Road Dogs in the Spotlight Today in the NBA

Tim Duncan and the Spurs host the Chicago Bulls today in the Lone Star State.

I’m looking at three games in the National Basketball Association that have playoff and playoff positioning at stake. Let’s take a look.

Chicago (+9.5) at San Antonio – Despite the loss of both Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose, the Bulls have been able to hang tough by winning six of their last ten but Chicago finds themselves in a battle with the Cavs and Raptors for that second seed behind the Atlanta Hawks.

The defending champion Spurs have won four in a row and six of their last ten games. They are now securely in the seventh seed ahead of eighth place OKC. I don’t believe Gregg Popovich and the Spurs are content with the seventh spot though. Right now, they are less then two games out of the fifth spot and are looking to advance.

Chicago has a very good 19-11 road record while the Spurs are 22-7 at home. I see no reason for this game not to be physical and highly competitive.

Trends: Chicago is 9-4 straight up in their last 13 games…San Antonio is 4-1 SU in their last five games… The Bulls are 4-11 SU in their last 15 games against the Spurs in San Antonio… The Spurs are 2-5-1 against the spread in their last eight games.

The Pick: Take the Spurs to win but I like the Bulls getting the points.

Steve Clifford and the Hornets come to Detroit looking to stay hot.

Charlotte (+1) at Detroit – When Brandon Jennings went down with a torn Achilles’ tendon, most figured the Pistons playoff chances were over. Despite a brief flirtation, this appears to be the case. Detroit has fallen to four and a half games behind the eighth and final playoff spot. With about 20 games to go, there is time but they must win games like this one today.

The Hornets are among the teams the Pistons have to jump and they’re in no hurry to allow that to happen. Charlotte is actually tied for the seventh and eighth spots right now but based on tie-breakers is the odd team out. Both teams are headed in opposite directions as the Hornets have won four straight and the Pistons have dropped five in a row.

Trends: Charlotte is 5-1 straight up in their last six games… Detroit is 2-4 SU in their last six homes games… The Hornets are 8-16 against the spread in their last 24 games at Detroit… The Pistons are 12-6 SU in their last 18 games at home versus the Hornets.

The Pick: Detroit ends the skid today Take them to cover.

Toronto (+7) at Oklahoma City – The Raptors enter the Sooner State having lost seven of their last ten and they’ve dropped from the second seed in the East to the fourth as both Chicago and Cleveland have leaped them for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Thunder have won seven of ten and have ridden Russell Westbrook’s hot-hand. With Kevin Durant still recovering from foot surgery, Westbrook’s heroics of late have been needed. OKC has climbed into the eighth spot in the Western Conference but only has a one half game lead over New Orleans who has Anthony Davis back on the floor.

Trends: Toronto is 1-7 straight up in their last eight games… The Thunder is 5-0 SU in their last five home games… The Raptors are 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games on the road in Oklahoma City… The Thunder is 10-3 SU against the Raptors in their last 13 games games in OKC.

The Pick: Take the Thunder to cover today.

Road Favorites Highlight My NBA Games for Tonight

Can John Wall and the Wizards turn things around tonight against the Pistons?

Detroit (+3.5) at Washington – Both the Pistons and Wizards have chosen poor times to hit losing streaks. Washington has dropped six straight games and eight of their last ten while Detroit has gone just 5-5 over their last ten and has dropped two in a row.

While the Eastern Conference is the weaker of the two conferences, the playoff race is unbeatable. Right now Detroit is in the 12th spot but amazingly, they are just one game out of the eight and final playoff spot. The Wizards are currently in the fifth spot and despite their poor play shouldn’t fall any further than sixth but stranger things have happened.

Trends: Detroit is 1-5 straight up in their last six games on the road… Washington is 0-5 SU in their last five games… The Pistons are 7-3 SU in their last ten games on the road at Washington… The Wizards are 2-8 against the spread in their last ten games versus Detroit.

The Pick: It’s hard not to like the Pistons tonight getting the points as well.

