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NBA betting picks and odds: Profit from this Chris Paul prop versus Pelicans

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The final night of NBA betting before the All-Star break has only two games in action. Thankfully, both matchups are great and there is never a shortage of NBA odds to attack.

Analyst Monique Vag breaks down Clippers at Celtics and Thunder at Pelicans, giving her best NBA picks for the pointspreads, totals, and props.

 

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS AT BOSTON CELTICS

STARTING SLOW

The Celtics have won 22 of their first 27 home games this season (16-10-1 ATS), including six straight heading into Thursday night. Boston welcomes the Clippers, who average 114 points per game away from home.

The Celtics have struggled to get out to a good start over their last three games, averaging only 25 first-quarter points (ranked 30th overall in that span), and were recently held to 19 points in the opening frame versus the Thunder.

The Clippers defense has been stingy out of the gate as a visitor, holding host teams to just 45.1 percent shooting in the first quarter this season. After falling behind early to Philadelphia on Tuesday, expect L.A. to put an emphasis on defense in the opening 12 minutes of this game. Bet Under the first quarter game total of 59.

BOSTON BEAT DOWNS

The last three meetings between Clippers and Celtics have each been won by Los Angeles, posting an average score of 123-110 (2-1 ATS). The Clippers shot above 50 percent from the floor in those three meetings while the Celtics struggled, shooting just over 42 percent.

With Los Angeles winning five of the last six in the head-to-head versus Boston and nine of the last 10 versus Atlantic Division opponents, taking the points with a very capable road dog is never a bad idea. Go with Los Angeles +2.

 

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AT NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

FLYING HIGH

The Pelicans are 2.5-point home favorites hosting the Thunder. New Orleans is fresh off a 138-117 blowout victory versus the Blazers Tuesday night and is averaging a league-high 129 points over its last three outings.

The Pelicans are really cooking at home in recent weeks, averaging 123 points on 45.5 percent shooting over their last five contests inside the Smoothie King Center. They’ve topped the total in nine of their last dozen home games and are 7-3 Over/Under in their last 10 matchups with OKC in the Big Easy. We like the Pelicans to play Over their team total of 117.5.

OPEN WITH A BANG

Along with their hot shooting the Pelicans have gotten out to very quick starts in recent games, averaging 65 points per first 24 minutes over their last three contests. The Thunder, however, have been on the opposite side of this stat, averaging just 53 first-half points on the road this season.

With Oklahoma City managing only 41 first-half points versus a porous Spurs defense at home Tuesday, we like New Orleans to be leading at the break. Take its first-half moneyline at -130.

POINT OF WEAKNESS

As good as the Pelicans have been offensively, they have needed those big numbers to overcome a weak defense, which is surrendering 117.2 points per game on the year. New Orleans been particularly vulnerable versus opposing point guards, allowing 24.9 points and nine assists per contest to the position.

Thunder veteran PG Chris Paul has dished out seven or more assists six times in his last nine game, including 10 assists in three of those performances. Expect Paul to be a factor in orchestrating the Thunder offense. Bet Over his assists total of 6.5.

Longshots to consider when betting the Shoemaker Mile

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Monday’s Shoemaker Miles Stakes at Santa Anita Park is a great race for a number of reasons. For starters, the Shoemaker Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race that offers the winner a guaranteed spot in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

The race also features last year’s Preakness Stakes winner, War of Will, making his season debut. Despite his triumphs on the dirt in 2019, War of Will started his career on the turf and his pedigree suggests that he’s very likely to be just as successful on the grass. That said, the Shoemaker Mile will be his first start off of a six-month break, and I’m going to try to take a swing or two with some horses who could upset the apple cart at longer odds.

Let’s start out with the horse on the rail, Without Parole. He won the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes going a mile at Ascot back in 2018. His three other career wins have all came at this mile distance as well. Granted, he hasn’t won in six races since the St. James’s Palace but he did finish a fast-closing third two starts ago in a much tougher U.S. debut in the TVG Breeders’ Cup MileIrad Ortiz Jr. rode Without Parole in that race and he will reclaim the mount on him again on Monday.

