We hope everyone had a great Fourth of July like we did at the Tuley’s Takes home office. Maybe you were among the 300,000 who flooded our reopened city to celebrate the holiday weekend. It was great to see the Strip and downtown Las Vegas looking like pre-pandemic times and the summer concert season off to a great start.
We hope to see many of you during the rest of the summer, whether you’re coming here to sign up for the football contests or just to join all the others who want to return to our fair city after a long absence.
Yes, it’s hot as h-e-double-hockey-sticks, but it’s a dry heat — 108 outside, but a perfect 77 in the home office. Let’s not forget that central air conditioning has just as much to do with Nevada’s success as a tourist destination as do legalized gambling, quickie divorces and fancy hotels.
Even so, locals try to get away for at least a little bit during the summer. On my last getaway two weeks ago to take my kids to summer camp near Yosemite National Park, we also drove 15-year-old Jonah, a family friend. When we were coming to the end of our nearly eight-hour drive to camp, he said, “We’re in the homestretch.” He thought he was being cute by using an old-fashioned term favored by Boomers, but I had to give him the real-world meaning that the homestretch is when champions are determined and winners are paid (plus place and show!). The homestretch is not just an ending, it’s when things get down to the nitty-gritty, when we separate the men from the boys. I was full of cliches to let him know how important the homestretch is instead of just the end of a trip.
So we’re in the homestretch of the NBA and NHL playoffs. After this, we’ll be down to mostly MLB here in Point Spread Weekly and preparing for the college and pro football seasons as well as our annual betting guides. I’m also looking forward to the summer “spa” horse racing meets at Saratoga and Del Mar. Maybe we can share a drink if you’re also escaping to Del Mar on July 24.
TAKES ON NBA FINALS
My futures bets on the Hawks and Clippers died in the conference finals, so I was left with a clean slate heading into Tuesday night’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks.
I was faced with a dilemma. I really wanted to make a case for the Bucks. I was impressed that they had disposed of the Hawks without Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee), though it certainly helped that Atlanta’s Trae Young was less than 100%. However, I hesitated because I’ve made a decent amount of money the last couple of years fading the Bucks because they don’t always play as a team and haven’t gotten over the proverbial hump to be a true championship team. In fact, I’ve also debated whether the Bucks are better without Antetokounmpo on the floor. That sounds silly to say about the two-time MVP, but we’ve all seen what I mean.
The Suns opened as 5.5-point home favorites in Game 1, and it was bet up to 6. Some of it was your typical money on the chalk, plus some early bettors speculating that the Greek Freak would be out. I decided to bet the Bucks + 6, as I felt the line was slightly inflated. I often avoid betting a team that’s coming off the longer series in case it took a lot out of the players, but the Bucks last played Saturday after eliminating the Hawks in six games, so they should be fine. Another reason I think this line is a little inflated is that the Suns are getting too much credit for home-court advantage. Granted, Phoenix is 5-2 ATS at home in the playoffs, but road teams actually led 7-5 ATS in the conference championship round while home teams were just 40-38-1 ATS overall in the playoffs. Take away the Suns’ record and road teams are actually ahead overall too. Just like last year in the bubble, home-court advantage doesn’t mean as much as we’re led to believe.
Of course, after I took the Bucks + 6 with Antetokounmpo listed as doubtful, the line went to + 6.5 at some books before it was announced that he was being upgraded to questionable and the line dropped to + 5.5. We’ll see how that worked out.
Looking ahead, I’m passing on the series price because of all the uncertainty and concentrating on game to game. I’ll probably rely on the zigzag theory — aka “loser of the last,” as you bet the SU loser against the spread in the next game. I’ve tweeted and written several times that the zigzag doesn’t work as well as it used to. It was a woeful 22-33 ATS (40%) through the first two rounds this postseason. However, in the conference finals, the zigzag started 4-0 ATS and ended up 8-2 ATS in the round, with the only losses by the Hawks in Games 3 and 6. The Suns and Bucks were both 2-0 SU and ATS after losing a game, so I think we have a very good chance for a back-and-forth NBA Finals with each team bouncing back from losses.
If the Bucks lose SU in Game 1, I’ll bet them again ATS in Game 2 on Thursday. If the Suns lose Game 1, they would be the Game 2 zigzag play, though I would pass due to my dog-or-pass mantra (but feel free to bet them in that spot). Basically, I’ll probably be betting any team in the zigzag role as an underdog.
I would be especially interested in the Bucks as home underdogs, which we could see if Giannis isn’t 100%.
TAKES ON STANLEY CUP FINALS
I pretty much wrote off my futures-book ticket on the Montreal Canadiens after they fell behind the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0. Fortunately, I got back some of my money as the Canadiens won 3-2 in Game 4 as + 130 home underdogs. I usually pass on teams that are being dominated and on the verge of being swept in a playoff series, but I couldn’t resist when it seemed the whole world was writing off the Habs as hab-nots.
The narrative now is that the Lightning will take care of business and clinch the title Wednesday night at home. After all, I’m sure you’ve heard the stat that they’re 13-0 after a loss over the last two NHL playoffs. And remember that Tampa’s mayor asked the Lightning to let the Canadiens win a game so they could clinch at home.
I can’t help but think the Canadiens have to be insulted by that and will use it as added motivation. Obviously, a team in the championship round of any sport shouldn’t need any added motivation. However, I’ll take a flyer on the Canadiens + 200 in Wednesday’s Game 5 to send the series back to Montreal. Those with a little less confidence might consider the Canadiens on the puck line at + 1.5 + 150.