Belmont Stakes 2020 betting guide

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After several weeks of uncertainty while many aspects of daily life around the world were halted due to a global health pandemic, horse racing re-emerged under a “new normal” – and last month, the 2020 Triple Crown was finalized and rearranged on a timeline that has never existed before in the series’ history and probably won’t again.

Rather than wrapping up the Triple Crown on June 6, the 152ndBelmont Stakes at Belmont Park will kick off the 2020 series on Saturday, June 20. Along the traditional schedule following the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes is traditionally held at a taxing 1 ½ miles, with 3-year-old horses navigating the entirety of Belmont’s vast main track. This year, the aptly named “Test of the Champion” will not occur as the race will be held around one turn at 1 1/8 miles.

NBC is home to the 152nd Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20, providing comprehensive race coverage and analysis live on TV and NBCSports.com before, during and after the main event. Coverage runs from 2:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. on NBC, just hours after NBC’s coverage of the final day of the Royal Ascot in England. Stream the 2020 Belmont Stakes here.

Still, a different and arguably more difficult assignment awaits the winner of the 2020 Belmont if the horse’s connections still aim to complete the Triple Crown – they must keep their charge in top form over a 15-week period (instead of five weeks) in order to capture the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5 and the Preakness Stakes on Oct. 3.

The $1 million, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, added last month by Churchill Downs as a qualifying prep for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, offers points to the top four finishers on a scale of 150-60-30-15, guaranteeing Saturday’s winner a spot as one of at least 18 domestic horses in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

This year’s competitive field is headlined by New York-bred Tiz the Law, who has won both of his starts this year and four of five races overall. The race will be televised nationally on NBC.

Bet the Belmont Stakes with 1/ST BET and get a $10 Instant Credit + Up to a $500 Bonus when you sign up with promo code 500ABR. When you handicap, bet and watch the Belmont Stakes on 1/ST BET, be sure to take advantage of a Money-Back Guarantee. Bet your horse to win and get your cash back, up to $10, if you finish 2nd or 3rd. That way, no matter if you like Tiz the LawSole Volante or someone else, your best bet on the race is at 1/ST BET.

Read on for information on all of the contenders in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.


1. Tap It to Win (6-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Live Oak Plantation

Career record: 6 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $124,672

Earnings per start: $20,779

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Tapit – Onepointthreekarats, by Medaglia d’Oro

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Delaying the 2020 Triple Crown races has worked to the benefit of several late-blooming 3-year-olds, and Tap It to Win is one of them. This Live Oak Plantation homebred first turned heads with a visually impressive win in his second career start last summer at Saratoga, but he then flopped in two stakes tries during the fall (defeated by a combined 64 ¾ lengths) and disappeared off of the 2020 Triple Crown radar. Patiently handled by Mark Casse, he made his way back on with two sharp wins this year, taking a six-furlong allowance-optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park by 1 ½ lengths in May and then a 1 1/16-mile, one-turn allowance at Belmont Park on June 4 by five lengths over highly regarded Mystic Guide. He comes right back to Belmont’s main track for this first jewel of the Triple Crown and is bred to handle an extra half-furlong as a son of top sire Tapit and from a female family that includes the dam of champion Songbird. Tap It to Win set the pace in his most recent win, and look for him to attempt to do it again, breaking from the rail post, after a three-week break and against a tougher field Saturday. This colt has the look of an eventual graded stakes winner, and while it might not come in the Belmont Stakes, he’s a must-use in exotics. Mark Casse won last year’s Belmont Stakes with Sir Winston, part of his stellar 2019 that also included a Preakness Stakes win with War of Will. Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez has two Belmont Stakes wins, coming in 2007 aboard the filly Rags to Riches and in 2013 on Union Rags. Brilliant Speed finished third in the 2011 Belmont for Live Oak, owned by Charlotte Weber.


