Posted 14 hours, 3 minutes ago
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2014 04:05 PM
by Michael Stewart
NBA Playoff Record: 7-7 ATS
Played a fun drinking game last night: decided to take a shot every time there was a defensive stop in the Portland-Houston game. What a great way to stay sober! And how about that LaMarcus Aldrdige fellow? Anyways, aside from whiffing on Al Jefferson's non-injury yesterday, I continued to bounce back after a horrible start to my NBA playoff predictions. Let's keep the good times rolling...or at least try. These are the three toughest series to get a grip on.
Indiana Pacers -2.5 over ATLANTA HAWKS (7pm EST)
I like the fight in the Hawks, but Indiana proved in Game 2 that they're willing to be a bit more flexible with their game plan. They rotated well to get in Paul Milsap's face and Paul George was a lot better in help defence against Jeff Teague. A lot of dumb news has surfaced that Frank Vogel is supposedly "coaching for his job". You might as well say I'm "writing for my job" or that you're "lawyering or doctoring or selling stuff for your job". Of course he's coaching for his job! HE'S A BASKETBALL COACH! And he's a damn good one at that. I think he's figured out Atlanta's one-dimensional attack. Indiana is a tight play here, which makes me like them even more.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES +2.0 over Oklahoma City Thunder - (8pm EST)
In general, I'm not a huge fan of what Oklahoma City's been doing in this series. Memphis seems content grinding them down and hoping that Durant doesn't murder them, while they've actually done a pretty good job guarding against Westbrook. I know he scored 29 and 23 points in the first two games, but he's shooting the ball a ton and often seems a bit reckless with the ball. I still like Oklahoma City to take this series, but I think Memphis has been efficient at grinding out points. Mike Miller's going to be the difference in this game and the home crowd factor for the Grizz makes me really worried for the Thunder. Unless they can find a way to get regular contributions out of Serge Ibaka offensively, I am feeling much less confident about this matchup than I did when this series began.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS +2.5 over Los Angeles Clippers (10:30pm EST)
Either the Warriors are going to roll over and tap out after taking a 40-point beating, or they're going to remember that they're tied in this series, heading in to a pivotal Game 3 and playing in front of their lunatic fan base which will never give up on them. To be fair, when the playoffs were on the line and they needed wins at home they earned them going 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four games at home. And as much as I love the Clippers in this series, and in the Western Conference, I also love that Golden State is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games overall. A lot of teams wouldn't recover from a 40-point kick to the groin.
Posted Monday, April 21, 2014 01:09 PM
by Michael Stewart
NBA Playoff Record: 5-6 ATS
So I have no idea why my Tuesday picks didn't get posted. I clicked publish and it didn't go through and I ran out the door without double checking. So basically it's all my fault. Weekly idiocy is part and parcel of the Michael Stewart package! Fortunately, decent gambling analysis is as well. I bounced back from getting buried on Monday with a 2-1 ATS effort as Toronto and Indiana rallied against their first round opponents, while I was shocked by the Wizards. Seriously, Chicago?
Part of what I was saying yesterday is that my Monday picks were very reactionary. You need to decide how you feel about a series before it starts, and then have it slightly modified as the games play out. You can't do complete 180's all the time. I really thought Golden State had some fight in them, and overvalued a gutsy Game 1...only to see them get blown apart by the vengeful Clippers. And I loved the Clippers to squash Goldnen State in this series before it began. Sometimes you just need to stand by your guns...or hold on to your guns? Forget it - just have some freaking integrity.
So how do I feel about Wednesday's games? Why don't you keep reading?
(Please keep reading...I love my job)
MIAMI HEAT -10.0 over Charlotte Bobcats (7pm EST)
No Al Jefferson? No chance. Charlotte's most reliable offensive asset is nursing plantar fasciitis, an injury I've actually suffered before personally. Thing is that I'm not a 6-foot-10, 289 pound professional basketball player who needs to pivot and push off his feet all the time. It's a super painful injury, and one that no amount of injections or pain killers can really slow down. Your foot literally feels like it's going to snap in two every time you tweak it. Jefferson has been the catalyst for all of Charlotte's success this season. Without him at full steam I just don't see how the uneven Bobcats curtail Miami from blowing them to smithereens.
