Posted Monday, April 21, 2014 09:38 AM
Posted Monday, April 14, 2014 10:30 AM
There were eight opening round NBA Playoff Series that started
this past weekend. The lower seeded road
teams – all underdogs in Game 1 – went 6-2 ATS, including five outright upset
winners. There were four games that flew
Over the total, three that stayed Under and one (Miami – Charlotte) that
finished right in between the opening and closing total.
This is just the start of a two month NBA Playoff marathon,
and these Game 1’s may not be indicative of how these opening round series are
likely to play out. Here are some key ‘Notes
and Quotes’ for each series following those Game 1’s.
Miami looked sluggish and lethargic for extended stretches
of their opener against Charlotte, but took over the game with an 18-4 run in the
fourth quarter when LeBron James was sitting on the bench. Head coach Erik Spoelstra: “We were flat to start. I think our guys were
just anxious." LeBron: “That group
that was in once I took that break at the 10-minute mark in the fourth quarter,
they just bumped the lead. Obviously, to have three Hall of Famers in the game
when I'm out of the game, CB, D-Wade and Ray ... that was big-time." Meanwhile, Bobcats leading scorer and
rebounder Al Jefferson was in a walking boot after the game. His quote?
“Just got to suck it up, man.”
The veteran Chicago Bulls led the inexperienced Washington
Wizards by double digits at home in the second half, but were badly outplayed
down the stretch, outscored 45-24 to close out the game. Joakim Noah: “Up
13, we exhaled and they came back. Bad turnovers. They got some easy scores. We
got to make our adjustments. This is chess. It isn't checkers.” Head coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t sound too
concerned: “There are a lot of things you can do to help your team win.
We're capable of playing a lot better.”
Randy Wittman certainly wasn’t outcoached in Game 1: “There will be times in the playoffs where we have to
survive and stay in the game with six or seven straight possessions and not
score. Both teams can do that. Who is going to stay in the fight when you do
that? We did. We had a period where they outplayed us, no question about it. We
had to get that back, and in the second half, I thought we did."
The veteran Brooklyn Nets,
however, played great basketball down the stretch of the fourth quarter in
their win over Toronto, led by Paul Pierce. “You just get that feeling, you've been
in those situations a number of times. I don't get rattled in the fourth
quarter, down the stretch or in playoff settings. I've been in pretty much
every playoff setting that you can imagine. I just try to stay calm and bring
my calmness to the game." Veteran Deron
Williams helped Brooklyn get off to a strong start with 18 first half points: “We
didn't shoot well from 3 tonight but we made up for that by taking care of the
ball, good defense down the stretch, making plays offensively. That's why we
got the win." Toronto’s problem was
turnovers, 19 of them to be exact. Head
coach Dwane Casey: “That was the biggest issue.”
While reading ‘mainstream media’ NBA Playoff predictions
last week, it was very clear that most pundits hadn’t watched the Indiana
Pacers play very much after the All Star Break.
It’s not like this Pacers team has a substantial history of recent
playoff success – they’ve won three series in the last nine postseasons. And following Indiana’s Game 1 loss at home
to the Hawks, it was very clear that the Pacers regular season struggles have
not been solved. Leading scorer Paul
George: “It's frustrating. It's frustrating, but
it's a long series. It's just one game and that's the way we have to look at
it." The Hawks scored 101 points on the leagues’s top regular
season defense. Kyle Korver: “I thought our
ball movement was great. That's one of the things we've tried to play to all
year and tonight it kind of worked out."
The Memphis Grizzlies trailed by 22 points at the half in
their Game 1 loss at Oklahoma City; missing each of their first 18 shots from
outside the paint. The cut the deficit
to a single bucket in the second half, but couldn’t maintain that momentum,
losing by 14. Zack Randolph: “We've got to make adjustments to get off to a
better start. We can't exert so much energy trying to come back from 20 points.
