Pirates vs. Reds Series Picks: MLB Betting
Milwaukee has jumped out to the early lead in the NL Central, making this week’s MLB odds series in Cincinnati between the Reds and Pirates all the more crucial.
Four of Major League Baseball’s six divisions have all of the teams packed within 3.5 games of each other. Not the NL Central, however, where the Milwaukee Brewers are off to a torrid start and have already built a 3-game cushion ahead of their next-closest challenger.
That makes this week’s series in Cincinnati between the Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates critical if two of last year’s NL playoff participants don’t want to get left in Milwaukee’s dust. The set is scheduled to get underway Monday night with a 7:10 PM (ET) first pitch at Great American Ball Park, though Mother Nature may have other plans. More on that later.
Our initial mound clash for Game 1 has Wandy Rodriguez going for Pittsburgh against Homer Bailey of the Reds.  Cincinnati is chalked in the -115 to -120 range after opening a few pennies higher, and SBR’s live baseball odds is showing a unanimous 7.5 run total that leans ‘over.’
This series dates back to before the National League existed when the Red Stockings and Alleghenys played in the original American Association. Monday’s tilt will be the 2,306th played between the clubs, and the Pirates have managed to amass just a 20-game edge in all those meetings. They’re level the past two seasons, 34-34, and the Reds hold a slim 62-57 all-time in the games played in Porkopolis. The Bucs went 6-4 in Cincy a year ago, and four of the last five atGreat American Ball Park failed to reach the total.
[gameodds]3/261865/?r3=43-19-349/dec&r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]
Broomed In Beer City, Bucs End Road Trip In CincyPittsburgh (6-6 straight up, -0.5 unit) is ending a 9-game road trip through the division with this series, the Pirates stopping previously in Chicago and Milwaukee. They did fine against the Cubs, taking two of three in Chicago, before being broomed by the Brewers.
This will be the third start of the season for Rodriguez, each of the previous two coming against the Cubs and both ending in defeat. The husky Dominican is coming back from a flexor tendon injury in his left arm that cost him most of 2013, and Rodriguez had a decent spring with a 3.09 ERA in four exhibition outings totaling almost 12 innings.
He has seen the Reds plenty over the years with Monday’s matchup his 31st career assignment. Injuries in 2013 meant Wandy only caught Cincinnati once, and he lost a tough one at home allowing just two runs in seven innings as Johnny Cueto blanked the Bucs. Pittsburgh is 1-3 in his last four starts at GABP, Rodriguez pitching to a 3.38 ERA in those outings.

Reds Avoid Rays’ Brooms To Open HomestandCincinnati (4-8, -4.0) has dropped each if its four series to date, the most positive aspect of the Reds’ early season being they haven’t been swept yet. They were frustrated by Tampa Bay pitchers David Price and Alex Cobb to begin this past weekend’s series, but the bats broke out in Sunday’s finale for a 12-4 win over the Rays.
Like the Pirates with Rodriguez, the Reds have dropped both of Bailey’s starts this campaign, each time to the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds plated four against Bailey in both outings, a span of 9.1 innings, and raked for 16 hits (.381 AVG) after the Texas native breezed through spring training limiting batters to a .133 average.
Bailey had no success against Pittsburgh last year, the Reds losing all four of his starts while the righthander posted a 4.30 ERA over the course of 23 frames. He no-hit the Buccos in Iron City the last time he faced them in 2012, winning three of his four assignments that season.
Assuming they do get this game in, it’s not going to be a pleasant evening for anyone in the stands. The weatherman is calling for a 60% chance or rain tonight in Cincinnati, possibly turning to snow after midnight. I’m hopeful the weather holds off just enough, and will be running with home chalk for my free MLB pick.
My Pick: Reds -120
Season: 11-12 (-1.70)

Pirates vs. Reds Series Picks: MLB Betting

Milwaukee has jumped out to the early lead in the NL Central, making this week’s MLB odds series in Cincinnati between the Reds and Pirates all the more crucial.

Four of Major League Baseball’s six divisions have all of the teams packed within 3.5 games of each other. Not the NL Central, however, where the Milwaukee Brewers are off to a torrid start and have already built a 3-game cushion ahead of their next-closest challenger.

That makes this week’s series in Cincinnati between the Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates critical if two of last year’s NL playoff participants don’t want to get left in Milwaukee’s dust. The set is scheduled to get underway Monday night with a 7:10 PM (ET) first pitch at Great American Ball Park, though Mother Nature may have other plans. More on that later.

Our initial mound clash for Game 1 has Wandy Rodriguez going for Pittsburgh against Homer Bailey of the Reds.  Cincinnati is chalked in the -115 to -120 range after opening a few pennies higher, and SBR’s live baseball odds is showing a unanimous 7.5 run total that leans ‘over.’

This series dates back to before the National League existed when the Red Stockings and Alleghenys played in the original American Association. Monday’s tilt will be the 2,306th played between the clubs, and the Pirates have managed to amass just a 20-game edge in all those meetings. They’re level the past two seasons, 34-34, and the Reds hold a slim 62-57 all-time in the games played in Porkopolis. The Bucs went 6-4 in Cincy a year ago, and four of the last five atGreat American Ball Park failed to reach the total.

[gameodds]3/261865/?r3=43-19-349/dec&r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Broomed In Beer City, Bucs End Road Trip In Cincy
Pittsburgh (6-6 straight up, -0.5 unit) is ending a 9-game road trip through the division with this series, the Pirates stopping previously in Chicago and MilwaukeeThey did fine against the Cubs, taking two of three in Chicago, before being broomed by the Brewers.

This will be the third start of the season for Rodriguez, each of the previous two coming against the Cubs and both ending in defeat. The husky Dominican is coming back from a flexor tendon injury in his left arm that cost him most of 2013, and Rodriguez had a decent spring with a 3.09 ERA in four exhibition outings totaling almost 12 innings.

He has seen the Reds plenty over the years with Monday’s matchup his 31st career assignment. Injuries in 2013 meant Wandy only caught Cincinnati once, and he lost a tough one at home allowing just two runs in seven innings as Johnny Cueto blanked the Bucs. Pittsburgh is 1-3 in his last four starts at GABP, Rodriguez pitching to a 3.38 ERA in those outings.

