Notes to Self

Apparently, it will never stop raining.

Denver looks serious. Another spread-obliterating road shellacking of a good team. They’re now 8-2 post-Melo, and because they go 11-deep (including two young, quick, capable point guards), it just may be they have no off switch. One to watch for wagering.

I’m 1-1 for the evening as I write, with Phoenix hanging in there as the fourth quarter begins. Pleased to be right about New Jersey, and don’t know if I learned anything from San Antonio deciding it couldn’t win, oh, sometime around the six-minute mark of the third quarter, then feeding the ball to George Hill as if the trip to Miami were nothing more than a lab experiment. The 54-13 Spurs have earned that luxury, I guess. But it’s still exasperating to see a premier team rolling over a week after stomping the stomper. Not a headscratcher, but one to remember in future wagers. I should have stayed away from Very Good versus Even Better. I plead Vegas–I couldn’t resist the points.

Meanwhile, an object lesson in rest and concentration in the NBA, from the also-ran division: Golden State hits 21 of 35 from three-point land against Orlando at home, rests a day, then stops Kevin Love’s double-double diaspora for a resounding win, and 24 hours later takes what may be the shortest, easiest road trip in the NBA today, up to Sacramento for the accomodating Kings. The Warriors open with a trey, then surrender a 19-0 run (which has to be the Kings’ best sequence of the season), and now find themselves down 26 early in the second quarter.

Phoenix loses in the last moments, but covers. A mildly profitable 2-1 night. I’m 5-2 in the last three wagering sessions. Still underwater, but rising.

I mean me. Not the water.

Then again, it won’t stop raining.

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Good Charlotte?

A 1-1 night: Portland loses, and Sacramento covers. I’m down $10 overall. The game I felt more confident about winning, I lost. Portland, having reeled off six in a row on the road (including a win in Miami), not far removed from a 93-69 blasting of the Bobcan’ts in Portland, and allegedly bringing a stung and motivated ex-Charlotte star into the arena (Gerald Wallace), couldn’t stop Stephen Jackson from taking the game away from them in the fourth quarter, enabling the Bobs to snap a five-game losing streak. Portland remains the better team, but the lesson may be that Friday nights at home with a single reliable player may be enough for mediocre teams in these contests. As impressive as Portland has been lately, it’s still a team that essentially wins 4 of 7 squaring off against a team that wins 3 of every 7 contests; which is to say both teams lose with some frequency, and this may be the kind of game a team like Portland is inclined to lose, road streak or no road streak.

Can’t see any bets at the moment for tomorrow, though it’s tempting to think the Clips will cover, and so might the Grizzlies and Pistons. As it stands, I’m waiting for next week’s games.

Standing on a Whale, Fishing for Minnows

Last night, Golden State stomped Washington for three quarters, then imploded in the fourth. A romp turned into a nailbiter with a minute to go, and I was lucky to win a money line bet on the Warriors.

Then Houston (winners of five in a row) lost to the L.A. Clippers (losers of five in a row) by three points–the oddsmakers’ line when I decided to bet.

I finished 1-1 on wagers and cleared $5 last night.

Meanwhile, Indiana flew to Oklahoma City a few hours after beating the Warriors at home, for the privilege of being demolished by the Thunder, 113-89.

And Charlotte, a team whose management threw in the towel at the trade deadline, careened into Denver for a 120-80 whupping.

Why did I skip these blowouts? Because the spreads were 8-9 points, and my early wagering losses put me off the scent.

Maybe the focus is on bad teams first.

Maybe they stink in that first road game, should it happen to be against a good team waiting at the end of a comparatively lengthy flight.

I’m going to look at some schedules and see.

Because I think I’m onto something.

Because I’m not placing any bets on a two-game NBA Thursday.

Because I started this project with a blowout-seeking theory, and now I’m thinking I didn’t look hard enough for an NBA-specific pattern.

Stay tuned.

Not Exactly the Thrill of Victory

Boston 107 Utah 102 

A win for me, with the Celts covering by half a point.

You’ll have to take my word for this: I’m still having fun, and I enjoy working my way through a mystery. It’s also fair to say that playing, watching and talking basketball has taken up an indefensible number of my leisure hours for decades. So it’s even more engaging to think about risk in a field that has many happy memories.

That said…yeesh. Last night didn’t feel like a win. I thought Boston would cover easily, and they did anything but. Another game in which the oddsmakers were dead right. Another in which the superior team either couldn’t put its rival away, or opted to conserve energy for tougher games ahead. The former explanation seems like storytelling (Richard Jefferson playing with unusual fire and focus against his former team), an entertaining yarn for the sports section; the latter feels closer to the truth.

The difference between understanding and feeling an idea; I knew NBA teams don’t give a maximum effort every minute, because of the rigors of the long season. But before I started thinking about spreads, I didn’t grasp how that affected the progression of games in terms of leads, surges, and quarter-to-quarter strategy. I think I understood how good teams target the third quarter to put away inferior opponents–especially on the road–but I never kept track of the cumulative effect that conservation of energy has on the margins of games. Great teams are comfortable cutting it close. Uncomfortably close.

