The Sportsmemo Blog has been around for nearly a decade and during that span we can't recall a gambling movie that turned out to be even remotely watchable. Runner, Runner was brutal. Two for the Money the same. Mark Wahlberg's reboot of The Gambler was so-so at best. And Lay the Favorite is currently in the $2 DVD bin at your local Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, we spotted another one that was just released and it too looks awful. A "thriller"...about gambling...and golf. See for yourself.
Legalized sports betting's biggest booster, Adam Silver, was back in fine form this afternoon on the Boomer & Carton radio show.
“Because they have all that data, they’re able to monitor it,” Silver said. “And if there’s any irregular activity whatsoever, it’s like tracking insider trading on the New York Stock Exchange. If there’s a blip, if there’s unusual activity, they know to investigate. So first the issue for us is if all this betting is going to go on anyway, we should be able to monitor it. And then, No. 2, if all this betting activity is going to go on anyway, make it legal.
“It’s good for business, I don’t want to hide from that,” he continued. “Putting aside whether or not we’re actually actively involved in any of the betting, it creates more engagement. We all know as fans if you have, even like a gentleman’s bet or a $5 bet with your friend on a game, all of a sudden you’re a lot more interested.”
Much of Toronto's preseason expectations were based on the handful of young, talented arms they have in their rotation. Unfortunately, said arms haven't looked all that sharp thus far. Drew Hutchison was smacked around his last two starts (9 IP, 11 ERs) thanks to a dip in velocity. Following Sunday's 2.2 IP, 4 ER effort, Daniel Norris is now complaining of "dead arm." Aaron Sanchez doesn't appear ready to be a full-time starter after limping through his first outings (9 IP, 6 ERs, 5 Ks, 5 BBs). And projected ace Marcus Stroman of course is gone for the year with a knee injury. That leaves elder statesmen RA Dickey and Mark Buehrle to carry the load. The Jays have scored the most runs in baseball (70) but there are already rumblings that changes to the starting staff are imminent.
The San Antonio Spurs opened their defense of their NBA Championship run from last year with a blowout loss on the road at the Staples Center in LA against the Clippers. That Game 1 and the series against the Clips featured some EXTREMELY unusual betting action here in Las Vegas and offshore – money coming on one team (the Clippers) for Game 1 while coming on the other team (San Antonio) for the series. I can’t recall any previous series in my 17 basketball seasons here in Las Vegas where the Game 1 favorite was not the favorite to win the series. The betting action was a clear indicator of the respect bettors have for San Antonio heading into the 2015 postseason.
But following that Game 1 debacle, the Spurs aren’t favored to win the series anymore, with the adjusted series prices popping up following Game 1 showing LA as short chalk moving forward. The question bettors and pundits need to be asking is a simple one. Was the Spurs Game 1 loss simply a bump in the road for this perennial championship contender or was it an "end of an era" indicator, telling us that the Spurs are "fade" material moving forward? End of an era or bump in the road? Read on for my take.
The latest incarnation of the Spurs dynasty probably began in 2012, the year after San Antonio was eliminated in the first round by Memphis in a rare #8 seed upset over the #1 At that point, the Spurs last title had come in their sweep against Cleveland back in 2007, and the Spurs were widely viewed as an aging team from the past, not a title contender for the future.
San Antonio’s 2012 extended playoff run was their first trip to the conference finals since they lost to the Lakers in 2008. In 2012, the Spurs won their first ten playoff games, sweeping the Jazz and the Clippers in the first two rounds before taking the first two from Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs lost their next four to the Thunder, bounced out of the playoffs , and the prevailing conventional wisdom was that Greg Popovich’s run of titles was a long way in the rear view mirror; a fading, declining franchise.
But in 2013, the Spurs proved conventional wisdom wrong. Those Spurs rolled through the Western Conference Playoffs notching a 12-2 SU record as they rolled to the Finals. Of course, that version of the Spurs let a title slip away, blowing a double digit lead in their potential clincher, Game 6 at Miami, then coming up short in Game 7. Again, the pundits were convinced that the Spurs had already accomplished what they were capable of accomplishing. The prevailing thought process was that Greg Popovich’s run of titles and championship appearances was over – the Spurs were simply too old to do it again.
