I had written LeBron James and the Cavaliers off in Game 7 at Boston and he proved why it’s a bad move betting against him in any series finale.
He also wrote another chapter in the soon to be completed book on why he’s the greatest basketball player to ever walk the planet. It’s not just that he’ll be playing in his eighth straight NBA Finals or that he halted the Celtics’ 11 game win and cover streak at home. It’s the attitude that comes with it.
Kevin Love, the only player that was portraying a wingman for LeBron in the playoffs, was out for Game 7. His supporting cast has completely disappeared several times and he put them all on his shoulders and carried them to an 87-79 win. LeBron didn’t even take a break in the game.
“Whatever it takes” has been their rally cry and LeBron led by example, playing all 48 minutes, scoring 35 points, grabbing 15 rebounds along with nine assists and two blocks, one of which was a momentum changer when Celtics guard Terry Rozier thought he had an easy dunk.
What doesn’t show up in the box score is the mental game he played on the young Celtics. He baited the Celtics into fouls and used his status being the face of the league to his benefit with the officials. It’s an unwritten rule that home teams are supposed to get special treatment by the refs, but that agreement goes away when the best player ever sells the foul, and LeBron did it masterfully.
When the Cavs go to the next round I’ll be rooting for LeBron to beat whoever they play, and they’ll be chunky underdogs. I saw the entire Michael Jordan era and wallpapered my room as a teenager with his posters, but the size, speed, skill and mental games LeBron plays with not only his opponents and officials but his own teammates, has me feeling I’m witnessing the greatest ever.
Winning another title for Cleveland would be a really nice legacy clincher.
The Dodgers (24-28) have won eight of their last 10 heading into the four-game series with the Phillies that began on Monday night. They’re only 3.5 games behind the Rockies in the NL West, but since no one else in the division wants to take control (Rockies 5-5 in last 10), the Dodgers look primed again to win their sixth straight division crown.
LA also gets some good news as ace Clayton Kershaw comes off the DL (bicep) and is expected to start Thursday’s series finale against the Phils. By the way, before Kershaw got hurt the Dodgers were 2-5 behind him which netted bettors -9.3 units betting the large favorite every game.
Also coming back soon is Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner who has been throwing simulated games. He’s been out of action (hand) since Spring Training. What the Giants (25-28) have done is truly amazing because they’ve just been hanging around despite losing almost all their key starting pitchers due to injury.
Johnny Cueto (elbow) is on the 60-day DL, as is closer Mark Melancon (forearm). 2B Joe Panik and OF Hunter Pence are both on the 10-day disabled list. The Westgate currently has the Giants at 40-to-1 to win the World Series (it’s an even year) and the Dodgers have been bumped from the preseason 5-1 favorite up to 14-1. Arizona is 20-1 and Colorado 30-1.
Arizona has lost 15 of its last 17 games and is now 1.5 games behind Colorado in the NL West. At 26-26 through Sunday’s games, it’s hard to remember they were once 18 games over .500. They’ve scored two runs or less in 15 of their last 22 and their .211 batting average is the worst in baseball. This power outage has seen Under wagers be profitable in their home games where only seven of their 26 contests have gone Over. Under is the play.
DeGrom the Under
No one in baseball is pitching better than Jacob DeGrom as he headed into Monday afternoon’s game at Atlanta. However, he doesn’t have much to show for it other than allowing only one run combined between his last six starts. The problem is he gets no run support from his teammates and his bullpen throws gas on the fire. The Mets have lost four of his last six starts, but the reliable trend has been simply betting the Under, which happened in his last six starts.
Have you seen what Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash has been doing with his starting rotation the past two weeks? He’s taken right-handed veteran reliever Sergio Romo out of the bullpen and started him in four games – two of them back-to-back days against the Angels. What Cash has done is utilize Romo’s strength in getting right-handed hitters out, using it in the first inning against tough righty lineups and then bringing the regular starter in the second or third inning to give the opponents less looks at the starter.
The Angels’ first seven regular hitters are righties, including Mike Trout, Justin Upton, and Albert Pujols. Romo was almost perfect in two starts, two walks, against the Angels in 2.1 innings of work, striking six of the nine batters faced. However, over the weekend, Romo got rocked at home by the Orioles, who have the worst road record in baseball. He allowed a total of four earned runs and was chased out of the first inning in both.
The Rays are 2-2 in games Romo started. It will be interesting to see if Cash continues the experiment, but I think I like the strategy just because it’s different. If it keeps the other team off-balance and forces the other manager to change his regular lineup around to adapt, then the experiment should be considered a success. Although winning is the final measuring tool.
Golden Knights risk
Last week I talked about some of the strategies sportsbooks across town might employ to negate some of the futures risk, which is estimated to be anywhere from $5 to $10 million in losses. The proper series price against the Capitals should have been anywhere from -120 to -130 according to Westgate SuperBook manager Ed Salmons, who is probably the sharpest NHL odds guy in town.
Most books opened the series at -160, forcing bettors to lay a high price on the Golden Knights, or basically saying “we’re good with Knights money, try the Caps for best value.” Sharp money came in on the Capitals +140 as expected and helped the books cut their risk around 10 percent on average.
Despite the looming losses, just about every bookmaker is still secretly rooting for the home team. It’s electric, exciting and new. The Stanley Cup Finals, Game 1, is in Las Vegas? What? So crazy, so fun, so very real!