It's the first game, we've got to stick together. We've been here before, we
know what we've got to do.” Mike Conley: “We got good looks. I can't say it was
anything other than that. We got good looks. We got some open 3s. Our bigs got
some good looks in the post. We just didn't knock them down. We have to be more
focused at the line as well. Making free throws is a big deal for us. We got
opportunities. We've got to make them."
The San Antonio Spurs were the only team over the weekend to
win their Game 1 matchup without covering the pointspread. Why?
The Spurs weren’t sharp offensively, hitting just 3-17 from three point
range while getting only 23 points off the league’s best bench. But Tim Duncan hit shots when it mattered
most – down the stretch – as the Spurs rallied from ten points down in the
final eight minutes. Duncan, talking
about their offensive struggles: "It's always tough to change gears from
the regular season to the playoffs when you're preparing for a team and they're
preparing for you specifically.” Dirk
Nowitzki talking about the Mavs solid defensive execution: “We got killed on 3s
in the first four outings this year. It was no secret; we stayed home a little
more on 3-point shooters, but you've got to give them something, and Duncan in
there is obviously still solid."
The Blazers young All Star duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and
Damian Lillard were pretty much unstoppable in Portland’s wild overtime win
over Houston; combining for 77 points and 27 rebounds between them. Aldridge: “This is one of those games where I
could show my team that I wanted to lead.” When Aldridge fouled out in overtime, he had
some choice words for Lillard: "I said: 'Take it over.'" Lillard: “When
you've got your best player playing like that, it fires you up. When he went
out of the game, I felt like our team ... had to have L.A.'s back and come
through for him." Rockets
coach Kevin McHale, who has watched his team struggle defensively all season
long: “(Aldridge has) been a handful for us all year long. We just
didn't have any answers for him."
Golden State didn’t have defensive low post stopper Andrew
Bogut for their playoff series opener against the Clippers. They committed 21 turnovers. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined to miss
23 of their 36 shot attempts. And yet
the Warriors still won in SU fashion on the road as seven point underdogs. Thompson: “The pressure is all on them. They
can't afford to go down 0-2 and go on the road. It's tough to come back down
0-2." LA’s Blake Griffin was
limited to 19 minutes before fouling out. “We made mistakes. Some of us, myself
included, maybe wanted it too much and came in with an expectation. We just
need to relax." Head coach Doc
Rivers: “There were a lot of times where we lost our trust in each other. We
made too many mistakes to win."
Posted Monday, April 07, 2014 10:24 AM
We’re two weeks into the marathon baseball season, but there
hasn’t been a lot that stands out thusfar in the standings. The Milwaukee Brewers are riding a nine game
winning streak into the new week, a ‘surprise’ team with the best current
record in baseball. And the defending
World Series champs, the Boston Red Sox, have slumped out of the gate, sitting
in last place in the AL East.
Frankly, we should expect these sorts of anomalies in early
season play – in fact we should expect more of them than we’ve seen thusfar. But there’s not much we can expect to
accomplish from riding hot teams out of the gate and fading
underachievers. Based on two weeks worth
of results, I wouldn’t recommend betting on the Brewers or against the Red Sox
on a daily basis moving forward. A hot
or cold start is not necessarily a ‘leading indicator’ for a hot or cold
But MLB totals are a very different story. I’ve written several previous articles about
why I look to bet MLB totals – particularly Overs – all summer long. To summarize three key points from those
previous articles, the betting markets don’t notice streaks of Overs or Unders
at anywhere near the level that the markets notice wins and losses, making
streaks easier to ‘ride’ without laying a hefty price.
Secondly, Overs beget Overs and Unders beget Unders. Hot lineups, struggling starters and worn
down bullpens carry from one game to the next.
So do strong starters, rested and effective bullpens and slumping
lineups. One game legitimately affects the
next game. Bettors looking to capitalize
on MLB streaks most assuredly have totals as a significant piece of their
Thirdly, totals have very little ‘wiggle’ room on the
margins. You don’t see MLB games totaled
above 11 except in the most extreme circumstances, nor does the market offer
anything lower than the occasional '6’ even in expected pitcher’s duels with
nearly ideal conditions for a low scoring game.
