OK. Don’t freak out. It’s only been a few weeks. No title is won in October.
Although. I suppose it’s possible to LOSE title.
Sorry, Los Angeles Lakers. Apologies, Houston Rockets. Additional-though-insincere sympathetic comment, the rest of the Western Conference and entire NBA outside of the Golden State Warriors.
Behold, the NBA has returned. Well, not so much “season” as “countdown to Golden State’s championship.”
Entering the season, Golden State held -200 odds to win its third straight NBA title and fourth in five years. Per sportsoddshistory.com, no other team in the last 30 years has been such a heavy favorite, let alone the odds-on favorite — that is, until the Warriors earned that recognition two years ago… and then last year… and this year…
So basically, Obi-Wan Kenobi, not even you can provide hope. But hey, you can cash in on the Warriors, or on a darkhorse. Sports betting is in full swing in several states, especially in New Jersey. After each month of the NBA season, we’ll check in with NJ sports betting operations and update some preseason projections via the league’s $1 million over/under contest.
So let’s begin.
A quick recap of NJ sports betting
FanDuel Sportsbook opened the season by offering a promotion wherein bettors received a $3 bonus for every point LeBron James scored when they wagered a minimum $50 on the Lakers’ moneyline. As a result, the sportsbook doled out more than $250,000 in credit.
Another promotion that paid off was a local lock. When wagering on the New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets to win (yeah, right), bettors could receive their money back (up to $100) should they lose in their respective games (Knicks vs. Hawks, Nets vs. Pistons). With the Nets losing, FanDuel reported, Brooklyn bettors got back more than $100,000 in credit.
The highlight of the early NBA betting season came Oct. 24, when “one brilliant mind,” as FanDuel described it, wagered $200 on the ENTIRE NBA BOARD! Victory came. And that 11-leg parlay, with winning odds of 1 in 650, paid out over $86,000.
Over/Under Challenge: Eastern Conference
The NBA, in its over/under contest presented by MGM, feeds hubris. It fuels the ego. No better feeling exists in life than throwing a parade, ribbon dancers abounding, with a sing-song “Told ya! Called it!” providing the soundtrack.
In an attempt to land a cool $1 million, participants examined the projected win totals for each NBA team. Correctly predicting the over/under for all 30 teams earns a seven-figure payday. (As a consolation prize, nailing 25 picks gets a gift card to the NBA Store. I’ll take the mil, thanks. And also the mil promised by a coworker, and another couple grand by another coworker. Naturally, I’ll be keeping tabs throughout the season.)
With help from FiveThirtyEight and its NBA predictions based on Elo ratings, we can not only look at current records but see a projected final record. Let’s start with the Eastern Conference.
|*(Through Oct. 31)|
|New York Knicks||31.5||Under||2-6||29-53|
Right on track
- Charlotte Hornets: The Hornets went just .500 over their first eight games. Already that seemed like overachieving. This is a franchise that won 48 games three years ago, but has consistently finished below 37 victories and out of the playoffs since its 1990s heyday. Even so, Kemba Walker, the newly crowned franchise leading scorer, has Charlotte out of the gates with confidence. Granted, the Hornets’ opponents so far wouldn’t scare a goat into a frozen fright. Yet Charlotte had three losses decided by two points or less, including against playoff contenders Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Going 1-6 in the first month is nothing to write home about. Though it will earn a pass to the front of the unemployment line, which coach Tyronn Lue indeed received. The MGM-fueled contest pegged Cleveland to still win over 30 games, which seemed rather lofty. The last time James left, the Cavs plummeted from 61 wins to just 19 victories. Still, Cleveland has weapons, even if one, Kevin Love, will be sidelined for an extended period due to injury. It’s still the East. There’s still hope for competitiveness, which has not shown thus far. Still, as FiveThirtyEight projects, the Cavs still have a chance to push for the postseason (it is the East, after all). However, if things continue to go south, certainly owner Dan Gilbert will again pull the tanking trigger.
- Indiana Pacers: The Pacers were thoroughly underrated last season. After trading away centerpiece Paul George, Indiana had only a few playmakers. And no cornerstones. At the time, anyway. Behind Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis (two pieces received from OKC in the George deal) as well as Myles Turner and Thaddeus Young and somehow Lance Stephenson, the Pacers won 48 games (17.5 more than the preseason over/under) before bowing out in the first round. This year, Oladipo has continued his rise, averaging 22 points per game in October for an Indiana team that ranked second in the league in field goal and three-point percentage. In a LeBron-less East, Indiana still seems like an heir apparent.