2. Sole Volante (9-2)

Jockey: Luca Panici

Trainer: Patrick Biancone

Owners: Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Andie Biancone

Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $293,310

Earnings per start: $48,885

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 109

Kentucky Derby points: 30

Pedigree: Karakontie – Light Blow, by Kingmambo

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Coming in off of a quick turnaround, Sole Volante is a bit of a question mark in the Belmont, but one could make an argument that aside from Tiz the Law this is the most accomplished and talented horse in the field. After beginning his career last fall on turf, he burst upon the 3-year-old scene earlier this spring with an eye-catching win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs before running second in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby to King Guillermo (that colt validated his upset win with a good second behind Nadal in the second leg of the Arkansas Derby). Sole Volante returned after a three-month break with a rallying win in a tough one-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on June 10, defeating Curlin Florida Derby runner-up Shivaree (who finished third) and Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes winner and stablemate Ete Indien (fourth). He gets right back in the starting gate after only nine days against an even tougher field, and he’ll have to improve his top Equibase Speed Figures to topple Tiz the Law unless that horse regresses, which would be a surprise. Still, this son of Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Karakontie is a logical choice to pair in exactas with that foe, and stands an upset chance in the 152nd Belmont if the early pace is fast enough to set up his late kick. Trainer Patrick Biancone finished third in the 1989 Belmont with Le Voyageur.


3. Max Player (15-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Linda Rice

Owner: George Hall and Sport BLX Thoroughbreds

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $173,500

Earnings per start: $57,833

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Pedigree: Honor Code – Fools in Love, by Not For Love

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Max Player enters the Belmont Stakes as a wild card, having not raced since Feb. 1. He showed a lot of promise in that start when made his 3-year-old debut in the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, and closed strongly to win going away by 3 ½ lengths. He’s been training steadily at Belmont Park since then for Linda Rice and already has winning experience at the Belmont Stakes’ shortened distance. Still, no other horses from the Withers have gone on to make an impact in 3-year-old stakes, and this colt’s other two starts came last year at Parx Racing. Max Player faces a tough class hike coming off of a long break and overall, running second or third in the Belmont should be considered a successful comeback, setting him up for marquee 3-year-old races later this summer and into the fall. George Hall co-owned 2011 Belmont winner Ruler On Ice. Jockey Joel Rosario has won the Belmont twice, aboard Tonalist in 2014 and Sir Winston last year. He also finished second with Frosted in 2015 third in 2011 and 2013.


4. Modernist (15-1)

Jockey: Junior Alvarado

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owners: Pam and Marty Wygod

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $388,800

Earnings per start: $77,760

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 94

Kentucky Derby points: 70

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Symbolic Gesture, by Bernardini

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Modernist stands an outside chance of posting an upset win in the 2020 Belmont Stakes if leading contenders Tiz the Law and Sole Volante aren’t at their best Saturday. The reason? Modernist is one of four horses (along with Tap It to Win, Fore Left and possibly Pneumatic) that project to be vying for the early lead, and among that group, he has the best résumé to handle the Belmont’s mile and an eighth, having won two of his three starts this year at the distance. Those came when he broke his maiden at Aqueduct back in January going 1 1/8 miles around two turns and then when he took his next start against tougher company, winning the second division of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds on Feb. 15. In his most recent start, he endured a subpar trip breaking from outside 14 post position in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, yet still managed to finish third in a race won by a runaway pacesetter in Wells Bayou. Modernist’s Equibase Speed Figures are a cut below the top contenders in the Belmont Stakes – especially Tiz the Law – but Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott should have him prepared for this race and he’s eligible to improve. Mott won the 2010 Belmont Stakes with Drosselmeyer, and recently he finished third in 2018 with Hofburg and second last year with Tacitus.


