Ben Burns NBA Top Sides Picks
|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|04-27-09||Denver Nuggets v. New Orleans Hornets -2.5||Top||121-63||Loss||-105||10 h 6 m||Show|
I'm laying the small number with NEW ORLEANS. After winning both games at Denver, the Nuggets earned a fortunate cover, while losing Game 3 at New Orleans. I didn't play the side in that game (won with 'under') but say it was a "fortunate" (ATS) victory for Denver backers, as the Nuggets were down 10 with three minutes remaining. That Game 3 result has helped to cause this evening's line to be lower than it was for Game 3. I believe that provides us with excellent value with the Hornets.
New Orleans fell behind by 16 points in the first half last time out and it appeared Denver was on its way to a 3-0 series lead. However, the Hornets battled back, getting it done on the defensive side of the floor. After allowing the Nuggets to make 10 of 17 (58.8%) first quarter shots, the Hornets held them to 35% shooting (20 of 57) the rest of the way. The Hornets outscored the Nuggets 44-30 in the paint. They also had a 22-6 edge in fast-break points.
As they showed last time out, the Hornets are a much better team at home. They're now 29-13 here this season and 89-42 (76-55 ATS) the past three. That includes a 27-7 SU and 24-10 ATS mark when playing a home game with an over/under line in the 190 to 194.5 range.
The Hornets have now beaten the Nuggets three of the last four times that the teams played here at New Orleans. Dating back to their days at Charlotte, the Hornets have now won 13 of 20 home meetings against the Nuggets. Twelve of those 13 victories came by a minimum of three points, Saturday's game being the only exception.
I expect the Hornets to build momentum from Saturday's victory, evening up the series and covering the small number along the way. *Western Conf. GOW
|04-26-09||Cleveland Cavaliers v. Detroit Pistons +9||Top||99-78||Loss||-105||5 h 59 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with DETROIT. It's true that the Cavaliers have dominated this series. It's also true that (barring an act of God) they're going to win the series. That said, in my opinion, this afternoon's line is far too high.
Despite not playing well, the Pistons have had a shot at covering in all three games. In Friday's game, they were tied, heading into the third quarter. Now, there's absolutely no pressure and the line is several points higher than it was for that game.
Cleveland coach Mike Brown knows the Pistons aren't just going to roll over, noting: "They've got a lot of guys who have won NBA championships on that team. They're not going to go away easily. They have a lot of pride."
The Pistons are a profitable 27-17 ATS the last 44 times that they were attempting to avenge an earlier home loss. That includes a 11-6 ATS mark in that role this season. Look for them to show some pride as they give the Cavs all they can handle for the full four quarters with an excellent shot at extending the series. *Main Event - Top Central Division play
|04-19-09||Miami Heat v. Atlanta Hawks -5||Top||64-90||Win||100||11 h 47 m||Show|
I'm laying the points with ATLANTA. Dwayne Wade will be the best known player on the floor and he's sure to get his share of points. That said, I believe that the Hawks have the more complete overall team and I expect them to start the series off by defending their home floor.
The fact that this game is in Atlanta is very important as both these teams are much better at home. The Heat were a very solid 28-13 at Miami but they were a poor 15-26 on the road. The Hawks weren't much better when playing away from home, as they were just 16-25 outside of Atlanta. However, when playing at home, they were an excellent 31-10. Not surprisingly, the Hawks won both regular season meetings with the Heat, which were played here at Atlanta. The Hawks outscored teams by a 98.7 to 93 margin at home. The Heat were outscored by a 99.5 to 95.8 margin on the road.
The Hawks have been strong at home for longer than just this year. You may recall that they took the Celtics to seven games last year, winning all three games here at Atlanta but losing the four at Boston. I expect them to benefit from that experience and for them to come out ready to play tonight. Having seen what happened at Boston, Coach Woodson preached the importance of gaining homecourt advantage. his Hawks got it, for a round at least. He was quoted as saying: "I hope like hell there's a carry-over from last year's run. That taught us how to play playoff basketball. When we to Boston, we had no clue. That's why the games were so lopsided. Then we came home and won Game 3. We grew up awfully fast and were able to make a series out of it."
The Hawks are 9-3 ATS (10-2 SU) the last 12 times that they were favored by six points or less. I expect them to improve on those stats with a convincing win and cover. *Personal Favorite
|04-15-09||Atlanta Hawks v. Memphis Grizzlies -7.5||Top||90-98||Win||100||8 h 50 m||Show|
I'm laying the points with MEMPHIS. In a normal situation, the Grizzlies wouldn't be favored over the Hawks, at least not by this many. This isn't a "normal" situation though. The Hawks are off a game last night and are playing their final road game of the regular season. More importantly, they're already locked into the fourth spot in the East and have absolutely nothing to play for here.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies are playing their final home game (and final game overall) of the season and are motivated to close out the season with a big win for the home fans.
