The dogs were barking loud over the first weekend of NBA Playoffs action, with four of the eight games being won outright by the underdogs.
On Saturday, the Warriors beat the Clippers as a 7½-point dog and Atlanta didn’t need the +8½ at Indiana. Overall, the favorites – all at home – went 2-6 ATS with the OVER occurring in half the games, which helped the Las Vegas sports books to a great start in the playoff season.
“Naturally when the dogs have a good day like we saw over the weekend, we’re going to do well,” said Jimmy Vaccaro from his South Point office. “We didn’t do much with baseball from Friday on, so the NBA turned out to be really good for us. I think the best part of seeing so many upsets for us is more about the long term, where we look to have prolonged series where we can keep having three or four games a day posted for a little while longer.”
The more action the better, and while the guests in line to bet may not resemble what we saw during March Madness for the college games, the NBA start times do clog up the lines nicely for 30 minutes.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll see six games where we have a chance to test the bounce-back theory, or zig-zag, where you bet the team that lost the prior game to rebound in the next game.
The reasoning behind the play is simply because you’re more apt to get the best possible performance out of the team that lost previously as their season is slowly slipping away. The losing team has to dig deep, and at least you know you’ll be getting their best effort, which is routinely a lot to ask for in the regular season.
Game 2 has typically been the best opportunity to see the turnaround, because the losing team isn’t in the hole too much yet and they realistically believe they have a shot to get back in the series, unlike being down 2-0 or 3-0. The sports books have seen the trend work as well, which is why there usually is at least a half- or full-point adjustment from the first game.
What’s up with Pirates? They’ve gone 2-8 over their past 10 games, tied for the worst stretch in baseball with Seattle, Houston and Arizona. Their 8-11 mark is barely keeping them above the NL Central’s worst team – the loveable Cubs. Are we looking at a playoff hangover where the team sipped champagne last year for the first time since 1992 and they’re still a little foggy?
Over the weekend the Bucs lost three of four at home to Milwaukee, one week after being swept by them, which has given the Brewers first-place and all kinds of confidence in what is arguably the toughest division in baseball.
If losing to the Brewers becomes a regularity like it was before last season when they went 24-69 from 2007-12, then the chances of making the postseason again look slim. The Brewers starting rotation should keep them competitive for a while.
Not a lot has changed with Pittsburgh. The major departure was A.J. Burnett signing with Philadelphia in the off-season and just acquiring 1B Ike Davis from the Mets on Friday. First base is probably their most glaring need. Davis could be a spark, but even his old team – the Mets – has a better record (9-9) than Pittsburgh.
The only real glaring change compared to last April is reliever Jason Grilli who blew his third save of the season Sunday after having only two all of 2013 and didn’t blow his first until June 19. Everything else, other than their record, is right on par with last April with the bullpen ERA (2.90), staff ERA (3.79), home runs hit (24) and batting average (.235) being relatively the same.
It’s certainly too early to panic for Buc fans, but the worrisome part is the Brewers are within the division. In early March, the LVH Super Book wasn’t too concerned about Milwaukee and had them 60-1 to win the World Series and 10-1 to win the division. Now the Brewers are 18-1 to win it all and the division odds have been taken off the board.
Pittsburgh, who was 7-2 to win the NL Central, has moved up from 25-1 to win the World Series to 35-1. The Cardinals are still the bullies at 6-1. It doesn’t get any easier this week for the Pirates, facing the Reds for four and then three at St. Louis. Look for Friday’s game with Cole vs. Shelby Miller to offer the best value if looking to bet on the Pirates.
More baseball: A stat often overlooked that should be taken more seriously is how teams do against right and left-handed starters. Arizona, Cleveland, Houston and Tampa Bay are 4-22 combined against lefties, while the Marlins and Red Sox have each gone 5-1. Boston has the southpaws figured out, but they are only 4-9 against righties, which is close to the Cubs (2-10), Mariners (3-9), Marlins (4-9) and Diamondbacks (4-11) as the worst. The Brewers and A’s have each gone 10-4 against right-handers.
Soccer fun with friends: The first leg of UEFA Champions League semifinals takes place on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, which should give the sports books a little more character at a time that is generally quiet before the early evening baseball and NBA playoffs start.
There will be gatherings from many of our international friends visiting Las Vegas because they are finalizing another season in the main sport they love. Think AFC and NFC Championship games for us in America.
Imagine where you would be late at night watching NFL games eight hours ahead in London. For us, we have multiple sports with split attention spans for each. For them, the Champions League is a championship of Europe’s best soccer teams. It’s a big deal.
The LVH posted Atletico Madrid -½ -115 over Chelsea in Tuesday’s match (11:45 a.m. PT). Wednesday has Real Madrid PK -135 over beastly Bayern Munich, who are the 5-4 favorites to win the May 24 championship game at Lisbon, Portugal.
The LVH will turn up the decibels a few notches just a little like they do for all the bigger events. If you happen to be at a book that doesn’t have the sound on, just ask. You might get an argument on Wednesday because of daytime Cubbies baseball against the dreadful Diamondbacks, but there really shouldn’t be any problems.
These games are a lot of fun to be a part of and new friends are always found, the type of people who can help give a different perspective on a lot of subjects from their world. It’s enlightening, and while the soccer match is exciting on its own, the discussions with those visiting from abroad can be equally entertaining.
If never having done so, I highly recommend for both locals and visitors to visit one of the local pubs for the match, such as McMullan’s Irish Pub next to the Orleans or the Crown & Anchor English Pub on Tropicana next to UNLV.
Both places have a nice assortment of taps and have been in existence long enough to get several repeat visitors to Las Vegas who know where to go and watch matches. The environment is intoxicating – Super Bowl-like. There is also is the Wicked Vicki English Pub inside the Riviera and Ri-Ra Irish Pub inside Mandalay Bay that do a good job.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].