Monday, May 23, 2022

Take advantage of the inflated market on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s point total, plus other Wednesday best bets

I don’t know how the weather has been where you live, but yesterday spring finally arrived in Chicago. Actually, it was more like summer for a day, as temperatures reached the mid-80s, and the humidity gave it more of a 90-degree feel. It’s amazing what happens in a midwestern city like this once the sun presents itself and brings heat. The people who had been huddling inside for warmth emerge in droves as if they’re exploring the world for the first time.

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Anyway, as I walked the dog on a lovely spring morning, we walked past the high school near my house to discover the students were doing the same. In front of the school, there was a kickball game taking place, and I wanted to play so badly. I don’t know if it was the weather, a yearning for youth, a desire to show off, or a combination of all three, but for a few moments, I never wanted anything more than to drill that kickball as hard as I could. Sure, the odds of me pulling a hamstring as I rounded the bases are much higher than they used to be, but it would’ve been worth it. Just like these stories are worth reading.

OK, let’s make some money.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook

The Hot Ticket

Bucks at Celtics, 7 p.m. | TV: TNT

  • Key Trend: Including the playoffs, Giannis has averaged 28.4 points per game on the road this season, and has only scored at least 32 in one of four road games in the playoffs.
  • The Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo Under 31.5 points (-110)

This is not The Miami Heat Under PAR Principle — which is a gosh-dang juggernaut, as it hit again last night — but it is an opportunity to take advantage of an inflated market. Giannis’ point total tonight is set at 31.5, and why wouldn’t it be? He’s almost as powerful a juggernaut as The Miami Heat Under PAR Principle. He’s the single-most dominant force in the NBA right now, and there is no matchup advantage against him.

That said, there is a clear split in his performances at home compared to on the road. During the regular season, Giannis averaged 31.1 points per game at home, and he’s averaging 33.8 points in five home playoff games this season. During the regular season on the road, he averaged 28.7 points on the road. In four away playoff games, he’s averaging 25.5 per game.

It’s not that he’s taking fewer shots on the road; he’s making fewer. Giannis shot 56.1% from the floor at home and 54.6% on the road during the season. In the playoffs, he’s shooting 52.9% at home and 44.2% on the road. The splits are the same at the free-throw line, where he’s struggled all postseason, but more so on the road. None of this should come as a mind-blowing revelation. Players — even superstars — typically perform better at home. Tonight, on the road in a pivotal Game 5, there’s the chance Giannis does what players of his caliber sometimes do and gives an epic performance to lead the Bucks to a commanding 3-2 lead. History suggests that’s the less likely outcome.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you’re looking for a more traditional wager, the Projection Model is agog over the value it sees on one side of the total.

The Picks




Warriors at Grizzlies, 9:30 p.m. | TV: TNT

Latest Odds: Under 219

Powered by Caesars Sportsbook

The Pick: Under 219 (-110) — The Ja Morant injury news is a blow to the series and the playoffs. Morant is one of the more exciting players in the league, and his absence is felt in different ways. On Monday, I mentioned one of them when I took the under in Game 4. Morant’s absence affects the Grizzlies on both ends of the court. Offensively, it limits their ceiling because he’s a high-usage player who makes the offense tick. Defensively, the Grizzlies improve without him because as good as he is on the offensive end, he’s not exactly All-Defense at this point of his career.

We saw some of that in Game 4 when the Warriors struggled to make shots. Some of that was just variance and dumb luck, but the Warriors haven’t been at their best in this series. After posting an offensive rating of 121.9 against the Nuggets in the first round, that number has dropped to 111.9 against Memphis. Some of that can be explained away by the last game, but not all of it. Golden State’s relative inefficiency combined with Memphis’ poor offensive play in this entire series makes the under too enticing to pass up, regardless of the game’s result.

Key Trend: The under is 10-4 in the last 14 meetings.


Astros at Twins, 7:40 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV

The Pick: Under 8.5 (-105) — 
I think this is already the third time I’ve bet an under in this newsletter in an Astros game with Jose Urquidy starting. What can I say? I’m a creature of habit. Last night, Justin Verlander and the Astros nearly no-hit the Twins but settled for a 5-0 win instead. I’m not sure we’ll see many more runs than that scored in tonight’s game, either.

Urquidy is not a high-strikeout pitcher, but he doesn’t walk anybody and avoids hard contact. The same cannot be said of Minnesota’s Chris Archer, who has a much higher strikeout rate but will issue plenty of walks and can be dinger prone. Still, while it’s a concern, Houston’s offense isn’t as potent this season as we’re used to seeing. It’s improved in recent weeks, but it’s nowhere near as imposing as it has been, and we’re still seeing some value on the under in their games because of it.

Key Trend: The under is 7-2-1 in the last 10 meetings.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The Projection Model’s favorite play of the night is on the diamond between the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox.

AT&T Byron Nelson Top 10s

Don’t look now, but that’s three straight profitable weeks on the golf course. Let’s make it four in a row. We’re betting each of the following golfers to finish in the top 10 this weekend.

  • Justin Thomas (+150)
  • Xander Schauffele (+225)
  • Will Zalatoris (+230)
  • Joaquin Niemann (+275)
  • Mito Pereira (+600)

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