Reds Avoid Rays’ Brooms To Open Homestand
Cincinnati (4-8, -4.0) has dropped each if its four series to date, the most positive aspect of the Reds’ early season being they haven’t been swept yet. They were frustrated by Tampa Bay pitchers David Price and Alex Cobb to begin this past weekend’s series, but the bats broke out in Sunday’s finale for a 12-4 win over the Rays.

Like the Pirates with Rodriguez, the Reds have dropped both of Bailey’s starts this campaign, each time to the rival St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds plated four against Bailey in both outings, a span of 9.1 innings, and raked for 16 hits (.381 AVG) after the Texas native breezed through spring training limiting batters to a .133 average.

Bailey had no success against Pittsburgh last year, the Reds losing all four of his starts while the righthander posted a 4.30 ERA over the course of 23 frames. He no-hit the Buccos in Iron City the last time he faced them in 2012, winning three of his four assignments that season.

Assuming they do get this game in, it’s not going to be a pleasant evening for anyone in the stands. The weatherman is calling for a 60% chance or rain tonight in Cincinnati, possibly turning to snow after midnight. I’m hopeful the weather holds off just enough, and will be running with home chalk for my free MLB pick.

My Pick: Reds -120

Season: 11-12 (-1.70)

Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers Series Coverage: MLB Picks
Week 3 of the baseball betting campaign begins with an AL West rivalry between the Mariners and Rangers in Texas. Has our handicapper found the right play on the MLB odds?
The history and rivalry between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners doesn’t get its due respect.  This has been one of the most entertaining head-to-head series the past 20 years, and it’s a damn shame more people haven’t been following it, thanks in part to half of the games starting too late for the East Coast media to bother with covering.
The enmity between Texas and Seattle is renewed Monday night when the clubs get together for the first time on the 2014 slate.  We’ll be following the entire series here at SBR, and all three will carry 8:05 PM (ET) starts at Globe Life Park, aka the House That Dubya Built.
The big game is Wednesday’s series finale when aces Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish battle it out. Monday’s series opener has a far less name recognition for the pitching duel as Roenis Elias takes the hill for the M’s opposite Colby Lewis, who is making his first appearance on a major league mound since July 2012.
Texas’ shift in its rotation has delayed the release of betting numbers for this contest. Check back a little later this morning to catch the opening lines on SBR’s live MLB odds.

Rangers Look To Extend Recent Dominance In SeriesAs mentioned, this has been a hotly-contested series for a while now, Texas owning a slim 168-167 edge since 1994 and going 96-74 on this diamond. The Mariners owned the first half of those 20 years, while the Rangers have won each of the last six season series, taking 12 of 19 in 2013.
Five of the nine played in the Lone Star State last season skipped past the total, leaving ‘over’ bettors 9-5 dating back to May 2012.

M’s Begin Road Trip On 2-Game SkidSeattle (6-5 straight up, +1.9 units) enjoyed a light schedule at home last week with five games and two days off, and the Mariners managed to win only two of the contests while hosting the Angelsand Athletics. The offense went limp in the final two games of the homestand, combining for just one run in a pair of losses to Oakland.
Elias was originally ticketed for Triple-A this season, but injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker opened the door for the Cuban southpaw to break camp in Seattle’s rotation.  He made six spring appearances — 3 starts — with a 2.38 ERA along with a 1.28 WHIP in 22.2 innings, and has pitched well in his two regular season starts (10 IP, 3 ER) only to receive no support from Seattlehitters.

Rangers Lose Beltre To Disabled ListTexas (6-6, -0.5) bounced back from a pair of series defeats at Tampa Bay and Boston to take two of three from Houston over the weekend. Both wins were of the 1-0 variety, and beating the Astros has become rather ho-hum for the Rangers who have a 38-8 record against their Lone Star Statecounterparts since the beginning of the 2009 campaign.
The Rangers are without slugging 3B Adrian Beltre who was placed on the 15-Day DL this past week due to a quad injury. Kevin Kouzmanoff is starting at the hot corner in Beltre’s absence.
Lewis is coming back from hip surgery and made just one official minor league start along with extended spring training during his rehab. He last faced the Mariners in April 2012, working into the seventh and not allowing a run in that contest.
There is a cold front moving across Texas today, and it’s expected to bring some rain before things clear out by nightfall. The front is also expected to leave behind some heavy winds from the NW in the 20-30 mph range (out to center). I’ll be watching the for the total when it comes out, possibly making my free MLB pick on the ‘over’ once I see the number.
My Pick: No line
Season: 11-12 (-1.70)

Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers Series Coverage: MLB Picks

Week 3 of the baseball betting campaign begins with an AL West rivalry between the Mariners and Rangers in Texas. Has our handicapper found the right play on the MLB odds?

The history and rivalry between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners doesn’t get its due respect.  This has been one of the most entertaining head-to-head series the past 20 years, and it’s a damn shame more people haven’t been following it, thanks in part to half of the games starting too late for the East Coast media to bother with covering.

The enmity between Texas and Seattle is renewed Monday night when the clubs get together for the first time on the 2014 slate.  We’ll be following the entire series here at SBR, and all three will carry 8:05 PM (ET) starts at Globe Life Park, aka the House That Dubya Built.

The big game is Wednesday’s series finale when aces Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish battle it out. Monday’s series opener has a far less name recognition for the pitching duel as Roenis Elias takes the hill for the M’s opposite Colby Lewis, who is making his first appearance on a major league mound since July 2012.

Texas’ shift in its rotation has delayed the release of betting numbers for this contest. Check back a little later this morning to catch the opening lines on SBR’s live MLB odds.

Rangers Look To Extend Recent Dominance In Series
As mentioned, this has been a hotly-contested series for a while now, Texas owning a slim 168-167 edge since 1994 and going 96-74 on this diamond. The Mariners owned the first half of those 20 years, while the Rangers have won each of the last six season series, taking 12 of 19 in 2013.

Five of the nine played in the Lone Star State last season skipped past the total, leaving ‘over’ bettors 9-5 dating back to May 2012.

M’s Begin Road Trip On 2-Game Skid
Seattle (6-5 straight up, +1.9 units) enjoyed a light schedule at home last week with five games and two days off, and the Mariners managed to win only two of the contests while hosting the Angelsand Athletics. The offense went limp in the final two games of the homestand, combining for just one run in a pair of losses to Oakland.

