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James' triple-double isn't enough to keep Cavs from falling behind 0-2

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

May 15, 2018 11:21 PM

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LeBron James had 42 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
© USA Today Sports Images

The Celtics sizzle (and cover again easily) to take a 2-0 series lead over the Cavaliers. Plus, Lightning strikes back in the NHL, and surprising interleague developments in Major League Baseball. Your daily home for sports betting information in this brave new post-PASPA world is VSiN City!

NBA Tuesday: Boston still a better 48-minute team than Cleveland in Eastern Finals 
Many in the betting marketplace scoffed when ESPN color commentator Jeff Van Gundy suggested Boston had the better team entering the best-of-seven Eastern Finals with Cleveland. Two games into the series, it’s hard to make the case that he was wrong. Boston has dominated the “hustle and energy” stats in particular, and is reminding the world that “defense wins championships.” 

Boston (-1) 107, Cleveland 94
2-point Pct: Cleveland 55%, Boston 49%
3-pointers: Cleveland 10/31, Boston 10/31
Free Throws: Cleveland 10/17, Boston 17/20
Rebounds: Cleveland 45, Boston 46
Turnovers: Cleveland 15, Boston 5
Pace: 93.2 (for the series, 93.4, 93.2) 

A lot of similarities to the series opener, which Boston won 108-83. No way we’d see THAT big a blowout for a second straight time. But pace was almost identical, and “energy when it mattered” certainly favored the Celtics in the extreme. You could literally see Cavaliers players stop moving their legs as the game was getting away from them in the third quarter (Cleveland led 55-48 at the half…Boston won the last two quarters 36-22 and 23-17). Boston’s 10 of 31 on treys followed up 11 of 30 on treys in the opener. You know what you’re going to get with the Celtics.

Cleveland has to be discouraged that it couldn’t compete for four quarters even though LeBron James had a 42-point triple double (12 assists and 10 rebounds), with Kevin Love adding 22 points and 15 rebounds. Everyone else shot 12 of 33 from the field (3 of 14 on treys).  

If you’ve been following the NBA, you know that Cleveland played horrific defense during the regular season. It improved in the playoffs…but was still mediocre once you adjusted for the very slow pace the team was playing at. Now, the weaknesses are being exposed over and over again. Boston attacks the softest at any given moment with little fear of turning the ball over (just 14 total giveaways through two games). 

Boston scored 108 points on 93.4 possessions in G1
Boston scored 107 points on 93.2 possessions in G2

That would be around 115 points-per-game for 100-possession outings. The Celtics aren’t suddenly going to endure a strategic lobotomy and aren’t suddenly going to become the older slower team. How is Cleveland going to win four of the next five?

The Cavs will be home favorites in Games 3-4, which obviously gives them a shot to hold serve before aiming for a required break back in Boston. Early lines Tuesday evening for Thursday’s third game were showing Cleveland -6 with a total of 205. The market still sees Cleveland as the superior neutral court team. Time is running out for that case to hold water. 

NBA Wednesday: Houston already in must-win spot after dropping home opener to Golden State
An interesting dichotomy between public sentiment (Golden State is already a lock for the trophy because it’s so much better than everyone else) and the betting markets (Golden State is an underdog for the second straight game). 

Golden State at Houston (9:05 p.m. ET. on TNT, Golden State leads series 1-0)
Game 1: Golden State (plus 1.5/225.5) 119, Houston 106
Game 2: Houston -1.5, total of 224.5

Most years, we’d be talking about how the markets are “smarter” than public sentiment. Lately, the market seems to be suffering some stubbornness against the eye test. 

*Golden State has covered its last three games by 20, 7, and 15 points
*Boston has covered its last seven wins by 12, 16, 0.5, 12, 8.5, 20.5, and 11.5 points

Houston just lost a second half to Golden State 63-50 as a home favorite, with confidence draining from their pores after every possession. Cleveland just lost a second half to Boston 59-39. Both games were market toss-ups. 

We’ll run the numbers from Game 2 in our next report. Now to hockey. 

NHL Playoffs: Tampa Bay wins “must” game Tuesday, Winnipeg-Vegas resumes Wednesday
After dropping the first two games of the Eastern Finals at home, Tampa Bay’s season was on the line in the nation’s capital. A strong bounce back saw the Lightning lead 3-0 just three-and-a-half minutes into the second period. Mostly skating out the clock from that point forward.

Tampa Bay (even $) 4, Washington 2
Shots: Tampa Bay 23, Washington 38
Power Plays: Tampa Bay 2/5, Washington 0/3

While this was a very strong result from the pre-series favorites, it’s worth noting that it was a dead heat at even strength. You’ll recall that Washington won even-strength scoring by a combined 7-1 count in the first two games. That’s now 9-3 even with this loss. If the Caps can avoid penalties, they can still advance comfortably. Better not let the Lightning break serve a second straight time when the series resumes Thursday. 

Resuming Wednesday…

Winnipeg at Vegas Golden Knights (9:05 p.m. ET on NBC Sports, series tied 1-1)
Game 1: Winnipeg (-140) 4, Vegas 2 (Shots: Winnipeg 26-21)
Game 2: Vegas (plus 130) 3, Winnipeg 1 (Shots: Winnipeg 31-28)
Game 3: Vegas -135, total of 5.5 (Over -115)

This has the makings of a fantastic series…probably the most exciting playoff series going on at the moment if the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers can’t elevate their intensity. Winnipeg and Vegas are both legitimate powers that are playing at a very high level through the post season. Both have strong home rinks, but are capable of winning important road games. 