Toronto (-12) at New York – The Knicks have dropped eight of their last 10 games and as you know are now without Carmelo Anthony for the remainder of the season. I’m glad he was able to get so many minutes in the All-Star Game before shutting it down. Did you sense the sarcasm there?

Toronto is feeling heat right now from both the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have a one half game lead over the Bulls and a one game lead over the Cavs as the teams battle for the second spot in the East. The tight predicament is due to the Raptors four-game losing streak.

Trends: Toronto is 1-4 straight up in their last five games… New York is 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six games… The Raptors are 4-8-1 ATS in their last 13 games on the road… The Knicks are 1-8 SU in their last nine games.

The Pick: This is a good place for the Raptors to get back on track but I like the Knicks getting all those points.

Jeff Teague and the Hawks head to Miami to play the Heat tonight.

Atlanta (-5) at Miami – Lost in all of the discussion about Cleveland’s big win over Golden State is the fact that the Hawks continue to lead the Eastern Conference. They’ve won six of their last ten but they’ve won three straight as they head to South Beach.

The Heat are trying to survive without Chris Bosh as they currently reside in the seventh spot in the East. The problem is that there are five teams within two and a half games of them.

Trends: Atlanta is 21-4 straight up in their last 25 games… Miami is 1-4-1 against the spread in their last six games… The Hawks are 1-5 SU in their last six games on the road in Miami… The Heat are 7-15 SU in their last 22 games at home.

The Pick: I love the Hawks to cover tonight.

Memphis (-5) at Minnesota – Despite winning six of their last ten, the Grizzlies have dropped two in a row and continue to hold down the second seed in the Western Conference. The T-Wolves may have gotten Kevin Garnett back but they have the worst record in the West and Memphis comes in having played well in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Trends: Memphis is 2-4 against the spread in their last six games… Minnesota is 8-17 straight up in their last 25 games… The Grizzlies are 6-2 SU in their last eight games on the road in Minnesota… The T-Wolves are 3-14 SU in their last 17 games versus the the Grizzlies.

The Pick: I like Memphis to cover this evening.

New NBA Championship Futures See Thunder Rise and Heat and Suns Fall

Odds makers have released the latest futures for the NBA Championship. The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing so well the team has moved into third on the odds board, while teams such as the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns are rapidly going in the other direction.

Only a week ago, the Thunder was sitting in seventh place on the odds board, but has seen their odds shortened to 60 to 1, which is down from last week’s 12 to 1.

The odds makers are showing a great deal of respect to the Thunder, despite the team holding down only the eighth and final postseason spot in the NBA Western Conference. However, the Thunder has won 7 straight games including wins over the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Clippers last week and picked up three players on the trade deadline to add to their roster.

The futures odds shortened for the Thunder even despite the lingering concerns over the health of Kevin Durant who had what was described as a minor procedure to ease some discomfort on his right foot. The soreness has come from surgery Durant had on his foot in October. It is thought Durant will return prior to the end of the regular season.

Amongst the teams in a free fall of sorts this week on the boards is the Heat. After receiving Goran Dragic in a trade last week, the starting five for Miami looked strong. However, the next day, Chris Bosh was lost for the season with blood clots. Without the best player on the Heat, their odds of winning the NBA title fell to 300 to 1 from last week’s 100 to 1. The Phoenix Suns have lost five straight games and 8 of their past 10 to fall out of the eighth spot in the West and into 10th. The Suns also dropped to 300 to 1 from 100 to 1 last week.


Four Games on the NBA Schedule this Evening

Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr has plenty to smile about a his Warriors travel to D.C.

With four NBA games on the schedule tonight, why not take a look at each one of them?

Golden State at Washington – The Wizards have slipped to the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference having lost three in a row and eight of their last ten games. There isn’t much concern of missing the playoffs as they have a large lead over the seventh and eighth seeds. Still, with the best team in the league coming to town this could be a good time to get things back on track.

Golden State has won seven of their last ten games and has maintained their 3.5 game lead over second-seeded Memphis in the tough Western Conference. The health of Stephon Curry is in question but it appears just to be a sore ankle he’s dealing with right now.