Unlike some non-playoff teams, the Grizzlies have still been fighting down the stretch, particularly here at Memphis. In fact, they've won three of their last four games here. That includes a win over Dallas AND a double-digit blowout win against the Suns. The lone loss during that stretch was a 3-point heartbreaker vs. Portland. Overall, the Grizzlies are a profitable 7-2 ATS their last nine games. Looking back further and we find them at 23-12 ATS their last 35. I expect them to take this game more seriously than the Hawks and look for that to lead to a convincing win and cover. *Personal Favorite
|04-14-09||Boston Celtics v. Philadelphia 76ers -4||Top||100-98||Loss||-110||9 h 57 m||Show|
I'm laying the points with PHILADELPHIA. I successfully played against the 76'ers in their most recent game, a 111-104 loss at Toronto. The majority of bettors favored Philly in that game which caused the line to move from pick'em to Philly -2 or -2.5. I believe that those bettors were just a game early though and that this will prove to be the spot in which to back the team from Philly.
The 76'ers last game came against a Raptors team which was at full strength and which was playing its final home game. I thought the Raptors would treat the game seriously and they came through with their best home effort in April. Tonight's game is an entirely different situation though.
This time, it's the 76'ers which are playing their final home game. This time, they'll be taking on a team which is not playing at full strength and which really shouldn't be all that concerned about winning.
Sure, the Celtics would like to bounce back from the blowout loss at Cleveland with a win tonight. However, they're already locked into the #2 seed and they'd won six straight before that loss. Being the defending champions, they've got absolutely nothing to prove. Note that if the Celtics really want to close out the regular season on a high note, to gain some momentum for the playoffs, that they get to host the Wizards tomorrow night, the team with the worst record (by far) in the Eastern Conference.
Let's take a quick look at the Orlando Magic game from last night, as it had some similarities to this one. The Magic were already locked into their playoff spot, just as Boston is. Like Boston, the Magic were coming off a loss. Also, like the Celtics, the Magic were dealing with some injuries and playing their final road game of the season. Already without Lewis and Turkolu, they also decided to give Howard the night off.
The Magic responded by getting blown out by the lowly Bucks, getting scored 80-56 from the second quarter on. Orlando forward Tony Battie's post-game comments revealed the team's mindset, basically acknowledging that the loss meant nothing to them. "We got our starters some rest, we got our bench players some minutes. We'll be ready to go when it counts..."
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy didn't seem too concerned by the loss either. When asked about his decision to rest Howard, he responded: "I'm not kicking myself on the decision. I'm still convinced it was the best thing to do..."
While teams always prefer winning to losing, I expect the Celtics, who are expected to again be without Garnett, to treat this game about as seriously as the Magic treated their game last night.
On the other hand, this is a huge game for the 76'ers. For starters, they're playing with "triple-revenge," having lost all three games vs. the champs this season. The last one of those losses, the lone game here on Philly, came by a single point - so the 76'ers are itching for some payback. The 76'ers, currently in 7th, know that they could be facing the Celtics in the first round. They want to prove to the Celtics and to themselves that they can beat them.
After all, if they can't beat them when the Celts don't even really care, what hope will they have of doing so next week.
There are other factors which make this a very big game for Philadelphia. They've blown their shot at the fifth seed but the 76'ers could still finish in sixth. That's significant as they'd probably prefer to face the Magic instead of the Celtics. This is also their final home game of the regular season and all teams typically prefer to win those.
Most importantly, the 76'ers badly need to get a win to restore their confidence. That's because they've lost five in a row. A loss tonight would give them a 6-game losing streak with their final game coming at Cleveland, a place where the Cavaliers own a 39-1 record. In other words, with a loss tonight, they could bring a 7-game losing streak into the playoffs.
In fairness, a look at the 76'ers' 5-game losing streak shows that four of their losses came on the road. The only loss at home came against the team with the best record in the league(Cleveland) and the 76'ers played the Cavs tough for most of that game.
I expect the 76'ers to be the "hungrier" team and I expect that to lead to them winning in convincing fashion. *TNT GOY
|04-13-09||Orlando Magic v. Milwaukee Bucks -3.5||Top||80-98||Win||100||19 h 44 m||Show|
I'm laying the small number with MILWAUKEE. Even casual fans know that the Magic have had a much better season than the Bucks. On the surface, they've also got more to play for. The Bucks are playing out the string while the Magic are looking to bounce back from back to back losses and looking to build some momentum for the postseason.
So, why are the Bucks favored? Well, there are several reasons. For starters, the Bucks are playing at home and this is their final home game of the year. Also, the Magic are already locked into the third seed. Additionally, they're not healthy. While they've had plenty of time to deal with the loss of point guard Jameer Nelson, now they're also expected to be without both Lewis and Turkolu. Making matters even more difficult, they'll also likely see limited minutes from Dwight Howard, who played less than normal in Saturday's loss.
The Bucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a convincing 115-98 win over Oklahoma City on Saturday with Richard Jefferson tying a season high with 35 points. That victory showed that they actually do care about finishing up strong. As forward Charlie Villanueva noted: "We're trying to finish the season out strong on a positive note. We're playing to win every game. We're not playing for the lottery, lottery balls, or anything like that."
Non-playoff teams with that mindset are fully capable of elevating their play in their final home game. We saw the Raptors do so yesterday against a Philadelphia team which had much to play for and which, like Orlando, was also "looking to get back on track" and to build some playoff momentum.
