TheLines gives its weekly lookahead to what should be the most wagered-on events in sports this week. This week – Monday, Aug. 3 through Sunday, Aug. 9 – is arguably the busiest sports week of 2020 thus far.
NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers (all week)
The NHL has one of the best playoffs in all of sports; it’s intense, fast-paced, and captivating. This season, like so many others, has a different look and in this case, it’s a best-of-five qualifying round ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The first nights were already mayhem, including an Avalanche game-winning goal with 0.1 seconds left on the clock. Other series to keep an eye on include the 9th-seeded Blue Jackets (+140) against the 8th-seeded Maple Leafs (-170) and the 7th-seeded Islanders (-120) against the 10th-seeded Panthers (-102). The usually-gripping Stanley Cup Playoffs have been turned up to 11 this year, and there’s plenty of sports betting opportunities.
‘MLS is Back’ Tournament Semifinals (Wednesday, Aug. 5–Thursday, Aug. 6)
And then there were four. Philadelphia (+1400) is the team with the best odds to start the tournament left, joined by Minnesota (+2200), Orlando (+2800), and Portland (+2800). For fans of underdogs and mayhem, this year’s tournament is for you. The individual games are slated to be close, as well: Portland (+143) sits as slim favorites over Philadelphia (+168) and Orlando (+142) is slightly favored over Minnesota (+167). Orlando managed an upset over LAFC (+350 to win the tournament) in PKs, and Portland had a convincing 3-1 win over NYFC last round. The race to the first major US championship since the lockdown is on.
Lakers vs Rockets (Thursday, Aug. 6)
If the Rockets have established anything in the first few games of the sprint to the NBA championship, it’s that they’re must-watch basketball. Their first game against Dallas resulted in a wild 153-149 overtime win, followed up with a tight 120-116 win over Milwaukee. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are on fire, combining for 80 points and 55 points respectively. The Lakers beat a lethargic Clippers team 103-101 in a much-anticipated restart matchup and then dropped one against Toronto on Saturday night. Anthony Davis, just a game after shining bright, mustered just 14 points against the Raptors, while LeBron James is averaging only 18 points in his first two games back. The storyline is intriguing– a team with something to prove (Houston) against a team with everything to lose (Los Angeles).
PGA Championship (Thursday, Aug. 6–Sunday, Aug. 9)
It’s no surprise that reigning-winner Brooks Koepka (+1000) sits as co-favorite to win the 2020 PGA Championship with No. 1-ranked Justin Thomas. Just behind them is 2020’s PGA sweetheart Bryson DeChambeau (+1100), No. 2-ranked Jon Rahm (+1400) and No 3-ranked Rory McIlroy (+1400); Tiger Woods (+2200) sits 8th in odds to win. In 2019, Koepka dominated the course, setting records for lowest round score (63) and largest lead (7 strokes) en route to a 2-stroke victory over Dustin Johnson. This year’s championship, rescheduled from May, is held in San Francisco and marks the second of four majors for this season. Tune in for bombs off the tee, a race between the world’s best golfers, and plenty of Tiger Fist Pumps.
Celtics vs Raptors (Friday, Aug. 7)
Milwaukee is the crowd favorite to take the East this season, but both of these teams are well in the mix. Boston began the bubble with a loss to the Bucks and a tight win over Portland. A game after scrapping for just five points, Jayson Tatum dropped 34 on the Blazers, complementing Jaylen Brown’s 30 (26.0 ppg since restart). Toronto has yet again proven to be the best-coached team in the NBA with their 107-92 win over the Lakers. Kyle Lowry (33 points, 14 rebounds) was stellar and the Raptors put the league on repeat notice with or without Kawhi Leonard. Fred VanVleet (13 points, 11 assists) played all 40 minutes against Los Angeles. The Celtics matchup well against the Raptors, with good defensive pieces to counter Lowry and OG Anunoby. Buckle in for this one – the winner might just find themselves competing for the title.