Trends: Golden State is 1-5 against the spread in their last six games… Washington is 2-8 straight up in their last ten games… The Warriors are 16-7 SU in their last 23 games on the road… The Wizards are 1-4 SU in their last five games at home against the Warriors.

The Pick:

Kevin Love is playing better in recent weeks amid rumors he might be elsewhere in 2015.

Cleveland (-6.5) at Detroit – The Cavs have closed to within one half game of the third-seeded Bulls in the Eastern Conference. They’ve two straight and eight of their last ten games. Their chances of catching the Atlanta Haws for the top seed in the East are impossible with about 25 games to but the second seed isn’t out of the question.

Detroit has won two in a row and six of their last ten to close within one half game of eight seed Brooklyn and within one game of seventh-seeded Miami. The Pistons have to be happy with where they are considering they were given up for dead following the injury to Brandon Jennings.

Trends: Cleveland is 16-2 straight up in their last 18 games… The Pistons are 8-4 SU in their last 12 games against the Cavaliers… The Cavs are 2-4 against the spread in their last six games on the road in Detroit… The Pistons are 1-4 SU in their last five games against the Cavs.

The Pick: I like the Pistons to keep it close tonight.

Indiana (+7) at Oklahoma City – The Pacers have made a really nice run of late winning three-straight and seven of their last ten games. They are dead even with the Pistons and reside in the ninth spot. While the Eastern Conference is much weaker than the West, the chase for playoff positioning may be more exciting in the East.

Just as the Thunder got themselves into the eighth spot in the West, star Kevin Durant is out for at least a week following another procedure on his injured foot. Russell Westbrook can carry the Thunder only so far so if Durant is out for an extended period I see trouble for them down the stretch.

Trends: N/A

The Pick: The Pacers have been hot lately but I like the Thunder behind Westbrook to cover.

Toronto (+3.5) at Dallas – This could be the best game of the night as the Eastern Conference’s second seed comes to Big D. The Mavs are in the sixth spot out West but are actually just one half game out of the third seed.Basically, this is the Western Conference in a nutshell.

Both teams have won seven of their last ten games as the Mavericks look to defend their home court.

Trends: N/A

The Pick: I like Dallas to cover.

Would Legalized Sports Betting Hurt Las Vegas?

If legal sports betting were to start in places such as the California Indian casinos or other places across the U.S. would it hurt the Vegas strip or Nevada sports betting industry as a whole.

If it were to happen, it certainly would not happen overnight, but the idea of expanding gambling to other places besides just Nevada has gained renewed strength of late.

The commissioners in three of the four major U.S. sports leagues in the U.S. led by Adam Silver of the NBA said legalizing sports betting would eventually need to be looked at by the governing bodies of each league.

The American Gaming Association based in Washington wants its membership to decide what the best course is to take on the issue.

A legislator in Minnesota has introduced a measure to make sports betting legal in his state. However, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act or PASPA, makes the discussion at this time moot.

PASPA, which Congress approved in 1992, confines sports wagering to Montana, Oregon, Delaware and Nevada. However, unlike Nevada with its multimillion dollar sportbooks that are ultra high tech. the three other states offer only betting at a small stakes level through a lottery or parlay cards.

Short of a repeal of PASPA by Congress, the Supreme Court would have the final say on any other U.S. states having sports wagering.

New Jersey has fought for three years trying to legalize sports betting for its casinos in Atlantic City and at racetracks to help the state gaming industry that has been in decline.

In November, a federal judge blocked the effort by New Jersey although supporters are hoping an appeals court will hear the issue this year.

Sports betting supporters in Minnesota want to make a challenge against PASPA saying the state has both racetracks and casinos and has used gambling revenues to construct a new NFL stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

The discussions are centered around money, the states want to fill their budget gaps with taxes on sports wagering, while the sports leagues could also demand their share.

NBA Re-Starts After Week Long All-Star Break

The NBA returns from his All-Star break on Thursday with just two games on the calendar but bigger slates of games will tip off on Friday and Saturday.

A number of teams in the NBA would have preferred if the season would have not stopped for the All-Star break. LeBron James and the Cavaliers were on a roll winning 14 of their past 16 games prior to the break and the last loss was to Chicago the night prior to the break and some say the Cavs might have being looking ahead to a week off.

