With the NBA players deciding to resume the playoffs after their boycott of games Wednesday through Friday to protest racial injustice and police brutality (and the NHL joining the boycott on Thursday and Friday), we should have another action-packed weekend with a wide variety of sports and betting options.
The NBA will resume its playoffs with the games that were scheduled for Wednesday. I’m already on the Magic +14.5 as they try to avoid elimination versus the Bucks at 3:30 p.m. ET (note: the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas is one of the books that didn’t cancel Game 5 wagers, so check with your book’s “house rules” to make sure you know how they handle playoff games).
With the pivotal Game 5 of the Thunder-Rockets series pushed back three days, Russell Westbrook is now expected to play for Houston (6:30 p.m. ET), but I’m going to flip from my lone play on the Rockets in this series to the Thunder as we’re now getting more points. But I’ll pass on Blazers-Lakers (9 p.m. ET), as the Lakers should close out the series with Damian Lillard out.
In the NHL, play resumes with Game 3s in the Islanders-Flyers and Golden Knights-Canucks series along with Game 4 of Lightning-Bruins, which was added to the original schedule for the day at noon ET. I think we should still pass on betting the Lightning-Bruins series as it’s a coin-flip just like it’s priced at pick ’em. I’m also just letting my 6-1 Stanley Cup ticket ride on the Golden Knights. The NHL play of the day is at 7 p.m. ET with the Islanders as short -115 favorites as we’ve seen them outplaying the top-seeded Flyers during the first two games of the series.
In MLB, chalk parlays have been the way to go lately as I haven’t found many live underdogs. The favorites I’m looking to connect the dots with this weekend are the Yankees versus the Mets (since I missed out last weekend), Rays at Marlins, White Sox versus Royals and Dodgers versus Rangers. I usually group my plays in three-teamers, dropping teams if I don’t like the pitching matchups.
The Kentucky Derby is a week away, but we have some good horse racing cards on Saturday at Saratoga and Del Mar. In Saratoga’s Race 3 (the Grade 3 Saranac Stakes at 2:18 p.m. ET), I’m taking No. 11 Turn of Events to go wire-to-wire from the outside post. In Saratoga’s Race 8 (the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at 5:07 p.m. ET), No. 4 Funny Guy should be flying late under jockey Joel Rosario. In Del Mar Race 10 (the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien at 9:30 p.m. ET), No. 5 C Z Rocket is taking a big step up in class, but he’s figured out how to find the winner’s circle and could upset at a price.
In addition to horse racing, we also get auto racing on Saturday with the Coke Zero Sugar 400 NASCAR Cup race at Daytona International Speedway at 7:45 p.m. ET. I’m still waiting for Aric Almirola to break through for me after losing bets the past few weeks (he’s 14-1), but also betting Denny Hamlin at 10-1 as my VSiN colleagues Steve Makinen and Pete Pistone are high on him. In addition, Jimmie Johnson could be worth a flier at 25-1 as he tries to make the playoffs in his final full season.
As for UFC Fight Night, I’ll also defer to VSiN colleague Lou Finocchiaro (see Bet Smart/Page 35).
Also, as I’ve written in this space before, check the updated PGA odds after each round in case you can find value on some of the contenders. Last week, you could have still found 20-1 on Dustin Johnson after the first round of The Northern Trust before he went out and shot 60 last Friday and was then dropped to a 7-4 favorite as he went on to win by 11 strokes.
We’re excited about the start of the second round with the Celtics versus the Raptors ( one of the games postponed on Thursday) at 1 p.m. ET. I’m glad I didn’t fade either of these teams in the first round. I’ve been high on the Raptors’ chances to at least go far in defending their title, but it ends here with the Celtics as live +135 underdogs. The Celtics won the season series 3-1 and there’s no reason they can’t win a best-of-seven. Granted, they lost Gordon Hayward to an ankle sprain, but they’ve been playing all season with starters missing playing time. Besides, it looks like the Raptors could start the series without point guard Kyle Lowry. I’ll also begin the series by taking the Celtics +2 in Game 1.
In the remaining first-round series, I’ll pass on Jazz-Nuggets (8:30 p.m. ET) and also on the Mavericks against the Clippers (3:30 p.m. ET), unless Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are both in the starting lineup.
In the NHL, the Avalanche-Stars series is the last to resume, with Game 4 at 6 p.m. ET. I had previously written in VSIN’s “Point Spread Weekly” that I missed out on the Stars versus the Avalanche in Games 1 and 2 and would probably wait to back them if the series got back to 2-2, but I saw enough in Game 3 to jump back on Dallas at +125 in Game 4.