Elias was originally ticketed for Triple-A this season, but injuries to Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker opened the door for the Cuban southpaw to break camp in Seattle’s rotation.  He made six spring appearances — 3 starts — with a 2.38 ERA along with a 1.28 WHIP in 22.2 innings, and has pitched well in his two regular season starts (10 IP, 3 ER) only to receive no support from Seattlehitters.

Rangers Lose Beltre To Disabled List
Texas (6-6, -0.5) bounced back from a pair of series defeats at Tampa Bay and Boston to take two of three from Houston over the weekend. Both wins were of the 1-0 variety, and beating the Astros has become rather ho-hum for the Rangers who have a 38-8 record against their Lone Star Statecounterparts since the beginning of the 2009 campaign.

The Rangers are without slugging 3B Adrian Beltre who was placed on the 15-Day DL this past week due to a quad injury. Kevin Kouzmanoff is starting at the hot corner in Beltre’s absence.

Lewis is coming back from hip surgery and made just one official minor league start along with extended spring training during his rehab. He last faced the Mariners in April 2012, working into the seventh and not allowing a run in that contest.

There is a cold front moving across Texas today, and it’s expected to bring some rain before things clear out by nightfall. The front is also expected to leave behind some heavy winds from the NW in the 20-30 mph range (out to center). I’ll be watching the for the total when it comes out, possibly making my free MLB pick on the ‘over’ once I see the number.

My Pick: No line

Season: 11-12 (-1.70)

NHL Picks: Bruins vs. Red Wings Series Price

The Boston Bruins copped the President’s Trophy for most points in the regular season but that and a bag of hockey pucks won’t even get you a cup of coffee in the postseason. So which round one team has the most value in our NHL picks?

Last 10 Games
The Bruins were 5-5 down the stretch which had more to do with head coach Claude Julien resting key players as opposed to the B’s playing mediocre hockey. However, playing .500 hockey late in the season regardless of the reason can breed bad habits. Boston dropped a 3-2 decision to Detroit during the homestretch and ended their season by the identical score in a loss to New Jersey.

The Red Wings went 6-4 in their final 10 games and crept into the playoffs, edging the Capitals for the eighth and final seed. Detroit ended their season with an exclamation point defeating Western Conference power St. Louis, courtesy of seldom used third string goalie Petr Mrazek who stopped all 23 shots en route to a 3-0 victory.

Season Series
Detroit won the season series 3-1, dropping their first game in Boston 4-1 way back on October 5thbut then swept the next three games by scores of 3-2, 6-1 and on April 2nd the Wings stole a 3-2 win despite getting outshot 35-20.  Starting netminder Jimmy Howard was between the pipes for that critical victory while Tuukka Rask took the loss for Boston. Detroit was the only team in the NHL to defeat Boston three times this season.

Forwards
The Bruins skate four solid lines. Even the fourth line consisting of Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille consistently causes problems for the league’s scoring elite. They are a fierce checking unit that can, on occasion, light the lamp themselves. But the straw that stirs the drink is clearly Patrice Bergeron who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves around the league because he sacrifices goal scoring for solid two-way hockey. It’s a system that head coach Claude Julien demands of every player and most likely the reason that the uber talented Tyler Seguin was ticketed out of town. Nevertheless, Bergeron still netted 30 goals and along with David Krejci, Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand the Bruins boast a prolific offense which ranked 3rd in the league averaging 3.1 goals per game and now have a power play to go along with it which ranked third as well, connecting on 21.7% of their man-advantaged opportunities.

The Red Wings will be missing a crucial part of their offense and locker room leadership as veteran left winger Henrik Zetterberg is still sidelined after back surgery several weeks ago. The best Detroit fans can hope for is that he recuperates enough to perhaps partake in the latter games of the series. However, Detroit will be counting on the surprising Swedish sensation Gustav Nyquist to continue his stellar season with contributions from 41-year-old Daniel Alfredsson.

Edge: Boston

Defensemen
Zdeno Chara has barely missed a beat in his 15th season in the NHL and has been incorporated as a forward on the power play which puts his 6’9” frame in the middle of all the action. He heads a defensive corps that is among the best the NHL has to offer and if his defensive partner Dennis Seidenberg could return from the dead, this will be a complete mismatch not only for the Red Wings but any opponent the Bruins may face going forward.

Edge: Boston

Goaltender:
The edge in NHL odds definitely favors the Bruins Tuukka Rask whose 2.04 GAA and .930 save percentage will put him squarely in the middle of Vezina Trophy consideration. Jimmy Howard can be a brick wall when on but has struggled at times this season. If the Wings fall behind in the series early and Howard is not at his best, don’t be surprised if third string goalie Petr Mrazek gets the nod to spark a fire over backup Jonas Gustavsson. Mrazek has sparkled in his nine appearances including two shutouts. 

Edge: Boston

[gameodds]7/263959/?r3=43-19-349/dec&r-1=43-19-349/us[/gameodds]

Summary
Though it appears the Bruins have an edge in every category including special teams, it’s not quite that easy. Detroit took three of four from the Bruins but please note in your NHL picks that Henrik Zetterberg scored in three of those four games and will not be playing. Indeed the Bruins will be fairly heavy favorites in NHL odds at Bet365.com or WilliamHill.com they should be worthy of a wager to get through the opening round.

NHL Picks: Bruins win series 4-2.