James was consulted last season by Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, about extending the All-Star break. James said he had a say in it and thought everybody would benefit in the league.

James, in theory should be right, as it gave players a chance to have an extended rest with the majority of teams not practicing until this past Wednesday.

Overall, the advantages outweigh any disadvantages, but disadvantages still do exits. If teams have a difficult time getting back into a rhythm it could be disastrous for them down the stretch.

Chicago exits the All-Star break with the longest active winning streak in the NBA with four straight. Milwaukee and Toronto have each won 8 of their past 10. Memphis is the only Western Conference team to be that hot of late. It will be interesting to see how the Spurs, Mavericks and Rockets can start pressuring the Grizzlies for second place in the conference.

The Grizzlies do not start again until Sunday night in Portland. Each team starting this stretch run has between 26 and 31 games left on their regular season schedule.

The NBA re-starts with Dallas playing at Oklahoma City and San Antonio visiting the Los Angeles Clippers. OKC has battled its way back to within a half game of Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

San Antonio, Dallas and the Clippers all have lost 19 games and are holding down the 5 to 7 seeds at the moment.

The West is by far the deeper of the two conferences with the tenth place New Orleans Pelicans one game over .500, while the East has just six of its 15 teams over .500.

Odds maker have kept Cleveland at or near the top all season thus far in the futures and the Cavaliers are currently at the top with Golden State at 7 to 2 to win the title.

2015 NBA All-Star Game Today From the Big Apple

The NBA All-Star game will be played today in the Big Apple at Madison Square Garden. The 64th annual All-Star game will have the West looking to avenge last year’s 8-point loss.

This game is all entertainment. While players are clearly competitive and want to be victorious, there are some that go well above and beyond for these types of games.

Last season, it was the Eastern Conference team led by LeBron James that ended a losing streak of three years with a 163-155 win.

Kyrie Irving, James’ current teammate, won the MVP award, after shooting 14 for 17 for 31 points and adding 14 assists.

This season five players voted to the team have played in 10 or more All-Star games but two Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade are sidelined with injuries. The other three Tim Duncan is playing his 15th, LeBron James his 11th and Chris Bosh his 10th.

Besides Bryant and Wade, Blake Griffin misses the game due to an injury and was replaced by Portland’s Damian Lillard. Kyle Korver and DeMarcus Cousins replaced Bryant and Wade. This will be the first All-Star appearance for both Korver and Cousins. Anthony Davis is injured and was replaced by Dirk Nowitzki who will be playing the All-Star game for the 13th time.

Stephen Curry who received more than 1 million votes for the Western Conference team has led his Golden State Warriors to the top spot in the conference.

According to Bovada and betonline this year’s favorites for the MVP in the All-Star game are:

Stephen Curry 13 to 4

LeBron James 7 to 2

Kevin Durant 7 to 2

James Harden 11 to 2

Carmelo Anthony 6 to 1

According to topbet and the favorites for high scorer are:

Stephen Curry 3 to 1
Kevin Durant 3 to 1
LeBron James 3 to 1
James Harden 6 to 1
Carmelo Anthony 7 to 1

The current line has the West favored by 2 points over the east. NBA fans and bettors know the West is far deeper in talent at the individual and team level. However, it is difficult for that to play out in this type of game since the talents levels are so close when only the top 15 from each conference play.

Pick: West 145-138

You Could Find Some Success Wagering on the NBA All-Star Game MVP

Dirk Duncan
Dirk Duncan
Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan aren't favorites for the MVP Sunday but it could be the last All-Star Game for them.

I must be crazy right? How could I possibly imagine that choosing the correct player out of all of these guys would be easy? Well, it’s not exactly easy but I think we can find a way to narrow down the field to the point where you can make an educated and solid selection.

First we have to look at history. Four of the last five NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Players have been guards. They’ve also been four different guys (Kobe, Irving, D-Wade and Paul). The only guy to interrupt that series of guards was Kevin Durant in the 2012 game.

Let’s take this a step further into the history books though shall we?