That conventional wisdom was proven wrong last year, as the Spurs were tested multiple times but still worked their way back to the Finals. It took San Antonio 18 playoff games in the West to reach the Finals; an average of six games per series – their highest average during any previous title run. The Spurs faced a 2-1 series deficit to Dallas in the first round last year, and went 0-6 ATS in their first six playoff games before they notched a Game 7 blowout win over the Mavs. San Antonio was also tied 2-2 with Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, and needed a tough OT win on the road to avoid a Game 7 in that series. Of course the Finals were a different story, as the battle tested Spurs were clicking on all cylinders by June, beating Miami in a relatively easy five game series.
So, after three consecutive extended postseason runs, two trips to the NBA Finals and finally, a fifth championship ring for Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich, the Spurs entered the 2014-15 campaign as the favorite to come out of the West and one of the favorites to win the title. A good, but not great regular season ended with San Antonio earning the #6 seed out of the West, yet the Spurs were still installed by the betting markets as the third most likely team to win the title after Golden State and Cleveland as the playoffs began.
It is worth noting here why the Spurs were the #6 seed. Remember, this team needed only a single victory on the final day of the regular season to earn the #2 seed in the West and the Southwest Division title; riding an eleven game winning streak into New Orleans. But San Antonio came out flat and trailed by as many as 23 points in the second quarter. They rallied in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to four, but never got any closer. The game was widely perceived as New Orleans stepping up to make the playoffs, not San Antonio stumbling in a very meaningful game.
Perhaps that season finale loss in New Orleans needs to be re-evaluated following the Spurs Game 1 loss against the Clippers, because that defeat on Sunday was essentially the same game! The Spurs struggled to defend the low post and struggled to defend the three point line. Throw in another very sluggish start in the first quarter and the end result was a non-competitive Game 1 defeat; a game where the Spurs trailed by double-digits throughout most of the second half.
San Antonio’s post game quotes didn’t seem too concerned, similar to their post-game quotes following their season ending loss to the Pelicans. Coach Popovich: “The game was their defense was better than our offense. That's the bottom line. Their aggressiveness, their physicality, their athleticism really hurt us offensively." Tim Duncan: “They were physical. Their shot blockers in the back, DeAndre especially, I think affected us at the basket. All in all, we were just out of rhythm. … It just wasn't our night." Manu Ginobili: “We made a bunch of mistakes, but overall they just played better. Their defense was way more solid. We could not get anything easy. Even in situations where we got something easy, we could not make shots."
Forward Danny Green: “There was a little bit of [the team missing open shots]. But there was also us not executing the way we normally did in the games we have won in the past month. We moved the ball in spurts. Overall, their defense was really good. Their defense was better than our offense, and we could not make shots on top of that... I think we were a little overly excited. We had some turnovers we normally don't have. Our turnovers led to their fast-break points, and that hurt us. That's one thing we can fix: not turning the ball over. We can't fix not making shots, but we can definitely play defense better."
The Spurs certainly are capable of playing better defense. They are certainly capable of knocking down some of the open looks they missed on Sunday. But I’m not convinced in the slightest that the Spurs are capable of making an extended playoff run once again this year. The cumulative fatigue effect from the last three seasons worth of playoff runs matters. And perhaps most importantly, that hunger to prove they can win another one dissipated following last year’s title. The Clippers certainly played like the hungrier team in Game 1.
San Antonio’s depth is extraordinary, but at this stage of the campaign, their point guard play is not. Tony Parker had the worst plus/minus numbers on the team in the season finale against the Pelicans and his -12 from that game was repeated in his ten point, one assist Game 1 effort in LA. Without Parker playing at the highest of levels – something he’s not doing right now – my take is that the Spurs are in big trouble moving forward against Chris Paul and the Clippers.
Los Angeles (Wilson) at Houston (Keuchel) -115 O/U 8
Betting MLB totals is all about matchups. Yesterday's Angels-Astros game had a total of 9ov because Jered Weaver and Roberto Hernandez are perceived to be mediocre starters --which is true to a certain extent. However, from a matchup perspective, Weaver's right-handed slop vs. free-swinging right-hand heavy Houston was favorable and the same can be said for Hernandez's sinker ball ways vs. LA. The results played out as such as the two combined for a solid 12 innings, 5 ERs, 9 Ks, and no walks. The perception on today's two starters is far different as the total opened 7.5. However, the matchup is much more favorable for the offenses. Throughout his career CJ Wilson has shown a fairly strong split but it's even more pronounced in recent years. Last season, Wilson held lefties to .198. Against righties a dismal .273/.409. Houston starter Dallas Keuchel has similar tendencies with righties hitting 32 points higher. Both lineups have the ability to stack up on right-handed bats with a handful of them capable of driving the ball out of the park. Even with the big move towards the over off the 7.5, we're still in a playable range at 8.