Off the rails
- Boston Celtics: Fifty-seven players in the NBA had better scoring averages than the top scorer for the Celtics in October. The Celtics still went 5-2. When LeBron bolted to the West, Boston jumped to the top of the list of Eastern Conference representatives in the NBA Finals. Even if Bron stayed in Cleveland, the Celtics likely would receive similar praise. Despite a strong start, though, FiveThirtyEight has Boston stumbling along the way. Yet Boston boasted six players averaging double figures in the first month while holding opponents to the second-lowest shooting percentage.
- Milwaukee Bucks: The last unbeaten team in the NBA was not the Warriors. There’s the first shock. It was not either of the East’s top contenders, the Celtics or the Raptors. Actually, it was Toronto, then undefeated, that the Bucks defeated to exit October with a flawless 7-0 mark. The Alphabet, Giannis Antetokounmpo, has again emerged as an MVP candidate for Milwaukee, which has limited opponents to the worst shooting percentage in the league. Regression to the mean can be a wonderful thing (for those taking the under), but an inexplicable slump or some bad injury luck would need to get the Bucks down to around their projected 46.5 win total.
- Washington Wizards: Easily the most disappointing first-month performance in the league. And also another black mark against Dwight Howard. A playoff team four times in the past five years, Washington didn’t just stumble out of the starting blocks. It slipped, tripped, face-planted and skidded off the track into a cart of manure. John Wall and Bradley Beal are doing what they can, both averaging more than 20 points per game in October on better than 44 percent shooting apiece. But the Wizards need a streak. Or they will post the franchise’s lowest win total since Beal’s rookie year in 2012-13.
Over/Under Challenge: Western Conference
As for the Best Western Conference:
|*(Through Oct. 31)|
|Golden State Warriors||64.5||Under||8-1||62-20|
|Los Angeles Clippers||38.5||Over||4-3||45-37|
|Los Angeles Lakers||49.5||Over||3-5||38-44|
|New Orleans Pelicans||43.5||Over||4-3||48-34|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||48.5||Under||2-4||43-39|
|Portland Trail Blazers||42.5||Over||5-2||51-31|
|San Antonio Spurs||45.5||Under||5-2||45-37|
Right on track
- Denver Nuggets: Fun challenge — name the starting five for the Nuggets. Name three players other than Nikola Jokic. Name Denver’s coach. Doesn’t matter. They don’t care. Denver wrapped up October with the second-most wins in the West, behind only the Warriors. Four of the Nuggets’ five starting regulars (all five, if you count Will Barton, who has been sidelined since the second game of the year due to injury) averaged more than 12 points per game in the first month. Not only is Denver winning the jersey war, it’s started establishing itself as a contender.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Speaking on behalf of all Seattle diehards, good. Finally, the Sonics have something to be proud of. Despite ridding itself of iso-beso master Carmelo Anthony, OKC has not put anything together. Russell Westbrook and Paul George both averaged 25 points per game, yet the Thunder shot a league-worst 27.5 percent from 3-point range, an absolute necessity in today’s game.
- Portland Trail Blazers: You would think after several years of shaming the Trail Blazers and pegging them as mediocre-at-best, oddsmakers would at some point try to provide some respect. Then again, Portland has been known to use any fodder as motivation. Still, a preseason projection of 42.5 wins, nearly seven less than last year’s total, seems to have inspired Portland more than ever before. Off to the third-best record in the West, the Blazers have under-the-radar MVP candidate Damian Lillard, the only player in October to average nearly 30 points, six assists and five boards per game.
Off the rails
- Houston Rockets: The Carmelo Anthony effect has set in. The team with the NBA’s best record last year, with a franchise-record 65 wins, went just 1-5 in October. James Harden continues to be a travelling circus (emphasis on travelling; don’t @ me), and Chris Paul, when not poking the face of Rajon Rondo, continues to be a top-tier point guard. Yet the Rockets shot the second-lowest field goal percentage in the NBA. Certainly, one would assume, Houston will right the ship. But when? How quickly?
- Los Angeles Lakers: Certainly no one, at least nobody in their right minds and nobody whose room is decorated with padded walls, expected the Lakers to become immediate championship contenders. Even an NBA Finals has not gone on without LeBron on the court since 2010. The Lakers got off to a horrid start and limped into November at 3-5. The rag-tag island of misfit toys could still find a rhythm. Most LeBron teams do at some point. Here’s hoping.
