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Zion Williamson, LeBron James lead NBA into 2020 restart Thursday night

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

July 29, 2020 11:06 PM
Zion Williamson
© Imagn

It’s the doubleheader NBA fans have been waiting for since the restart schedule was released weeks ago. Zion Williamson (still listed as a game-time decision) and the New Orleans Pelicans will play the Utah Jazz (TNT, 6:30 p.m.), followed by LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers playing the L.A. Clippers (TNT, 9 p.m.). (All starting times listed today are Eastern.)

New Orleans has no time to waste in its attempt to crash the Western Conference brackets. Many fans and analysts believe that Lakers-Clippers will be the eventual conference championship series out west. Of all restarts and delayed starts this summer, Thursday night’s NBA will feature the most immediacy and importance. 

Six more games are on the Friday schedule, beginning at 2:30 p.m. when Orlando plays Brooklyn. Health permitting, an extremely intensive regular season close-out will finish Aug. 14. The next two days are reserved for any tie-breaker needs. A standard postseason format begins Aug. 17, ending with the NBA Championship series beginning Sept. 30. 

Handicapping will be tricky these next two weeks. Current form will be impossible to gauge with confidence out of the gate. Day-to-day motivation will be questionable as teams clinch what needs to be clinched in terms of playoff positioning. Even if players can maintain a 100% negative rate on covid testing, coaches will still consider resting key contributors because of minor injuries or load management. 

Be sure you watch VSiN programming all through NBA bubble play for the very latest news and tips from our hosts and a multitude of special guests from sports betting and mainstream media circles. 

Thursday’s Lines (BetMGM)

Pelicans (-2.5) vs. Jazz, total of 224.5

Lakers (-4.5) vs. Clippers, total of 215.5

Sportsbooks will have conservative betting limits out of the gate, and will be quick to move their numbers off sharp action. Uncertainty is the enemy of oddsmakers because they have to post lines on every game. Sharp bettors can limit their focus to the best winning opportunities. 


Early WNBA action in the “wubble” in Bradenton, Fla., is already showing fans and bettors what neutral-court volatility can look like. An extreme example from the Los Angeles Sparks, who beat Phoenix 99-76 laying -3.5 points (a 19.5-point cover), only to lose to Chicago 96-78 the next time out as 4.5-point favorites (a 22-point miss the other way). 

More big market misses Wednesday. Las Vegas (-8) beat Atlanta 100-70 (a 22-point cover). Indiana (plus 5) upset Phoenix 106-100 (an 11-point cover). Dallas (-5) beat New York 93-80. That also could have been a double-digit cover, but the Liberty rallied from 25-down in the fourth quarter to “only” lose by 13. 

Thursday’s slate

Seattle vs. Washington (ESPN, 6 p.m.)

Chicago vs. Minnesota (8 p.m.)

Los Angeles vs. Connecticut (ESPN, 10 p.m.)

Tough draw for Seattle/Washington to be up against the early NBA tip. Seattle looks to be the class of the league thus far. But deep Washington impressed in its opener. 


Let’s freshen up the odds we posted last time. Kansas City has been receiving early support. Given that recreational bettors are largely ignoring the “MLS is Back” tournament, you can take that to be sharp action. 

Kansas City vs. Philadelphia (ESPN, 8 p.m.)

Odds to Advance: Kansas City -170, Philadelphia -150

Three-way: Kansas City plus 110, Philadelphia plus 263, draw plus 272

Goal Line: Kansas City -0.5 goals (-110), Philadelphia plus 0.5 goals (-118)

Over/Under: 2.75 goals (Over -111, Under -110) 

Kansas City looks to be about four-tenths of a goal better in the eyes of an informed market. Let’s make that adjustment in our estimate of “market” Power Ratings on a goal supremacy scale. We’ve tweaked the numbers to reflect early betting in all matchups. 

Quarterfinals (in bracket order)

Kansas City (2.4) vs. Philadelphia (2.0) 

NYCFC (2.1) vs. Portland (1.9) (Saturday, FS1, 10:30 p.m.)

LAFC (2.7) vs. Orlando (2.1) (Friday, FS1, 7:30 p.m.)

San Jose (2.2) vs. Minnesota (2.0)  (Saturday, ESPN, 8 p.m.)