Last month's blowout loss notwithstanding, the Bucks, who play with "triple revenge," are a profitable 17-7 ATS and 19-5 SU the last 24 times that they were a host in this series. I expect them to build off Saturday's victory and to close out the home campaign with a big win and cover. *GOY
|04-12-09||Philadelphia 76ers v. Toronto Raptors +1||Top||104-111||Win||100||8 h 46 m||Show|
I'm playing on TORONTO. On the surface, this is a bigger game for the 76'ers. Philadelphia is going to playoffs. Toronto is not. Philadelphia is still battling for positioning. Toronto is playing out the string. However, in my opinion, there's a lot more too it than that.
Yes, the 76'ers are fighting for a better seed. However, that hasn't helped them much lately, as they've dropped four straight. Granted, three of those were on the road and the other was vs. Cleveland. Still, those road games were at New Jersey, Charlotte and Chicago and the 76'ers lost them by a combined 46 points. Even though they'd really like to get back on track today, with both the Celtics and Cavs on deck and having already clinched a spot, it may be easy to look past today's opponent.
The loss of Thaddeus Young has been big. As Coach DiLeo noted: "I think we really miss Thad. Thad is a really big part of our team and one of our top players, so that really hurts us. At some point, we're going to get Thad back and establish our game. I knew the loss of Thad would impact us..."
As for the Raptors, this is their final home game of what's been a disappointing season. They're a team that is more talented than its record indicates and I believe that they'll come out fired up to win their home finale. Yes, they've lost a few in a row. Let's not forget that they were on a 6-0 SU/ATS run less than two weeks ago, though.
The Raptors were favored by five or 5.5 points when they hosted the 76ers back in November. Looking back further and we find that they've been favored each of the last five times that they hosted the 76ers, with an average line of -6. On paper, they're just as talented as they were for any of those games - only this time, there is no pointspread. Playing their final home game of the year, look for the Raptors to rise to the occasion and close out their home campaign with a win. *Main Event
|04-11-09||Phoenix Suns v. Minnesota Timberwolves +2||Top||110-97||Loss||-110||9 h 5 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with MINNESOTA. I played against the Suns last night. Despite being slight favorites, they got blown out at Memphis. Here was an excerpt from my writeup on that game: "Give the Suns credit. They could have packed it in but instead came out and defeated New Orleans in their last game. That said, they've now proven their point and I expect them to have significantly more trouble "getting up" for a meaningless game..." I believe that same statement is also relevant for this evening's game.
Tonight's game sets up a little differently as the T-Wolves actually defeated the Suns at Phoenix in the last meeting. Still, I don't feel that will be much of a motivator for the visitors. Check out what Phoenix's Jason Richardson had to say after last night's loss: "These games really aren
|04-10-09||Phoenix Suns v. Memphis Grizzlies +1.5||Top||89-106||Win||100||8 h 19 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with MEMPHIS. Neither team will be going to the playoffs. However, while the Grizzlies have known that fact since the beginning of the season (even before the season?) it's still recent news to Phoenix.
Give the Suns credit. They could have packed it in but instead came out and defeated New Orleans in their last game. That said, they've now proven their point and I expect them to have significantly more trouble "getting up" for a meaningless game against a team that they have dominated. Note that the Suns, 57-70 ATS their last 127 when coming off an upset victory, play at Minnesota tomorrow night (Grizzlies don't play tomorrow) and that the T-Wolves defeated them at Phoenix the last time the teams faced each other. With that game on deck and knowing that they get to host these same Grizzlies on Monday, it should be easy to look past tonight's game.
On the other hand, the revenge-minded Grizzlies should be highly motivated to earn a rare victory in this series. While they've lost their last two games, both losses (vs. Portland and at Orlando) were by three points and the Grizzlies could have easily won both of those games. Prior to that, they'd won four straight including a win over Dallas. With a 6-0 ATS record their last six games and a 22-10-1 ATS mark their last 33, the Grizzlies are playing their best basketball of the season. Look for them to be the "hungrier" team tonight and for that to lead to them scoring the minor upset. *Motivational Mismatch
|04-05-09||Indiana Pacers v. Oklahoma City Thunder -2||Top||117-99||Loss||-110||18 h 19 m||Show|
I'm laying the small number of OKLAHOMA CITY. Determining motivation levels is particularly important when handicapping games between teams that aren't going to the playoffs. In this case, there are several reasons why I expect the Thunder to be the "hungrier" team.
Both teams lost their most recent game. However, while the Pacers left everything on the floor in a disappointing hard-fought (5-point) loss vs. the Spurs, the Thunder were embarrassed in a blowout home loss vs. Portland. While the Pacers were certainly more impressive in their defeat, I expect it to be easier for the Thunder to bounce back. They'll have something to prove while the Pacers may be thinking about what could have been.
It's true that the Pacers aren't quite officially mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. However, they know that they have no realistic chance of making the playoffs. As Coach O'Brien noted: "We're playing to get better, and if we have to play for pride, that's not a bad thing to play for." That can take a bit of getting used to and this will be their first game against a "non-playoff team," since that reality has set in.