Sides can be priced from pick ‘em to -400 or higher, but totals are
forced into a much more limited range.
When it comes to early season MLB totals trends, unlike the
sides, there’s plenty that stands out. Here’s
a brief list:
Top Over Teams:
San Francisco 11-2 to the Over
Minnesota Twins 10-2
LA Angels 10-2
Arizona Diamondbacks 11-4
Chicago White Sox 9-4
Colorado Rockies 9-3
Top Under Teams:
Boston Red Sox 10-3
San Diego Padres 9-3
Milwaukee Brewers 8-4
The case of the Giants really stands out. Normally, teams don’t fly Over the total
every night when they have an elite bullpen.
For example, the Brewers have the best bullpen ERA in baseball thusfar,
and they’ve been MLB’s top side money earner and a consistent Under squad. Meanwhile, the White Sox have the worst
bullpen ERA in the majors thusfar, and they rank among the strongest Over teams.
And normally teams don’t fly Over the total every night when
their top two bats are ice cold. The
Giants have been Over machines here in April despite the fact that key middle-of-the-order
bats Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence have only 17 hits combined in their 101
at-bats, while driving in only eight runs between them.
So, the Giants bullpen has been great and their lineup isn’t
yet clicking on all cylinders. Yet they’ve
been cashing Over bet after Over bet, an emerging trend that unlike the Brewers
and Red Sox sides that I wrote about earlier, is most assuredly worth riding
for the next week, month – however long it takes until the markets catch up
with the ‘new’ Giants.
San Francisco came into the season with a ‘baseline’ total
at AT&T Park in the range of 7 or 7.5.
In 81 home games last year, the Giants didn’t have a single game totaled
higher than ‘8’ and 78 of those games were totaled at 7.5 or lower. Given an ‘average’ starting pitching matchup
at AT&T Park, the total would be 7 or 7.5 without much variance.
But this year’s Giants team is a completely different squad
from any recent version. First of all,
they can hit! Angel Pagan, Michael
Morse, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are all off to solid
starts, despite the early struggles from Panda Bear and Pence.
A squad that ranked among the bottom ten in baseball in runs
scored, total bases and home runs last year currently ranks among the top six
in all three categories this year. And
frankly, there’s no reason to think their current level of offensive production
is primed for any sort of immediate drop-off.
The Giants are hitting and I expect them to continue to hit.
But with that improved offensive production, the Giants
new-look lineup is not as good defensively as recent versions. That’s clearly
evidenced by their park adjusted defensive efficiency numbers ranking among the
bottom third in baseball.
With that defensive decline, San Fran has seen their
starting pitching underachieve thusfar, and there’s no reason to think that it’s
going to improve by leaps and bounds in the weeks to come. Both Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum have
been lit up early and neither guy has a profile that indicates the situation is
likely to improve anytime soon.
Matt Cain has thrown for 200+ innings in six of the last
seven seasons, and his strikeouts are down; an indication that last year’s
modest decline could be a harbinger of things to come. Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner have put up
solid early season numbers, but even that duo is 5-1 to the Over through their
first six starts thanks to the low totals in the markets and the Giants lineup
Plain and simple – the Giants baseline total is priced wrong
these days. This squad has a very
different feel than last year’s team – a much more potent lineup, with a weaker
defense and a drop-off in their starting pitching. Until we see that market routinely price San
Francisco’s totals at home at ‘8’ or higher, there’s no reason to expect the
single strongest early season MLB betting trend to suddenly reverse itself!