Last night, Utah opened with a 10-4 burst; the kind of crowd-pleasing home start that doesn’t mean much in a professional game. What followed, however, was telling: Boston responded with a 23-4 blitz. A squad in college or even high school might survive that kind of lull and still win, but in the NBA, it meant Utah couldn’t keep up with Boston, and barring injuries and/or imbalanced refereeing, it signalled a Jazz defeat was almost certainly 40 minutes away. The game ended in the NBA form I’ve only just grasped: the five-point rout. A contest whose math suggested it hung in the balance until the final minute (when Utah had possession down a basket and failed to convert), but whose reality was all but controlled by the superior team.

More to ponder. In the meantime, I’m glad I made good calls on Denver/Atlanta and Phoenix/New Jersey last night, and I’m chastened by the fact that the sting of early wagering losses caused me to overlook Washington regressing to its lowly mean at home against Chicago. Note to self: maybe the key is small, consistent bets on great defenses asserting themselves against dysfunctional offenses. Which might explain how the Bullets can beat the spread against offensive juggernauts like Miami and Dallas, but not against a Chicago squad with Noah back in the starting lineup.

For tonight, I’m mulling Dallas giving 1.5 at Philly, Golden State getting 6.5 at Indiana, and travelling San Antonio without its point guard getting 1 in Memphis.

I like Golden State to cover in the wake of a last-second loss to Minnesota and facing an overnight to D.C. for a back-to-backer at the Verizon Center and faux Boston Garden in the next three days. Having just kicked off a run of 12 road games in 15 starts, the Warriors almost have to target tonight’s scuffle for a maximum effort to avoid a long losing streak.

And I suspect either Philly or Memphis will win at home against a superior opponent. The trouble is, I don’t know which one, and they’re on opposite sides of the spreads and money lines.

For now, all bets are off. If I change my mind, you’ll be the second to know.

Try to contain your excitement.

Once More into the Breach

Wager Number Six is $110 to win $100 on Boston, giving 4.5 at Utah tonight.

I’m not drawn to the storytelling aspect of this game (Boston needing to regroup after the franchise traded a popular player, Kendrick Perkins). I’m more interested in the fact that Utah downgraded at both point guard and coach in the past two weeks, and has gone 5-15 of late because teams have figured out the weaknesses of the Jazz front line, and have managed to cut off the attack at the head as a result. Rondo should outclass Devin Harris, and Utah doesn’t defend well in the post anymore. It’s a very good team against a squad that looks like it’s in the midst of a playoffs-killing tailspin. The Celts should win by at least five.

Or so it says here.

The temptations passed at lunchtime today included Phoenix giving 2.5 on the road in New Jersey, and Atlanta getting 6 on the road in Denver. The Suns might win, but then again, Steve Nash can’t guard Deron Williams, and this is Williams’ first home game with his new team. And Atlanta’s front court should control Denver’s. The problem here is Atlanta’s inconsistency, which tends to make them a cypher on the road.

Go Celtics.

Welp,

So now New Orleans can’t hold a 15-point halftime lead at home versus an inferior opponent, and I’ve lost 90% of my original $500 stake in five bets, going 1-4.

It’s not enough of a sample to know anything, but it seems as though I’ve developed an uncanny early knack for picking the one game among a recent handful in which the good teams I’ve targeted have failed to cover the spread. The lone game in the last six that incandescent Dallas dawdled and failed to cover, I bet. The one game woeful Toronto covered in the past six, I bet the other way. So there’s an argument for bad luck rearing its head, but then again, that line of thinking seems like whining to me. What’s at the front of my mind is that the ideas I thought might translate from the NFL aren’t working in in the NBA.

I’m adding another $500 to the till out of necessity; my adjusted stake now stands at $550, which means I’m now down $450 from a starting stake of $1000.

I’m not gunshy about betting, but I’m also not wagering to wager. It’s an imagined exercise to learn. I have to think about about what’s luck and what’s error, and come back with another bet.

Maybe tomorrow, maybe later. We’ll see.

Now is the Winter of Our Disconnect

Dallas leads for the last 44 minutes of the game, but either can’t or won’t step on Washington’s neck at the Verizon Center. The margin vacillated between 2 and 11 in the Mavericks’ favor from the fourth minute onward. A non-blowout that was never really in doubt. It’s an NBA reality in search of a term.

Toying. Taunting. Waltzing. Yawning.

I’ll mull that one; in the meantime, I’m 1-3 and down to $105. You can see the short,  sad path to the brink here.

Wager Number Five is $55 to win $50 on New Orleans at home tomorrow, giving 6 to Houston, according to Yahoo on an abnormally cold Saturday evening in the East Bay.

If I don’t win this one, I’ll have to bring in another hypothetical $500 to keep going, and put myself at $550, down from a starting stake of $1000.

If I do win, it’s still a long climb back. I’ll have alter my approach on the fly, focusing on winners regardless of their blowout potential, with a willingness to take points as well as give them.

Maybe it’s not dominant teams versus weak ones. Maybe it’s teams in the middle of the pack (like Phoenix and tomorrow’s hope, New Orleans), ones that can’t toy/taunt/waltz/yawn their way past bad teams, even when they’re at home against the bottom of the league.

Maybe it will depend on the day.

I don’t know. If I’m learning, it’s the hard way, and the lessons aren’t evident yet.

Go Hornets.