A couple of database numbers to considering for Thursday's NBA Finals Game 7 between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. Home teams are 23-8 SU and 20-11 ATS in postseason Game 7's. Totals in those games were 11-20 O/U. Since 2004, there have been two Game 7's in the finals: San Antonio won and covered vs. Detroit in 2004 and the LA Lakers won but failed to cover vs. Boston in 2009. Both games went under the total. The last road team to win a Game 7 in the NBA Finals straight up was the Washington Bullets in 1978.
NY Mets (Marcum) at Atlanta (Medlen) O/U 7.5
Recommendation: Atlanta -1.5 +120
After getting swept by the Mets yesterday, Atlanta was in no laughing mood. They are in danger of losing their first series at home all year if they can’t notch the win today; an MLB best 24-10 on this field this year. 17 of those 24 wins have come by multi-run margins; consistent moneymakers at home when laying -1.5 on the run line.
Even after yesterday’s sweep, the Mets are 17-31 in their last 48 ballgames. Starter Shaun Marcum is coming off a beating at the hands of the Cubs, the seventh time in his last ten starts that he’s notched only four or fewer strikeouts. He’s winless in three previous tries on this field, and the suspect Mets bullpen behind him was used extensively in yesterday’s doubleheader.
Braves starter Kris Medlen has owned the Mets lineup. In 16 outings against New York he’s never lost a game, including a 3-0 mark while throwing four consecutive quality starts against them over the past two seasons. Medlen has been eating up innings, throwing into the seventh in six of his last nine starts. The Braves bullpen behind him remains an elite unit; #1 in the NL in ERA; and most of their key bullpen arms didn’t see action yesterday. Expect a blowout!
It was there for the taking. San Antonio had a 13-point lead late in the third quarter…a 10-point lead to start the fourth quarter…and, after rallying from a late collapse, a 5-point lead with just under 25 seconds left. There was no trophy ceremony. Miami forced overtime, then won the extra period to force a Game Seven finale Thursday Night.
If you watched, you’re as spent as I am…and there’s really not much more to add to what everyone has been saying in the twitterverse. Let’s see what the final numbers looked like…
Miami 103, San Antonio 100 (in overtime)
2-Point Percentage: San Antonio 48%, Miami 44%
3-Point Shooting: San Antonio 5/18, Miami 11/19
Free Throws: San Antonio 21/28, Miami 16/21
1’s and 2’s: San Antonio 85, Miami 70
Rebounds: San Antonio 45, Miami 42
Turnovers: San Antonio 13, Miami 15
Tim Duncan had a HUGE first three quarters. Miami promised that they wouldn’t be allowing open looks on three-pointers…which opened up the middle for exploitation. The Spurs did that while building their 13-point lead…making a run at seven quarters with near 65% shooting inside the arc. Miami adjusted to focus on the paint. That put a roadblock in front of Duncan…nobody stepped up to make treys.
If you’re a Spurs fan, keeping you from sleeping over the next 48 hours will be:
*The lineup of backups Coach Popovich played to start the fourth quarter, which allowed Miami to get back in the game IMMEDIATELY. He was trying to rest his best players. But, he literally forfeited a double digit lead in the process. A gamble that didn’t pay off. Many would consider it a questionable gamble.
*The fact that nobody would step up to hit shots once Duncan had been neutralized (except for a couple of big buckets by Parker).
*Manu Ginobili’s horrendous passing and decision-making when the game was on the line.
*Missed free throws in the final moments.
*Blown rebounding opportunities in the final moments…when Tim Duncan was on the bench (questionably to say the least).
Again, it was there for the taking. It’s hard to imagine Game Seven living up to the thrills and drama of this one. All the key players are exhausted, and there’s only one day between games. Might come down to three-pointers by role players if the exhausted stars cancel each other out.
Three-Pointers By Winning Team
Game Two: Miami 10 of 19
Game Three: San Antonio 16 of 32
Game Five: San Antonio 9 of 22
Game Six: Miami 11 of 19
Either team could put up a big number. Either team would have trouble recovering if the other put up a big number.