Regardless of their mindset, the Pacers have really struggled against the league's weaker teams all year long. In fact, they're 22-14 ATS against teams with a winning record but just 14-21-2 ATS against teams with a losing record. Note that the Pacers are also just 6-12 ATS the last 18 times that they were listed as road underdogs of three points or less.
The Pacers did defeat the Thunder when the teams faced each other back in November. However, the Thunder still covered the spread and that was at Indiana, where the Pacers are much stronger. Note that the Pacers are just 10-29 on the road. While they've never played at Oklahoma City, note that the Pacers were 0-4 their last four trips to Seattle (where the Thunder used to play) and that they were just 4-10 their last 14 trips there.
In addition to wanting to bounce back from the blowout loss to the Blazers, the Thunder should be able to draw some added motivation from the fact that they lost the game at Indiana, despite leading at halftime. Note that they're a respectable 19-15-1 ATS on the season when attempting to avenge an earlier road loss. They're also a profitable 6-2 ATS this season, after failing to score 85 points or less in their last game. Look for them to improve on those stats as they bounce back with a highly motivated effort, leading to the win and cover. *Non-Conf. GOY
|04-03-09||Houston Rockets +5.5 v. Los Angeles Lakers||Top||81-93||Loss||-110||12 h 44 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with HOUSTON. The Lakers have had their way with the Rockets this season. However, this is a tough spot. While the Lakers have already wrapped up the top spot in the West, the Rockets are still battling for positioning. They're also playing with "triple revenge," while looking to prove that they compete with the best in the West.
The Lakers have the much better record for the season. The Rockets have been every bit as good in recent weeks though. Both teams are 14-6 their last 20 games.
While the Lakers are 0-3 ATS their last three games, they're still satisfied with the results of their lengthy 7-game road trip. Kobe was quoted as saying: "It was a good trip..." In other words, the Lakers aren't sweating the fact that they didn't cover the spread the last few times out and aren't "extra hungry" for a blowout victory.
Note that the first game back from an extended road trip can often prove to be difficult. Yes, the players are sleeping in their own beds but there's still the travel factor. Additionally, after being away from home for a few weeks, players can sometimes get distracted by their personal lives, when first coming back. There's wives, girfriends, families, friends, bills, bars etc. In this case, this marks the Lakers' eighth consecutive different venue.
Despite dropping all three of this season's meetings, the Rockets rarely get blown out by the Lakers. Both the last two meetings have been decided by six points or less. Looking back further and we find that the Lakers have only beaten the Rockets by greater than six points once in the last eight series meetings. I expect the Rockets to give them all they can handle again tonight, improving to 6-2 ATS the last eight times that they were listed as road underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range. *Main Event
|04-01-09||Detroit Pistons v. New Jersey Nets -1.5||Top||98-111||Win||100||16 h 26 m||Show|
I'm playing on NEW JERSEY. The Nets have fallen on hard times of late. They've lost five straight and are now all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. The first three of those losses were excusable, as they came vs. the Cavaliers (twice) and the Lakers. The fourth loss came against Minnesota but it came on the road, so even that can (almost) be forgiven. However, their last game was really poor, a 107-78 home loss to Milwaukee. I expect that embarrassing loss to have the players in an angry mood tonight and with the pressure of competing for a playoff spot now gone, I look for them to bounce back with a MUCH better effort.
After following up the loss at Minnesota by getting blown out by the Bucks, Nets coach Lawrence Frank had this to say of his team: "We have to be embarrassed by what we put forth and we have to vow to be better because it's not professional to compete the way we have competed the last two games." Note that they have Devin Harris back in the lineup and he and the other players have now had some time to get re-adjusted to his return.
While it's still no excuse for getting blown out by Milwaukee, in fairness to the Nets, they were playing the second of back to back games. Tonight, however, it's the Nets who had last night and who are hosting a team which played last night. Note that the Pistons are just 1-8 SU and 3-6 ATS the last nine times that they played the second of back to back games. Not only are the Pistons coming off a hard fought loss at Cleveland but they're also playing their fourth game in the past five nights, which is as "gruelling" as it gets in the NBA.
The home team has won both meetings so far this season with the Nets winning by seven when the teams played here at New Jersey. Look for another win by the home team here, with the Nets improving to 6-3 ATS the last nine times that they were coming off a game in which they scored 85 points or less. *Eastern Conf. GOW
|03-30-09||Orlando Magic v. Miami Heat +3.5||Top||101-95||Loss||-115||19 h 49 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with MIAMI. Most casual NBA fans are aware that Orlando is currently battling with Boston for the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. That makes every game important for the Magic. However, many may not be aware that the Heat are in arguably an even more important fight for positioning. That's because they're currently fifth, one game ahead of sixth place Philadelphia. If they can hold that position and remain in fifth, then they'll face Atlanta. However, if the 76'ers overtake them, then the Heat will have to face either Orlando or Boston. With all due respect to the Hawks, who I won with yesterday, the Heat would definitely prefer to face them, instead of any of either of those teams, two of the "Big 3" in the East. As Udonis Haslem, who is coming off his 100th career double-double, noted: "These last 10 games are very, very important."
