden Kings playing on no rest. Which is the lesser of evils in this one? Tough to say, but I'd imagine this line opens with the Mavs as 3-5 point favorites on the road, and with Dallas consistently impressing me with their hardiness on the road (11-5 SU and ATS), I have to lean to the road team, and hope they don't try to save up too much juice for the Laker game. I think we'll also see a total just up over 200.
Nate Robinson - I don't know if he's completely out of Mike D'Antoni's doghouse, or if he performed some sort of sexual favors to the bristling Knicks coach, but Robinson got playing time last night, and man did he make the most of it. Robinson scored 41 points in the Knicks OT win over the Hawks with 6 boards, 8 assists, a steal, 3 3-pointers, and did it all on just 24 shots. He might disappear again tomorrow, but you just can't pass up this kind of production if indeed he continues to see minutes.