Most of the eight other ‘total trending’ teams on the list
above are in similar spots. The markets
still value data from last year’s result, particularly when it comes to totals
-- those ‘baseline’ numbers remain fairly static from one year to the next. Those ‘slow-to-adjust’ numbers offer savvy
bettors legitimate value riding some of these early season total trends moving
Posted Monday, March 31, 2014 10:19 AM
The Indiana Pacers have been a remarkable pointspread story
this year, worthy of a ‘Wiseguy Report’ to examine in detail what has happened
and why. To be thorough, this story
starts last year when the Pacers flexed their collective muscles, developing
into a title contender for the first time in a decade.
Indiana was good, not great, in the 2012-13 regular
season. They won 49 games, tied for the
third best record in the (much) weaker of the two conferences. Here’s an excerpt of what I wrote about the
Pacers heading into the playoffs last year:
“A month ago, I would
have listed the Pacers as Miami’s toughest Eastern Conference potential
test. Indiana’s defensive numbers rank
among the best in the NBA, and low post behemoth Roy Hibbert is a very tough
matchup for the Heat in the paint.
Indiana beat Miami twice during the regular season, and the Pacers were
the last team to give the Heat real trouble in the playoffs last year, taking a
2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference semi’s before the Heat closed out the
series with three straight wins.
But the Pacers have
not played well down the stretch; struggling to find offensive production
during crunch time of close games. Can
the George Hill/Lance Stephenson/Paul George trio really hang with LeBron and
Dwayne Wade for seven games? And with
aging power forward David West wearing down since the All Star break, even
Indiana’s defensive mindset isn’t enough for me to expect them to hang tough
The Pacers didn’t look like juggernauts when they opened the
playoffs last year, tied 2-2 with Atlanta through the first four games of their
series, each team winning and covering both games at home. But Indiana solved Atlanta, holding the Hawks
to 83 and 73 points as they closed out the series in six games.
Then the Pacers knocked off the Knicks in six. They notched only one win and cover at
Madison Square Garden, but controlled all three home games. And then Indiana took the defending champion
Heat to the wire in an absolute war for seven games, earning a significant
measure of respect from the betting markets in the process.
After that type of a confidence inspiring playoff run, with
their entire core back for 2014 and head coach Frank Vogel earning a strong ‘bet-on’
reputation, the Pacers were expected to be very good this year. They were lined in the range of 55 wins; an
elite team. And for the first three months of the season, the Pacers played
like it. In fact, they actually played
better than expectations – much better.
The Pacers opened this season with a 15-5 ATS mark in their
first 20 games. They went 13-7 ATS in
their next 20. Everybody knew that the Pacers were going to
be very good, yet Indiana still managed to hit 70 percent against the spread over
the first half of the season! This isn’t
a similar case to other ATS juggernauts this year like the Suns, Bobcats or
Raptors (the top three ATS teams in the NBA as I write this), all of whom were
lottery teams last year whom have ‘come out of nowhere’ to play playoff caliber
basektball. This was the case of an
elite team playing even better, ‘ultra-elite’ if you will.
How did the Pacers put together that remarkable ATS run? Here’s what I wrote back in January: “My answer is two-fold: focus and
defense. Frank Vogel had the Pacers
thinking about home court advantage in the playoffs from Day 1 of training
camp, and the Pacers have used all kinds of perceived ‘slights’ as a smaller market team (like not being
scheduled on Christmas Day) as additional motivators. That has led to extraordinary focus, a ballclub
that just hasn’t had many weak efforts this year.
And the Pacers
championship level defensive effort has covered more than a few
pointspreads. Indiana has the best
defensive efficiency numbers in the NBA; barely allowing 93 points per 100
possessions. Opposing teams have
struggled to hit ‘spread covering’ shots against them again and again in the
latter stages of the fourth quarter.”
So when Indiana limped into the All Star break with a 4-8
spread mark in their previous 12 games, it certainly didn’t raise any red
flags. Nor did the fact that the team
with the best home record in the NBA suddenly lost a couple of games as home favorites
against the Suns and Mavs. This team was
a dynamo, bet-on all the way.