Wednesday's Sportsmemo Podcast featured handicappers Rob Veno, Ian Cameron, and Alf Musketa. Rob talked about the new American Athletic Conference, Ian previewed every team in the CFL, and Alf discussed Game 7 of the NBA Finals and this week's PGA event.
Raise your hand if you are up to speed on the details of the newly formed American Athletic Conference. No? Either were we until about five minutes ago, a couple of Google searches, and of course our good pal Wikipedia. For the upcoming 2013 college football season, the AAC will include 10 teams: Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, SMU, USF, Temple, and UFC. To add to the confusion, in 2014, Louisville will head to the ACC, Rutgers is bailing to the Big Ten, and East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa will join the AAC.
This year, each team will play eight conference games. Below are the games that will not be played due to the eight-game slate.
Like the Big East, all ten teams will have three bye weeks (Temple and Houston technically have two with Dec. 7 and "open date”). It will be interesting to see how the former C-USA schools handle the time off. Houston, SMU, and UCF had only one bye week last year. Also note that for this season, the AAC will inherit the Big East’s automatic BCS bowl berth. When college football goes to the new playoff system in 2014, the AAC will be lumped in with the likes of the Sun Belt, MAC, C-USA, and Mountain West – of which at least one team will receive a berth/bid/invitation.
Extreme turnaround by the starters in tonight’s contest gives this game a totally different look than it would’ve had if played around five weeks ago. At that time, Milwaukee’s Kyle Lohse was in the midst of a five game stretch where he did not post a quality start. Combined during that stretch, Lohse threw 27.2 innings, allowed an unbelievable 71 total bases, had a 1.81 WHIP, 6.51 ERA, and 16/9 K:BB numbers. Things have turned around for Lohse as he’s now had three straight quality outings with two of them coming against the strong offenses of Oakland and Cincinnati. The change in results has been drastic during this current run as Lohse has pitched 20 innings, allowed just 26 total bases, recorded a 2.25 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and posted 12/2 K:BB numbers. This consistent span is enhanced tonight by his recent ownership of the Astros (4-1, 1.59 ERA last two years). Houston remains a poor offensive team having been held to two runs or less in 11 of 17 games this month so expect Lohse to have a strong performance in this spot. Houston’s Erik Bedard has been consistent for an even longer span as he’s now yielded two runs or less in six of his last seven starts. The overall seven game numbers are: 39.2 IP, 3.40 ERA, and 1.36 WHIP but if you eliminate the one poor game against Kansas City, the other six show 35 IP, 2.31 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and only 43 total bases allowed. Bedard benefits from the absence of RH power bat Ryan Braun here and Minute Maid Park as his home/road splits indicate. His home ERA is 2.36 (road 6.69), home WHIP 1.24 (road 1.74), opposing BAA .206 (road .308) and OPS .660 (road .947). I have enough trust in the bullpens here including the red hot Jon Axford to keep the back third quiet and pitcher friendly home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman helps too.
The Miami Heat's against the spread streak off of a loss came to an end last night in their 103-100 non-covering overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs last night. So now it is the Spurs' turn to see if they can maintain their stellar record off of a loss. Heading into Thursday's Game 7, San Antonio is 4-0 SU/ATS during the postseason and 23-5 SU, 16-11 ATS for the entire season (a mark that would be far better if not for late season rest situations). Also note that dating back to 2010, the Spurs are on a 8-0 SU/ATS streak off an overtime defeat.
Good article by FanGraphs on the changes that have taken place at Petco Park since they moved in the fences. The sample size obviously isn't big but double and triples are down while home runs are up. On the season, the Padres are 18-16-2 O/U at home.
That’s a 0.49% increase run value per PA. In (3 x 9 PA) 27 PA of a game, that’s an increase of 0.135 runs. In about 7 games, they are scoring an extra run; that’s an extra run per week. So we can say this: More game-context-neutral offense has thus far occurred at Petco Park.
Here are the consensus bets for tonight's Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs courtesy of Bookmaker. Note that the percentages represent the number of bets (not total handle) placed on each given.