If you go back 25 years to 1990 (one year there was no game due to the NBA Lockout) there have been a grand total of three centers chosen as the MVP. All three times that center was Shaquille O’Neal. Now to be fair, Tim Duncan did win the award once but he was listed as a forward/center so it’s up to you if you want to factor that in here.

So let’s do the math here in terms of guards and forwards. Guards have been selected the Most Valuable Player 15 times since 1990 so that means forwards have won the award nine times. Where the real work comes in is whether you think the 15-9 discrepancy is enough to put heavy odds on those guards.

Let’s go ahead and  look at the odds on this year’s players.

Stephen Curry 13/4 –

LeBron James 4/1

Kevin Durant 11/2

James Harden 11/2

Carmelo Anthony 8/1

Ironically, three of the five guys listed above are actually forwards but all three are more than capable of handling the rock on the perimeter. Curry and Harden will both have excellent chances of winning the MVP award simply because they will get the ball a lot. Of this group, the sentimental pick is Anthony playing in front of the home crowd but will he play enough? Of this group I love Curry who is having an MVP season.

Kyrie Irving already has one All-Star Game MVP to his credit s why not another?

Kyrie Irving 14/1 –

John Wall 15/1 –

Russell Westbrook 9/1 –

Klay Thompson 16/1 –

Chris Paul 22/1 –

Damian Lillard 20/1 –

Ya, back to that whole “guard” thing… Any of the above guys are worthy threats to win the MVP award on Sunday. In this group however I have a feeling Klay Thompson and Russell Westbrook have great chances to get some hardware because neither will be shy about chucking the ball.

Marc Gasol 50/1 –

LaMarcus Aldridge 50/1 –

DeMarcus Cousins 50/1 –

Chris Bosh 50/1 –

Remember what I said earlier about big men winning the MVP award in the All-Star Game? Move on….

Kyle Lowry 25/1 –

Paul Gasol 60/1 –

Jimmy Butler 60/1 –

Jeff Teague 30/1 –

Al Horford 60/1 –

Dirk Nowitzki 65/1 –

Don’t be surprised if Nowitzki wins the award. With his career winding down, Madison Square Garden would be a fitting place for him to get one more moment on the podium.

Paul Millsap 50/1 –

Tim Duncan 50/1 –

Kyle Korver 50/1 –

With these final three guys, it’s all about playing time. If Korver gets enough minutes and he gets hot from downtown, don’t be a bit surprised if walks away with the hardware.

My Top Three Picks: Dismissing LeBron is never a good idea but I’m going to in this situation. I like Curry and Harden as my favorites and I’ll take Korver as my long-shot.

NBA Spotlight on Bulls, Cavs Heading into the All-Star Break

LeBron Rose
LeBron Rose
LeBron James and Derrick Rose hook up in Chicago tonight.

The National Basketball Association is a one-man show this evening as all of the focus is on the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. It also happens to be the last game of the “first half” of the season. Friday evening brings a number of events as does Saturday before it all culminates on Sunday in the annual All-Star Game between the Eastern and Western Conferences.

The first portion of the season has brought numerous storylines to the forefront of the league. From Atlanta’s rise in the East to the rise of Golden State and Memphis in the West.

Today I’m looking at the Bulls and Cavs as the two Central Division rivals hook up with momentum for the second half on the line.

Cleveland (-1) at Chicago (O/U 201.5) – The Cavaliers have been as streaky as any team in the National Basketball Association this season and they’re now in the midst of an upswing but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues. As I wrote in the blog yesterday, LeBron James tweeting an anonymous, motivational message to teammate Kevin Love was not the way I or many others would have done things but if it works then OK.

Kevin Love responded to LeBron's tweet but will he keep it going?

At 33-20, the Bulls have a solid record and lead the Cavaliers by just a game right now in the Eastern Conference. Chicago is tied with Washington for the third seed but holds the tie-breaker while Cleveland sits in fifth. The fact of the matter is, and this goes for both the Cavs and Bulls, is that they are light years behind conference leader Atlanta who has a lead of 11 and 10 games respectively.