5. Farmington Road (15-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Chrysalis Stables, and Robert LaPenta

Career record: 6 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $110,000

Earnings per start: $18,333

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 15

Pedigree: Quality Road – Silver La Belle, by Langfuhr

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After breaking his maiden in his second start as a 3-year-old back in January at Tampa Bay Downs, Farmington Road has raced in three consecutive stakes races and has been a proverbial “late on the scene” horse each time. He rallied belatedly to nab fourth in the first division of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford in March, nearly got up to win the Oaklawn Stakes in April, and then ran on to get fourth again in the second division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2. This horse is a one-run type who needs a swift early pace to close into, and this year’s shortened Belmont Stakes did not draw a lot of speed horses. Unlike several other starters, Farmington Road is a horse that would actually benefit from two turns based on his recent races. He’s an outsider as a win candidate, but definitely one to consider using in trifecta and/or superfecta tickets. Todd Pletcher’s three Belmont wins came in 2007 (Rags to Riches); 2013 (Palace Malice); and 2017 (Tapwrit). Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta co-owned Tapwrit with Bridlewood Farm, and LaPenta was the sole owner of 2008 upset Belmont winner Da’ Tara. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has yet to win the Belmont Stakes; he’s finished second three times, most recently a near-miss aboard Destin in 2016.


6. Fore Left (30-1)

JockeyJose Ortiz

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Owner: Reddam Racing

Career record: 9 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $355,902

Earnings per start: $39,545

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Twirling Candy – Simply Sunny, by Unbridled’s Song

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A late addition to the Belmont Stakes field, Fore Left has some appeal since all four of his wins have come on dirt and he handled traveling across the world with aplomb earlier this year, winning the UAE Two Thousand Guineas Sponsored by Masdar at Meydan Racecourse back in February. On the other hand, he has not started since that victory and originally was being pointed to the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes Presented by Claiborne Farm on the Belmont Stakes undercard. He was very active – and successful – racing last year as a juvenile, making eight of his nine career starts. With this colt, the main question comes down to: Has he developed enough to compete with U.S. graded stakes winners such as Sole Volante, Modernist, and Max Player – to say nothing of Tiz the Law? His worst three races prior to the UAE Two Thousand Guineas all came at seven furlongs or longer, but he did win the Two Thousand Guineas at just under a mile rather easily. His addition to the Belmont field does add some more speed to the field, and it would not be a surprise to see Fore Left challenge Tap It to Win for the lead from the outset. Picking up Jose Ortiz to ride is a big plus: The 2017 Eclipse Award winner took that year’s Belmont aboard Tapwrit and finished second in 2018 and 2019 with Gronkowski and Tacitus, respectively. Doug O’Neill and J. Paul Reddam campaigned 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, who was scratched the day before that year’s Belmont due to an injury. Reddam co-owned 2003 Belmont runner-up Ten Most Wanted.


7. Jungle Runner (50-1)

JockeyReylu Gutierrez

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 8 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $110,415

Earnings per start: $13,802

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 85

Kentucky Derby point: 1

Pedigree: Candy Ride – Minx, by Tapit

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Jungle Runner was added to the list of Belmont Stakes probables over the weekend of June 12-13, immediately claiming designation of the horse most likely to carry the highest odds in the field when the gates open Saturday. He enters off of a start in the first division of the Arkansas Derby on May 2, where he finished eighth, 22 ½ lengths behind Charlatan. Overall, in his three 2020 starts Jungle Runner has been defeated by a combined 63 ¼ lengths. Both of his wins came last fall at Remington Park – one of them in a listed stakes – and preceded his final start of the year, also at Remington, where he faced tougher competition in the Springboard Mile and finished fourth by 14 lengths. This son of top sire Candy Ride appears completely overmatched in the Belmont Stakes and will hopefully be pointed to an allowance or listed stakes later this summer against lesser company in an attempt to regain his fall 2019 form. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen won the 2015 Belmont Stakes with Creator. Calumet Farm’s two Belmont Stakes wins came when Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948) closed out Triple Crown triumphs with wins in New York, adding to the farm’s legacy of excellence when owned by the Wright family. Under Brad Kelley’s ownership, Calumet has continued to send horses to the Belmont, and recently his Preakness Stakes runners-up from 2018 (Bravazo) and 2019 (Everfast) finished sixth and seventh, respectively.


