Sunday, July 3, 2022

Here’s how injuries will affect both Heat-76ers and Suns-Mavericks Game 1s in the NBA conference semifinals

I’m done with MLS. We just finished a weekend that included the NFL Draft and the start of the second round of the NBA Playoffs, but my biggest takeaway is that I just can’t take America’s professional soccer league. Believe me, I’ve tried.

I love soccer. I love it so much that I’ll refer to it as football, even though it’s not the football I grew up with. But I just can’t with MLS anymore. Part of it is snobbery. I didn’t grow up watching soccer, I began following closely as an adult while watching European leagues that are the best in the world. So I expect a certain level of quality when watching soccer that MLS just cannot match.

But it’s not just the quality of play. College football and college basketball are two of my favorite sports, and nobody with a clue will tell you the quality of play is better there than at the professional levels. It’s the officiating as much as the caliber of play. There are questionable calls in every sport, but every time I watch an MLS match, I’m left wondering what the hell the ref is watching that I’m not seeing, and it’s too distracting.

So, I’m sorry, MLS, but I’m out. I tried, but this relationship isn’t working, and it’s best we both go our separate ways. Now, for the five of you who didn’t glance past this the second I mentioned MLS, here are some more stories worth your time.

Now let’s watch a bunch of sports that aren’t MLS and bet on them.

All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook


🔥 The Hot Ticket

Mavericks at Suns, 10 p.m. | TV: TNT

Latest Odds: Under 214.5

Powered by Caesars Sportsbook

  • Key Trend: The under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings.
  • The Pick: Under 214.5 (-110)

While it doesn’t have anything to do with tonight’s game, I want to get this opinion out there where the world can see it because what’s the point of having a strongly held opinion if you don’t tell anybody about it? If the Suns are healthy, there’s no way this series lasts longer than five games. A lot of the time in the playoffs, one team looks good in the first round, and it raises some eyebrows. It causes people to ask, “Hey, what if this team is better than we realized,” only to find out they aren’t. They only looked that way because they played a team that was worse than its record in the first round or was a particularly great matchup for them.

That team is the Mavs this season. They took out the Jazz in six games despite not having Luka Doncic for a chunk of the series, while Phoenix struggled with a Pelicans team that was much better than its record because most of that record was pre-C.J. McCollum trade. Oh, and Devin Booker was hurt. But, yeah, the Mavs aren’t as good as they looked in the first round, nor are the Suns as vulnerable as they looked, and if any second-round series is going to be a blowout, it’s this one.

Allan Bell is joined by Larry Hartstein, Zack Cimini and John Bollman to dish out Monday’s best bets. Download and follow The Early Edge on Apple Podcasts and Spotify 

But I’m not sure it’ll be a blowout tonight. Devin Booker is probable, but we don’t know how healthy he is and how it will impact tonight’s game. Plus, you often see teams “feel” the other out a bit more in the first game of a series. The Suns are confident they’ll win the series, and they might use tonight more for recon than anything, knowing they can still win even if they don’t go all out.

That’s why I like the under. The Mavs offense wasn’t great against Utah, but they did a good job defensively containing the Jazz. I don’t expect them to fare as well against Phoenix, but I don’t think they will fall off a cliff defensively, either. As for the Suns, if Booker is limited, so is their offense, and after struggling defensively against the Pelicans, don’t be surprised if the Suns emphasize the defensive end tonight.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model doesn’t agree with me, as it thinks you should bet the Over. If you’d rather not get between the two of us, don’t worry. The model also likes one side of the spread tonight too.


💰The Picks

🏀 NBA

James Harden Getty Philadelphia 76ers

Getty Images

76ers at Heat, 7:30 p.m | TV: TNT

The Pick: James Harden Under 42.5 Points, Assists & Rebounds (-135) — 
This is a tricky spot. Joel Embiid is out tonight, and that’s had a significant impact on the spread as the 76ers are 7.5-point dogs in Miami tonight. Is that too much of an overcorrection, or not enough? I don’t know! It’s hard to bet when you don’t know, so instead, I’m going to find the one aspect of this series that will be true of any Miami Heat playoff game. The Heat are always strong defensively, and their defensive approach is rarely complicated. Whether under Pat Riley or Erik Spoelstra, the Heat’s game plan is always to take away the other team’s best player and force the rest to beat you.

Sometimes it backfires in a game, but throughout a seven-game series, it’s effective. Many teams try this, but the Heat are one of the few strong enough defensively to pull it off. Well, that player would’ve been Embiid, but since he’s out, it now becomes James Harden. The Heat defense will focus on him and force everybody else to beat them. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but I don’t think Harden will have a good time either way. If you need proof of this, go back and look at what Miami did to Trae Young in the first round. He was erased from existence.

Key Trend: The Miami Heat are good defensively.

⚽ Champions League

Liverpool Getty Mohammed Salah

Getty Images

Villarreal vs. Liverpool, Tuesday, 3 p.m | Streaming: Paramount+

The Pick: Both Teams to Score (-140) — 
I took both teams to score in the first leg last week, and it backfired. Villarreal went ultra-defensive on the road against Liverpool, barely registering a pulse in attack as Liverpool won 2-0. It cannot approach this match the same way and will come out aggressively against a dangerous Liverpool side.

And Liverpool is not the kind of team that will be comfortable sitting back and nursing its 2-0 lead. It will try to make it 3-0 or even 4-0 before taking its foot off the gas. Whether it’s a blowout or not, though, Villarreal should find the back of the net often enough to justify paying this price. They’ve scored in 19 of their 22 home matches this season and didn’t get this far in the Champions League by playing ultra-defensively.

Key Trend: Villarreal has scored in 19 of 22 home matches across all competitions this season.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: SportsLine insider Brandt Sutton has shared all the best bets for Tuesday’s Champions League match between Liverpool and Villarreal.


 ⚾ Tonight’s Parlay

Tonight we’ve got a small two-team parlay with a healthy payout of +246.

  • Twins (-145)
  • Blue Jays (+105)

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