Although the All-Star Game is this weekend, the season is well past the halfway point. What this means for the Cavs and Bulls is that any designs on getting the one seed in the East are futile barring an epic collapse by the Hawks and I don’t see it happening.

If you didn’t think the Bulls and Cavaliers were close enough in just about every way then consider this; they both average exactly 102.0 points per game and defensively Cleveland gives up 99.2 points per game while Chicago gives up 99.1. So far this season, the Cavaliers own a 2-0 record against the Bulls.

Cleveland won the first match-up with Chicago in the Windy City in overtime and then defeated the Bulls in Cleveland by 14.

The Pick: If Kevin Love continues to play inspired and LeBron keeps on being LeBron then the Cavs are going to be difficult on anyone they play. While the Bulls have the advantage of being at home this evening, they also played Miami last evening while Cleveland had an off night. Keep in ind too that the Bulls have better on the road than at home. Take the Cavs to cover and take the UNDER tonight as well.

Trends: Cleveland has won nine of their last ten games (written before conclusion of last night’s game)… Chicago has won three straight games and six of their last ten games… The Cavs are 12-12 on the road… The Bulls are 14-11 at home.

The NBA Slate Offers Some Potential Pitfalls

D.J. Augustin has done his best to replace the injured Brandon Jennings in Detroit.

There are some really interesting lines tonight and just as interesting are some of the trends too. As the Knight of the Templar told Indiana Jones, “Choose wisely.”

Detroit (+2) at Charlotte (O/U 191.5) – The Pistons were playing so well following the dismissal of Josh Smith and then Brandon Jennings went down with his season-ending injury. D.J. Augustin has actually played pretty well in his absence averaging over ten points and almost five assists per game. Still, the Pistons are two games out of the final playoff spot and it’s not going to be easy.

The Hornets are in the seventh seed but have lost two straight despite winning six of their last ten. With Kemba Walker out indefinitely and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist day-to-day, Hornets could be in trouble.

Trends: The total has gone OVER in four of Detroit’s last five games… The total has gone UNDER in six of Charlotte’s last seven games… The Pistons are 5-1 straight up in their last six games at Charlotte… The Hornets are 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games at home versus Detroit.

The Pick: Take Detroit and the OVER.

David Joerger has the Grizzlies in great shape in the Western Conference.

Brooklyn (+11.5) at Memphis (O/U 190) – The Nets are dead even with the Miami Heat for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference but would lose the tie-breaker if the season ended today. Brooklyn has actually been better on the road than they have been at home but I’m not sure that will help here.

Memphis continues to put pressure on Golden State in the West. Right now, the Grizzlies are three games back. What’s gone in Memphis has been impressive and I don’t see this team going away any time soon.

Trends: The Grizzlies have won nine of their last ten games… The Nets have lost six of their last ten games.

The Pick: Take the Nets getting those points and the OVER.

Houston (+2) at Phoenix (O/U 214.5) – The Rockets come to the desert six games out of the first seed in the Western Conference but they have teams breathing down their necks. Portland, Dallas, the LA Clippers and the defending champion Spurs are all within three games of Houston.

The Suns find themselves currently hanging on to the final playoff spot by the skin of their teeth. New Orleans is a game back and Oklahoma City is two games behind. Phoenix must win games at home and needs to try and beat teams ahead of them in the standings.

Trends: The Suns have won four of their last ten games… The Rockets have won seven of their last ten games…

The Pick: Take the Rockets getting the points and the OVER.

Denver (+2) at LA Lakers (O/U 198.5) – These two teams have combined to lose nine straight games and they’ve also combined to win just two games in their last 20. The Nuggets are just 7-19 on the road this season and they are a full eight games out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. In other words, they aren’t making the playoffs.

The Lakers are a mess on and off the court as disgruntled players have started to speak out a little more than the Lakers’ front office would like. Between injuries and an overall lack of talent, this has just not been a good run for the purple and gold.

Trends:  The Lakers have lost four in a row and nine of their last ten… Denver has lost five straight and has lost nine of their last ten.

The Pick: I’ll take the Nuggets getting the points and the UNDER.