Pelicans vs. Wizards Pick – February 4th

We notched a second straight NBA winner last night fading the slumping Rockets with success.  It is never a GOOD feeling when your heavy underdog play goes into overtime; it introduces the frustrating possibility of correctly handicapping a game, yet still taking a very unfortunate loss. But fortunately for us, the Bulls kept it up for five more minutes and got the cover even if they blew an outright win in a game they REALLY should have won.

Before we dive in for today’s stab at the third straight winner, a few of you (fairly) called me out yesterday for reneging on my self-imposed “Bulls Ban” just a few days after placing it on myself.  The reply to that is “um…yeah…about that…”  Meaning – you are totally right.  I should be more careful about making rash declarations.  I occasionally get a little carried away ranting about frustrating losses and like to have a little fun with it – it’s kind of like telling your girlfriend you can’t stand her after an argument.  You didn’t really mean you “can’t stand her” – you were just really annoyed, but now after a few deep breaths (or a stint on the couch), you’d really like her to sleep with you again.

I TRY to write like you and I are just shooting the breeze and talking sports over a beer or two at the local pub.  And I like the dialog many of us have via Twitter @TheMarchManiacs and via other means, it feels more authentic to share thought process rather than just stats and data all the time.  But I also need to remember that there are literally thousands and thousands of people reading everything we write, and me making really strong declarations (maybe even after an annoying loss) can be confusing/frustrating/etc. and that probably outweighs the humor part…

So – FAIR critique, and I’ll be careful not to get too too far out there (though my Duke ban is still sincere and will continue until further official notice as there are way way more college games to choose from every day, no matter how many times you Tweet me about it and ask for a Duke pick, lol).

Also, if one is so inclined, here’s a quick look behind the scenes for HOW yesterday’s pick became “Bulls and a bunch of points.”  I originally leaned Lakers with the points (and would have won on some JV nonsense in the last ten seconds).  But I went through the whole slate again, looked at recent trends and just could not escape the fact that the Rockets are the most overvalued team in the league right now.  They were on a back-to-back, have been truly lousy for more than two weeks and were still priced like a Top Five team.  I also realized that some of my Bulls frustration was perhaps my personal perception and listening to the media soap opera, and the data over this tumultuous run just didn’t support my initial conclusion.

There is still truth in the notion that some teams have wider variances between their ceilings and floors than others, and that wagering them will have a little more inherent risk, but I probably, kind of, sort of, defintely overdid it on the Bulls…

I TRY to adapt to new information as it presents itself.  For example, I really trashed the Miami Heat early in the season.  I thought they had potential to be one of the worst teams in the NBA and an offensive trainwreck.  They’ve now won nine in a row including wins over Golden State, Houston and Atlanta.  Stubbornly fading the Heat the last two weeks would have been costly.  If the run continues on into the Playoffs, I say “whiffed on that one” and move on with the new data.

Anyhow – the basic goal is to remove emotion and not lock in to a set perception of a team when the data changes.  We can still use our eyes in addition to numerical data, and it’s not easy at times to sift between the two, but it is a good long-term philosophy to carve out winning wagering seasons.

Ok, enough of me.  Let’s get to today’s action!

Today’s NBA Pick:

New Orleans Pelicans at Washington Wizards -7.5

The Heat and the Mavericks and Sixers are getting the most ink for turning their season’s around after dreadful starts, but the hottest legitimate team in the NBA right now are the Washington Wizards.  The Wiz have went from “out of the Playoffs/can Beal and wall coexist” to flirting with the second seed in the East and looking like the promising team that made some real noise in the Playoffs two seasons ago.  John Wall is emerging as a fringe MVP candidate and the Wiz have ripped off 13 of their last 15 games and enter tonight on a six game winning streak.  Schedules matter in the NBA, and they have had a few soft spots to aid the streak, but a 15 point over at Boston , 10 point win at Charlotte and 26 point win at Atlanta were legit.

Washington has also been covering the margin as Vegas scrambles to adapt to the new normal in the Nation’s Capital (no, not that one Politics pundits).  They are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games and 14-2 ATS in their last 16 home games.  Those are both AMAZING marks you don’t see terribly often in the NBA.  As a team exhibits that degree of cover-proficiency, the lines increase to prevent it from continuing.  So far, it hasn’t worked.  In fact, laying 7.5 at home against a below-average basketball team is a really inexpensive line.

New Orleans has been worse than “below-average” if we are being honest.  We have trouble recognizing how lousy this team is because of the greatness of Anthony Davis, but the fact is, this is a 19-31 team that is just 6-17 on the road.  They are 3-7 in their last ten games and just 2-8 ATS.  They are 4-2 ATS in their last six road games, but a miserable 2-9 ATS in their last 11 against the Wizards.

I like red-hot Top Ten teams at home against Bottom Five bad road teams and only having to lay single digits.  The numbers and the momentum both like Washington tonight.  I’ll agree.