This has to be some sort of record. Based on LVH's line on Thursday's FIFA Confederations Cup matchup between Spain and Tahiti, bettors can expect the following: a Spain victory, and a boatload of goals. LVH has the Spaniards as an 8-goal favorite (with -145 juice!). The total for the game is 8.5ov-150. If you are interested in the moneyline, head over to CRIS where you can lay -17500. Don't underestimate Tahiti though, they scored a goal vs. Nigeria.
As promised, I’m back Monday with updated full season averages for the “four-max” concept I outlined for you last week. If you missed that report, these are:
*Offensive averages for five inning “first halves” in MLB action this year
*With a ceiling at four runs per game, to not reward superfluous scoring vs. bad pitching
*Which creates a realm of 0-1-2-3-4 with 2 as a median
*And rewards consistently putting runs on the board rather than occasional volume
Many handicappers and bettors are starting to pay more attention to five-inning propositions. This is a way to give you a sense of what’s normal, and who the best and worst offenses are when you’re trying to make decisions. It’s probably a pretty good general barometer for offenses overall too. Not a bad litmus test…can you score vs. standard rotation starters on a consistent basis with the lineup that’s been created by your manager to maximize scoring potential?
Let’s start in the American League, where there’s more scoring because of the designated hitter.
Best AL Offenses
Tampa Bay 2.41
It’s hard to keep your average that far over 2.00 for an extended period with this methodology because your explosions don’t count extra. So…those offenses are really doing a solid job of getting runs on the board consistently. Anybody’s capable of being shut out though. Maybe it will be easier to visualize typical expectations if I run the composite scoring lines from those teams last week. Here they are from worst to best:
That’s five shutouts, or about one per week for each team on average. Only three 1’s. Then, a ton of 2’s and also a lot of “four or more” that register as four in this methodology. If you’re going to fade any of these teams, you’d better be very confident of the opposing pitcher.
Average AL Offenses
Toronto 2.18 (surging lately though)
LA Angels 2.04
NY Yankees 2.03 (dealing with injuries again)
Oakland 2.00 (also surging lately)
I mentioned over the weekend that Toronto is starting to play at a high level, matching preseason expectations. They popped a 1-3-4-4-4-4 week that was only partly helped by playing in Arlington. The 1 came against Yu Darvish. Toronto dug an early hole for themselves (with multiple shovels). You should probably think of them as an elite offense now until they cool off (if they do). As we said the other day, it’s been about a MONTH now of good stuff from this offense.
Worst AL Offenses
Kansas City 1.91
Chicago White Sox 1.77
Texas 1.61 (road only because home park is a hitting paradise)
Kansas City scored some runs in Tampa Bay…against a pitching staff that’s been surprisingly soft this year. But, even that only amounted to 0-4-2-2 in game order…which is an average of two per game. Be careful assuming the offense has really changed with a new hitting coach.
Houston is showing a home/road split that we may need to pay attention to. That 1.89 consists of only 1.68 on the road, but 2.08 at home. Might just be a temporary quirk. Or, it could be that this minor league offense can hit some HR’s in a bandbox park at home, but is in trouble in other parks.
We ran an article on the Rangers the other day. Then they got shut down by Chien-Ming Wang! That led to a closed-door meeting in the clubhouse. Let’s see if that brings more inspiration in a huge home series with Oakland that starts Monday night. Texas is at 2.08 in their home hitting paradise, 1.61 everywhere else. Anemic by normal standards.
Moving to the National League, where pitchers hit..
Best NL Offenses
St. Louis 2.34
Colorado 2.27 (using road only because of home altitude)
San Diego 2.09 (despite playing home games in a pitcher’s park)
Atlanta 2.06 (but slumping lately)
Chicago Cubs 2.06 (using road only because there have been some windy Wrigley games)
Colorado’s up near 3 at home…and has been consistently productive in those home games. Still a sleeper. San Diego’s a team to pay attention to. Many in the media are starting to notice because the team has a good record going back a month.
Average NL Offenses
San Francisco 1.90
The Giants picked up their pace this week, running four straight good games in order during a 0-4-4-4-4-0 cookie (quadruple-stuffed oreo?) Washington’s dealing with injuries, and may be ready to drop down a category soon.