Most know that the Magic are a very good road team. However, many would be surprised to learn that Miami's home record is actually (slightly) better than Orlando's road record. The Magic are 25-11 on the road. The Heat are 26-11 at home. That includes a perfect 6-0 mark their last six games here and a 9-1 mark their last 10.
It's true that the Magic have had the Heat's number in recent years and also that they won both this season's meetings, played at Orlando. However, the Heat took this season's lone meeting played here at Miami, winning by a score of 103-97 back in January. I expect them to defend their homecourt again this evening, improving to 6-1 ATS when playing a home game with an over/under line ranging from 190 to 194.5. *Southeast Division GOM
|03-29-09||Los Angeles Lakers v. Atlanta Hawks +4||Top||76-86||Win||100||12 h 4 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with ATLANTA. The Lakers come in playing well and they're off five consecutive victories, covering the spread in each of the last four. However, before getting too excited about the win streak, note that those five games came against the likes of Golden State, Chicago, Oklahoma City and New Jersey. All five of those teams are currently below 500.
Even with the recent winning streak, the Lakers are still a money-burning 15-26-1 ATS in March the past few seasons. During that stretch, they're also just 7-14 ATS (10-11 SU) when playing a road game with an over/under line ranging from 200 to 204.5 points.
Today, the Lakers will be playing their fifth straight road game and they'll be doing so at one of the tougher venues in the league. They'll also be facing what figures to be a highly motivated Atlanta squad.
Note that the Lakers have already clinched the top spot in the West. Additionally, note that Kobe Bryant isn't 100% healthy, having hurt his ankle in Friday's game. While he's currently expected to play, keeping him from getting worse should be a priority. Note that I'd like Atlanta in this spot, regardless of whether or not Bryant was fully healthy. That said, my feelings won't be hurt, if his minutes are limited and/or if he's not his usual dominant self.
The Hawks lost vs. Boston last time out, after falling to the Spurs in their previous game. Those results notwithstanding, they're still a profitable 13-4 their last 17 games and they're still an excellent 28-9 SU and 22-15 at home for the season. That includes a 3-0 ATS mark as home underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range.
The Hawks, who scored an outright upset (as 3.5 point underdogs) the last time that they hosted the Lakers, haven't lost three straight at home all year. Look for them to get back on track with a huge effort this afternoon, improving to 11-1 ATS the last 12 times that they were coming off three consecutive games played at home. *Main Event
|03-25-09||Boston Celtics v. Orlando Magic -3.5||Top||82-84||Loss||-105||9 h 28 m||Show|
I'm laying the points with ORLANDO. The majority of the betting public will be quick to grab the points with Bostoin. After all, Kevin Garnett is back and the Celtics are the defending champs. However, I feel that the value lies with the home team. Yes, Garnett is back. However, he's been playing limited minutes and that will likely be the case again tonight. Additionally, the Celts are still dealing with injuries to role players like Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine and Leon Powe.
The Magic are 8-4-1 ATS the last 13 times that they were favored by four points or less. On the other hand, the Celts are 4-7 ATS the last 11 times that they were underdogs of four points or less. I believe that this game is more important to the Magic and that, as a result, they'll be the "hungrier" team. For starters, they still don't believe that they get the respect that they deserve and a(nother) win vs. Boston would help in that area.
More importantly, they're trying to catch the Celts in the standings, in order to achieve the #2 seed. While the Magic are a very good road team, they know that having the #2 seed is far preferable to having the #3 seed. Coach Van Gundy was quoted as saying: "No question. Homecourt, I think it's huge. Every day, you're playing for something."
Of course, the Celts also would really prefer the second seed. However, Coach Rivers' comments indicate that staying/getting healthy is an even bigger priority. He was quoted as saying: "We would like to have it, but for us, health is far more important.
If you aren't going to get the first seed, we want to be healthy, that's the way we look at it. Obviously, we would like it and we're going to play for it, but we feel we can win anywhere."
I won with the Magic when they played at Boston earlier this month and I expect them to come away with another win and cover this evening. *Main Event
|03-24-09||Houston Rockets v. Utah Jazz -5.5||Top||86-99||Win||100||21 h 16 m||Show|
I'm laying the points with UTAH. This is a very big game for both teams. However, it's arguably even bigger for the Jazz. In addition to the fact that they're trying to defend their homecourt, the Jazz aren't in as good shape as the Rockets in the tight Western Conference playoff race. In other words, while they really need a victory for seeding purposes, the Rockets could still afford a loss more than the Jazz.
Give them credit. The Rockets have managed to survive without McGrady. In fact, they've thrived without him. They also haven't missed a beat since the Alston trade. They've won four straight and despite dealing with yet another injury (Karl Landry, 9 points and 5 rebounds, was injured in a shooting accident) are even coming off an emotional 'upset' victory at San Antonio, winning in the closing seconds. However, this is a very difficult venue and the Rockets typically haven't fared well when coming off a SU win as an underdog like that. In fact, they're just 1-7 ATS the last eight times that they won outright as an underdog in their previous game. It's also worth noting that they just 1-6 SU/ATS the last seven times that they played a road game with an over/under line ranging from 190 to 194.5.