NY Islanders at Washington -145 O/U 5.5
The Washington Capitals will be looking to bounce back from a 4-1 Game 1 loss. The Capitals didn’t play a terrible game in the series opener as the shots were practically even but goaltender Braden Holtby had a very poor showing as he yielded a pair of “soft” goals. Washington’s vaunted power play was supposed to have an edge against a team that struggled on the penalty kill this season but the Capitals were shut down on both power play opportunities. Washington also didn’t seem to have a great sense of urgency but I expect a lot more of that tonight especially when reading this quote from Brooks Laich: "I don't think our execution was there. It starts with thinking quicker and moving quicker. I don't think we did that well in the first period. The result was that we looked like a slow team. It has to get better." We also have two distinct trends working in our favor here as the Islanders do not have a great track record following up wins this season with a 18-29 record. On the flip side, the Caps have showed the focus and intensity required to come back strong following a defeat with a 22-15 mark in games after a loss. I expect the urgency meter to rise significantly for Washington as it looks to avoid an 0-2 hole. The price is reflective of a bounceback but one that I’m willing to lay.
Reports out of Toronto saying that the Rogers Centre's new artificial turf is playing really slow and causing the occasional wicked hop. A team spokesman claims it needs time to settle and will quicken with wear. One would think the slow turf would help Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez who is regarded as a "heavy groundballer."
“It’s weird, but we’re going to have to adjust,” he said. “It’s definitely a lot slower than it was in the past and a lot slower than any other artificial turf I’ve ever laid my feet on.”
Arizona (Bradley) +155 at San Francisco (Bumgarner) O/U 6.5
San Fran lit up some lousy D-backs pitching in Arizona in their opening series of 2015, but this is anything but an elite lineup with Pablo Sandoval in Boston, Hunter Pence on the DL and Brandon Belt struggling with a strained groin. Belt and starting third baseman Casey McGahee should be back in the lineup today, but even with that duo on the field, the Giants haven’t been scoring runs against anybody.
The defending champs have scored 1, 0, 1, 2, 4, 0, 1 and 2 runs in their last seven games, winning only once during that span. They just got swept at home by the Rockies, producing only three runs in three games. Manager Bruce Bochy: “We have some guys that are really, really pressing right now. It’s pretty obvious looking at the at-bats.”
World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner carries a hefty price tag to support these days; as public a pitcher as you’ll find in baseball right now. But even Bumgarner isn’t immune to the Giants April struggles, lit up in a dismal three inning start in San Diego last weekend. Arizona’s lineup is built to hit lefties and they produced four runs or more twice in four meetings against him last year; with a surprisingly good batter vs. pitcher stats from Aaron Hill, Jordan Pacheco, AJ Pollack and others against the Giants ace.
Arizona rookie hurler Archie Bradley was rated as the #1 right handed pitching prospect in the minor leagues by MLB.com last winter. He outdueled Clayton Kershaw in his MLB debut last weekend, allowing just a single hit in six shutout innings against the Dodgers. Anything close to that level of performance tonight and the D-backs are live to cash at this attractive underdog price!
Pinnacle announced that Magnus Hedman is the company's new owner. Hedman, who is also the owner of the risk management firm Touchbet, is expected to expand Pinnacle's overseas presence. The purchase of Pinnacle was estimated at $170 million.
Still waiting on NBA first round series prices. In the meantime, check out the respect the Cleveland Cavaliers are getting in the futures market -- and lack thereof for top seed Atlanta. Odds courtesy of 5Dimes.
Odds to Win the Eastern Conference Cleveland -150
Odds to Win NBA Championship Cleveland +240
Golden State +255
NBA Finals Matchups Cleveland vs. Golden State +314
Cleveland vs. San Antonio +452
We know the Heat and 76ers don't want to win. Well, New York should have the same mindset but in typical Knicks fashion, they enter tonight's game on a two-game winning streak. Tonight's opponent, the Detroit Pistons, were bet up from -5.5 to -9.
At 17-64, the Knicks now have leapfrogged Minnesota (16-65) out of the NBA basement, and they still have a chance to tie Philadelphia (18-63) with a win Wednesday night against eliminated Detroit (31-50). The Timberwolves and Sixers also have home finales on Wednesday against Oklahoma City and Miami, respectively.