8. Tiz the Law (6-5)

Jockey: Manny Franco

Trainer: Barclay Tagg

Owner: Sackatoga Stable

Career record: 5 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $945,300

Earnings per start: $189,060

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 117

Kentucky Derby points: 122

Pedigree: Constitution – Tizfiz, by Tiznow

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Despite the delay of the Triple Crown season in this unprecedented year, Tiz the Law has kept his status as a leading classic contender while several other top horses have been sidelined or retired. He enters the Belmont Stakes as the deserved favorite, and checks all of the boxes of a prospective Belmont winner – pedigree, past performances, connections, and success over the track. Tiz the Law jumped on the 2020 Triple Crown bandwagon immediately last summer, dominating in his career debut at Saratoga and then taking the one-turn mile Champagne Stakes at Belmont in October by four lengths. His only misstep came next, on a sloppy track in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs to close out 2019, and even then he finished a close third. Tiz the Law’s two wins this year at Gulfstream Park – a three-length score in the Holy Bull Stakes and a 4 ¼-length romp in the Curlin Florida Derby – have been even more impressive. Now, he cuts back to one turn at a track he’s already won a Grade 1 stakes on, and all signs are pointing to a top-level performance. Trainer Barclay Tagg, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and finished third in the Belmont in 2003 with Sackatoga Stable’s Funny Cide, has suggested that this colt could map out a campaign that includes the Belmont, Travers Stakes, Kentucky Derby and the Preakness over the coming months (although he made that forecast before the Belmont was rescheduled as the first race of the series). Capturing the 2020 “Quadruple Crown” would be quite an accomplishment indeed, and the journey starts Saturday.


9. Dr Post (5-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: St. Elias Stable

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $76,635

Earnings per start: $25,545

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Quality Road – Mary Delaney, by Hennessy

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Lightly raced Dr Post arrives at Belmont on a definite upswing, having won both of his starts as a 3-year-old. He returned to the track after a nearly nine-month break in late March at Gulfstream Park and won a seven-furlong maiden race, and then overcame some bumping in early stretch to take the 1 1/16-mile Unbridled Stakes around two turns at Gulfstream on April 25. He’ll face a far tougher field Saturday in Belmont 152, but clearly Dr Post has talent and the 1 1/8-mile distance should be right in his wheelhouse. While stablemate Farmington Road is a closer dependent on a fast pace, this fellow son of promising young sire Quality Road has shown a more versatile running style this year, and could spice up exotic tickets if he takes the next step in development on Saturday. Todd Pletcher has won the Belmont three times: with the great filly Rags to Riches in 2007; with Palace Malice in 2013; and with Tapwrit in 2017. Reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. won the 2015 Belmont on Creator; his recent mounts finished third in 2018 and fourth last year.


10. Pneumatic (10-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $101,850

Earnings per start: $33,950

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Teardrop, by Tapit

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Tiz the Law towers above the 2020 Belmont Stakes field in terms of accomplishments and speed figures, but there are several entrants who appear to have plenty of untapped potential ready to be realized, and perhaps none more so than Pneumatic. He stepped up in class following two impressive wins at Oaklawn Park when he ran in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 23, and competed well into deep stretch before settling for third behind Maxfield and Ny Traffic. Pneumatic should be among the horses situated in the front rank early on in the Belmont, perhaps sitting just behind Tap It to Win and Fore Left, and this well-bred son of top sire Tapit should easily be able to handle the additional half-furlong Saturday and make some noise in the stretch, even if his best Equibase Speed Figures place him behind several other contenders. He’s worth considering for exacta and trifecta tickets with Tiz the Law, and nabbing 60 or 30 Kentucky Derby qualifying points should put him in a good position for bigger and better achievements later this summer and into the fall. Steve Asmussen won the 2015 Belmont Stakes with Creator.

Watch the 2020 Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 20 from 2:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. 