Dallas Mavericks +7.5 over SAN ANTONIO SPURS (8pm EST)
I don't totally love this pick at all because it feels reactionary to Game 1. You know how I know Devin Harris isn't dropping 19 points again? Because he's only scored that many points once this season. So why bother taking Dallas? Because their bench is just chalk full of sort-of-heroes like Vince Carter, Jae Crowder, Monta Ellis and so on. I'm not saying that this collection of talent can take down San Antonio, but they're going to give them everything they've got. Under Rick Carlisle, who is perhaps the best coach in the league that nobody talks about, they'll give the Spurs a tough game yet again. Dallas needs this win. They can not afford to go back home in a two game deficit. That motivation has me leaning towards Dallas here even though I will probably/definitely regret it. Hey, Dirk! If you could go ahead and drop 38 points that would be awesome. Thanks in advance.
Portland Trail Blazers +6.5 over HOUSTON ROCKETS (10:30pm EST)
In what universe is Houston a -6.5 point favourite over Portland? Not mine. Game 1 solidified the notion that neither team is going to bother playing defence for any portion of this series and that gives Portland as much room to generate scores as it does for the Rockets. Patrick Beverly's knee injury - though not significant now - is also worrisome. If he goes down, the Rockets literally don't have a single perimeter defender worth mentioning. Portland can get points in a variety of ways, and Houston will let them. My numbers indicate a Houston victory here, but Portland will keep this game close no matter what. And I'm very inclined to buck my spreadsheets and take the Blazers on the moneyline too.
Keep in mind, I might hate the Rockets for some strange reason. It's probably because the donuts in Portland are like my fourteenth favourite thing in the world. I also have lingering disdain for Dwight Howard, who should absolutely be able to take over this series. Watching him shoot free throws makes me want to vomit with rage.
Posted Saturday, April 19, 2014 11:48 PM
by Michael Stewart
NBA Playoff Record: 3-5 ATS
Sometimes handicapping pays too much attention to historical trends, and the tradition in Round 1 has been to back the favourites. The attrition usually shows up in the second and third rounds when the riff-raff has been sent packing. Needless to say, that didn't really happen that much this weekend.
This season has not been normal, so I should've just said "bet the underdogs and figure things out later" over the weekend. This is why I hate math - I'm not especially talented at it (thank god for Excel) and numbers can lie to you when it comes to gambling. Fortunately, there are some matchups that are panning out the way we expected them to while others are a lot more feisty than some of us expected. And look at what we've got tonight...one game that's the former and another that's the latter!
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER -7.0 over Memphis Grizzlies (8pm EST)
All Memphis needed was a wing player who could penetrate defences and defend guys like LeBron and Durant better than the 2014 version of Tayshaun Prince. It still baffles me that they never tried to find or develop that guy. Maybe Quincy Pondexter was supposed to be that guy, but he's more of a guard than the swingman this team so desperately needs. Oklahoma City is laying a ton of points here, but Memphis doesn't have the explosive offensive capabilities to keep up with these rolling Thunder. They just don't.
Golden State Warriors +8.0 over LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (10:30pm EST)
Feels like a classic zig-zag theory series, doesn't it? Well I'm not biting. Golden State's problems this season were a huge red flag for me when the playoffs started, but I underestimated just how much it's galvanized them. The Warriors have the type of mental toughness that only comes when you have a coach like Mark Jackson. And I love it. These guys are never going to go down without a fight despite all of their injury and chemistry issues. Back them up against a wall, and they suddenly find the resolve to play like a playoff powerhouse (especially when the refs help).
Los Angeles totally seems like a team that just expects to win, and when they have to fight for a victory they can lose a lot of their composure. I didn't expect their usual playoff petulance to show up with Rivers at the helm. This series essentially comes down to Curry vs. Paul, and as it turns out, that's a much tighter matchup than I expected it to be. Curry and Klay reserve their best for the playoffs, and while the Clippers are still the better team, they're not playing like it. The interior bullying of the Clippers is being slowed by the big body of...JERMAINE O'NEAL?! I know - nothing makes sense. The Warriors should fall apart. Turns out, they're about to give the Clippers a first round war for the ages.
This is simply too many points. The higher the spread, the more you should bet on Golden State to cover.
Posted Saturday, April 19, 2014 01:17 AM
by Michael Stewart
SAN ANTONIO SPURS -9.5 over Dallas Mavericks (1:00pm EST)
There is a serious part of me that wants to take Dallas here. A totally dead serious part. But the Spurs aren't just 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS when playing Dallas this season, they're clearly the best team in the western conference. I've gone through everything about this matchup, and it all comes back to the Mavs being just 4-6 ATS in their last 10 games when their playoff lives were on the line. Listen, if there's anyone that can coach against Pop, it's Carlisle. But not with this team and not in Game 1. I love the Spurs to in 5 in this series and despite the large number, I'm still honeypotting their way as huge favourites.
