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NBA predictions and betting odds: More value with Melo prop

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Basketball bettors only have four games on the NBA odds board this Thursday, in what could be a lopsided night on the schedule, with no spread closer than 6-points.

NBA analyst Monique Vag looks at the NBA pointspreads, Over/Under odds, and team and player props, giving you her best bets and NBA predictions for tonight’s action.




The Philadelphia 76ers are 6-point favorites for the tail end of a back-to-back when they host the New York Knicks. However, they will be without both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid for this contest. The Knicks, who are also playing their second game in as many nights, have also lost 10 consecutive matchups against the Sixers.

New York has really struggled to put points on the board, ranking 28th in points per game at just 104.7. The Knicks are up against a 76ers team who rank 22nd in points per game, but have really struggled as of late, being held under 100 in two of their last three contests overall. Expect more of the same on both ends, and bet Under the game total of 211.5.




The Portland Trail Blazers head to Indiana to take on the Pacers as 9.5-point underdogs, because Damian Lillard will be sitting this one out with a groin injury.

The Pacers have stumbled out of the gates recently, averaging only 20.7 first quarter points per game over their last three contests. Today, they take on a Blazers team ranked sixth in first quarter points per contest. Take Portland to keep things close early on even without Dame, and bet the Trail Blazers on the first quarter spread, getting 3-points.


Portland’s Carmelo Anthony has really stepped up in Lillard’s absence. Throughout that three-game stretch he has logged 20, 32, and 14 points and connected on no less than two made 3-point shots in each contest. Without Lillard in the lineup, there are a lot of extra field goal attempts to go around – look for a player like Anthony to go Over his points total of 16.5 on volume alone.



The Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder have both been playing very well post All-Star break and enter today on respective three and four game winning streaks.

The Thunder have gotten out to very quick starts over their last three games, averaging 60.3 first half points per game, including putting up 72 last time out versus the Bulls. The Kings have also had a lot of success early, on averaging 59.7 first half points per game throughout that same stretch. Expect both teams to come out flying on and bet Over the first half game total of 113.



The largest spread of the night takes place in San Francisco, with the Lakers on the board as 10-point road favorites over the Warriors. The Lakers come into this one on a six game winning streak, but if they want to make it seven in a row, they’ll have to do so without LeBron James, who will be sitting with a groin injury.

The Warriors have really struggled shooting from the floor all season long, averaging 106 points per game and things won’t be easy against a stingy Lakers defense. Los Angeles allows only 107.4 points per game on 44.7 percent shooting. Look for the Lakers to step up on that end of the floor with LeBron out and keep a sub-par Warriors team Under their team total of 106.5.

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.