Tomorrow wraps up our July “pop-up” coverage of the countdown to major sports through the corona virus pandemic. Please save the Power Ratings and update them at your leisure through the rest of the event. 


Given that we’ve just discussed events occurring in bubbles in Florida, let’s look at Wednesday’s confirmed covid case counts in host counties. 

Orange County (Orlando-NBA bubble and MLS campus): 371 new cases, continuing a recent decline. That was the fourth straight day below 425, well down from totals earlier in the month that regularly hit 600-700 and peaked twice over 1,300. Things are improving in Orlando, even with the recent opening of Disney World. 

Osceola County (Kissimmee-where MLS games are played): 157 new cases. Erratic counts here. Seven of the last 10 days have still cleared 200. 

Manatee County (Bradenton-WNBA): 97 new cases, which continues a decline from a tough mid-section in July. Four of the last five days have been under 125, after days as high as 350 and 480 not too far back. 

To this point, all bubbles have successfully held in terms of keeping infections out. That’s a positive sign for future efforts, and a reminder that any community can do the same thing with aggressive mitigation. 

Updating our discussion yesterday on national fatalities: More bad news Wednesday. States and territories reported a 1,485 confirmed covid deaths (including 313 in Texas, 216 in Florida, and 195 in California). That’s a rise from 1,245 on Tuesday, and the highest since May 19. There were no single dates reaching 1K from June 5 through July 20. Now, six of the last nine have reached 1K, with a clear upward trend that can’t reverse until saturation softens. 


Amid a backdrop of a nation overwhelmed, and on the same day the New York Times published a report showing more than 600 covid cases nationally already linked to college football workouts on campus, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced plans for a “10 plus 1” schedule this fall involving league teams, Notre Dame and in-state rivals. 

Key notes for bettors and fans to remember…

  • All ACC teams will be lumped into one big division.
  • Notre Dame will be included for this season only
  • All teams will play 10 league opponents
  • All teams will play one non-conference game that must be held in their home state (maintaining rivalry traditions like Clemson-South Carolina and Florida State-Florida). 
  • Teams with the two best winning percentages will play for the league title in the ACC Championship game. 

We’re all rooting for college football to be played. The challenge is still immense given Wednesday’s confirmed new case counts in ACC Country.

ACC States (plus Indiana for Notre Dame): Florida 9,446, Georgia 3,271, South Carolina 1,737, North Carolina 1,715, Virginia 999, Pennsylvania 855, New York 798, Indiana 621, Kentucky 601, Massachusetts 502.

Current plans have the ACC kicking off the weekend of Sept. 12. 

Other Stories of Interest

*NBA announces it will contribute to free community testing in Orlando (The Athletic)

*MLB investigating Marlins “disruptive” outbreak source (NY Post)

*How will NFL’s testing and contact tracing work? (The Ringer)

*Many New England Patriots opting out (Wall Street Journal)

*KC Chiefs Super Bowl hero Damien Williams opts out (CBS Sportsline)

*Dogs can sniff out corona virus with 94% accuracy (NY Post)

*Garth Brooks postpones Aug. 22 concert in Las Vegas Raiders’ new stadium (Las Vegas Sun)

*Amazon’s “Reinvent 2020” conference cancels Las Vegas plans to go virtual (CNBC)

VSiN Clips/Tweets on Betting Restarts

*Mitch Moss, Pauly Howard and Matt Youmans discuss the AFC East race (Follow the Money)

*The guys share their thoughts on the Miami Marlins MLB debacle (Follow the Money)

*Preston Johnson gives Gill Alexander an NBA value bet in the Western Conference (A Numbers Game)

*Paul Sporer and Gill discuss early MLB hype on the Blue Jays and Padres (A Numbers Game)

*Gill and Danny Burke talk about the New England Patriots win total after recent opt outs (A Numbers Game)

*JVT and Ian Cameron discuss NHL playoff betting (The Edge)

*JVT talks to Jeff Sherman of the Westgate and regular VSiN guest Erin Rynning about betting the NBA restart on our “Hardwood Handicappers” podcast.

*VSiN tracks all the NFL opt outs for you on a daily basis

Back with you Friday morning as our July countdown coverage concludes.


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