PointsBet USA unveils partnership with Detroit Tigers

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In the absence of MLB games until – hopefully – later this month, MLB betting made some news Thursday with the announcement that PointsBet USA is now the official gaming partner of the Detroit Tigers. It’s the first such arrangement between a sports betting entity and an MLB team, made possible by PointsBet USA’s recent agreement with MLB designating the sportsbook as an authorized gaming operator by the league.

“The PointsBet team is excited to announce our groundbreaking deal with the Detroit Tigers and Major League Baseball, becoming the first legal sports betting operator in U.S. history to partner with an MLB franchise,” PointsBet USA CEO Johnny Aitken said in a news release. “We offer the most betting options in the world on MLB games via our unique PointsBetting product, and we are excited to inject a unique and robust betting proposition into the great state of Michigan.”

Michigan legalized sports betting in December, for both brick-and-mortar and online operators, and books began taking bets in March. PointsBet USA is not only the first book to partner with an MLB franchise, but the first to partner with any Michigan-based professional sports team.

As part of the multi-year deal, PointsBet USA will have TV broadcast-visible branding at Comerica Park, a sponsored presence on the Tigers’ digital platforms, and will be integrated into The District Detroit app and the MLB Ballpark app.

“We are thrilled to welcome PointsBet as a gaming partner of the Detroit Tigers,” said Chris Granger, group president of sports and entertainment for Ilitch Holdings. “Our incredible fans will love the unique experiences and innovative offerings that PointsBet’s personalized platform provides. We look forward to the fan-friendly enhancements this will bring to the game-day experience in and around Comerica Park for years to come.”

NBA betting: Eight seeding games to bet when NBA returns

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NBA betting is back on the board with the NBA season restarting in Orlando after the COVID-19 shutdown. From July 30-August 14, the 22 remaining teams with NBA Championship aspirations will face off against each other to determine playoff seeding, so get ready for some exciting matchups.

We take a look at eight must-bet NBA seeding games to watch as the league returns to action.

Clippers vs Lakers (-1.5, 218.5), July 30, 9 p.m. ET

When the Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, take on Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and the Los Angeles Clippers, the NBA doesn’t get much better than this. Opening day and Christmas Day also featured this marquee matchup and the opening night of the restart in Orlando will mark the fourth time this season that these LA rivals have faced off.

The Lakers are third in the NBA in scoring defense, allowing 106.9 points per game, while the Clippers hold opponents to just 43.6 percent shooting from the field, also third-best in the league. With both teams coming in off lengthy breaks, there may be some rust on the offensive end of the floor making the Under 218.5 an intriguing play.

Betting trend to watch: The Clips won the first two meetings while the Lakers won the last one in March. The Under hit in each of those contests with an average score of 108.7-106.7 in favor of the Clippers.

Celtics vs Bucks (-5, 217.5), July 31, 6:30 p.m. ET

Barring an absolute collapse, the Milwaukee Bucks will wrap up the No. 1 seed in the East, but they will still likely want to play MVP front-runner Giannis Antetokounmpo in this one just to shake off the cobwebs after the break.

This could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals and it will be interesting to see how Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker looks after being hampered by knee issues following the All-Star break. Boston split the series with Milwaukee during the season and Walker torched the Bucks both times, scoring 32 points against them in November and putting up 40 on them in January.

Betting trend to watch: Milwaukee opened as a five-point favorite, with the total set at 217.5, but don’t count out the Celtics, who have gone an impressive 14-4 ATS as an underdog this season.

Rockets vs Mavericks (+1.5, 225.5), July 31, 9 p.m. ET

The battle between James Harden and Luka Doncic will be a treat for basketball fans, but the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks have plenty of firepower in addition to their All-NBA guards.

With the full game total for this contest opening at a reasonable 225.5, keep an eye on the first half total when it drops.

Betting trend to watch: Fast starts have been a trend for both squads, with Houston leading the league with 59.9 first-half points per game and Dallas second with 59.3 ppg. For good measure, the Rockets also rank 25th in the NBA in first-half scoring defense, surrendering 58.1 ppg.