Which makes what has happened since the All Star break all
the more remarkable. As I write this,
the Pacers are seven games under .500 ATS for the year, tied with Milwaukee in
the ATS standings. They’ve gone 13-13
SU, but just 3-22-1 ATS since the break, a 26 game streak of abject pointspread
futility. One of those three spread
covers was fraudulent, coming as a 5.5 point favorite in overtime. And it’s surely worth noting that ten of those
13 SU wins came against the Bucks, Celtics, Jazz, Lakers, Pistons and 76ers –
absolute bottom feeders.
This is a classic case of the betting markets finally ‘catching
up’ with an elite team at the exact same time that they are rapidly morphing
from ‘elite’ into ‘mediocre’. And ‘mediocre’
might be giving them too much credit if you’ve watched them play in recent
weeks, just 2-7 SU in their last nine ballgames. Sunday’s home loss to the Hawks – a game
where the Pacers trailed 55-23 at home at halftime - -was a new low for a team
that has suffered through many of them in recent weeks.
So what’s wrong with the Pacers? Can they fix it and challenge for the Eastern
Conference title again? My answers are
short: “Everything” and ‘No”.
Let’s start with their offensive woes, a huge issue for a
squad that has produced 91 points or less nine times in their last eleven
ballgames. The Pacers ‘superstar’, Paul
George, hasn’t been playing like a superstar, hitting less than 40 percent from
the floor since the break. Their point
guard, Lance Stephenson, is averaging only 3.4 assists per game since the
break, nearly two assists per game less than he dished over the first half of
the campaign. Their big men in the
middle, Roy Hibbert and David West, have struggled mightily on both ends of the
floor, disappearing for extended stretches.
There’s very little offensive ‘flow’ for Indiana these days, a team
struggling to create good shots.
The Pacers defense has also declined by leaps and bounds
during this dismal run. When you look at
the season long stats, the Pacers have the best defensive efficiency numbers in
the league, ahead of Chicago and San Antonio.
But two months ago, Indiana had lapped the field in this key statistical
category, while now they’re barely hanging on to that top spot. They’ve forced
fewer turnovers, given up more points in the paint and in transition, blocked fewer
shots – the works. Again, this is no
short term hiccup -- it’s two months of bad basketball.
Team chemistry issues are surely a piece of the equation as
well. GM Larry Bird’s decision to trade
away locker room leader Danny Granger for Evan Turner at the trading deadline
has proven to be a disastrous move. And the more the Pacers struggle, the more
they don’t seem to like one another, in sharp contrast to what we saw over the
first half of the campaign.
Hibbert’s quote speaks volumes about the frustrations for a
team that has lost their confidence: “We've had plenty of players-only meetings.
We've had plenty of sit-downs with the team and coaches, some with upper
management listening in. Maybe we should all go to group therapy and have an
airing of grievances.'' David West: “We're at the bottom in terms of how far you can fall.” I’m not convinced that’s the case….
So what does this mean moving forward? It means that the Eastern Conference is
suddenly loaded with live longshots.
Miami is certainly vulnerable; an aging team filled with expiring
contracts that was somewhat lucky to escape with their second straight title
last June. Looking for longshot value,
the likes of Brooklyn, Chicago and Toronto are suddenly ‘live’ in the
East. Frankly, Indiana’s first round
opponent (probably Washington, Charlotte or Atlanta) could be a very ‘live’
underdog as well. The Pacers have fallen
and they can’t get up!
Posted Monday, March 24, 2014 09:59 AM
You’ll be reading more than enough about the Final Four in
the week to come. You’ll be able to find
my initial take on the two games in my ESPN.com piece, midweek. So I’m going to focus on the NBA in this
week’s Wiseguy Report, picking up right where I left off last week, when I
broke down a handful of Eastern Conference ‘morphers’.
