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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, April 6, 2012 at 12:51 PM

This is a very tricky time for pro basketball handicappers, but a very rewarding time if you’re willing to do the right kind of homework while keeping the concept of “line value” foremost in your mind.

The most important thing for handicappers to remember right now is that NOBODY in the league is capable of giving a peak performance or peak effort every single night. Everyone’s too tired. Many teams don’t even have a motivation to win, as they’re hoping more losses will improve their position in the draft lottery.

That means you need to focus on:

*Betting teams who are RESTED and READY

*Fading teams who are TIRED

*Fading teams who aren’t trying to win

*Figuring out the priority games for playoff contenders in each week…then betting them in the high priority games, but fading them in the low priority games.

This is both easy and difficult. It’s easy to know who’s rested. You can just chart the schedule and see who’s not playing in a back-to-back spot. It’s harder to know for sure how coaches are prioritizing games. Some like to go all out against the toughest foes to send a message for the playoffs. Others will back off vs. tough opponents because they don’t want any injuries. They’ll save their peak performances for the first three quarters of projected blowouts.

Here are a few keys I’ve found very helpful in recent days:

*Study the gameflows and the final scores of games involving the NON-playoff teams. Some of these guys are just getting squashed right out of the gate as they wait for the season to end. Others are playing hard for 3.5 quarters before slacking off a bit just in time to lose the game straight up. A team like this will make money at +8 or +10 because they’ll still cover the spread. The blowout victims can’t even get close to the spread if they’re at +12 or +14. I can assure you I won’t be releasing any 50-unit or 100-unit plays on any team who’s not trying to win straight up. But, there are value bets on some of these also-rans that you can be exploiting.

*Study the boxscore numbers of the playoff contenders to see who’s winning the “hustle stats” every night. I’m not going to get very specific here because this particular tip will lead to a few very big plays for me between now and the end of the season. DO YOUR OWN WORK! Be sure you’re looking at rebounding, forced turnovers, and free throw totals (attacking the basket is rewarded by officials). The ideal spot to step out with a big play is when a team who CARES is fresh, rested, and likely to dominate the stats that matter most in a basketball game. These options are just sitting out there waiting for you to find them.

*Read the local media online for reports of dissension. Obviously Orlando made big news Thursday with all the talk about Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy. You then watched Orlando play poorly in a TNT loss to the New York Knicks. Howard only took two shots in the first half! You may not be aware that Philadelphia media is also reporting turmoil between the players and Doug Collins. His style wears thin after a while. I’m very interested to see what happens when Orlando and Philadelphia play each other Saturday Night. There are up to FIVE playoff contenders who may be dealing with behind-the-scenes issues over the next two weeks. Find them…fade them…and look to back top teams who ARE playing well whenever they face these teams in turmoil.

I’ve been telling you for months that Advanced Handicapping is about so much more than Power Ratings and pointspread systems. The stretch run of this particularly NBA season makes that as clear as can be. How do you put Power Ratings on teams who are trying to lose?! What do past pointspread angles mean if a team is in turmoil, or if a coach really cares about a Friday game but could care less about the next one on Sunday?

If you’d like some help navigating these difficult waters, you can purchase my top NBA plays every day right here at this website. I’ll also have daily MLB as well. My College of Advanced Handicapping will be focusing on those two sports through the Spring and Summer. My personal service will be WINNING in those two sports all Spring and Summer! Be sure to check the game day ads on the home page for big play bulletins. 

Thanks again to all of you regulars who are with us twice a week for these installments from my College of Advanced Handicapping. I’ll be back again early next week with more strategies and guidance for either basketball or baseball. I’ll be watching for major developments this weekend in both sports so I can guide you through events as they’re happening.  

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