Whats at Stake in Current NBA Playoff Races
Anything can happen, and probably will. The playoffs are just around the corner, and if you want to bet on the NBA, you need to know what each team has at stake. We’ll iron it all out for you.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 9 inclusive:
103-80-2 ATS
25-23-1 Totals 
Five more… four more… you can do it. We’ve almost reached the end of another regular season – a very profitable one here at the ranch, thank you kindly. But it’s not over yet; we’ve still got a week left to go before the playoffs, and we’ve got intriguing races happening in both conferences. Let’s see if we can figure some of this out. Here’s a closer look at the critical playoff races in the NBA, with an extra emphasis on remaining schedules and key injuries for the teams in question.
Somebody’s Got to Win this ThingThe race most people are paying attention to is at the top of the Eastern Conference. On Wednesday, the Indiana Pacers (54-25 SU, 36-42-1 ATS) retook first place with a 104-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks – and yes, this time the Pacers covered as tiny 1.5-point road favorites. That’s because they benched all their starters. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat (53-25 SU, 36-40-2 ATS) fell back into second place with a 107-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (–5 at home). Dwyane Wade (22.0 PER) sat this one out for Miami. Doesn’t anyone want to win the Eastern Conference? 
Knickerbockers on the GroundFor just a second there, the New York Knicks (33-45 SU, 34-44 ATS) were in eighth place in the East. Then Carmelo Anthony (24.4 PER) hurt his shoulder, and the Knicks lost back-to-back games SU and ATS to the Washington Wizards (+5 away) and the Heat (–6.5 at home). That left the window open for the Atlanta Hawks (35-43 SU, 34-43-1 ATS) to retake eighth place; they’ve won three of their last four games, including Wednesday’s 105-97 victory over the Boston Celtics (+7 away). There is hope for New York, though; Hawks center Pero Antic (11.9 PER) missed the Celtics game with a sore ankle and might be day-to-day down the stretch.
Compare live NBA Championship Betting Lines
Atlantic ToastThe tightest battle in the Eastern Conference is for something that doesn’t even really exist. The Toronto Raptors (46-32 SU, 45-31-2 ATS) figure to win the Atlantic Division, but they have the same record as the fourth-place team in the conference, the Chicago Bulls (46-32 SU, 40-37-1 ATS). If the Bulls finish with the better record, they’ll grab the No. 3 seed despite finishing way behind Indiana in the Central Division. Toronto has the easier path to the playoffs, facing the Knicks twice, plus the tanking Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks. Chicago gets the Knicks, the Pistons, the Orlando Magic and the pesky Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats (40-38 SU, 46-29-3 ATS), by the way, are also in dead heat with the Wizards (40-38 SU, 39-38-1 ATS) for the No. 6 seed and the right not to face Indiana or Miami in the first round.
Memphis BluesThat leaves the most compelling race of the final week of the regular season. There are four teams fighting over the last three playoff spots in the West – you can scratch the Portland Trail Blazers (51-28 SU, 42-37 ATS) off the list after they clinched a postseason berth with Wednesday’s 100-99 win over the Sacramento Kings (+13.5 away). That leaves the No. 6 Golden State Warriors (48-29 SU, 37-37-3 ATS), the No. 7 Dallas Mavericks (48-31 SU, 43-36 ATS), the No. 8 Phoenix Suns (47-31 SU, 50-27-1 ATS) and the No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies (46-32 SU, 34-42-2 ATS) all pounding at the door trying to get in. Conveniently enough, the Suns, Mavericks and Grizzlies will play each other this week, while Golden State’s remaining five games are against non-playoff bound teams.

Whats at Stake in Current NBA Playoff Races

Anything can happen, and probably will. The playoffs are just around the corner, and if you want to bet on the NBA, you need to know what each team has at stake. We’ll iron it all out for you.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 9 inclusive:

103-80-2 ATS

25-23-1 Totals 

Five more… four more… you can do it. We’ve almost reached the end of another regular season – a very profitable one here at the ranch, thank you kindly. But it’s not over yet; we’ve still got a week left to go before the playoffs, and we’ve got intriguing races happening in both conferences. Let’s see if we can figure some of this out. Here’s a closer look at the critical playoff races in the NBA, with an extra emphasis on remaining schedules and key injuries for the teams in question.


Somebody’s Got to Win this Thing
The race most people are paying attention to is at the top of the Eastern Conference. On Wednesday, the Indiana Pacers (54-25 SU, 36-42-1 ATS) retook first place with a 104-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks – and yes, this time the Pacers covered as tiny 1.5-point road favorites. That’s because they benched all their starters. Meanwhile, the Miami Heat (53-25 SU, 36-40-2 ATS) fell back into second place with a 107-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies (–5 at home). Dwyane Wade (22.0 PER) sat this one out for Miami. Doesn’t anyone want to win the Eastern Conference? 


Knickerbockers on the Ground
For just a second there, the New York Knicks (33-45 SU, 34-44 ATS) were in eighth place in the East. Then Carmelo Anthony (24.4 PER) hurt his shoulder, and the Knicks lost back-to-back games SU and ATS to the Washington Wizards (+5 away) and the Heat (–6.5 at home). That left the window open for the Atlanta Hawks (35-43 SU, 34-43-1 ATS) to retake eighth place; they’ve won three of their last four games, including Wednesday’s 105-97 victory over the Boston Celtics (+7 away). There is hope for New York, though; Hawks center Pero Antic (11.9 PER) missed the Celtics game with a sore ankle and might be day-to-day down the stretch.

Compare live NBA Championship Betting Lines

Atlantic Toast
The tightest battle in the Eastern Conference is for something that doesn’t even really exist. The Toronto Raptors (46-32 SU, 45-31-2 ATS) figure to win the Atlantic Division, but they have the same record as the fourth-place team in the conference, the Chicago Bulls (46-32 SU, 40-37-1 ATS). If the Bulls finish with the better record, they’ll grab the No. 3 seed despite finishing way behind Indiana in the Central Division. Toronto has the easier path to the playoffs, facing the Knicks twice, plus the tanking Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks. Chicago gets the Knicks, the Pistons, the Orlando Magic and the pesky Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats (40-38 SU, 46-29-3 ATS), by the way, are also in dead heat with the Wizards (40-38 SU, 39-38-1 ATS) for the No. 6 seed and the right not to face Indiana or Miami in the first round.


Memphis Blues
That leaves the most compelling race of the final week of the regular season. There are four teams fighting over the last three playoff spots in the West – you can scratch the Portland Trail Blazers (51-28 SU, 42-37 ATS) off the list after they clinched a postseason berth with Wednesday’s 100-99 win over the Sacramento Kings (+13.5 away). That leaves the No. 6 Golden State Warriors (48-29 SU, 37-37-3 ATS), the No. 7 Dallas Mavericks (48-31 SU, 43-36 ATS), the No. 8 Phoenix Suns (47-31 SU, 50-27-1 ATS) and the No. 9 Memphis Grizzlies (46-32 SU, 34-42-2 ATS) all pounding at the door trying to get in. Conveniently enough, the Suns, Mavericks and Grizzlies will play each other this week, while Golden State’s remaining five games are against non-playoff bound teams.

