Rockets' "Meaningless" Finale Wasn't Meaningless for Gamblers

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I've said many times, we need a special corner of the sports media world for gamblers. A special channel, a special talk radio show, a special Tweetdeck. All of it.

People who don't wager generally don't care about the same nuances of a sporting event as people that do. That much was obvious on the final night of the NBA regular season, as the Rockets trotted a mish mash lineup of a few regular starters, a couple reserves, and a handful of guys who played more games in Rio Grande than Houston this season as they took on the New Orleans Pelicans in the finale.

Radio hosts and columnists called the game "meaningless." These people obviously didn't have a sawbuck or two on "ROCKETS OVER 54.5 WINS."

And when it was all said and done, those who did were crying into their Troy Daniels jerseys, as the Rockets fell to the Pelicans to finish the regular season at 54-28. How do you do it, Vegas?

As we get ready for the playoffs, in the spirit of accountability, let's make one trip back through the archives and see if I did any better at helping all of you with NBA season win totals than I did at "helping" you with football picks. (My football picks this year had the hit rate of Michael Scott when he was "Date Mike" on The Office.

Here were my top picks along with my comments:

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS UNDER 16.5 God bless Sam Hinkie, Daryl Morey disciple, who is tasked with having to revive this dead, cold corpse of a franchise, still bullet riddled from trading for Andrew Bynum last season. Fortunately for Hinkie, ownership in Philly is less concerned about winning night to night than Les Alexander was here. Hinkie will be allowed to tank and tank royally this season in an effort to land Andrew Wiggins in next June's draft. If landing a franchise player were like, say, a trigonometry test, Hinkie is at least being allowed to use a calculator. In Houston, Morey had to figure all the shit out in his head.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS OVER 40.5 Since last season's seventh and eighth seeded teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston and Philly) are virtual locks to nail down high lottery picks, they have to be replaced by someone, right? (Unfortunately, that answer is "yes.") The most likely candidates, in alphabetical order:

1. Cleveland (39.5): Betting on them to go over the total is to bet on Andrew Bynum's health, and...well, didn't we just get done talking about Philadelphia? Yeah, I thought so.

2. Detroit (40.5): Just a really weird team -- Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings...it feels like a fantasy team for a guy who showed up like an hour late for the draft so you let him take the highest four guys on the board at that time to make up for it.

3. Milwaukee (29.5): They're going the other way.

4. Toronto (37.5): They could either be in the mix, or they could be dumping Demar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline. Too risky.

5. Which brings us to...the WIZ! Nobody beats the WIZ! Well, actually, a lot of people do, but as long as they only do it 41 times, we win this bet, kids! And I think with a full season of John Wall and Bradley Beal together, they're ready to become a playoff team. The pickup of Marcin Gortat last week will help, too.

DENVER NUGGETS UNDER 45 In the end, the whole league's record is .500. Someone has to win and someone has to lose every game. It's a zero sum game, and if you believe that the Rockets will be improved (which I do) and that the Warriors will win more games than last regular season (which I also do), then it has to come at someone's expense in the upper echelon, and that team is Denver. Now, some of that is baked into their number already at an "8 seed waiting to happen" total of 45. Still, this team has had a "pending collapse" level of doom swirling around it from about the time Steph Curry turned it into his bitch in the playoffs last season. And now in the off-season they lose Andre Iguodala, have Danilo Gallinari rehabbing an ACL injury, and break in a first-time head coach in Brian Shaw, who now has to forfeit his long held title of "most touted assistant coach to get passed over for jobs every season."

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS UNDER 40.5 So if Denver falls out of the playoff race in the West, they have to be backfilled by somebody, right? Well, yes, I suppose. So that somebody will be the newly named New Orleans Pelicans, right? Well, wrong. And it has nothing to do with the new nickname. As I've said many times before, pelicans are underrated badasses in the animal kingdom. Just watch this pelican go to work offensively and eat up this pigeon:

And that sick offensive game is kind of a metaphor for the basketball Pelicans, who are a pretty stout bunch offensively (Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson), but, aside from Anthony Davis, play no real defense. In other words, this team can go around eating all the pigeons it wants, but as soon as they come up against creatures who can punch back (and their division is full of them), then they're really just fat, feathered bullies who can't fly or defend themselves.

HOUSTON ROCKETS OVER 55 YES, your Houston Rockets! When you look at taking "OVER" on teams that are forecast in that 55-win-and-above range, the first thing I look for is effort, and I think these Rockets will give great effort virtually every night out. Second, I love the edge defensively that having Dwight Howard and Omer Asik on the roster gives them (at least until they flip Asik for a stretch four). This team has the ability to trot out a top five defensive center every minute of the game. That's huge. This team should also be a delight to watch offensively in the pick and roll. Basically, the Rockets are like a pelican but with sharp claws, cheetah-like speed and a jet pack strapped to its back.

So I went 3-2 on those picks, and on the two I lost, one went down to the very last day (Rockets) and the other one made a really good run at it, including a 26 game losing streak to get us back into the mix! Hey, those two losses were exciting at least, right?...Right?

Ok, for what it's worth, here were my remaining picks from before the season, and I bolded the ones I got correct:

Atlanta Hawks OVER 40 Boston Celtics UNDER 28 Brooklyn Nets UNDER 53 Charlotte Bobcats OVER 27 Chicago Bulls UNDER 57.5 Cleveland Cavaliers UNDER 39.5 Dallas Mavericks OVER 44.5 Detroit Pistons UNDER 40.5 Golden State Warriors OVER 51.5 Indiana Pacers OVER 55 Los Angeles Clippers UNDER 56.5 Los Angeles Lakers OVER 34.5 Memphis Grizzlies UNDER 51 Miami Heat OVER 60.5 Milwaukee Bucks UNDER 29.5 Minnesota Timberwolves UNDER 41.5 New York Knicks UNDER 49 Oklahoma City Thunder OVER 55.5 Orlando Magic OVER 23.0 Phoenix Suns UNDER 19.5 Portland Trailblazers OVER 39 Sacramento Kings UNDER 32 San Antonio Spurs OVER 55.5 Toronto Raptors OVER 37.5 Utah Jazz OVER 25

So 21-7-2 overall. Moral of the story....God, I really suck at football wagering.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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