At least Nikola Jokic has experience beating the odds.
Bettors who took Jokic to win MVP have officially won their wagers. Jokic was +2500 before the season to win MVP, behind plenty of other big names. Thanks to a hyper-efficient season (and some key injuries to other stars), Jokic become the first Denver Nuggets player to win MVP.
His next challenge might not be as steep, odds-wise, but it's a big one. He has to carry the Nuggets past a better Phoenix Suns team. The Suns are up 1-0 in the series and are 6-point favorites at BetMGM against Denver in Game 2 on Wednesday night. The Suns are a steep -375 to win the series.
The Nuggets lost Game 1 to the Suns 112-105. The game was close until Phoenix got hot in the second half and pulled away. Still, the Nuggets know they are going to need to play nearly perfect basketball to win the series.
The Nuggets are a good team, even since Jamal Murray tore his ACL, but there are flaws. Their guards are nowhere near Phoenix's level. Getting Will Barton back from injury at some point in this series would help, but he'll need some time to get back to his normal form. Michael Porter Jr. is a great offensive player but still has defensive lapses. That leaves Jokic to carry the Nuggets, and often he has. But when he's off, the Nuggets have no chance.
Jokic was 10-of-23 for 22 points and nine rebounds in Game 1. It wasn't awful, but Jokic has the burden many recent MVPs don't: He can't afford a semi-off night. The Nuggets aren't good enough around him to win if he struggles. The other time Jokic scored fewer than 30 in a game this postseason, a 16-point night in Game 4 vs. Portland, Denver lost by 20.
Jokic is the MVP for a reason, and I think he has a huge Game 2. I think Denver as a whole bounces back and covers the 6-point spread against a good Suns team. Jokic was a deserving MVP (please, please let's not make this series a referendum on whether he deserved MVP, OK?) and he'll do his best to keep Denver in this series on Wednesday night.
Here's a first look at Wednesday's betting slate:
What, no other NBA?
For the first time since ... well, maybe October, we have only one game on the NBA schedule. It'll get us prepared for the conference finals schedule.
There are 15 MLB games, including three afternoon games, and a huge Game 6 in the NHL. Let's check those out, shall we?
A big NHL Game 6
The New York Islanders have been big underdogs in all five games of their second-round series against the Boston Bruins, and you've done well if you've bet them every time. The Islanders are up 3-2 in the series, and Game 6 is a chance to close out a very good Bruins team on its home ice.
It won't be easy. The Bruins are -145 favorites at BetMGM, despite being on the road and trailing in the series. Game 5 was a microcosm of the series. It seemed the Bruins were the better team, but the Isles got the win. Boston outshot New York 44-19 and lost. The Isles cashed in 3-of-4 power plays (the Bruins had twice as many penalties, and Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was not too happy about it) and then held on for dear life to the end.
As well as the Islanders have treated me, this feels like a Bruins win. They often look like the better team, the officiating might find a way to even itself out, and Boston is certainly capable of winning a big game on the road. Take them and lay the juice. Sorry, Islanders.
MLB in action
With only two other games on the schedule, maybe today's the day for you to dabble in some baseball betting.
I'll have no problem taking the San Francisco Giants -115 over a slumping and bad Texas Rangers team in the first game of the day. Kyle Gibson has been a good pitcher for the Rangers this season and that's why they aren't big underdogs, but it's time to recognize this Giants team is pretty good. They're 38-22, 16 games better than Texas before the season is even to the midway point.
The other two afternoon games feature huge favorites. The Oakland A's are -225 over a horrible Arizona Diamondbacks team, and the San Diego Padres are -225 over the Chicago Cubs because the pitching matchup is Yu Darvish vs. Jake Arrieta and his 5.26 ERA. I rarely bet on favorites that big in baseball, so it's either pass that action or perhaps parlay the favorites.
In the evening, the Atlanta Braves (+125) and Houston Astros (+120) are lively underdogs. The Astros were favored on Tuesday (yes, I liked the Red Sox as an underdog and they got blasted) and it's always nice to get a quality team like Houston with a plus-number.
Who cashed tickets on Tuesday?
In the NHL, the Vegas Golden Knights pulled off a seismic upset, beating the Colorado Avalanche early in overtime. Vegas, which lost 7-1 in Game 1 and dropped Game 2 as well, now lead the series 3-2. The Avs, who have been Stanley Cup favorites through the playoffs, are no longer the favorites. Or even the second favorites. The Tampa Bay Lightning, the defending champs, are the new favorites at +200. They moved on with a 2-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Vegas is +225 to win it all and the Avs are +400.
There was a bad beat (kinda) in the Utah Jazz-Los Angeles Clippers Game 1. The Jazz, who were 3.5- or 4-point favorites, fell behind big early, rallied in the second half and led by 10 with less than six minutes left. They led by 8 with a little more than a minute to go. But the Clippers stayed in the game. A late 3-pointer cut the Utah lead to 3, the Jazz missed a shot and then the Clippers' final and unsuccessful possession ran out the rest of the clock. It was a rough loss for Jazz backers, though they probably were resigned to the loss after the first quarter. It all evens out.
The Philadelphia 76ers used a huge run to start the fourth quarter to even the series against the Atlanta Hawks, easily covering the spread. Hopefully that ends up being a good series. The Hawks are still capable.
Who's the best bet?
I'll go with the Giants because even though the pitching matchup is hard to get behind, every other thing possible is in their favor against an ice-cold Rangers team. And hey, it's afternoon baseball.
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