The Jazz are an excellent 108-23 at home the past few years, going a profitable 73-54-4 at the betting window. That includes a 16-8-2 ATS mark as home favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range. The Jazz are also 3-0 the last three times they hosted the Rockets and 16-4 the last 20 times the teams faced each other here at Salt Lake City. Eight of the last nine of those victories came by a minimum of seven points - the other came by four. I expect the Jazz to continue their homecourt dominance in this series, cooling off the Rockets and covering the relatively small number along the way. *TNT Main Event
|03-18-09||Miami Heat v. Boston Celtics -5||Top||108-112||Loss||-110||8 h 12 m||Show|
I'm laying the points with BOSTON. I've successfully played against the Celtics several times recently, including their pointspread losses vs. the Magic, Nets, Bucks and Bulls. In each of those cases, the majority of the general betting public was backing the defending champs, causing Boston's lines to remain inflated. Having grown tired of losing with the champs and with them matched up against fan favorite Dwayne Wade, the majority of the betting public appears to finally be abandoning ship and taking the points with visiting Miami. As is often the case, I believe that those public bettors are "a day late and a dollar short" and that now is the time to back the champs.
I'm well aware of the Celtics' injuries and also know that they're playing the second of back to back games. However, as I noted in yesterday's writeup for the Bulls, the champs still have plenty of talent and their pointspread skid isn't going to last forever. Last night, they were on the road and playing against an under-rated and revenge-minded Bulls team which had won six straight on the road. Tonight, they're back home and they're facing a Miami team which has gone 1-4 SU/ATS its last five road games. Big difference! Even if Allen didn't happen to suit up, Pierce and Rondo are more than capable of taking on a bigger role and carrying the load.
While the Heat are 1-5 SU/ATS the last six times they were road underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range, the Celtics are a profitable 7-4 ATS (8-3 SU) as home favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range. Looking back further and we find them at a profitable 17-9-1 ATS in that role the past few seasons. Playing on National TV and looking for some payback from last week's loss at Miami, look for the champs to improve on those stats as they get back on track with a convincing win and cover. *Main Event
|03-13-09||Dallas Mavericks v. Golden State Warriors +1||Top||110-119||Win||100||10 h 16 m||Show|
I'm playing on GOLDEN STATE. The Mavericks have reeled off three straight victories, including an upset of Portland in their last game. However, I believe that this will prove to be a very difficult spot.
For starters, the Mavs are 3-7 ATS the last 10 times that they were coming off three or more consecutive losses. They're also just 5-10 ATS the last 15 times that they were coming off a SU win as an underdog. Additionally, they've had real trouble winning here at Oakland. In fact, they're a money-burning 0-8 ATS their last eight road games against the Warriors, going just 1-7 SU.
Its also a difficult scheduling spot for the Mavs, who will be without Josh Howard. Not only are they playing their third straight road game but they've got a big "double-revenge" game vs. LA on deck. Note that they're 0-2 ATS this season, prior to facing the Lakers.
The Warriors returned home from a road trip and promptly snapped their losing streak last time out, earning a win and cover vs. New Jersey. They've been much better at home all year, going a profitable 19-11-1 ATS. Including the victory over the Nets, the Warriors, who will be looking to avenge an earlier loss at Dallas, are now 23-13 ATS their last 36 games played in the month of March.
While the Mavs will be without Howard, the Warriors got both Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins back for their last game. Both players are very important to the team and both made immediate contributions. Biedrins had 10 points and 13 rebounds, his 28th double-double of the season. Meanwhile, Ellis had 19 points and six assists.
I expect the revenge-minded Warriors to continue their strong homecourt play, cooling off their guests and moving to 9-0 ATS the last nine series meetings. *Western Conf. GOW
|03-12-09||Cleveland Cavaliers v. Phoenix Suns +4.5||Top||119-111||Loss||-110||12 h 32 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with PHOENIX. Yes, Cleveland needs to keep winning to try and get the #1 seed. However, having lost five straight and fallen to ninth place in the West, the Suns desperately need a victory.
In fairness to the Suns, a closer look shows that only one of those five losses came here at Phoenix. They still have just 12 losses at home, the same number of losses that the Cavaliers have on the road. Note that the Suns are an excellent 20-11 ATS the last 31 times that they were listed as home underdogs in the +3.5 to +6 range. Conversely, the Cavs are just 10-16 ATS the last 26 times that they were road favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range.
The Suns are 11-5 SU when playing a home game with a total of 210 or greater this season and an outstanding 104-38 their last 142 in that situation. During the same stretch, the Cavs, who haven't been nearly as strong away from Cleveland this season, are just 2-5 (1-6 ATS) when playing a road game with a total of 210 or greater.