Charlotte Bobcats +9.5 over MIAMI HEAT (3:30pm EST)
The Bobcats got killed 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS when playing Miami because they have zero players capable of stopping LeBron James. Regardless I like the matchups here. Al Jefferson has become a boss hogg this season and the Heat are still thin up front. Charlotte also has daring scorers like Kemba who can push this line and keep this game relatively close. Miami should take this series in four, but Charlotte won't let it go without a fight.
CHICAGO BULLS -4.5 over Washington Wizards (7pm EST)
Washington simply isn't physical enough to beat Chicago. The Wizards can spaz out a win here and there, but Chicago is too disciplined and will be able to square peg the Wiz in to a round hole here. The matchup of Boozer/Noah against Marcin Gortat, along with a shallow betting line, completely balances out the HInrich/Butler versus Wall thing. I'm comfortable with the Bulls as a home favourite against the Wizards and a lot of that is built on my thinking that Washington hasn't produced a playoff warrior.
Portland Trail Blazers +5.0 over HOUSTON ROCKETS (9:30pm EST)
If you're nervous about any play on the board this Sunday, the Portland-Houston TOTAL is right there for the taking. Neither team can play defence, and while I love Aldridge's game, he's not in a position (literally) to mitigate Dwight Howard on the scoreboard. The issue there is that Houston is just as ill-equipped to stop Portland. These two teams are absolute shame wads to me; they both should be better than they are. A team with Wesley Matthews and Batum should be defensive bulldozers, and any squad that revolves Dwight Freaking Howard should be the best defensive team in the league. So while defensive pride won't be at stake here, toughness will be. And when that's my x-factor, that means I'm leaning towards Portland.
by Michael Stewart
Yes, we talkin' 'bout playoffs! Here's a rundown of Saturday's games! No explanation required!
TORONTO RAPTORS -2.5 over Brooklyn Nets (Saturday - 12:30pm EST)
I've talked to some of my friends in and around the business (yes I have friends!) and everyone expects this series to go seven games. I'm totally fine with that. The Raptors and Nets engaged in all out wars during their four game regular season set, so don't count the visiting team to underestimate the home squad like the rest of the universe will. The Raptors can flat out play, and became a hard target for the oddsmakers to track throughout the season.
This is a matchup nightmare both ways. The size and experience of the Nets is a direct contrast with the youth and (relatively) small size of the high-flying Raptors. I really don't trust Jonas going up against Pierce, KG or Plumlee. He can get Jedi'd out of his shoes sometimes. But he's not the biggest x-factor in this game or this series.
The reason I'm taking Toronto is Kyle Lowry, who always brings his best when going up against other elite point guards. Deron Williams is in a truly important part of his career right now, and I'm not sure I totally trust him. Honestly, I never really have. Lowry and DeRozan will put on a show in front of the rabid Toronto fans. I'm trusting the oddsmakers here and leaning towards Toronto. The tighter this spread, the better.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS -7.0 over Golden State Warriors (Saturday - 3:30pm EST)
Everyone thinks Stephen Curry is going to erupt and carry his team on Saturday without the presences of David Lee or Andrew Bogut. Those that say that haven't seen Chris Paul play vindictive defence. Without their best front court players, Blake Griffin is going to go bananas. This low hanging number is giving Klay and Curry way too much credit, and Los Angeles' defence far less than it deserves.
Atlanta Hawks +7.5 over INDIANA PACERS (Saturday - 7pm EST)
This is a line I'm actually scared of and I probably shouldn't be. Everything in my metrics says that Indiana smashes Atlanta. Everything. Literally. The problem is that the numbers on Indiana don't really measure how strange this team has been down the home stretch. They haven't just been lousy - they've been overly frustrated and petty towards each other, bickering like a bunch of classless ego maniacs. I think there's an opportunity for Atlanta to slide in here and make this game much more competitive than people expect. When that happens, Indiana will (hopefully) finally wake up. I still see this series going just four games, but the Hawks will create a little nausea here for everyone involved. I just have a bad gut feeling about it.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER -7.5 over Memphis Grizzlies (9:30pm EST)
Part of me is a bit nervous about the matchup problems with Memphis's bigs and Kevin Durant. The handicapper part of my brain is having a seizure trying to feel comfortable with Brooks and Joerger protecting my money. The reason I have OKC despite the obvious? Well I think KD and Westbrook are still pissed about getting knocked out by these guys last season. That's all. Don't think revenge is enough of a reason to bet on the best duo in basketball? Then you don't know anything about either of them.
Ok fine, I don't know much about them either. I just know that they play basketball like the HATE EVERYTHING and so there's got to be some emotional rocket fuel there ready to boil in their blood. Got to be.