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Bucks vs Raptors NBA betting picks and predictions: Beasts of the East do battle

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The Bucks are short road favorites over the Raptors on Tuesday night as these contenders collide in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.

We build the blueprint for betting this marquee matchup on the NBA basketball odds board, from our favorite bets for the side and total to some quick-paying picks and prop plays.




This is a tough spot for the Bucks, who have laughed in the face of danger all season with the best record in the NBA at 49-8. Milwaukee is coming off a 137-134 overtime win over the Wizards on Monday and will be traveling to Toronto overnight for this important second game
of a back-to-back.

The Raptors are rested and rolling after a 127-81 blowout win over the Pacers on Sunday. Toronto has won two straight since having their 15-game winning streak snapped in the final game before the All-Star break. The defending champs have the third-best record in the NBA, two games behind the Lakers and seven back of the Bucks.

These two teams feature the top two field goal percentage defenses in the NBA which have come to the forefront early in games this season, especially for the Bucks. The first quarter Under is 17-9-1 in Milwaukee road games this season. It’s a good bet this high-profile game will get off to a slow start.

Pick: First Quarter Under 56.5


Toronto is the deepest team in the NBA and can bring players like Serge Ibaka and Terence Davis off the bench in a relentless rotation for head coach Nick Nurse. Davis scored in double figures for the second straight game with 13 points in 24 minutes on Sunday against Indiana.

He has now logged 1,003 minutes and is just the fourth undrafted rookie to play at least 1,000 minutes in a season for Toronto (Jose Calderon, Jorge Garabajosa, Jamario Moon).

That depth is a big reason for Toronto’s success this season and it will likely come in handy on Tuesday against a weary Milwaukee team playing in the second game of a back-to-back. The Raptors are 18-12 ATS in the first half at home this season. The more rested team will get off to the faster start in this potential playoff showdown.

Pick: Raptors First-Half Moneyline (-104)


The Raptors solved the dilemma of stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo in last year’s East Finals by throwing waves of defenders at him, the primary one being Kawhi Leonard. Giannis is coming off a tough game having fouled out with 1:33 left in regulation against the Wizards after
collecting 22 points and 14 boards but also committing eight turnovers.

Brooke Lopez continues to nurse an ailing back and did not play against Washington. If Lopez sits Tuesday, expect more minutes in the middle for Giannis. The odds on favorite to win league MVP has recorded at least 14 boards in 10 straight games and is a good bet to exceed that total again, on Tuesday.

Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo Over 13.5 Rebounds (-128)


Milwaukee runs their offense at the fastest pace in the NBA and has the third-best offensive rating in the league. Toronto’s defense is well equipped to keep the Bucks from running and has held two of its last three opponents to less than 100 points. The Under is 3-0 in the
last three games for the Raptors.

The total has been a streaky bet for Milwaukee this season, who has cashed four of its last five games to the Over after a stretch of three straight Unders. This total is slightly inflated because of Milwaukee’s offensive prowess. The playoff atmosphere of this game will have an effect on both offenses down the stretch.

Pick: Under 231.5


The Wizards erased a 17-point deficit against Milwaukee on Monday and even took a brief lead with 1:01 to play before eventually succumbing in overtime to the Giannis-less Bucks. Khris Middleton dropped 40 and scored the final nine points of the game to carry Milwaukee across the finish line.

The shaky second-half performance against Washington could have been the Bucks looking ahead to Tuesday’s playoff rematch in Toronto or a shot across the bow for some regression. We think the latter is possible as Milwaukee has not yet suffered a significant losing stretch this season.

Toronto has over-achieved as many expected them to fade without Kawhi Leonard in tow. In the absence of the Finals MVP, they have found second-life as one of the deepest and most disciplined teams in the league. This will be the first of three matchups between these two contenders over the final 25 games of the regular season. The Raptors are rested and the stronger bet to take game one of this best-of-three.

Pick: Raptors +1.5

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, 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, 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.