Worst NL Offenses
LA Dodgers 1.79
NY Mets 1.66
Pittsburgh popped some good numbers this week, possibly ending what had been a sustained first half scoring slump. Philadelphia could only manage 2-2-0 at altitude in Colorado, while the Mets were a dismal 1-1-0 at home against the Cubs. Miami picked up its pace, rising from 1.41 to 1.51 in a single week. Still the cellar dwellers by a good bit.
Probably the most simplified way of thinking about 5-inning handicapping:
*If both offenses look like they’ll get to at least 2 runs, think about the Over
*If both offenses look like they’ll struggle to reach 2 runs, look at the Under
*If one team looks like they’ll score while the other won’t, take the scoring team!
I think most baseball handicappers tend to look too much at the starting pitchers, doing all sorts of gymnastics work about what they’ve done the past few starts…or if they’ve fixed some mechanics…or what they’ve done against this team in the past….but not enough at general offensive numbers. Backing a Mets pitcher in a good spot may be a waste of time if the Mets offense isn’t capable of scoring, for example.
Now that teams are starting to get a second crack at Chicago's Dylan Axelrod, I expect his days as a full-time starter to be numbered. In his last two starts, he saw Seattle and Toronto for a second time and the results weren't pretty. Axelrod threw 5.2 scoreless innings against the Mariners back in early April and somehow did the same two weeks ago, however, he allowed a whopping 11 base runners in 5.1 innings. Against the Blue Jays last time out, he was pounded for 8 hits and 6 runs in 4 innings. Even more alarming were the nine walks in those two outings – a clear indication teams are being patient and forcing the soft-tossing righty to come in the zone. Minnesota's Mike Pelfrey has nowhere to go but up and even though I've read some positives and he's coming off one of his best starts of the season (7 IP, 3 ERs, 7 Ks) were still talking about a very fringe American League arm. After throwing 5.1 shutout innings in his seasonal debut, Pelfrey has allowed three runs or more in 10 of 12 starts. Obviously were not dealing with a lot of offensive potential with both squads but considering the hittable nature of these starters, I see plenty of ducks on the pond in this one. Play it over.
The New York Mets are ready to call up yet another highly touted prospect as 2009 first round draft pick Zach Wheeler makes his MLB debut tonight in Game 2 of a doubleheader in Atlanta. Wheeler has a big arm (see video) and posted strong numbers (68.2 IP, 61 hits, 73 Ks) in the non-pitcher-friendly environment of Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League.
''I don't think I'm a savior at all,'' Wheeler said. ''We've got some great arms here, some great players. We might not be doing too well right now, but I know the talent of these guys. Hopefully we'll turn it around soon. I'm just trying to come up here and help the team any way I can.''
A quick look at what the offshore and Las Vegas scenes are offering for Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Every sportsbook is currently sitting with the Miami Heat -7 expect for Pinnacle who is a few cents off a -6.5 (-110). A few offshore shops are showing a slight lean towards San Antonio with +7 (-115). Totals wise, 191 is painted across the board offshore. And per usual, most of Vegas shops are a half point higher at 191.5. We're still waiting for the day when Vegas posts a total that is lower than what CRIS, Pinnacle, and Grande are offering. Fairly big discrepancy on the moneyline with offshore showing the Heat (who are obviously in a must-win situation) in the -320 to -340 range (Pinnacle -295, Grande -350). In Vegas, fan friendly Coasts and Stations have the Heat as high as -360 while other shops are -340 to -350.
Baseball is a long season and "closed door meetings" happen a lot. But they are still worth noting as Texas manager Ron Washington pulled the boys aside for a discussion following yesterday's sixth straight loss. The Rangers are 4-11 for the month (4-11) with some not-so-good splits of .219/.293/645.
“I spoke to them, and the message is nobody’s business in this room — and I don’t mean to be disrespectful,” said Washington during his post-game press conference. “I just thought they needed to hear from the manager.”
“Perfect team – a perfect situation,” said Andrus. “I think it’s a great time for us to start fresh. Come tomorrow, we start a season — and just be angry out there. Get our energy back and just execute…stay positive.”