It’s worth noting that since I wrote that article, blindly
supporting the three ‘bet-on’ teams that I mentioned (Cleveland, Philadelphia
and Brooklyn) while fading my one ‘bet-against’ squad (Indiana) has produced a
10-5 ATS result. Hopefully this edition,
focusing on Western Conference ‘morphers’, will produce similar short term
The San Antonio Spurs
success can’t be a surprise to any breathing human. No team in the league has been more
consistent over the past decade and a half, and San Antonio came one brutal overtime
loss short of winning the NBA Championship last June. But the Spurs have been routinely
disrespected in the markets this year.
They were priced appropriately to start the season, going
16-4 SU in their first twenty games, yet finishing .500 ATS. But the markets did not like the fact that
San Antonio struggled against other top teams over the first half of the
season. The Spurs were positively dominated by the quintet of Houston, the LA
Clippers, Indiana, Miami and Oklahoma City: 1-9 SU against those five foes
before the All Star break. And the
markets never like key injuries. San
Antonio has had a bunch of them, with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard
all missing time, as have Danny Green and Tiago Splitter.
So what’s happened since the All Star break? Simple – San Antonio is crushing everybody,
15-5 ATS in their last 20. The key? The single deepest bench in the NBA. The Spurs remarkable execution when they get
to the ninth, tenth and eleventh guy in Gregg Popovich’s rotation has been the
difference maker in several recent covers as huge chalk. During their current 9-1 ATS run, the Spurs
have won and covered at -13, -14, -15, -17.5 and even -20 thanks to their
ability to maintain and pad leads without a single starter on the floor in the
I’ve been a Monty Williams fan since he got the head
coaching job with the New Orleans Pelicans
back in 2010. New Orleans has never been
a true Western Conference contender; a largely anonymous franchise since Chris
Paul left town and especially since they changed their team nickname from
Hornets to Pelicans.
#1 overall pick Anthony Davis brought this team some hope,
but his rookie year was injury plagued as Davis battled a variety of ailments. They finished #14 out of 15 teams in the
West, one year after finishing with the worst record in the West. Yet despite all of that losing, this squad
was no ATS disaster area, finishing above .500 against the spread during that
two year span – the only bottom feeder in the West to do so!
The Pelicans haven’t been a good team this year either. But while most lottery bound squads are
rather dicey to support consistently at this late stage of the season, New
Orleans has been a different story.
Davis has looked like a future MVP; an absolute force on both ends of
the court in recent weeks. And the lowly Pelicans have gone 9-2 SU, 9-2 ATS in
the last eleven games that he’s played, including a trio of outright home wins
against the Heat, Nets and Clippers last week; a morphing squad down the
But Davis turned his ankle and missed their game against the
Spurs over the weekend. Without him, the
Pelicans are 3-7 SU and ATS this year. All
three of those wins and covers came before Christmas. If Davis can return to health (early
indications are that he should), there’s still money to be made supporting New
Orleans down the stretch. If he doesn’t,
the Pelicans are likely to make one final morph, from ‘competitive’ to ‘nearly unbackable’.
The Golden State
Warriors continue to cost their supporters money, particularly in the ‘home
favorite against sub-.500 foe’ role.
Sunday’s outright home loss to the Knicks was just the tip of the
iceberg. They needed OT to beat the Bucks as home chalk
last week, not what you’d expect from -13 favorites. The week before Golden State
lost outright at -9 against the Cavs. Other home losses in 2014 include
Charlotte, Washington, Minnesota and Denver, along with a two point, non-covering
win against the Celtics.
Golden State is also struggling to step up in class on the
highway. They’ve beaten up on the bad teams as road chalk, but they’ve managed
only one spread cover in their last eight tries on the highway against foes
with a winning record at home. That
stretch dates back to early January – the Warriors have faced a relatively easy
slate of road opponents over the past three months.
Golden State still has tough road tests looming at Dallas, San
Antonio and Portland over the next two weeks, and all four of the Warriors
remaining home games come against lottery bound foes – their two ATS trouble
spots. With Marc Jackson’s starting frontcourt
of Andrew Bogut and David Lee both ailing, the Warriors have ‘bet against’
written all over them down the stretch.
