Generally, if you want to bet on a team, you can find a trend or other argument to make you feel better about it.
After the Milwaukee Bucks had a thrilling overtime Game 1 win over the Miami Heat — the Heat still covered the 5.5-point spread — Game 2 has a smaller line. The Bucks are 4.5-point favorites at BetMGM. Whichever side you like, here's how you will justify it ...
Jimmy Butler was awful and Miami almost won: Butler is a fantastic player and he's not going 4-for-22 from the field very often. The Heat were minus-8 when Butler was on the floor, and that's just weird. Even with Butler being as bad as he is ever going to be, the Heat took the game to overtime and only a phenomenal game-winner from Khris Middleton kept it from going two overtimes. If Butler shot even 25 percent from the field, the Heat probably win. And you're getting 4.5 points in Game 2.
The Bucks couldn't hit anything from 3, Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn't at his best, but they still won: Milwaukee is a very good 3-point shooting team. The Bucks are fifth in the NBA in made threes per game and tied for fourth in 3-point percentage. They were 5-for-31 from three in Game 1. That won't repeat. And the good news is that despite that awful deep shooting, and despite Antetokounmpo going 10-of-27 from the field and 6-of-13 from the free-throw line (the percentage from the field isn't likely to repeat ... the free-throw percentage might), the Bucks still won the game.
So there you have it. Butler is going to be better. The Bucks are going to shoot it better. Game 1 was a huge outlier in both ways. If you like one side over the other, you're going to buy into one and ignore the other.
I'll buy the Heat side, especially getting 4.5 points. They're not your typical No. 6 seed, beat the Bucks in the playoffs last season and we should get another close game. The Heat might even win — their series price of +320 at BetMGM is still enticing too. But either winning side is going to be able to tell you they saw it coming. That's part of what makes betting playoff basketball so fun.
Here's a look around the sports betting world as we start the week:
What other NBA action do we have Monday?
Much like the Bucks-Heat Game 2, bettors have to make a decision: Was Portland's Game 1 win a product of an unsustainable hot shooting night, or did they expose the Nuggets a bit?
The Blazers hit a franchise record 19 threes on 40 attempts, and for a long stretch in the second half they could not miss. It was impressive.
That win changes the series odds. The Nuggets are now +260 to win the series, and those odds are interesting if you liked Denver before Game 1. To win the series the Nuggets will almost certainly need to win Game 2, and they're 1.5-point favorites. This series was a strong candidate to be the most competitive of the first round, and it's hard to believe the Nuggets won't take Game 2 on their home court.
An MLB Monday matinee
If you're looking for a way to pass Monday afternoon, there is a baseball game to bet on. It's a pretty good one too. The Tampa Bay Rays are tied for first place in the AL East, and they face a fun but slumping Toronto Blue Jays team. The Rays have won 10 in a row, the Jays have lost five in a row, but the line is still fairly even. The Rays are -120 favorites at BetMGM, up a bit from the -115 overnight line.
A rule of thumb on streaks is that you can cash over and over backing a team on a winning streak, but will only cash once fading the streak. The Rays look like a pretty good play to start the betting week.
Who cashed tickets this weekend?
Hopefully you were one of the very few to take Phil Mickelson at 200-to-1 odds before the PGA Championship started. He ended up making history with his win, which was a story for the ages.
We have one game in the books for each NBA series, and the two biggest upsets in terms of the point spread were straight up wins by the Mavericks and Grizzlies. The Mavs' win brought the Clippers' series line down to -145, which is moderately interesting because the Clippers are the better team. It's just tough to go against Luka Doncic. The Grizzlies are +280 to win the series, and for a long stretch Sunday night they looked like the better team. The rest of the NBA slate went pretty much as expected, though it was surprising to see the Suns dismiss the Lakers so easily.
In the NHL, anyone who bet the Edmonton Oilers was lamenting a bad beat. The Oilers led 4-1 in the third period on Sunday and somehow lost, giving up a flurry of goals to the Jets and then another in overtime. Edmonton, the favorite to win the series before it started, is down 3-0.
One MLB series that is worth noting: The Dodgers swept the Giants, who were playing very well coming in. It's a reminder that the Dodgers, who have won seven straight and 11 of 12, are still the best team in baseball and any time you can bet them at a decent price, take it.
A win for reverse line movement
When one team is getting a large percentage of bets but the line moves the other way, that's reverse line movement. It's often a good idea to take the side that's getting a small percentage of bets but is seeing the line move its way. When the line moves against a huge majority of bets it's very likely because of sharp, respected bettors taking the less-popular side.
Before Game 1, the Knicks were getting an overwhelming 87 percent of the bets and 90 percent of the money at BetMGM. And yet, the line kept moving toward Atlanta. The Hawks opened as 2.5-point underdogs and moved all the way to 1-point underdogs. There was an absolute classic game in Madison Square Garden on Sunday and Trae Young won it with less than a second to go. The game could have gone either way and betting with the reverse line movement isn't the elusive lock in sports betting, but when you see reverse line movement like we saw with Knicks-Hawks, it's always worth considering a bet.
What is standing out about the NHL playoffs?
It's only a few games and momentum can change very quickly, but the Colorado Avalanche look like deserving favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They breezed past the St. Louis Blues, hardly being challenged in a sweep. They look like the best team so far these playoffs, and it's not close. The Avs are +250 to win the Stanley Cup at BetMGM and while it's hard to bet that heavy of a favorite with three series to go, Colorado looks like it might just be that good.
There are five games on Monday night, with the Islanders-Penguins and Maple Leafs-Canadiens both tied up in their respective series. I'll still be bullish on a talented Penguins team that was very good in the latter stages of the regular season and take them at -140 to win a pivotal Game 5.
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