Two NBA Finals bets I like

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I have always subscribed to this John Madden idiom: “Football season starts on the Fourth of July.” I’m sure he meant it from a coach’s perspective, but as bettors, we can’t just show up in September, start our prep and expect to win. The time is now. These two months before Week 1 are a good time to prepare for the season and reacquaint ourselves with roster changes that occurred way back in March and might not be fresh in our minds. Early and rigorous preparation can pay dividends for success in fantasy leagues and have the added benefit of helping your knowledge as a bettor. As we get ready for football season, we still have an NBA champion to crown, so let’s look at both sports and find some winners ...

Game 2: Suns-Bucks Under 217.5

I think both teams will struggle to score consistently in the NBA Finals. That’s especially true of the Bucks, with or without Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom I expect to be limited if and when he plays. Antetokounmpo relies on athleticism and physical dominance, so his knee injury could critically hamper his performance. These have been the two best defensive teams in the playoffs, and both have been prone to long scoring droughts on offense. Neither team is proficient at getting to the foul line, and neither team fouls a lot, which is huge for Under bettors. Free throws stop the clock and allow points to be added — a double whammy for totals bettors — so teams that don’t foul or get fouled are a great recipe for the Under. The NBA Finals mean max effort and max intensity, both great ingredients for lower-scoring games. I think we are looking at some lower-scoring affairs in what could be an ugly series offensively. Under in Game 2.

Chris Paul Finals MVP + 150

This market will still be available after Game 1 and throughout the series. I like the Suns to win the series and I bet them before it started, but much like the quarterback in the Super Bowl, it would be hard for someone other than Paul to win the award if the Suns prevail. The media votes on these awards, and they love storylines and narratives, making Paul the heavy sentimental favorite. Antetokounmpo’s injury makes it unlikely he will be fully healthy early in the series, and perhaps he won’t be fully healthy at all. A scoring barrage by the Suns’ Devin Booker could net him the award, but he has been less effective since breaking his nose, and voters will be itching to reward Paul with this trophy.

Week 1: Jaguars (-2.5) Over Texans

Football! You remember this sport, don’t you? Well, it’s almost back. This bet is less an opinion on the game and who’s going to win and more an opinion on where I think the line will go. Texans QB Deshaun Watson is unlikely to play in Week 1, but once he’s officially declared out, bettors will react and so will the market, perhaps driving this line north of 3. That is not just a key number in the NFL, it’s the key number. Games land on 3 more than any other number, and banking a 2.5 Jaguars ticket now sets you up to have the best of the number in your pocket come September. It also gives you an opportunity to buy back on the Texans and set yourself up for a chance at a middle. If you can find a -135 moneyline on the Jaguars, that is also a very solid play. Get the best of the number and take the Jaguars now.

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