The Denver Nuggets
have gone 7-3 ATS in their last ten ballgames, not what you’d expect out of a
lottery bound squad. And all three ATS
losses came against quality foes: the Spurs, Mavs and Thunder. Denver has been particularly impressive SU
and ATS at home, 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS in their last seven tries, beating the
likes of the Clippers, Mavs and Wizards.
Last year, the Pepsi Center in Denver was arguably the
single strongest homecourt in basketball. Denver went 38-3 at home in the regular season
and dominated ATS as well. This year,
that homecourt edge has dissipated dramatically – they’ve already suffered 17
SU losses on this floor. That season long track record of home mediocrity (at
best) helps to camouflage their recent ATS success at the Pepsi Center.
When a team that has been fighting to make the playoffs all
year suddenly starts talking about the season in past tense, it’s ‘red flag’
time. The Minnesota Timberwolves fought the good fight, but they suffered a
pair of backbreaking losses last weekend.
First, they blew a 22 point lead at home against the Suns, losing
outright against a team they ‘had’ to beat in order to make the playoffs. Minnesota followed that up with a no-show in
Memphis the following night, another team ahead of them in the Western
Conference Playoff chase.
T-wolves forward Chase Budinger’s quote speaks volumes: “We
just have to be competitive. That’s the biggest key right now – get through the
end of the season and play each game competitively. That’s how you have to look at it.”
Head coach Rick Adelman has been talking about evaluating
his young talent, not winning games: “That has been the most frustrating thing,
trying to get some consistency night in and night out, especially off the
bench, guys who are going to give it to you every night. But you still have a
chance to evaluate, still have a chance to find out…. The evaluation is going
to come from all of us and looking at this team at the end of the year.” Those are most assuredly not ‘bet-on’ quotes
from this perennially lottery bound squad.
While the betting markets focus on post-season college
basketball tournaments and the upcoming baseball season, the long and winding
NBA campaign still offers plenty of wagering opportunities down the homestretch.
There are still 3 ½ weeks left in the regular season. Most squads have between 12 and 14 games
remaining. And very quietly, underneath the
radar, we’ve seen a handful of late season ‘morphers’; teams playing well above
or well below their full season power rating numbers. Those are the teams I’m looking to focus on
in this week’s Vegas Wiseguy Report, particularly in the Eastern Conference.
76ers have lost 24 games in a row as I write this very early on Monday
morning. This is no surprise – the Sixers
have been openly tanking since last summer, playing for ping-pong balls, not
victories. And for the better part of
the first four months of the campaign, the sportsbooks couldn’t hang a line
high enough to get bettors to support this completely anonymous, sorry
Philly hasn’t gotten any better in recent weeks. But their opponents aren’t giving maximum
effort when they face the Sixers either, knowing that Brett Brown’s squad isn’t
capable of giving them a legitimate challenge.
The likes of Utah (-7), Milwaukee (-3), Orlando (-4) and Sacramento (-9.5)
have all been favored on Philly’s home floor since the All Star Break.
The 76ers are catching big points against other bad
teams. When they face decent or good teams,
their pointspreads have finally reached a level where Philly has been covering
pointspreads; 6-2 ATS in their last eight ballgames, their single best ATS
stretch of the entire season. +16 at
Chicago, Philly lost by only ten despite a 1-20 shooting effort from three
point range. +15.5 against New York,
they lost by only 13. Indiana was -16 and -19 against the 76ers during this
span, winning by seven and nine.
I don’t often try to make the case for betting on miserable,
lottery bound NBA teams down the stretch, but these dismal Sixers have finally
gotten to a point where they’re worth a look in their typical big underdog role
against opponents that are likely to look right past them. Philly hasn’t gotten any better, but their
pointspreads have gotten higher and their tired opponents aren’t putting the
pedal to the medal to beat them by huge margins at this late stage of the
Chicago guard DJ Augustine’s quote about the 76ers following
a recent Bulls win against them stands out: “It's tough (to play them. The 76ers) come out and they have nothing to
lose. Basically, they just come out shooting whenever they feel and some of
those shots go in. It's hard for anybody to play against a team that's losing,
but they're still a good team at the same time.”
