The NBA is back! For the first time since March 11, we have real regular-season basketball games to sweat. The return of the NBA marks the second major sport to resume play following MLB. In case you forgot, all NBA games will be played without fans inside the bubble in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. There are 22 teams participating in the bubble reboot with each team playing eight regular-season games before the playoffs begin. Bettors are in for a treat as we'll have roughly five to seven games to bet on every day with each game spaced out, beginning at around 1 p.m. ET and ending around midnight.
One popular narrative that has been forming is the idea that we'll be in for some sloppy basketball early due to the prolonged layoff. Shooters will be rusty. Players won't have their legs yet. They will be out of sync. It could take some time to get acclimated and back up to speed. Some have even noted that without fans in the stands, teams will be able to more clearly bark out defensive signals. Add it all up and we could be looking at a lot of unders to start the reboot.
But what if the exact opposite is true?
Like the NBA, the WNBA is also playing in a bubble without fans in nearby Bradenton. The WNBA season started on Saturday. We've now had 12 games played. So far overs are 9-2-1. It's too soon to tell whether this is a fluke or indicative of an actionable trend. But one thing's for sure, scoring is up inside the WNBA bubble. Will the NBA bubble be the same?
In the meantime, let's turn our attention to tonight's Opening Night doubleheader to examine where the smart money is going.
For an updated breakdown of Thursday's betting action, be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at Noon ET.
6:30 p.m. ET: Utah Jazz (41-23) vs New Orleans Pelicans (28-36)
The first game of Thursday's doubleheader features a Western Conference showdown between the 4th-seeded Jazz and the 10th-seeded Pelicans. Despite having an inferior record, New Orleans opened as a 3-point favorite. A slight majority of bets are laying the points with the Pelicans, yet we've seen this line drop to 2.5. This indicates some sharp reverse line movement on the Jazz, with pro bettors grabbing Utah at + 3 and causing a half-point adjustment in their favor. Some books have even briefly touched 2 before settling back at 2.5. In other words, all liability has been on Utah.
We've also seen a steady diet of sharp money hit the over. The total opened at 220.5 and has been bet up to 224.5. Both teams have been profitable to the over this season with Utah 33-31 and New Orleans 35-27-2. These two teams have met three times earlier this season, with the Jazz winning twice. All three meetings have been high scoring: 128-120, 128-126 and 138-132.
Zion Williamson is officially listed as a game-time decision but he is expected to play. He left the bubble recently to tend to a family matter but has since returned and participated in practice earlier this week.
9 p.m. ET: Los Angeles Clippers (44-20) vs Los Angeles Lakers (49-14)
NBA bettors couldn't have asked for a better late night showdown than this. In a possible Western Conference finals preview, the 2-seed Clippers face off against the No. 1 seeded Lakers. The Clippers trail the Lakers by 5.5 games for first place in the West. The Lakers opened as short 1-point favorites. The public is pounding LeBron and company to the tune of two-thirds of bets. This lopsided support has pushed the line up all the way to Lakers -4.5. That's when you saw value-minded sharps hit the Clippers at an inflated + 4.5, which has since dropped the line down to 4 across the market.
The Clippers are the epitome of a contrarian value play. They enjoy a massively inflated line and are also only receiving one-third of bets in what will be an incredibly heavily bet, nationally televised game on TNT. The Clippers do have some have injury concerns, though. Montrezl Harrell is out for a family matter, Lou Williams remains quarantined and Patrick Beverly, Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac are all game-time decisions. Anthony Davis, who got poked in the eye in practice earlier this week, is expected to play. The Lakers will be without Avery Bradley (opted out) and Rajon Rondo (broken thumb).
The total opened at 217.5. Just under two thirds of bets are taking the over, yet we've seen the total drop to 216.5. Some books are even down to 215.5. This signals some sharp reverse line movement on the under. The Clippers are 2-1 against the Lakers this season, winning 112-102 and 111-106. The Lakers won the most recent matchup 112-103.
Remember, the sports betting market is fluid and constantly changing due to action coming in. Stay up to date with the latest odds by visiting our free VSiN NBA Live Odds Page for Vegas sportsbooks and for other legalized states.