Hawks/Magic Plus NL Notes
GAME TWO IN ORLANDO...PLUS AN UPDATE FROM THE NATIONAL LEAGUE
by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor
The sleeping giant is awake!
Even though Orlando was the only team to earn a four-game sweep in the first round of the NBA playoffs, you never got the sense that they had really clicked yet. Dwight Howard couldn't stay on the court. Shooting would come and go. Orlando beat a much inferior Charlotte team four times in a row, but they didn't look particularly dominant while doing so.
TUESDAY NIGHT THEY LOOKED DOMINANT!
Orlando crushed Atlanta 114-71, and it didn't feel that close! The Magic came in with a point to make, and enjoyed a full week of rest and preparation time. Atlanta was mentally and physically drained from their seven-game survival series with Milwaukee that ended Sunday. The Hawks had nothing left in the tank. 114-71 represents what happens when a championship caliber team is in the mood to make a statement, and their opponent takes the floor with their gas tank already on Empty.
Today we'll take a brief look at the numbers from Tuesday Night's games to see if there's any sign of hope for Atlanta to bounce back tonight in Game Two...or maybe this weekend when they get to play at home. We'll also pick back up with our MLB coverage, looking today at WINS MINUS GAMES PLAYED so far in the National League. We ran the numbers for the American League yesterday. Please check the archives if you missed that report.
GAME TWO: ATLANTA AT ORLANDO
ORLANDO leads 1-0
Current Vegas Line: Orlando by 9, total of 189½
Normally you see a line drop in Game Two because oddsmakers anticipate a flood of money on the bounce back underdog. The line here stayed the same. Who wants to bet Atlanta after that debacle?! Maybe the Hawks are the right side based on motivational edges. Or, maybe what we saw just represents the clear differences between the teams. The sportsbooks aren't expecting any Atlanta money to hit until the Hawks play at home...if then. The total has come down three points, with the first game staying Under 192.5 with a total of 185.
ORLANDO 114, ATLANTA 71
Three-Point Scoring: Atlanta 6, Orlando 27
Two-Point Scoring: Atlanta 52, Orlando 70
Free Throw Scoring: Atlanta 13, Orlando 17
That's a slaughter on both three-pointers and two-pointers, with free throws being irrelevant because the refs didn't call many fouls...and it really wasn't much of a game by midway through the second quarter.
We talked about this during our series preview. And, there's just no other way to say it. Atlanta is in HUGE trouble in this matchup. They're strength is two-point scoring, but Orlando's better than they are inside the arc. Orlando picks up 3-5 treys every game on average, with the potential to pick up seven or more when things are going well (9-2 Tuesday Night for the 27-6 scoring edge you see above). When Orlando shows up, Atlanta is fairly helpless. The Hawks need Orlando to get overconfident and lazy FAST, or this has no shot of being a series.
Imagine that Atlanta made nine three-pointers the other night instead of two. They still lost "inside scoring"(points on one's and two's) by an 87-65 score! Atlanta's very unlikely to have a nine-trey game. Maybe once on a hot night. If they focus on two's and even that up...well, then Orlando's probably going to win treys by enough to cover the spread.
Atlanta has no workable options in terms of what they control themselves. Wins and covers will be based on Orlando's mindset. We'll be working with our sources very closely to determine that. The pointspreads may end up missing the mark by a lot in either direction this series. Orlando covers easily when they show up. Orlando gets caught napping if they relax. That's why it pays to have sources who know when a team is going to show up or relax!
SUNSHINE STATE SLAM
We're red-hot in the NBA right now, having won six of the last eight and wer're primed to slam another home in the Sunshine State, as Atlanta takes on Orlando in Game 2. Our basketball experts are all over the edges here, having spent the better part of the last 36 hours watching tape of Game 1. We know how Joe Johnson and Jameer Nelson match up, not just with their stats, but against each other, based on how each team runs its offensive sets and defensive rotation. We know how Al Horford and Dwight Howard match up. And we can define those matchups down to a precise point value, enabling us to correlate it to the point spread. Our record backs us up and we're ready to get the money again tonight from Orlando!
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Catching up now in the National League...
You regulars know one of our pet stats is WINS MINUS HOME GAMES PLAYED. It's a great little thumbnail that adjusts for quirks in the schedule. This is very important early in the season because having a lot of home games or road games can have a big percentage impact on a team's perceptions.
Through Tuesday Night, there was a NL team that had played 17 home games and 9 road games. Were you aware of that? See if you can figure it out before we get to them.
WINS MINUS HOME GAMES PLAYED (through Tuesday)
NY Mets -1
NOTEBOOK: There was a lot of talk over the weekend about how the Mets had "caught"or surpassed Philadelphia in the divisional race. That was an illusion of the schedule. The Mets had played 16 road games before going on their current road trip. Philadelphia had a road heavy schedule that still hasn't balanced out yet. Once you accounted for that, this is still basically a one-team race.
Note though how evenly matched everyone else is! Atlanta got a ton of early press because of their hotshot youngster. Washington didn't get much, except for people talking about how their hotshot youngster could be something special when he joins the team later. Well, who's doing better NOW?! The edge isn't as big as it looks in your newspaper standings. But, it's still there fractionally once you adjust for the schedule splits. Great to see Washington play competitive baseball for the first time in their new environs.
St. Louis +5
NOTEBOOK: Another one team division, with St. Louis joining Philadelphia on the short list of true powers in the NL. Their current series has a playoff feel to it, that's for sure. Just like the NL East, the Central has four teams below the leader who are right near break-even. Houston is the team we were talking about in the lead. Everyone knows they're horrible. They may not realize HOW horrible because Houston's been compiling their lousy record with mostly home games! The Astros are the worst team in baseball by a mile according to this stat. The NL is the inferior league to the AL...and Houston is way behind everyone else.
San Diego +2
San Francisco 0
LA Dodgers 0
NOTEBOOK: We like this division a lot. It's more tightly bunched than your newspaper suggests because of schedule splits. In the newspaper, San Diego and San Francisco (home heavy) have put some space on the other three (road heavy). This stat helps you see how truly bunched up everyone is. We've encouraged you in the past to focus on divisional strengths for your handicapping. With so many teams bunched near zero through a relatively divisional heavy phase of the schedule, knowing which group is the toughest should prove profitable once there are more inter-divisional games.
Our gut reaction is that the NL West has the better true depth. We're open-minded about changing that view if they don't produce in inter-divisional play. For now, be aware that there are basically three "outlier"teams right now (Philadelphia, St. Louis, then Houston on the other end of the spectrum). That leaves 13 teams playing competitive games against each other. Look for value spots with underdogs given the fact we have so many seemingly evenly matched squads.
Maybe parity is a short term illusion right now in the NL. Or, maybe it's going to be the big story of the year. Handicappers need to be a step ahead of the learning curve if they want to make money in the Senior Circuit.
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We have a big weekend coming up with things really heating up with the site switches in the NBA (with games in Boston, San Antonio, Utah, and Atlanta). Baseball's been a blast and it's only going to get better.
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