Without Parole has only had one race this year and it was in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational in which he finished second to last. However, he had several excuses right from the start of that race when he got squeezed coming out of the gate. He also raced in traffic throughout and got cut off several times in the stretch before Frankie Dettori — who had come from Europe to ride him at Gulfstream — finally just wrapped up on him. The Pegasus World Cup Turf also was a race that didn’t allow him to run on Lasix (furosemide) after he’d shown significant improvement racing on Lasix for the first time at the Breeders’ Cup.

Stream the 2020 Shoemaker Mile live here

How much of a factor might Lasix be for some horses? Well, let’s next look at the horse who finished last in the Pegasus World Cup Turf: Next Shares. In his following start (back on Lasix) in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes, Next Shares finished third (beaten just a neck) to River Boyne. Both Next Shares and River Boyne return in the Shoemaker Mile and I prefer the former as a pace play who has plenty of back-class. If you rewatch the Kilroe Mile, Next Shares covered a lot more ground than River Boyne. With a similar effort, Next Shares could certainly turn the tables.

The other thing to like about Next Shares is that his trainer, Richard Baltas, has entered speedster Neptune’s Storm in the Shoemaker Mile. That horse, along with Voodoo Song, should ensure a very brisk pace up front — they’ll also be kept honest by Blitzkrieg and War of Will, both of whom usually race on or near the lead. All of that speed adds up to good news for Next Shares. He’s a Grade 1 winner who has always done his best running when he’s had some pace to run into. The other two keys for him (like all stalking or closing-type runners) is clear running room late, and hopefully he’ll get that with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez taking the mount.

Lastly, we should take a look at True Valour. It’s hard to make much of an excuse for his flat finish in the Kilroe last out, but he’s truly performed better than what his results on paper might indicate. In the Thunder Road Stakes in February, he looked pretty keen early and it took him a few strides to settle down without throwing his head around and fighting his rider. Turning for home, it was clear that jockey Andrea Atzeni had plenty of horse under him but was just waiting for some running room. It ended up coming too late because River Boyne was in a better spot and had already taken command. True Valour did split horses nicely in the closing stages and was half a jump away from finishing second.

If you go back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile, True Valour had excuses there, too. He was up on heels early and he again took a little bit of time to settle down into a comfortable stride. Then, turning for him, he was just waiting for running room but instead got stuck behind a wall of horses. True Valour ended up steadying pretty badly and lost all chance at that point. I’m a little worried about how headstrong he tends to be early in races, but there’s a scenario here that could have at least two horses battling for the lead early and opening up some daylight on the rest of the field. That means he’ll be less likely to be running up on anyone’s heels and it also ensures that he’ll have a nice setup. Whether he can navigate clear passage late in the race is a separate matter.

Longshot Selections

#1 Without Parole

#3 Next Shares

#2 True Valour

Watch the Shoemaker Mile on Monday, May 25 from 6-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

How to bet an exacta on a horse race

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Betting an exacta can present a challenge on several levels.

There is, of course, the primary need to analyze past performances and decide which horses are going to finish first and second.

Yet because of the inherently lower payoffs as opposed to what you’ll find in a Pick 3 or Pick 4, you’ll need to structure your wagers effectively in order to turn your selections into a profitable wager.

For starters, an exacta can be a simple wager. If you like two horses equally, you can just box them in the exacta and collect so long as they finish 1-2 in any order. If you like one of them a little more, you can then bet more on the one you prefer, say $10 on a 1-2 exacta and $5 on 2-1.

If you’re a little more uncertain, make sure you structure your bet around the size of the field and the probable payoffs.

If you like a longshot, the higher probable payoffs give you the cushion you need to wager on more combinations and still turn a nice profit.

But if you’re dealing with favorites or horses at relatively low odds, you have to wager more efficiently to preserve your profit.

In a field of six or less, you’re best to either focus on one horse or box two of them instead of boxing three or more horses because of the small payouts the bet will most likely generate.

In a field of seven, a wise strategy would be to box your top two choices and then, if you are worried about other horses, play them top and/or bottom other the other horses. For example, box 1-2, then bet 1-2 over 3-4 and 3-4 over 1-2. This way you are getting coverage on four horses without having to box them.

Once you get an eight-horse field, as long as there is not an overwhelming favorite, you can expand the number of horses you box since the payoffs will typically be higher, giving you a better opportunity to offset the inevitable array of losing tickets in a boxed wager.