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NBA predictions and betting odds: Conley to orchestrate the Jazz offense

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Mike Conley and the Utah Jazz will look to take advantage of a matchup advantage with the Phoenix Suns, while the Wizards and Bucks face off in what should be a very high-scoring affair.

Our analyst Monique Vag breaks down the NBA betting odds for those games and much more as she brings you the best predictions and picks for the basketball action on Monday, February 24. 

MILWAUKEE BUCKS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

EXPECT A SHOOTOUT

Milwaukee are 13-point road favorites as they travel to Washington to take on the Wizards. The Bucks have the league’s best record overall at 48-8, and have only lost five times on the road this season. With Washington playing on the tail end of a back-to-back going up against the highest scoring team in the league, expect a very high scoring game.

In their prior meeting this season, Eric Bledsoe shot 11 of 20 from the floor putting up 34 points with a usage rating of 34.6 percent! While expecting a shooting night like this may be a stretch, look for Bledsoe to have an impact offensively and bet Over his low points total of 15.5.

 

MIAMI HEAT AT CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

ROOKS DIG THE LONG BALL

Miami’s Kendrick Nunn has impressed as a rookie averaging 15.5 points per game on 44.4 percent shooting from the floor and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. Although his three point shooting is inconsistent right now, he’s attempted four of more in seven straight contests.

Look for an efficient shooting night out of Nunn and bet on him to connect on quite a few from beyond the arc going up against a Cavaliers team allowing opponents to shoot 37.3 percent from deep (28th in the league). Bet Over Nunn’s total made 3-point shots of 1.5.

KEEPING IT CLOSE EARLY

Over their three most recent games, the Heat have been the highest scoring first quarter team in the NBA averaging 34 ppg. Today they travel to Cleveland to take on a Cavs team that has had some early success of their own lately, putting up 32.3 first quarter ppg over its last three contests.

With both teams ranking towards the bottom of the Association in pace, and no Jimmy Butler or Tyler Herro for tonight’s matchup, expect the Cavs to connect on some shots early and keep things close. Take Cleveland on the first quarter spread getting 2-points.

PHEONIX SUNS AT UTAH JAZZ

DROPPING DIMES

The Jazz have won 10 straight games against the Suns in the head-to-head and are 8-point favorites against them tonight.

Utah was happy to get Mike Conley back in the lineup last night against the Rockets. In that contest he struggled shooting the ball going 1-of-6 from beyond the arc, but handed out seven dimes and logged seven boards. Expect big numbers in the assists category out of Conely as he is up against a Suns team that surrenders a very high 8.7 assists per game to opposing point guards. Bet Over Conley’s assists total of 4.5.

 

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES AT LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

MINI SLUMPS FOR BOTH SIDES

The Clippers are 9.5-point favorites as they host the Grizzlies who have lost two straight games heading into tonight’s matchup. The last time these two teams met up on January 4, the Grizzlies pulled off a big upset victory winning 140-114.

The Clippers have had their share of struggles as well lately on the defensive end, allowing 130 or more points twice over their most recent five games and winning only one of those contests. While the Clippers should be able to take care of business with an outright victory, look for the Grizzlies to keep things close. Take Memphis on the spread getting 9.5-points.

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.