The Suns beat the Cavs by double-digits here last season and are a perfect 9-0 the last nine meetings here. They covered the spread in each of the last four of those meetings. After the loss to Dallas on Tuesday, Steve Nash was quoted as saying: "I'm very disappointed with the way we played and competed in the second half." Look for him to lead by example tonight as the Suns earn at least another cover. *Main Event.
|03-08-09||Orlando Magic +3.5 v. Boston Celtics||Top||86-79||Win||100||12 h 39 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with ORLANDO. The Celtics are coming off a win and cover vs. Cleveland. That said, things aren't well in Boston right now. As you're probably aware, the champs have been playing without Kevin Garnett. Obviously, his loss is huge, hurting them on both sides of the floor. With Dwight Howard coming to town, Garnett figures to be especially missed this afternoon.
Additionally, they're still without both Brian Scalabrine and Tony Allen. While I won't count on it, there's also a chance that Glen Davis (Garnett's replacement) may be out, as he was ejected last game and may be suspended for this afternoon's game, pending a league review. Also, while he's expected to play, Rajon Rondo left the game vs. the Cavaliers (he did return) with a sore ankle, so may not be quite as quick as he normally is. Even with the win over the Cavs, note that the Celts are still a money-burning 1-4 ATS their last five games.
Having already lost a pair of games vs. the champs, the Magic come in playing with "double-revenge," most recently losing 90-80 at Orlando, back in January. Of course, the Magic would really like to get a win in order to improve their position in the standings. However, they also badly need to beat the champs for psychological reasons, just to know that they are capable of doing so. If they can't beat them without Garnett, it won't bode well for them, should the teams happen to meet in the Eastern Finals.
The Magic, 10-2 ATS the last 12 times they were getting points, have been one of the best road teams in the league the past few years and they're an impressive 21-9 SU/ATS away from Orlando this season. That includes a perfect 4-0 SU/ATS mark when they've played a road game with an over/under line ranging from 195 to 199.5 Looking back further and we find them at a profitable 15-3 SU and 14-4 ATS the last 18 times that they played a road game with a total in that range.
In addition to their extremely strong road record, the Magic have been terrific when attempting to avenge an earlier loss, particularly if that loss came at home. In fact, they're 14-5 SU/ATS when playing with revenge, including an outstanding 8-1 SU/ATS when attempting to avenge an earlier home loss. Look for them to continue their success in that role, improving to 17-5 ATS the last 22 times that they faced a team which scores 99 or more points per game. *Main Event
|03-02-09||Cleveland Cavaliers v. Miami Heat +2.5||Top||107-100||Loss||-110||9 h 4 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with MIAMI. These teams split a pair of games just after Christmas with the Heat covering the spread in each game. The Cavs won by seven at Cleveland. The Heat came back two nights later and won by nine points when the teams faced each other here at Miami. With the schedule strongly in its favor, I expect the home team to have the advantage again this evening.
While the Heat had yesterday off, Cleveland played a big ESPN game at Atlanta. That worked out nicely, as the Cavs won (didn't cover) but were tested the entire way, with the game being decided in the final seconds. In other words, the stars were forced to log a lot of time - Lebron was on the floor for 44 minutes. Note that the Cavs are now a money-burning 9-16 ATS the last 25 times that they were listed as road favorites in the -3.5 to -6 range.
Unlike many teams, Cleveland has actually played quite well when playing the second of back to back games this season. This is more than just a back to back spot though, as the Cavs are also playing their fourth road game in the past five days and fifth game in seven days, which is as gruelling as it gets in the NBA. Don't be surprised if "fatigue" becomes a factor.
The Heat came up just short of covering the spread in their last game, winning by five, as six point favorites, vs. the Knicks. That was the type of victory a team can really build some positive momentum from, as they rallied from a big second half deficit, outscoring the Knicks by a 37-17 margin in the fourth quarter. Dwayne Wade took control, scoring 46 points while also contributing 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Note that the Heat, who allowed the Knicks to score 115 points, are a profitable 10-2 ATS on the season after allowing its previous opponent to score 105 or more points. I expect the Heat, 8-2 ATS against teams from the Central, to be the "fresher" team as they build off Saturday's win with a huge effort here, moving to 4-0 ATS the last four games in this series. *Eastern Conf. GOW
|03-01-09||Cleveland Cavaliers v. Atlanta Hawks +4||Top||88-87||Win||100||9 h 25 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with ATLANTA. Even most casual fans know that Cleveland has a better record than Atlanta this season. However, many would be surprised to know that Atlanta's home record is better than Cleveland's road record. In fact, its not even close! While the Cavaliers are 19-11 outside of Cleveland, the Hawks are a much better 20-6 when playing here at Atlanta. Not surprisingly, the home team has won both meetings in this season's series.
While the Cavs had yesterday off, they were off back to back games against tough Texas opponents the previous two days (Hawks haven't played b2b games in more than 10 days) and they've got another game on deck tomorrow. That's worth noting as we find the Cavs at just 1-5 ATS (2-4 SU) in 2009 when playing the front end of a back to back situation.
The Hawks, who have finally gotten heathy, score more than 100 points per game on this floor, while shooting 47.4%. They're also coming off a dominant defensive effort, which saw them limit Miami to a mere 83 points. Note that they're 6-3 SU/ATS on the season after holding their previous opponent to fewer than 85 points.