- Sacramento Kings: No. No no no. Nonononono. C’mon, Kings. Who does this? Granted, the preseason over/under for Sac-tap-town stood at a mere 26.5. And the Kings have not won fewer than 27 games since 2012. Still, Sacramento has lost more and more over the past three years. Off to a 5-3 start, Sacramento is among the league leaders in field goal (49.8) and 3-point (40) percentage. But the Kings are still young. The West is still loaded. The trademark Sactown Slump awaits. Hopefully.
Who ya got for the title?
Naturally, the Warriors continue to be odds-on favorites to win the NBA title. After just two weeks, however, several teams have argued hard enough for lines to move significantly at FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Bucks, for example, jumped from a +10,000 preseason line to +4,400 at FanDuel, while the Nuggets have climbed from +8,000 to +6,000. At DraftKings Sportsbook, Toronto went from +1,700 to +900, and the New Orleans Pelicans have gone from +9,000 to +4,500.
As for MVP odds (at FanDuel/DraftKings):
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (+240/+300)
- Steph Curry (+410/+450)
- Anthony Davis (+390/+450)
- LeBron James (+500/+450)
- Kawhi Leonard (+750/+650)
It’s said that they wouldn’t erect giant casinos in the desert if the public knew what it was doing.
For one Sunday, at least, the public massively proved that maxim wrong.
Las Vegas sportsbooks took historic losses on Sunday’s NFL games.
According to David Purdum at ESPN, Vegas sportsbooks lost between $7-10 million on Sunday’s NFL slate. Given the modeling and advanced analytical information at bookmaker’s fingers, how did this happen?
Three games really decimated the books
Three public and popular picks made it a bloodbath for Vegas. The Minnesota Vikings (-5.5), Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5), and Kansas City Chiefs (-8) were all bet heavily. There wasn’t much suspense in any of those games.
The Chiefs as an 8-point road favorite particularly left a mark, with close to 90% of the action on them covering (they won 37-21, the outcome never really in doubt).
Purdum quoted Jay Rood, MGM’s VP of race and sports, as saying, “We were pretty much done at that point.” Rood also said it was in his personal “Top 10” list of worst NFL Sundays.
While three games created most damage, it wasn’t limited to just those contests. Teams that took the majority of spread bets went 11-0 ATS on Sunday. That simply doesn’t happen often (if ever).
— Sports Insights (@SportsInsights) November 5, 2018
Three weeks in a row of this
Even more surprising, this Sunday’s battering caps off a three-week run of losses for Vegas books. The losses stretched beyond the Silver State, as newly opened sportsbooks in New Jersey and Mississippi took hits as well.
“In a great weekend of NFL matchups, the players had their best week of the season as it was one of the worst weeks for sportbooks in recent memory,” said Mattias Stetz, COO at Rush Street Interactive, which runs PlaySugarHouse Sportsbook in NJ. “Our worst result by far was the Chiefs covering vs. the Browns. The Chiefs are now 8-1 against the spread and have consistently been outperforming oddsmakers and attracting heavy betting interest.”
The pendulum on these things tends to swing and eventually lands back in the sportsbook’s favor. September of this year saw record numbers for Nevada, with sportsbooks winning over $56M for the month.
Expect a market correction for November and some articles on TheLines about the public giving those winnings right back to the casinos.
Each week, TheLines takes a look back at some of the worst sports betting “bad beats” from the weekend of college and pro football. These incredible moments caused a swing in money at sportsbooks, resulting in jubilation — and plenty of pain — for bettors everywhere.
West Virginia 42, Texas 41
Line: West Virginia -1
In one of the wildest games of the college football season that saw nine lead changes, West Virginia defeated Texas 42-41 when Dana Holgorsen opted to go for the win with a two-point conversion after the Mountaineers scored with just 16 seconds left in the game.
West Virginia trailed 41-34 late in the fourth quarter but quarterback Will Grier led the Mountaineers on a 75-yard game-winning drive. Grier capped off the drive with a beautiful throw while being pressured to receiver Gary Jennings Jr. who beat two Texas defenders for a 33-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) November 3, 2018
Instead of playing for overtime, Holgorsen went for the win. It appeared as though West Virginia had taken the lead when Grier connected with David Sills V for the two-point conversion but Texas coach Tom Herman called a timeout just before the snap, nullifying the conversion. It didn’t matter. After the timeout, Grier ran a quarterback draw into the end zone for the win.