Where Will Final Four Betting Odds Settle?
This year’s NCAA Tournament Final Four has been set, and sports bettors will be busy tracking the odds movement for the next few days as we near tip off. Where do we expect the betting lines to settle come game time?
Let’s take a closer look at what sports bettors should expect to see on the SBR Odds page over the next six days.
Compare the NCAA Tournament Betting Futures as we enter the Final Four
The Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats have been established as Final Four favorites, but college basketball handicappers should expect movement in the marketplace heading into Saturday.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Wisconsin BadgersThe Wildcats opened up as two-point favorites over the Badgers—a number that’s not very surprising given their recent performances.
Kentucky is coming off a 75-72 victory over the Michigan Wolverines as 2.5-point favorites in the Elite 8, which happens to be a very important result in constructing the betting odds for its upcoming matchup.
The Wolverines were Big Ten Conference regular season champions—a league that included the Badgers. 
I’m expecting this number to close at three due to the Wildcats receiving a ton of national press all year, with professionals supporting the Badgers due to knocking off three teams that received No. 1 seeds in this event over the course of the year. 
Opening Line:  Kentucky -2
Current Line:  Kentucky -2    
Expected Closing Line:  Kentucky -3
Connecticut Huskies vs. Florida Gators
The Gators opened up as seven-point favorites over the Huskies, but that number has fallen to as low as six on the SBR Odds page Monday morning.
Florida will also be laying points against either Kentucky or Wisconsin if it manages to land in the championship game in seven days.
I wouldn’t be shocked if a majority of the betting public supports the underdog in this spot, especially since it just watched Connecticut knock off powerhouse Michigan State—a team that received a huge amount of action to win it all before the 2014 NCAA Tournament started. 
In my opinion, the Huskies may be overvalued at this point due to playing their previous two games at Madison Square Garden—a venue in close proximity to their fan base.
Opening Line:  Florida -7 (+101)
Current Line:  Florida -6
Expecting Closing Line:  Florida -7

Where Will Final Four Betting Odds Settle?

This year’s NCAA Tournament Final Four has been set, and sports bettors will be busy tracking the odds movement for the next few days as we near tip off. Where do we expect the betting lines to settle come game time?

Let’s take a closer look at what sports bettors should expect to see on the SBR Odds page over the next six days.

Compare the NCAA Tournament Betting Futures as we enter the Final Four

The Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats have been established as Final Four favorites, but college basketball handicappers should expect movement in the marketplace heading into Saturday.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Wisconsin Badgers
The Wildcats opened up as two-point favorites over the Badgers—a number that’s not very surprising given their recent performances.

Kentucky is coming off a 75-72 victory over the Michigan Wolverines as 2.5-point favorites in the Elite 8, which happens to be a very important result in constructing the betting odds for its upcoming matchup.

The Wolverines were Big Ten Conference regular season champions—a league that included the Badgers. 

I’m expecting this number to close at three due to the Wildcats receiving a ton of national press all year, with professionals supporting the Badgers due to knocking off three teams that received No. 1 seeds in this event over the course of the year. 

Opening Line:  Kentucky -2

Current Line:  Kentucky -2    

Expected Closing Line:  Kentucky -3

Connecticut Huskies vs. Florida Gators

The Gators opened up as seven-point favorites over the Huskies, but that number has fallen to as low as six on the SBR Odds page Monday morning.

Florida will also be laying points against either Kentucky or Wisconsin if it manages to land in the championship game in seven days.

I wouldn’t be shocked if a majority of the betting public supports the underdog in this spot, especially since it just watched Connecticut knock off powerhouse Michigan State—a team that received a huge amount of action to win it all before the 2014 NCAA Tournament started. 

In my opinion, the Huskies may be overvalued at this point due to playing their previous two games at Madison Square Garden—a venue in close proximity to their fan base.

Opening Line:  Florida -7 (+101)

Current Line:  Florida -6

Expecting Closing Line:  Florida -7

NBA Future Odds Shift as Playoffs Near
No matter how much flack LeBron James gets thrown at him, the Miami Heat are still the favorites on the NBA futures market to win the Eastern Conference and take down their third straight championship.
Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 30 inclusive:
92-77-2 ATS
25-23-1 Totals 
Location, location, location. By just about any measure, it’s hard to say that the Miami Heat are the best team in basketball this year. But the two-time and defending champions are still the favorites to win yet another title. As we go to press, the Heat are available on Bovada’s NBA futures market at 10-13 to win the Eastern Conference and 9-4 to complete their three-peat.
That’s what playing in the East will do for you. Miami’s only serious competition, at least in the eyes of the basketball betting market, is the Indiana Pacers at 6-5 to win the conference and 15-4 to win their first NBA championship – they did win the ABA title three times in the early ‘70s, back when Mel Daniels was doing his thing. But is that all the East really has to offer? And shouldn’t the top teams from the West be getting shorter odds?
Shop Around for 2013-14 NBA Championship Betting Futures
Maple FlavorThe narrative about the awful East was established a long, long time ago, and that reputation only worsened at the start of the 2013-14 regular season, when everyone other than Miami and Indiana had a losing record. But we’ve seen a resurgence from the second-tier (all right, third-tier) Eastern contenders. The biggest leap was made by the Toronto Raptors, who are in first place in the Atlantic Division and have been one of the best teams in the league since the Rudy Gay trade. Despite that, Toronto is way down the list at 40-1 to win the East and 75-1 to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy north of the border.
The Brooklyn Nets have also made huge strides after starting the season 5-14 SU and 6-13 ATS. They’ve been winning consistently down the stretch even without Kevin Garnett (13.3 PER), who’s been given an extended layoff to rest his bad back before the playoffs start. Garnett is expected to return anytime now, and yet Brooklyn, considered an elite Eastern threat during the preseason, is available at 18-1 in the East and 40-1 for the championship.
Then you’ve got those ornery Chicago Bulls at 25-1 to take down the Eastern title and 50-1 to finally win the whole shooting match for the first time since Michael Jordan’s second retirement. The Bulls could have folded up like a card table after Derrick Rose was injured yet again, but they’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and it looks like they’ll avoid having to face Indiana or Miami in the first round.