The Hawks have also thrived in the underdog role. Including the earlier "upset" of the Cavs here, they're a profitable 17-9 ATS when getting points, including 2-0 ATS when listed as a home underdog in the 6.5 to 9 point range. Currently in fourth place, this is the Hawks chance to again show that they can compete with the "Big 3" in the East. I expect them to respond with a massive effort, continuing their excellent play on this court. *Main Event
|02-27-09||Los Angeles Lakers v. Denver Nuggets +2.5||Top||79-90||Win||100||11 h 25 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with DENVER. The Lakers have been the best team in the West again this year and their overall record is far superior to the record of any other team in the conference. However, a closer look reveals that their road record (21-6) is almost identical to Denver's home record of 21-7.
While those home/road records are equal, the Nuggets have an important and significant scheduling advantage. While the Nuggets had yesterday off, the Lakers are coming off a big "TNT" win over Shaq and the Suns. Note that they have a rematch vs. the Suns on the weekend, so this game is "sandwiched" in between the two emotional Shaq/Kobe showdowns.
While playing back to back games hasn't really bother the Lakers this season, this isn't a typical "back to back spot," as they're also playing their seventh game in the past 11 days. That's a very demanding schedule and fatigue figures to play a factor. Of course, the "thin air" in Denver won't do anything to help their tired legs.
In addition to being the "fresher" team, I expect the Nuggets to be the "hungrier" team. The Lakers have the #1 seed in the West all but wrapped up and they gained another game on the Cavs for the best overall record in the league last night. Conversely, the Nuggets are trying to hold off both the Jazz and the Blazers for the #1 spot in the Northwest. That's critically important for playoff seeding purposes, as otherwise they'd be just one of the nine teams battling for eight spots.
The Nuggets also get some added motivation from the fact that the Lakers have already beaten them twice this season. Additionally, even though they won last game, they're still trying to "get back on track" and the fact that they squandered a lead in that game, should ensure that they're not complacent here. Billups was quoted as saying: "I was angry. I'm happy we won, but I'm just disappointed in how we won, and that's just the sign of a really good team."
Last night's cover notwithstanding, the Lakers are still a money-burning 8-15-1 ATS on the season when playing a road game with a over/under line of 210 or greater. On the other hand, the Nuggets are 6-1 ATS when playing a home game where the total is greater than or equal to 210. I expect Billups and the revenge-minded Nuggets to be at their best as they improve on those stats this evening. *GOM
|02-26-09||Cleveland Cavaliers v. Houston Rockets +3||Top||74-93||Win||100||10 h 18 m||Show|
I'm taking the points with HOUSTON. The Cavaliers are having an excellent season and they've got a great shot at winning the East. That said, they haven't been nearly as strong on the road as they have been at home and I expect them to get "upset" at this evening's extremely difficult venue.
Both teams have won five in a row overall. The Rockets have also won eight straight here at home though. Despite failing to cover by half a point last time out, they were still 5-2-1 ATS during that stretch. The Cavs, on the other hand, are 4-4 ATS their last eight on the road and 6-9 ATS their last 15.
It's true that the Rockets are without McGrady and also that they're dealing with some new faces in the lineup. However, that has yet to slow them down. In fact, they've actually been scoring more points without T-Mac in the lineup. That's led to them going 7-1 the last eight games without him in the lineup and 16-6 without him for the season. Without McGrady, Artest has been playing a bigger role and he's thrived since doing so.
Despite the fact that the Rockets have won 20 of their last 23 games here, we're even being given a couple of extra points to work with. While the points aren't likely to come into play here, it's still worth mentioning that two of Houston's last three losses here have come by only two points - the other came by only five, vs. the Lakers.
The Rockets have dominated this series over the years, even in the Lebron era. While they did lose at Cleveland just before Christmas, they're 17-3 the last 20 times that they hosted the Cavs. They're also 55-37 SU the last 92 times that they were attempting to avenge an earlier loss. *TNT GOM
|02-22-09||New York Knicks v. Toronto Raptors -3||Top||100-111||Win||100||2 h 15 m||Show|
I'm laying the points with TORONTO. The Raptors should have plenty of motivation this afternoon as they got embarrassed 127-97 at New York on Friday night. The Knicks jumped on top early (75-50 at halftime!) and pounded the Raptors the entire way. Nate Robinson and co. were really getting "excited" about their second half baskets, even after the game was already out of hand, and I don't expect that to have sat very well with the Raptors. With Friday's loss, the Raptors are just 7-13 (SU and ATS) their last 20 trips to New York. However, they've have had plenty of success against the Knicks, when the teams have met here at Toronto. In fact, they've won eight straight meetings here, going 6-2 against the number. Looking back further and we find the Raptors at 15-5 the last 20 times that they were a host in this series. While he struggled, the Raptors got Chris Bosh, their best player, back last game. He's had a game under his belt now and I expect a much better performance this afternoon. For all their struggles, the Raptors are still 4-2 ATS the last six times that they were favored by four points or less. That includes a 2-0 ATS mark the last two times that they were home favorites of four or less. Look for them to improve on those numbers as they continue their homecourt dominance in this series, avenging Friday's loss with a solid win and cover of their own. *Eastern Conf. GOM