For as much as the betting markets have respected Cincinnati this year while continuing to disrespect Pittsburgh, the bottom line is that only one half game separates these two teams in the standings right now. Pittsburgh has been the single most profitable team in all of baseball to support thusfar in 2013, more than nine units better than the Reds; a clear indicator of that vague concept of value has legitimate meaning when it comes to the Pirates.
Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano was the heir apparent to Johan Santana as the ace of the Twins rotation when Santana left for New York. But injuries derailed his progress, and he was a bottom tier hurler for the Twins and White Sox in both 2011 and 2012. That’s why his sudden re-emergence as an ace since coming off the DL in May has been such a surprise to the betting markets.
The numbers don’t lie. Liriano has allowed one run or less in five of his seven starts this season. He mowed down the Reds when he faced them two weeks ago, throwing six innings of one run, four hit, eleven strikeout ball against them. He’ll be facing a Cincinnati lineup that averages more than a half run per game less against southpaws than they do against opposing right handers. The Pirates bullpen behind Liriano has been an elite unit all year, ranked #3 in opposing batting average.
Meanwhile the Reds bullpen has 14 losses this year – only the Dodgers and Marlins have suffered more bullpen defeats than Cinci. They’ve struggled against the Pirates all season, losing four of six meetings with Pittsburgh thusfar. And Cinci is playing mediocre baseball of late, just 9-9 in their last 18 ballgames, losing six times as a favorite during that span.
Reds starter Mike Leake has seen his team go 5-8 in 13 career starts against the Pirates, and four of his five wins this year have come against struggling, bottom tier offenses (the Phillies, Mets, Marlins and Cubs). Coming off his longest outing of the year (an eight inning effort against Chicago last time out), don’t be surprised if Leake and the bullpen behind him have their fair share of struggles this evening.
Important series between these teams who begin the three game set separated by a half game in the NL Central. The Pirates starter Francisco Liriano has been a bettor’s dream this season as the money has flowed toward him in almost all of his starts. Today’s game appears no different as the Bucs have been bet down slightly from the opener and perhaps with good reason. Not only has Liriano had overwhelming stuff led by his top notch slider, but he dominated this Reds lineup just 16 days ago. In that June 1 outing, the Pittsburgh LH went six full, allowed just 4 hits and one run while posting an 11:1 K-BB ratio. He walked away on the wrong end of a 2-0 final in that game because Reds RH Mike Leake was dominant as well throwing six shutout innings. Leake yielded seven hits (all singles) and gained redemption for an earlier loss to Pittsburgh where he was lit up for 10 hits and five runs. The RH has been on a tear over his last six starts registering a 0.98 WHIP and 1.13 ERA. Cincinnati is 5-1 in those games and five of the six have stayed under the total. 26 of the 33 hits he has given up during this 40 inning stretch have been singles while only two have been home runs. Each of these pitchers are in terrific form right now and the difference tonight could very well be the bullpens. Pittsburgh’s “Shark Tank” relief corps has been near untouchable but they enter this game with fatigue issues as setup man Mark Melancon (3 straight days, 42 pitches), LH specialist Justin Wilson (back-to-back days 36 pitches) and closer Jason Grilli (2 of last 3 days, 41 pitches) were all worked hard over the weekend. The Reds bullpen meanwhile is arguably nastier and they are rested & ready. Drawing a pitcher friendly umpire would make this even nicer but generating runs is likely to be tough in this game no matter what. Under 8 looks to be a solid choice.
It’s never too early to start talking NFL. While the casual bettor may not pay attention until the start of the preseason in August, the wiseguys here in Vegas have already done their homework, ready to take advantage of early NFL betting opportunities as they present themselves over the next few months.
I’ve been waiting patiently for the NFL Season Wins market to mature, but that isn’t happening quickly – most of the notable offshores have not posted Over/Under win totals yet, leaving Vegas as the only active market right now. So, instead of writing about season wins over the next two weeks, I’ll be writing about two teams that set the tone for the entire market – the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens.
