Before the NBA season started, you know that the league and a broadcast partner were THRILLED to have Friday night’s meeting between the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers locked into a national telecast (ESPN, 10:35 p.m. ET)
LeBron James and the Lakers were going to be one of the biggest stories in the Western Conference. As far back as July 2 of last year, VSiN wrote about William Hill making the Lakers 7/2 to win the league title right after acquiring LeBron. That’s a 22% chance to win it all! The Lakers are currently about 25% just to reach the postseason…and that seems like a stretch given recent form. Nobody’s even imagining this Lakers team scaring Golden State in a best-of-seven series.
It’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks who may have established themselves as the next big things in the NBA, positioned now for a #1 seed in the fast-improving Eastern Conference. Worth noting, too, that Milwaukee outscored the league favorite Warriors 229-216 in a split of their two regular-season meetings.
Betting markets have been slow to react to both stories. The Lakers have covered less than 45% of their point spreads this season, and have suffered a slew of recent double-digit non-covers sandwiched around shocking upsets of Boston and Houston. Two or three steps back for every one step forward.
Milwaukee has a real shot to finish the long season with a 60% or better cover rate. Bucks backers have enjoyed separate cover streaks of five and six games since Christmas.
As we discussed last July, LeBron’s teams have been money burners for years. He and teammates are typically priced to play perfectly. In the best of times, there’s little reason to do that before the playoffs. This season isn’t the best of times, with chemistry lacking and James showing less inclination to carry inconsistent role players on his shoulders.
From the 2013-14 campaign through 2017-18, his teams have dropped 10.3, 8.3, 9.2, 11.3, and 21.9 betting units in regular seasons. With 20 games remaining in 2018-19 after tonight, the Lakers will need to close on an 80% tear just to break even. While overpriced!
It will be interesting to monitor game-day betting patterns in Bucks/Lakers. Recent “eye tests” and market performances suggest Milwaukee controls its own destiny in a game that both teams should be prioritizing to the utmost. Neither is on night two of a back-to-back after playing in California Wednesday. Wins are precious in the playoff chase.
Will oddsmakers and the most important betting influences ever get these teams right?
And in terms of NBA history, will Friday night’s feature spotlight a “passing of the torch” from the dominant force of the prior generation to that of the next generation? Bettors should enjoy the Greek Freak’s betting “affordability” while they can. It won’t be long before he and his teammates are priced to play perfectly every game.