The B-TeamYou won’t see the same polarity in the NBA betting odds for the Western contenders. There are so many quality teams that just getting to the second round will be a chore for anyone who makes the playoffs. That’s the main reason why the elite teams in the West have longer championship odds than the Heat.
The most likely matchup in the Western finals looks like the San Antonio Spurs versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re tied at 2-1 to win the conference, although the Spurs are 4-1 to claim a fifth championship for Tim Duncan (21.7 PER), while the Thunder are 9-2 to capture their first title since the franchise abandoned Seattle. 
That leaves the Los Angeles Clippers as compelling third favorites in the West at 4-1, and arguably the best value among the first-tier title contenders at 15-2. While the Thunder are top-heavy with talent, and the Spurs are experienced and deep, the Clippers might have the right balance of MVP stars and veteran scrubs to get the job done in June. The Clippers?! We really must be living in the future.

NBA Future Odds Shift as Playoffs Near

No matter how much flack LeBron James gets thrown at him, the Miami Heat are still the favorites on the NBA futures market to win the Eastern Conference and take down their third straight championship.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 30 inclusive:

92-77-2 ATS

25-23-1 Totals 

Location, location, location. By just about any measure, it’s hard to say that the Miami Heat are the best team in basketball this year. But the two-time and defending champions are still the favorites to win yet another title. As we go to press, the Heat are available on Bovada’s NBA futures market at 10-13 to win the Eastern Conference and 9-4 to complete their three-peat.

That’s what playing in the East will do for you. Miami’s only serious competition, at least in the eyes of the basketball betting market, is the Indiana Pacers at 6-5 to win the conference and 15-4 to win their first NBA championship – they did win the ABA title three times in the early ‘70s, back when Mel Daniels was doing his thing. But is that all the East really has to offer? And shouldn’t the top teams from the West be getting shorter odds?

Shop Around for 2013-14 NBA Championship Betting Futures

Maple Flavor
The narrative about the awful East was established a long, long time ago, and that reputation only worsened at the start of the 2013-14 regular season, when everyone other than Miami and Indiana had a losing record. But we’ve seen a resurgence from the second-tier (all right, third-tier) Eastern contenders. The biggest leap was made by the Toronto Raptors, who are in first place in the Atlantic Division and have been one of the best teams in the league since the Rudy Gay trade. Despite that, Toronto is way down the list at 40-1 to win the East and 75-1 to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy north of the border.

The Brooklyn Nets have also made huge strides after starting the season 5-14 SU and 6-13 ATS. They’ve been winning consistently down the stretch even without Kevin Garnett (13.3 PER), who’s been given an extended layoff to rest his bad back before the playoffs start. Garnett is expected to return anytime now, and yet Brooklyn, considered an elite Eastern threat during the preseason, is available at 18-1 in the East and 40-1 for the championship.

Then you’ve got those ornery Chicago Bulls at 25-1 to take down the Eastern title and 50-1 to finally win the whole shooting match for the first time since Michael Jordan’s second retirement. The Bulls could have folded up like a card table after Derrick Rose was injured yet again, but they’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and it looks like they’ll avoid having to face Indiana or Miami in the first round.

The B-Team
You won’t see the same polarity in the NBA betting odds for the Western contenders. There are so many quality teams that just getting to the second round will be a chore for anyone who makes the playoffs. That’s the main reason why the elite teams in the West have longer championship odds than the Heat.

The most likely matchup in the Western finals looks like the San Antonio Spurs versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re tied at 2-1 to win the conference, although the Spurs are 4-1 to claim a fifth championship for Tim Duncan (21.7 PER), while the Thunder are 9-2 to capture their first title since the franchise abandoned Seattle. 

That leaves the Los Angeles Clippers as compelling third favorites in the West at 4-1, and arguably the best value among the first-tier title contenders at 15-2. While the Thunder are top-heavy with talent, and the Spurs are experienced and deep, the Clippers might have the right balance of MVP stars and veteran scrubs to get the job done in June. The Clippers?! We really must be living in the future.

Soccer Picks: Premier League Betting Futures
The Premier League season is winding down, entering the business end with less than a dozen matches (or so) left. Who will win the title? Be relegated? Just some of the many questions begging an answer, so join us as we look at the current futures betting odds in order to deliver our predictions.