I’ve chosen the Chiefs and the Ravens very specifically, because those two teams are the best examples of what the market looks for when adjusting power ratings way up or way down from one season to the next. Why are the markets so high on Kansas City and so low on Baltimore to enter the 2013 preseason? Read on to find out. This week, I’ll take an in depth look at the Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-14 last year)
The Chiefs are the poster child for the ‘expected to be the most improved team in the NFL’ category. Quite literally, just about every statistic and metric that we have to predict NFL success or failure points towards an immediate turnaround in Kansas City this fall. And when we start to break down the personnel moves for KC, the case for dramatic improvement is perfectly clear.
It all starts with last year, when KC was an injury riddled mess with a lame duck head coach and a consistent void at the quarterback position. The Chiefs were tied dead last in the NFL in turnover margin in 2012, finishing with an average of -1.5 turnover differential per game. Only five players started all 16 games; fewer than the number of players who finished the season on injured reserve.
Quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn combined for a 63.8 QB rating and eight touchdown passes between them, truly bottom tier numbers. Their defense managed to snare only seven interceptions all season. 10 of their 14 losses came by double digit margins. KC wasn’t just beaten down last year – they were consistently whipped; right there with Jacksonville and Oakland at the very bottom of the standings and the very bottom of the power ratings spectrum.
Last year’s debacle came on the heels of a last place AFC West finish in 2011. In fact, KC has finished with a losing record five times in the last six years, not exactly an ‘up and coming’ franchise in recent seasons. So why are the markets so high on the Chiefs heading into 2013?
All of that recent losing definitely comes into play. A consistent supply of high draft choices have left the Chiefs with plenty of talent. Unlike fellow bottom feeders Jacksonville and Oakland, KC has drafted reasonably well; not a team in need of an Extreme Makeover, NFL style. They’ve got playmaking personnel already in place on both sides of the football.
The endless barrage of turnovers last year is certainly a factor pointing towards significant improvement in 2013. The last team to be -18 or worse was the 2009 Detroit Lions, a team that went 2-14. Detroit improved by four wins the following season.
We hadn’t seen a team finish -20 in turnovers in a single season since the 2006 Raiders, the 2005 Saints and the 2005 Packers. Oakland improved by two wins the following year, Green Bay by four wins and New Orleans by seven wins. None of those teams finished with a turnover margin as bad as the Chiefs had last year. All of them improved the following season, and three of the four improved significantly.
Even teams with ongoing quarterback issues tend to dramatically improve their turnover ratio following an ‘off the charts’ bad season like the one Kansas City had last year. And KC doesn’t have any sort of QB controversy heading into 2013 after acquiring former 49ers starter and former #1 overall draft pick Alex Smith to man the position.
Smith’s career has been checkered, but he was an elite, efficient quarterback last year before the sudden emergence of Colin Kaepernick made him expendable in San Francisco. In fact, his 104.1 QB rating ranked behind only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rogers, and his 70.2% completion rate was tops in the league. He’s no Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn; a proven winner in this league.
All the quotes out of Kansas City indicate that the team is jelling in offseason workouts under Smith’s leadership. Here’s a quote from star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe: "He's a leader on and off the field. He's putting pressure on the defense. He's running the huddle. When we don't have a huddle, he's speeding guys up and the tempo gets us in better shape. He's pushing the defense, so that's going to make our team better."
QB isn’t the only key area that got a dramatic upgrade in the offseason. For as much as Eagles fans loved to bash Andy Reid, the bottom line is that Reid was a consistent winner throughout his extended tenure in Philadelphia. He had only three losing seasons in 14 years in Philly, with a 130-93-1 career record.
Romeo Crennel, in stints with Cleveland and KC, could never possibly be described as a ‘consistent winner’; 28-55 all time as a head coach. The team clearly quit on him relatively early last year, and the transition to a proven winner like Reid can only help.
All reports out of KC this offseason have indicated that players are buying into Reid’s message. The Chiefs longest tenured veteran and clear team leader, Derrick Johnson, had this to say following OTA’s last week. "You never look at it as a rebuilding year; that's college talk. You always reload. Even though we didn't win a lot of games last year, this team has some good core players that we can reload with, plus some new guys like Alex Smith that can help us win. We have high expectations. Andy Reid has already made it plain to us that if you are playing for anything else but a championship, you are not doing justice to the game."