Winnipeg is getting slightly more market respect at home. But Vegas is now a series favorite of -125 because it could have three home games left, compared to just two for the Jets. That series price would flip back toward Winnipeg if it could break serve back Wednesday (or Friday).

MLB: Big news in interleague play, as National League is off to a dominating start
The American League has won the interleague battle every season since 2003. Beginning in 2004, it’s 14 straight victories for the Americans. Things haven’t been as one-sided recently as they were several years ago…when the National League was a glorified quadruple-A. Still, in 2016, the American League beat the National League 165-135…then in 2017 in was 160-140.

Entering Tuesday night action, the 2018 record was an impressive 32-18 for the Senior Circuit! Still a long way to go to get to 300 games from just 38. But there are some very good signs that this could be the year the National League breaks through. 

*Teams entering the night with a .500 or winning record in the NL were a stunning 27-11 against the AL thus far. This suggests good NL teams will get the best of several bad AL teams for weeks to come. 

*Teams entering the night with a .500 or winning record in the AL were only 11-10 against the NL. So, the BEST teams in the American League are barely breaking even when crossing over. The best NL teams are running roughshod.

*Teams in the AL with a losing record entering Tuesday were just 7-22 in IL play. 

*Because there are several BAD teams in the American League this season. It’s going to be difficult for the league to overcome the dregs. At 10 games below .500 or worse for the season already (about a quarter of the way through) are Baltimore, Kansas City, Chicago, and Texas. Those teams have only played NINE games against the National League. They have a 1-8 record. Detroit and Tampa Bay entered the night four and five games under .500 respectively. Those two teams are 1-10 in Interleague action. As good as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros are, they can’t overcome that level of incompetence from the league’s worst. 

All that was entering Tuesday’s action, the first of two straight days with FIVE crossover games on the schedule. Weather knocked that down to three. Tuesday’s results…

*Philadelphia at Baltimore was postponed
*NY Yankees at Washington was suspended tied 3-3 in the sixth inning
*Pittsburgh (-135) beat the Chicago White Sox 7-0
*NY Mets (-145) beat Toronto 12-2
*Minnesota (-120) beat St. Louis 4-1

That’s a 2-1 night for the National League, with a combined three-game final score of 20-6! Pittsburgh moved to 9-2 vs. the American League, while CWS dropped to 1-7 vs. the National League. Why was that line just -135? For the season, the NL now stands at 34-19. 

We’re not going to recommend betting the NL blindly in IL play. You still have to handicap every game as it comes. But history has shown that the market will react slowly to major course changes. It took forever for oddsmakers and the sharpest betting influences to believe that the AL was really as dominant as 154-98 was suggesting back in 2006. That was the start of a four-year 578-430 blitz. At least be open to the possibility that the tide has turned. At the very least, struggling AL teams may offer fade value because the market didn’t anticipate they’d be this bad. 

MLB: Cubs rally in ninth inning to beat Braves 3-2
We were going to write up Yankees-Nationals separately, but weather wreaked havoc there. Let’s check in on that important Cubs/Braves series down in Atlanta. Could this be a possible playoff preview? Would be great if Atlanta and a few other pleasant surprises sustained strong early runs deep into the season. 

Chicago Cubs (-120) 3, Atlanta 2
Total Bases Plus Walks: Chicago 14, Atlanta 14
Starting Pitchers: Darvish 4 IP, 1 ER, Foltynewicz 5 IP, 0 ER
Bullpen: Chicago 5 IP, 1 ER, Atlanta 4 IP, 2 ER

Both of Atlanta’s runs came on solo homers. But the Braves had two runners thrown out at home plate. Plus, Atlanta carried a 2-1 lead into the top of the ninth, so the team will see this as a missed opportunity. Addison Russel and Ben Zobrist with clutch RBIs for the Cubbies. 

Atlanta had been 15-5 its prior 20 games entering the evening. Tough to tell how “for real” the Braves are because the early season schedule hasn’t been brutal. Might take a few more weeks to learn where Atlanta, Philadelphia, and the NY Mets really stand in the big picture. If all are legitimately .500 or better type teams, then the Braves have impressed vs. a tougher than expected schedule. If not, then the Braves will be exposed when they run into truer contenders. Nothing wrong with being 5-5 against the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals so far. 

Because the Cubs won and St. Louis lost, Chicago pulls into a tie for third in the NL Central with the Cards at 22-17. Milwaukee and Pittsburgh still lead the way. Atlanta is a game up on Philadelphia, 1.5 on Washington in the NL East. 

Preakness Week: Our “Inside the Preakness” Guide to be released Thursday
Don’t forget that our joint publication with TVG will be available Thursday. The digital “Inside the Preakness” preview costs just $19.99. Comprehensive profiles and analysis, with selections from many VSiN and TVG personalities. 

Here are the latest composite offshore odds by way of oddschecker (click here to get fresh numbers when you’re reading this). 

Justify 2/5
Good Magic 7/2
Quip 16/1
Bravazo 20/1
Diamond King 20/1
Lone Sailor 25/1
Sporting Chance 25/1
Tenfold 33/1

The market sees this as a two-horse race. Even if true, the trifecta is going to pay off well because there’s no obvious choice to sneak into the top three. And, if Justify or Good Magic disappoint, this result could be very profitable for bettors. 

Ron Flatter will be reporting for VSiN direct from Pimlico later this week. Be sure to check out his coverage during our broadcasts, in special articles, and with this week’s horse racing podcast. 

We also wanted to alert you to this VSiN exclusive article from Richard Roeper on the future of sports betting. Richard is a regular contributor to “Follow the Money” with Mitch and Pauly. He also has reviewed a movie or two. 

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