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A study break from the NCAA tournament

March 26, 2019 12:10 AM

Arguing about whether Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks or James Harden of the Houston Rockets is this season’s Most Valuable Player in the NBA may be fun for fans or pundits. It can be a headache for proposition bettors at stores offering MVP voting. You have to bet on how you believe a panel of sportswriters and sportscasters will define the murky word “valuable.”

At least, when betting point spreads, you can look at the scoreboard.

 

The scoreboard will matter tonight when Houston visits Milwaukee (TNT, 8 p.m. ET). That showcase showdown matters to both teams. And it will provide a great opportunity for bettors to evaluate the playoff readiness of both personnel rotations. Though, it’s a mathematical longshot at the moment, this could conceivably be a preview of this summer’s championship round.

  • At stake for Milwaukee: The Bucks currently own the best record in the NBA, which would mean No. 1 seed and home-court perks in the Eastern brackets and NBA finals. Those aren’t clinched with eight games to go in the regular season. Six of Milwaukee’s last eight games are against playoff contenders. Milwaukee does have an ace in the hole though, a tie-breaker edge over Toronto in the East.
  • At stake for Houston: The Rockets are currently neck-and-neck with the Portland Trailblazers for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the West. Handicappers will have to watch the upper half of the West very closely. If Golden State continues to play like top seed doesn’t matter, it might be better to finish fourth than third. Both the Rockets and Blazers would prefer to be in Denver’s half of the Western bracket to push back a playoff series with Golden State as long as possible. 

Milwaukee isn’t just best in the league straight up right now. It also has the best winning percentage against the spread at just over 60 percent. Betting markets have underestimated the talent and drive of this team all season. “Young and hungry” isn’t interested in pacing itself for the playoffs. The Bucks soared past their “Regular Season Win Total” of 48.5 wins back on March 7 with a 117-98 blowout of Indiana.

 

Houston has been battling injuries all season while pacing itself. The Rockets would have to cover every remaining game just to get close to break-even after factoring in the standard 10 percent vigorish. Houston is already a loser against its projected win total of 56.5. Winning out wouldn’t even get there. (Note that Golden State, Boston, the Lakers, New Orleans, Washington, Cleveland, Phoenix, and New York are also locked in as “win total” losers with two weeks left. Cashing Over bets alongside Milwaukee already are Brooklyn, Atlanta, Orlando, Portland, the Clippers, and Sacramento.)

During this NCAA tournament respite leading to the Sweet 16, it’s a good time for sports bettors to start mapping out a plan of attack for the NBA Playoffs. You’ll be seeing a lot of Antetokounmpo, Harden, and many other NBA superstars throughout the championship chase. Are you in playoff form?

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