Reid’s quotes sound pretty good too: "It's the work ethic right now, guys trying to get better. There are a lot of little things that determine whether you're going to be an average team or a good team and are you going to be fundamentally sound against all the different looks, whether you're on the defensive or offensive side, so you've got to spend time at it. It's not good enough just to learn the play. Let's learn it inside and out. Let's learn all the leverage positions you need to be in. The guys are doing that, they're working at it.
"Those little things – that's what counts. But normally those are the things that the players will back away from. 'OK, I've got the route, but what are the intricacies of that route? I've got the coverage, but exactly how does that tie in with my linebacker or safety or whatever it might be?
"They're concentrating on that and they're working on that very well. From a coaching standpoint, that's all you can ask for."
And that’s why a team that finished 2-14 last year is lined as a seven win team this year; the single biggest jump in the NFL between a team’s final record in 2012 and their Over/Under win total in 2013. KC is the poster child for expected improvement. They’ve got talented personnel in place. They’ve made dramatic QB and head coaching upgrades, and all reports indicate the transition is going well. Their turnover margin can only improve. Their division is among the weakest in the NFL, and their schedule for 2013 features ten teams lined at eight wins or less. Put it all together and you can see why there has been significant early wiseguy money showing for the Chiefs.
It was surely a team effort from the San Antonio Spurs Sunday Night. You could point to any individual and find a lot to sing about.
*Manu Ginobili had his “back from the dead” game after seeing Dwyane Wade do that for the Heat the last time out.
*Danny Green continued his unprecedented three-point shooting, nailing 6 of 10 from long range.
*Tony Parker ran the offense effectively…which was important tonight because San Antonio was being very aggressive in terms of attacking QUICKLY. Not fast break points, but…as Zach Lowe of Grantland pointed out on twitter…by getting the ball into the post quickly. Parker was also 10 of 14 shooting.
*Tim Duncan wasn’t the star of the game…but he was 7 of 10 from the floor, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked 3 shots.
As you know if you watched the game…all of that production came out of a team approach. It wasn’t a case of different guys trying to take turns being “the man.” The ball moved to find the most vulnerable link in the Miami defense…and the guy with that ball at that moment made his shot. That led to a stunning boxscore…
San Antonio 114, Miami 104
2-Point Percentage: Miami 41%, San Antonio 69%
3-Point Shooting: Miami 11/23, San Antonio 9/22
Free Throws: Miami 19/23, San Antonio 21/26
1’s and 2’s: Miami 71, San Antonio 87
Rebounds: Miami 34, San Antonio 36
Turnovers: Miami 13, San Antonio 18
Basically, San Antonio either turned the ball over or scored! They weren’t supposed to be able to survive a horrible turnover game like that. But, the shots they were getting were so good that they could afford some dead possessions. The Spurs were 33 of 48 inside the arc…and a sharp 9 of 22 outside the arc.
Some of you may be surprised that Miami won the three-point category. It didn’t feel that way because the Spurs were using treys to build leads, while Miami was making them later to chip away at big deficits.
A couple of quick market notes:
*Most everyone noticed that this series has zig-zagged from game to game. Haven’t heard it discussed that the cover margins have been so large. The “closest to the pin” award still goes to Game One, when San Antonio won by four as a five-point underdog. That was a nine-point miss. Final results have missed the Vegas spread by 12, 34, 14, and 11 since. No pointspread drama here.
*Free throws have jumped way up the last two games, with a sequence now of 35-28-29-48-49. That’s led to two big Overs after the first three games went Under. Games Four and Five landed on 202 and 218, clearing the market by 16 and 29 points.
It could eventually loom large that Miami mangled its best calendar sequence for winning two games in a row. They had two days off to get ready for this one, knowing that Games Six and Seven would come in quick fashion on Tuesday and Thursday. If you’re the team that NEEDS its “big three” veterans to play at very high levels…it’s tough to ask them to do that in the back end of a three-game-in-five-day sequence.
Win tonight after taking Friday and Saturday off…then you’ve got some insurance at home. Now, there’s no margin for error for a Miami team that has yet to prove they can win two in a row vs. a quality seed in this postseason.