I mentioned the Indiana
Pacers in my analysis of the 76ers, talking about how Frank Vogel’s squad failed
to cover the spread in a pair of recent meetings against Philadelphia. The Pacers ATS struggles against Philly are
just the tip of the iceberg. Indiana was
a true pointspread machine through the All Star break; right there with
Phoenix, Toronto, Charlotte and the LA Clippers among the very best pointspread
teams in the NBA.
But like we saw with Philly, eventually the betting markets catch
up. If the markets catch up to a team
when they are still playing at the same level they were, you can expect a short
term ATS record near the .500 mark. But
when the markets up their respect for a squad at the same time as that team is
in the midst of a downtick in their fortunes, you can find teams in ATS
free-fall. Frankly, that’s been the Pacers
in recent weeks.
Indiana is 3-14-1 ATS in 18 games since the All Star break. They were 4-8 ATS in their dozen games prior
to the All Star break The NBA’s #1
pointspread juggernaut over the first three months of the season has turned
into the NBA’s #1 money loser since! The
Pacers made some headlines during a four game skid earlier in March that
included three ugly double digit defeats.
They’ve gone 5-2 SU since, but just 2-5 ATS; still struggling to win by
The Brooklyn Nets
season trajectory has been the exact opposite of the Pacers. In November and December, the Nets were an
injury riddled mess. Jason Kidd was
roundly criticized as being unfit for his first head coaching job, particularly
after the messy departure of his lead assistant, Lawrence Frank. Much of their aging veteran core struggled
with injuries – Alan Anderson is the only guy on the team to play in every game
this year, while 13 different players have started at least one game for the
No surprise, then, that the Nets were an ATS disaster area
for the first two months of the season.
But Brooklyn backers started making money supporting the Nets once the
calendar turned to 2014. The Nets reeled
off a 9-2 ATS hot streak to open January, and they haven’t stopped covering
pointspreads since; 14-6 ATS in their last 20 ballgames.
Yes, the Nets are better now than they were back in
December. But they’re not significantly
better now than they were in January or February. Yet there’s still ‘residual’ value supporting
a quality team in late March because they didn’t play well three months ago; a
clear indicator that the NBA betting markets tend to lag way behind teams
current form if that form has morphed from where it was early in the season.
Here’s one last Eastern Conference morpher to think about
over the last few weeks of the regular season.
The betting markets have been down on the Cleveland Cavaliers all year, for good reason. The Cavs had well publicized locker room
squabbles. They made bizarre personnel
decisions, choosing to compete for the final playoff spot in the East instead
of entering full-on tank mode. Head coach
Mike Brown came under intense criticism, just as he did in his short previous
stint coaching the Lakers.
When leading scorer and assist man Kyrie Irving got hurt
last weekend, the markets expected disaster – Irving is the face of the
franchise. The ‘dead’ Cavs had just pulled
off outright upset road wins as big underdogs at Golden State and Phoenix before
the injury, but they lost by 22 on the night that Irving went down.
One player’s injury is another player’s opportunity. While the markets downgraded the Cavs after
Irving got hurt, backup point guard Jarrett Jack stepped into the starters roll.
And much as he did two years ago in New Orleans, or last year in Golden State,
Jack has delivered! His 31 point, ten
assist effort carried Cleveland to a SU road win as ten point dogs against the Knicks.
Prior to that, Cleveland had hung tough, delivering ATS wins
against a trio of elites: Houston, Oklahoma City and Miami. The injury to Irving hasn’t made Cleveland a
weaker team, at least short term, but the markets knee-jerk reaction has
offered savvy bettors some good opportunities to cash supporting this lottery