To Finish Top 4
Predictably, current league leaders Chelsea have this market cornered at whopping -50000 futures betting odds; it would take something utterly unfathomable to happen for the Blues to fall out of the top four this season. Manchester City, currently in fourth place with 57 points but two games in hand, are also favoured heavily at -20000 for a top four finish. Meanwhile, the tandem of Liverpool and Arsenal, level on 59 points and both with a game in hand, are tipped at -1200 and -700 respectively to finish in this coveted bracket. However, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United (a game in hand) and Everton (two games in hand) are all in play and, arguably, they present the best soccer betting value to crash the party. Bet365 match Spurs at +600, Man U at +800 and Everton at +2000.
To Finish Top 6
Even better value can be found for wagers on a Top 6 Finish where the race is much tighter, the futures betting odds much closer. In the hunt are defending champions Man U at -300, a soccer pick few would have entertained halfway into the season after Man U’s abysmal start to the season, a new nadir for Man U that stood in stark contrast to their form in Sir Fergusson’s heyday at the helm. Other standout options in this category include Everton at -120 and Tottenham Hotspur at -450. The long shots in this category – but not entirely unthinkable – are Southampton at +5000 and Newcastle United (with a game in hand) at +6600. Premier League form guide ahead of Week 30 Premier League betting reveals Southampton are in seventh place while Newcastle United are in twelfth place on form right now. So if either one of these long shots were to muscle their way into the top six, the more likely choice would have to be Southampton  if they continue or improve on their current form.
To Be Relegated
Fulham at -700 futures betting odds are an almost sure soccer pick to be relegated by season end. Not only are the Lilywhites wilting in 20th place in the Premier League table but they are also at the bottom of the form guide ahead of Week 30. So off form and off colour are they, it would take a complete turnaround for them to climb out of the quagmire.
Cardiff City and Crystal Palace are both favoured by sportsbooks to fall out of top-flight football at -225 and +150 futures odds, respectively. But current form suggests that Norwich City or West Bromwich Albion are better soccer picks for demotion at +225 and +188 respectively.
Others in the running as well include West Ham United, Aston Villa and Stoke City (from 10-12th place in the table) because belying their comfortable position in the table is a six-point drop into the relegation zone. The Hammers are fourth in the form guide and, as such, arguably, the least likely of that triplet to dropout at +2000. Stoke City with one of the worst road records on the season and Aston Villa floundering both home and away are better options, although both are tipped as outside bets here at +2500.  Sunderland sat in 19th place ahead of Week 30 but with three games in hand are listed at +200 while Hull City and Swansea City (in 13th and 14th) are matched at +1400 and +1600 futures betting odds or thereabouts depending on your sportsbook of choice.
To Win Title
By all accounts, it’s Chelsea’s title to win or lose now that they are sat atop the standings with a seven-point edge over nearest rivals Liverpool and Arsenal ahead of week 30 Premier League betting. Sportsbooks are unanimously listing Chelsea as the firm favourites; Bet365 matches Chelsea at -125 futures betting odds while William Hill matches Chelsea at -120 futures betting odds.
The biggest threat to Chelsea’s title ambitions this season remains Manchester City according to odds makers who list the Citizens at around the +175 point. But how accurate that assessment is remains debatable. Given Man City’s recent disappointments in both FA Cup and Champions League, which must have taken the wind out of their sails, one wonders whether the injustice of it all won’t prove too much: one week they’re in the running for the quadruple. The next it’s just down to the double and a so-so shot at the second prize (they already have the League Cup) despite the three games in hand.
Arsenal, who led the league for the first half of the season almost exclusively, have fallen to the wayside and are now listed at a distant +2000 – a price tag underscored by a rather tough schedule down the stretch with dates against Tottenham, Chelsea, Man City, Everton all looming on the imminent horizon. Liverpool, who led the league for a brief instant, are looked upon more favourably with +550 futures betting odds to win the league title.
Share your thoughts on the Premier League Betting Futures
The Long and Short of it:
Theoretically, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Everton are still in play for the title but it would take a lot going right for either team to win the title, not to mention everything going wrong for the current top four of course. Of this triplet, Man U can be matched at +35000, the Spurs at +40000 and Everton at +80000. If these price tags alone don’t reveal how farfetched a wager on either is, nothing will regrettably.
Soccer Free Picks: Chelsea to win title at -120; Norwich City to be relegated at +225 and Everton to finish Top 6 at -120.

Soccer Picks: Premier League Betting Futures

The Premier League season is winding down, entering the business end with less than a dozen matches (or so) left. Who will win the title? Be relegated? Just some of the many questions begging an answer, so join us as we look at the current futures betting odds in order to deliver our predictions.

To Finish Top 4

Predictably, current league leaders Chelsea have this market cornered at whopping -50000 futures betting odds; it would take something utterly unfathomable to happen for the Blues to fall out of the top four this season. Manchester City, currently in fourth place with 57 points but two games in hand, are also favoured heavily at -20000 for a top four finish. Meanwhile, the tandem of Liverpool and Arsenal, level on 59 points and both with a game in hand, are tipped at -1200 and -700 respectively to finish in this coveted bracket. However, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United (a game in hand) and Everton (two games in hand) are all in play and, arguably, they present the best soccer betting value to crash the party. Bet365 match Spurs at +600, Man U at +800 and Everton at +2000.

To Finish Top 6

Even better value can be found for wagers on a Top 6 Finish where the race is much tighter, the futures betting odds much closer. In the hunt are defending champions Man U at -300, a soccer pick few would have entertained halfway into the season after Man U’s abysmal start to the season, a new nadir for Man U that stood in stark contrast to their form in Sir Fergusson’s heyday at the helm. Other standout options in this category include Everton at -120 and Tottenham Hotspur at -450. The long shots in this category – but not entirely unthinkable – are Southampton at +5000 and Newcastle United (with a game in hand) at +6600. Premier League form guide ahead of Week 30 Premier League betting reveals Southampton are in seventh place while Newcastle United are in twelfth place on form right now. So if either one of these long shots were to muscle their way into the top six, the more likely choice would have to be Southampton  if they continue or improve on their current form.

To Be Relegated

Fulham at -700 futures betting odds are an almost sure soccer pick to be relegated by season end. Not only are the Lilywhites wilting in 20th place in the Premier League table but they are also at the bottom of the form guide ahead of Week 30. So off form and off colour are they, it would take a complete turnaround for them to climb out of the quagmire.

Cardiff City and Crystal Palace are both favoured by sportsbooks to fall out of top-flight football at -225 and +150 futures odds, respectively. But current form suggests that Norwich City or West Bromwich Albion are better soccer picks for demotion at +225 and +188 respectively.

Others in the running as well include West Ham United, Aston Villa and Stoke City (from 10-12th place in the table) because belying their comfortable position in the table is a six-point drop into the relegation zone. The Hammers are fourth in the form guide and, as such, arguably, the least likely of that triplet to dropout at +2000. Stoke City with one of the worst road records on the season and Aston Villa floundering both home and away are better options, although both are tipped as outside bets here at +2500.  Sunderland sat in 19th place ahead of Week 30 but with three games in hand are listed at +200 while Hull City and Swansea City (in 13th and 14th) are matched at +1400 and +1600 futures betting odds or thereabouts depending on your sportsbook of choice.

To Win Title

By all accounts, it’s Chelsea’s title to win or lose now that they are sat atop the standings with a seven-point edge over nearest rivals Liverpool and Arsenal ahead of week 30 Premier League betting. Sportsbooks are unanimously listing Chelsea as the firm favourites; Bet365 matches Chelsea at -125 futures betting odds while William Hill matches Chelsea at -120 futures betting odds.

The biggest threat to Chelsea’s title ambitions this season remains Manchester City according to odds makers who list the Citizens at around the +175 point. But how accurate that assessment is remains debatable. Given Man City’s recent disappointments in both FA Cup and Champions League, which must have taken the wind out of their sails, one wonders whether the injustice of it all won’t prove too much: one week they’re in the running for the quadruple. The next it’s just down to the double and a so-so shot at the second prize (they already have the League Cup) despite the three games in hand.

