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Finding Reliable Assets In Round 2
 
In my betting analysis, I like to emphasize what I call reliable assets. Trying to cover a line requires two very basic premises: scoring points and preventing them. The latter is a much more difficult commodity to track, especially with x-factors like momentum and matchups. But generating points is generally an easy thing to determine just by looking at the starting rosters of a team. That’s why the injured rosters of Chicago and Oklahoma City aren’t worthy bets tonight.
 
Miami Heat -8 over CHICAGO BULLS
Monday, May 13 --- (TNT, 7:05 p.m. ET)
Series Record: Miami leads 2-1
 
LeBron James and the Miami Heat can paint Chicago in a tight corner by picking up the win tonight. This series has been undoubtedly hard fought, but the fact remains that a full-strength Heat team is simply too much for the patchwork Bulls who are missing three key players. It also doesn’t help that the pairing of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer aren’t playing strong defense right now. Do you think that they miss Omer Asik yet?
 
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The one, clear advantage that Chicago supposedly had in this series was in the front court but that idea has been properly dismissed with Chris Bosh’s explosive double-double that led to 20 points and 19 rebounds in Game 3. Bosh has quietly submitted a fine season, firmly finding his role and stepping out of the spotlight. I’m sure he still loves the attention, but he also thrives with the limited duties Spoelstra assigns him. Bosh has been essential for Miami, banging the boards and stretching the interior defense with his mid range shot.
 
Chicago received a bevy of balanced scoring as they leaned heavily on their starting lineup of Noah-Boozer-Butler-Robinson-Belinelli in Game 3. All five scored in double digits which is encouraging to a slight degree. Boozer led the team with 21 points and Noah submitted a strong 15-point, 11-rebound effort. The Bulls are finding guys to step up and fill the voids of Hinrich, Deng and Rose but the scoring punch isn’t enough to rely on in NBA playoff betting.
 
I keep harping on the absent players instead of focusing on the guys suiting up for Chicago, but there’s an obvious reason: scoring. Rose and Deng are the most reliable, nightly contributors to the stat sheet and without either of them there’s no real reason to hope that the Bulls can cover this line or compete in this series. There’s just too much of a gap in talent. This line would have to be in double digits to be truly fair.
 
The Bulls are just 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games and 2-6 ATS when playing teams from the Southeast Division. They’re also a ridiculous 1-7 ATS in their last 8 games when their opponents score 100 points in the previous game. You can try and bet your money on guys like Belinelli or Butler having career games, but it’s just impossible to know if those are coming, especially when LeBron and Bosh are playing at inspired levels. Don’t underestimate how vital rest will be to the Miami Heat. They’ll want as much as possible.
 
Bet the Miami Heat to cover and the UNDER.
 
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES -4.5 over Oklahoma City Thunder
Monday, May 13 (TNT, 9:30 p.m. ET)
Series Record: Memphis leads 2-1
 
Don’t look now, but there’s a new power in the Western Conference and I can’t believe it’s the Memphis Grizzlies. Playing an old school variation of possession based basketball that I love unabashedly, Memphis is on the verge of pushing Oklahoma City to the brink of extinction in these NBA playoffs. Their scoring and defensive prowess is a betting enthusiasts dream because they’re both incredibly reliable assets to back.
 
Memphis has averaged 92.3 points per game while going 3-0 ATS in the series with most of the scoring coming from the steady Marc Gasol, who has been averaging 24.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Zach Randolph has been attacked relentlessly by the Thunder’s defense, which helps to explain his curiously low numbers. But the Grizzlies have built their team around the one-two punch of Gasol-Randolph for a reason. If you try and stop one, the other will wreak havoc on you. You can’t possibly expect to stop both over the stretch of a seven game series. Randolph is obviously the scary offensive threat which is why he’s receiving the brunt of attention from Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka.
 
Speaking of Ibaka…has he reached his ceiling? He put up 13 points and 10 rebounds in Game 3, and that’s pretty much what he’s done through the entire playoffs. Ibaka has to prove that he’s a better scoring force because he’s the guy that Presti kept instead of Harden, and right now he’s proving that OKC made a grave mistake in betting on him.
 
I understand the thinking behind keeping Ibaka. Presti sought to amplify the strengths of his best player, Kevin Durant, by giving him a reliable big man that could do the dirty work. It’s the same type of formula that Dallas found success with, pairing Dirk with a resurgent Tyson Chandler. I don’t mind the trade as much as most people do, but it’s killing the Thunder now and eroding the aura around Presti as a general manager who’s light years ahead of the pack. He overthought this move and misses Harden in a big way against a defensive juggernaut like Memphis.
 
The problem is that the loss of Harden and Westbrook makes the Thunder vulnerable because the scoring outside of Westbrook-Durant doesn’t exist. Reggie Jackson has been fine in a reserve role, averaging 12.6 points per game but Oklahoma City has lost two games in this series by a 6 points. If Westbrook was in the fold, those games are absolutely winnable. Without him? Good luck. You can’t really forecast injuries ever, but you can certainly prepare for them.
 
All of the betting trends lean in Memphis’s favor and the momentum of this series is already firmly in their grasps. The Grizzlies are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 home games, 12-3-1 ATS when playing the Western Conference and 7-0 ATS when playing after one day’s rest. They are the hottest betting commodity on the market right now and there’s no reason to think they’re going to go cold, because the majority of their offense is created on high-percentage opportunities close to the basket.
 
The Thunder are a rough 1-5 ATS in their last 5 games and 0-4 ATS on the road against winning teams. They’re still 7-2 ATS in their last 9 trips away from home, but it’s obvious that Durant is either slowing down or over exerting himself. He’s still one of the greatest players ever, but this isn’t a league where a one man team can win. That’s why LeBron left Cleveland, why Boston traded for Allen and KG, why Kobe won five titles with Shaq and Pau, and why Scottie Pippen was so pivotal to Michael Jordan’s success. It’s also the ultimate reason why Presti should never have traded Harden. He gambled on Ibaka being a great third banana (like Bosh in Miami), and made a mistake that will prove fatal in this series.
 
Bet Memphis to vault in to a commanding 3-1 lead as they cover this measly home line. Give the UNDER a taste as well!

  
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