Will Grier for the win! pic.twitter.com/FUe5jWenNS
— No Huddle NCAA (@NoHuddleNCAA) November 3, 2018
The outcome for bettors was all over the place for this game because of the line movement. The spread opened Texas -2.5 before closing at West Virginia -1. So, depending on which line you got, it was either a win, loss or push on the late score and two-point conversion.
The successful two-point conversion didn’t result in a huge swing for sportsbooks as money was mostly even on this game. Again though, not everyone got the Longhorns at +1.
Auburn 28, Texas A&M 24
Line: Texas A&M +3.5
Texas A&M imploded so badly in this game, Aggies backers must still be wondering how they lost the bet.
Texas A&M was cruising in this one when it went up 24-14 early in the third quarter. The Aggies had two opportunities to extend their lead but came away short both times. Seth Small missed a 36-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have given Texas A&M a 13-point lead and prevented two touchdowns by Auburn from covering the spread.
The big blow though came when Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond threw an interception at the Auburn 29-yard line with 7:14 remaining in the game. A score there would have not only been big for the spread but the turnover completely swung the momentum of the game. Following the turnover, Auburn drove down the field in two minutes to score a touchdown, cutting the Aggies’ lead to 24-21.
Texas A&M was trying to run out the clock but head coach Jimbo Fisher opted to throw the ball on third down with 2:10 remaining. A first down and the game is over. The pass fell incomplete and Fisher was forced to punt from his own 45-yard line. The Tigers got the ball back. This time it took Auburn just two plays to find the end zone when Jarrett Stidham hit Seth Williams for an 11-yard touchdown to give Auburn the lead.
Passe parfaite de QB Jarrett Stidham. Réception non moins parfaite de WR Seth Williams et les Tigers d'Auburn passent en tête à 2 mns de la fin !
Auburn 28, Texas A&M 24 pic.twitter.com/0oxEKSGBZM
— TBP College Football (@thebluepennant) November 3, 2018
A&M bettors were left needing a missed an extra to avoid the improbable loss. Auburn kicker Anders Carlson hit not one, but both uprights, on the extra point attempt but the ball still went through to give the Tigers a 28-24 come-from-behind win.
A missed field goal, an interception, two touchdowns in the final 5:14 and an extra point ping-ponging through the uprights all add up for a terrible beat if you had Texas A&M +3.5.
Chargers 25, Seahawks 17
It was a weird Sunday of NFL games with not many close games or awful beats. The Broncos missing a last-second field goal impacted some bettors but Denver closed at -1.5 at most books, so a one-point win wouldn’t have made a difference.
The most frustrating loss gambling-wise was probably the OVER in the Chargers/Seahawks game. The total closed at 48 or 48.5 depending on the book and there were plenty of chances for the game to go OVER.
The biggest reason the game didn’t go OVER was Chargers kicker Caleb Sturgis. Actually, he may be the Chargers former kicker by the time you read this article. Sturgis missed two extra points and a 42-yard field goal on Sunday. Because of Sturgis’ first missed extra point, Los Angeles went for a two-point conversion after its second touchdown. Sturgis is personally responsible for leaving six points off the board, which would have pushed the total at 48 for OVER bettors.
Despite Sturgis’ dreadful performance, OVER bettors still had a shot to cash late in the game. Down by eight points, Seattle had the ball with a chance to tie. Russell Wilson drove the Seahawks to the Chargers’ 20-yard line with five seconds left in the game. Time for one final pass into the end zone.
Wilson’s pass to Tyler Lockett fell incomplete but Chargers cornerback Michael Davis was flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Seattle got one untimed down from the one. Well, make it the six after a false start penalty, but OVER bettors were still alive.
On the final play, Wilson threw a dart to receiver David Moore in the back of the end zone. The ball hit Moore right in the hands but he dropped it. If Moore hangs on, OVER 48 bettors push at worst. Seattle would have obviously gone for two and the tie, which could have given OVER backers at both 48 and 48.5 the win.
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) November 5, 2018
It wasn’t the worst beat of the season but a kicker costing bettors six points and a drop in the end zone on the final play is still a tough one for OVER backers to swallow. Sportsbooks came out ahead on Moore’s drop with 65 percent of tickets and 60 percent of the money wagered on the OVER. It was one of the few bright spots for the books on Sunday.