Arsenal, who led the league for the first half of the season almost exclusively, have fallen to the wayside and are now listed at a distant +2000 – a price tag underscored by a rather tough schedule down the stretch with dates against Tottenham, Chelsea, Man City, Everton all looming on the imminent horizon. Liverpool, who led the league for a brief instant, are looked upon more favourably with +550 futures betting odds to win the league title.

Share your thoughts on the Premier League Betting Futures

The Long and Short of it:

Theoretically, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Everton are still in play for the title but it would take a lot going right for either team to win the title, not to mention everything going wrong for the current top four of course. Of this triplet, Man U can be matched at +35000, the Spurs at +40000 and Everton at +80000. If these price tags alone don’t reveal how farfetched a wager on either is, nothing will regrettably.

Soccer Free Picks: Chelsea to win title at -120; Norwich City to be relegated at +225 and Everton to finish Top 6 at -120.

128 Man Bracket Contest

Jackie Blue breaks down our IIFoldie’s Bracket Contest!

Don’t forget to register either!

NCAA Basketball Picks: ACC Conference Tournament Odds

NCAA Basketball odds are now on offer for the overall winner of this year’s ACC Conference Championship, but do we think that the favored Duke Blue Devils hold the best value for sports bettors?

The ACC conference tournament is an interesting one from a handicapping perspective, as there is no overwhelming favorite, and features top choices that were overvalued to close out the regular season.

The Duke Blue Devils are the favorite at +150, but they went just 2-4-1 ATS over their last 7 games, and have proven to be quite beatable by any ACC team on any given night. The second choice is Virginia at +350, and they have been a solid and consistent team, as well as a good bet, all season long.

Check out the lastest NCAA Tournament Betting Futures

Then Syracuse, the former top-ranked team in the nation, is priced at +475, but they will have to turn it around after a precipitous fall at the end of the year. Syracuse went 1-5-1 ATS over their last 7 games, and that span included 4 straight-up losses.

The fourth choice is North Carolina at NCAA Basketball odds of +650, a team that radically improved in the second half of the season and came on very strong both ATS and SU.

So purely based on momentum and recent form, the best value out of the top 4 choices appears to be North Carolina, with Syracuse probably having the worst value. Despite being undefeated and headed for a #1 NCAA tournament seed late in the regular season, an ACC tournament win by Syracuse would now be considered a bit of a surprise.

There could be line value in individual games in the ACC tournament, and I have some potential matchups personally circled. If Pitt advances to the quarterfinals, I’ll be looking to fade them against North Carolina. Pitt has been a good fade for a while now, and I think a motivated UNC should have a decent edge on the spread against them.

And I might be looking to bet on Virginia against the winner of Maryland/Florida St in the quarterfinals. Virginia, again, has been very reliable this season, and generally good against the spread, even as a decent-sized favorite.

Get in the action and join our NCAA Basketball Bracket Contest

Western Conference Betting Trends Heading Into the Playoffs

Kevin Durant might be the nicest guy in the NBA. But it would be even nicer if he could help the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the basketball lines once in a while.

Eastern Conference Betting Trends Heading Into the Playoffs

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 12 inclusive:

80-63-1 ATS

21-20 Totals

Are people really ready for this? Kevin Durant has already been anointed the next MVP of the NBA, at least in the hearts and minds of the writers who will be casting their votes once the regular season ends. Now Durant wants to start another movement: the “Strong and Kind” movement. He launched this initiative on Wednesday, partnering with a health food company to promote kindness and helping others.

Athletes have been promoting social causes since, well, forever, but there’s something special about this one. It comes at a time when kindness is in particularly short supply. If Durant truly wants to get one million people to sign up on his website, maybe he should consider starting the “Sweep the Leg” movement. Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams could be his lieutenants.

2013-14 NBA Championship Betting Futures

Oklahoma City Thunder

Maybe we’ve been a little harsh about Perkins (6.1 PER) and his importance to the Thunder (47-17 SU, 35-28-1 ATS). They’re 4-4 SU and 3-4-1 ATS in eight games since Perkins strained his left groin. While people get all up in arms over Russell Westbrook (23.5 PER) and whether he’s helping or harming the Thunder, perhaps we’re overlooking the value of defense and leadership. There isn’t much depth behind Perkins and Adams (10.9 PER) when it comes to big guys who will elbow you in the face at the drop of a hat.

But at least the Thunder (–4.5 at home) got paid in Wednesday’s 106-98 win over the Houston Rockets. For once, Caron Butler (6.6 PER in OKC) wasn’t the worst player on the floor, finishing at plus-5 in 29 minutes off the bench while hitting three of his seven trey attempts. Oh, and Durant scored 42 points. Ho hum.

Minnesota Timberwolves

In theory, the Timberwolves (32-31 SU and ATS) can still make the playoffs. They’re 5.5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks for eighth place in the West, staying within shouting distance by winning eight of their last 11 games at 6-5 ATS. But for some reason, all anyone wants to talk about is Kevin Love (28.1 PER), whether or not he’s overrated (ridiculous), and whether or not he could help out the Los Angeles Lakers (duh).

Maybe people will talk up the Wolves a little more if they can gain some ground in that playoff race. Kevin Martin (16.8 PER) is playing very well after missing six games with a thumb injury. Nikola Pekovic (20.9 PER) is also in full General Zod Mode after sitting out 12 games with bursitis in his right ankle. As long as Minnesota’s Big Three are all healthy, there’s reason for hope.

Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers (42-23 SU, 34-31 ATS) got some bad news Wednesday night when LaMarcus Aldridge (21.7 PER) took a nasty fall early in the second half of a 103-90 loss to the San Antonio Spurs (–7.5 at home). Aldridge was too hurt to shoot his free throws and had to leave the game. Portland has lost all four games of their Western road swing at 1-3 ATS, but losing their best player could be enough to knock the Blazers right out of the playoffs. They’re in fifth place as we go to press, five games ahead of the No. 10 Phoenix Suns.

True, Portland won four of the five games that Aldridge missed last month with a strained groin. But those wins were against overmatched opponents – the lone defeat was also at the hands of the Spurs. Stay tuned to the injury wires for updates on Aldridge’s condition; he needed a wheelchair to get around after Wednesday’s game, so fingers crossed.