Heat vs Nuggets (-1, 212.5), August 1, 1 p.m ET

Both the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets could see their seeding change dramatically based on how they perform in Orlando. Miami has an absolute gauntlet to run through with its first four games against Denver, Toronto, Boston and Milwaukee.

The Nuggets have long had a massive edge at home, due to the increased elevation at the Pepsi Center, and losing that advantage in Orlando could hurt. Then again, Miami could be in the same boat considering that they posted an average scoring margin of plus-9.3 ppg at home — and that plummeted to minus-2.7 in away contests.

Betting trend to watch: The Heat have been one of the highest-scoring teams in the league during the first quarter, but have really struggled to put the ball in the hoop at the end of games, averaging just 26 ppg in the fourth quarter. With Denver holding opponents to just 26.2 fourth-quarter points per game on the road, this is a trend you’ll want to consider when live betting in the final 12 minutes.

Bucks vs Rockets, August 2, 8:30 p.m. ET

It’s always a blast watching two MVP favorites face off against each other, and after Harden came up short against Antetokounmpo last year there seems to be a lack of respect between the two superstars. The Greek Freak took a potshot at Harden when he selected his team during All-Star weekend, with the Rockets guard responding with, “I wish I could be 7 feet and run and just dunk. Like, that takes no skill at all.”

Betting trend to watch: Unfortunately for the small-ball Rockets, defending in the paint is their biggest weakness, especially after trading away Clint Capela left them with the 6’5″ PJ Tucker often manning the center position. Houston allows 51.5 ppg in the paint, sixth-worst in the league, and Giannis is the most dominant inside scorer since Shaq, putting up 29.6 ppg this season.

Grizzlies vs Pelicans, August 3, 6:30 p.m. ET

Not only will this matchup feature the two best rookies in the league in Ja Morant and Zion Williamson, but it will also be a prime spot for the New Orleans Pelicans to gain ground on the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

New Orleans was impressive on offense even without Zion and have become even more unstoppable since the first-overall draft pick joined the team on January 22. Once Zion joined the fold the Pelicans averaged 120.1 ppg and played at the fastest pace in the league.

Betting trend to watch: Thanks in large part to Morant, Memphis also looks good on the offensive end of the floor, ranking seventh in the league in both possessions per game and shooting percentage. With both teams electrifying on offense – and terrible on defense – this should be a very fun game with the Over worth looking at.

Trail Blazers vs Nuggets, August 6, 8 p.m ET

There might not a more dangerous team currently outside a playoff spot than the Portland Trail Blazers, who arguably boast the second-best backcourt out of all 22 teams in Orlando and will also get center Jusuf Nurkic back from a broken leg. The Nuggets are third in the West but sit only 1.5 games behind the Clippers and 1.5 games ahead of the Jazz, so every game matters.

This is a rematch of last year’s Western Conference semifinals, where the Blazers upset the Nuggets in seven games. In three games head-to-head this year the Nuggets went 3-0 SU and ATS.

Betting trend to watch: Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard has struggled against Denver, averaging 21.6 ppg on 37.7 percent shooting over his last seven regular-season games against the Nuggets. Although he played better during the playoff series last season, it was CJ McCollum who carried the Blazers offense, especially in Game 7 when Lillard went 3-17 from the field.

Raptors vs 76ers, August 12, 6:30 p.m. ET

There might not be much on the line if the Toronto Raptors have already secured a seed by this time, but if their nerve-wracking seven-game playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers last year is any indication, this should still be a great game.

Betting trend to watch: It will be interesting to see how these teams play on neutral ground. Toronto has been one of the best teams in the league away from home, going 23-9 SU and 16-15 ATS and posting an average scoring margin of plus-4.2 ppg. On the other hand, the 76ers have been terrible on the road, going 10-24 SU, 9-23 ATS and posting a scoring margin of minus-5.3.