Sports fans know the cliché “defense wins championships.” Does that mean bettors should be looking to go “Under” posted totals with titles on the line in upcoming NHL and NBA playoff action?
▪ In the NHL, Game 6 between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins is set for Sunday (NBC, 7 p.m.). Game Seven if necessary will be next Wednesday in Boston (also NBC, 7 p.m., though games have been starting later because of pre-game festivities).
▪ In the NBA, Game 5 between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors will be played Monday (ABC, 8 p.m.)
That cliché about defense has become well-known because it’s true! But, that means oddsmakers and important market influencers already know about it too. Over/Unders on the betting board tend to drop later in a series because it’s assumed points (or goals) will become more precious.
Your task as a handicapper the next few days is to determine if the market has adjusted enough for the factors that usually inhibit scoring when championships are on the line.
▪ Pace: In basketball, tempos typically slow way down late in an important series because every possession matters. Offenses work for a good shot, often to their own detriment because the shot clock becomes a sixth defender. In hockey, teams will often hold onto the puck longer in their own end before moving into the offensive zone. If you think that’s likely this week, you should bet Unders. But, if you believe something about team priorities will sustain fast-paced aggressiveness, going Over lower totals might be the smarter bet.
▪ Defensive Effort: Players usually defend like their life depends on it late in league finals. No half-hearted rotations or disinterested protection around the goal. Based on your read of remaining defenses, will they have that extra gear from this point forward?
▪ Officiating: Refs don’t want to decide a series with a borderline whistle. That allows defenses to be more physical while protecting territory. Fouls or penalties that were called in the first few games are often tolerated late in a series (particularly in the latter stages of a tight game). This dynamic is an ace-in-the-hole for those of you thinking about Unders, and a potential cause for concern if you want to buck the classic cliché.
Whether it’s team sides or totals, best of luck with your championship bets. A lot of high-level thrills across the world of sports are on tap in coming days…
▪ The United States Women’s National Team takes the pitch Tuesday for its first game in soccer’s 2019 World Cup. Betting markets have USWNT as a huge favorite over Thailand. On the goal line, you’ll likely see the US a money line favorite at -4.5 goals, but Thailand a slight money line favorite at +5 goals.
Futures boards are still showing the US as a favorite at domestic sports books to lift the cup, while overseas books are showing a dead heat between the US and host France. If form holds in early action, those two teams will meet in the quarterfinals of the knockout round June 28 in Paris.
▪ Golf’s US Open will have just begun at Pebble Beach the next time VSiN is with you on these pages Thursday. So, this is our last chance to look at futures prices. Here are odds for top contenders from the Westgate in Las Vegas, a noted golf authority…
Brooks Koepka 13/2, Dustin Johnson 7/1, Tiger Woods 10/1, Justin Spieth 14/1, Rory McIlroy 16/1, Patrick Cantlay 16/1, Justin Rose 18/1, Rickie Fowler 20/1.
Some of you may be tempted to bet on a few big names to increase your chance of backing the eventual champ. While it’s fun to pick a winner, that strategy decreases your return. Dustin Johnson pays 7/1 if you only bet on him! If you take DJ and three other guys who end up losing…you win seven units on Johnson but give back three with your losses. Only one man can win a golf tournament. Backing multiple horses means you either lose all your bets, or all but one.
That’s part of why golf sharps focus on head-to-head “matchups” in major events. Vigorish is smaller (the house hold on futures is higher than most realize), and true handicapping insights are rewarded. Check your favorite local shop next week to see what matchups it’s offering throughout Father’s Day Weekend.