Wednesday, July 1, 2020 / by Ken Couture
This weekend produced a welcome sight for sports bettors.
Lines on NBA and MLB games are on the board for the first time since major American sports shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Four sportsbooks posted lines on the first three days of the revised NBA schedule set to begin July 30 in Orlando, Florida. The Westgate also posted a line on the reported opening day game between the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals on July 23.
Lines are up for 13 NBA games, highlighted by the battle of Los Angeles between the Lakers and Clippers on opening night July 30. The Westgate has the matchup as a pick ’em (total 218½).
Westgate vice president of risk Jeff Sherman expects a big handle for that game.
“No doubt about it,” he said. “It’s in a good time slot (6 p.m. Pacific time). It’s a pick ’em line. It’s on TNT. We’ll have plenty of props up when it gets close to time.”
Sherman said he makes the game Clippers -1, but shaded the line with the expectation that plenty of Lakers money will show up on game day.
New Orleans is a 1-point favorite over Utah (total 220½) in the other game slated for that day.
The NBA is bringing back 22 teams for its restart. The teams will play several games to determine playoff seeding. Once the field is set, the postseason will be played in its normal format. All games will be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.
Sherman said he expected people to be looking to bet underdogs and unders after the long layoff. The Westgate adjusted totals down five to eights points from their basic projections because of the circumstances.
“It’s a different environment,” he said. “You don’t have the same energy, the ability to feed off fans. It might take a few games for teams to get going.”
A few players have announced they won’t be participating in the restart. The Westgate made the Pelicans the favorite over the Jazz in the opener because Utah forward Bojan Bogdanovic will be out after having wrist surgery during the layoff, Sherman said.
More roster moves could happen before the restart, but that’s nothing new for NBA oddsmakers, with books having to adjust daily for things such as load management (the resting of top players), Sherman said.
Other notable games from the opening set of lines include Milwaukee -5½ against Boston (217½) and Houston -1½ against Dallas (225½) on July 31, and the Clippers -5 against New Orleans (226½) and the Lakers -3½ against defending champion Toronto (213½) on Aug. 1.
Caesars International, MGM Resorts and William Hill also have lines posted on the NBA games.
In the reported MLB opener, the Yankees are -115 favorites at the defending World Series champion Nationals (total 7 under -120) at the Westgate, with pitcher Gerrit Cole listed as making his debut for New York against Max Scherzer.
MLB is playing a 60-game season at normal home stadiums.
Though coronavirus cases continue to rise in some states, Sherman said the leagues appear to be committed to playing, and he’s not worried about a sudden rash of cancellations. The PGA’s decision to play this week despite some positive tests showed that the leagues are going to ramp up precautions and protocols rather than shut down again, he said.
“You’re hearing it from the commissioners,” Sherman said. “They’re saying, ‘We have to find some way to play through the virus, knowing things could happen along the way.’”
If something changes, the sportsbook rules on the games state that they must be played on the listed date for action.
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