The Sixers want to lose to potentially gain a share of the league’s second-worst record, which would improve their draft lottery chances. The Heat need to lose, in order to ensure they’ll keep their draft pick. If it lands outside the top 10, it will go (ironically enough) to the Sixers.
Denver +10 at Golden State O/U 216.5
The Nuggets aren’t laying down here in the final week of the season; still playing hard just about every night for interim head coach Melvin Hunt. They’ve won by double-digits twice in their last four ballgames. In the third, they rallied back from 21 down at halftime before losing by a point in double overtime to the Mavs. And in their most recent game, at LA against the surging Clippers, the Nuggets led from wire-to-wire until the Clips went nuts late, scoring 20 points in a three minute span late in the fourth quarter to steal the win (but not the cover).
Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried talking about how hard the team is playing for interim head coach Melvin Hunt: “I feel like we're back to the old Nuggets and it's exciting. I hope they hire him and I hope he's our head coach next year." Hunt, talking about the importance of tonight’s game: “I want us when we get on that plane after playing Golden State, I want it to be as quiet as a library because they're so exhausted just from playing hard. I want them to get every ounce of enjoyment out of this next performance as they can so we can have a good summer." Bottom line: Denver is coming to play tonight.
I’m not convinced that’ll be the case for double digit favorite Golden State. Steve Kerr isn’t expected to rest his starters, necessarily -- hence this 10-point spread -- but don’t be shocked in the slightest if the Warriors lineup consists exclusively of backups and role players by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. In the ultimate meaningless game for the home favorite, look for the road underdog to be live for the full 48 minutes tonight. Take the Nuggets.
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Philadelphia (Williams) at New York (Niese) -140 O/U 7
The Mets were hit by the injury bug yesterday as a pair of their middle of the order hitters went down. For 3B David Wright it looks to be about a two week absence due to a pulled hamstring while Michael Cuddyer could actually play tonight despite having a bruised left hand after being hit by a pitch. With Jerome Williams throwing for the Phillies, New York manager Terry Collins could choose to insert LH hitting Kirk Nieuwenhuis into the lineup. Regardless of which way Collins constructs his lineup tonight, the key component for the Mets tonight figures to be LH starter Jon Niese who has been dominant recently not only against Philadelphia (1.95 ERA L5 starts) but at home as well (1.52 ERA L4 starts). The Phillies LH dominated lineup is weakened versus lefties but was able to benefit from four walks issued by Washington starter Gio Gonzalez in their only southpaw matchup thus far. Same isn’t likely to happen here as Niese has issued an average of just 2.3 walks in his last 81 starts dating back to 2011. Offense could be tough to come by for New York as well since they’ve started the season in a severe funk hitting .227 with an OBP of .310. Mets bullpen a slight concern here since closer Jeurys Familia has appeared in three straight contests but lack of lineup production and Niese’s recent history against the Phils suggests a play on the under.
Oklahoma City needs some help tonight in order to secure the 8th seed in the Western Conference. New Orleans, who plays host to San Antonio, holds the tiebreaker. The Thunder need to beat Minnesota and hope the Pelicans lose to the Spurs.
"We're going to need some help from San Antonio," he said. "I've always been a Pop fan, and [on Wednesday] I'll be even more of a Pop fan."
"We just have to focus on winning the game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "It's a one-game season for us. We have to go up to Minnesota and beat them. We're going to have to play for 48 minutes. We can't worry about what's happening in New Orleans. We have to just focus on what we do. They have a tough matchup. We have a tough matchup. Every team in this league, if you don't take them seriously, can beat you. We're just going to focus on playing good basketball and take care of our business. Hopefully, we get some help down south of us."
Extremely important regular season finale tonight with San Antonio headed to New Orleans. The Spurs, who have won 11 games in a row, need to win in order to grab the no. 2 seed. Lose, and they could fall as low as the no. 6 seed depending on how the rest of the night shakes out. As for the Pelicans, it's win-and-you're-in. They own the tiebreaker over Oklahoma City who plays at Minnesota.
“We have to embrace this,” said Williams Wednesday night. “There’s going to nerves, fear, a lot of questions. Can I do it, am I ready? You have to embrace all of that. That is part of it.”
“We have dealt with more emotion, big losses, big wins, our guys are fine,” said the Pelicans head coach Tuesday. “They know they have to go out and execute. They know it is a cool time.”