This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at BigAl.com. I like to call it my daily 'random thoughts' on the sports betting world, although I'll pass along that my therapist refers to it as "thoughtful commentary."
NBA Finals: The Lakers rolled in Game 1 by the score of 116-98 and took Game 2 by 10 points (124-114), as Miami was with Dragic and Adebayo. Despite playing without those two starters in Game 3, Miami's starters outscored the Lakers' starting five 89-51 and Jimmy Butler played "the game of his life," with 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. Butler became the 21st player to have a triple-double in the NBA Finals but it was just the third 40-point triple-double in Finals history. Adebayo returned for Miami in Game 4 (scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 33 minutes) but Butler was able to score just 25 points (down from 40). The Heat used just three players off the bench and that trio combined for 13 points while shooting an abysmal 4 of 18 (22.2%). LBJ was his usual self (28-12-8) and A.D. bounced from a poor game (15 points) with 22 points and nine rebounds, while starting LA guards Caldwell-Pope and Green combined to score 25 points. LA's bench outscored Miami's 27-13. The Heat stayed with the Lakers all game and the final was 102-96. Herro nailed a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds to go to give Miami the cover. The Heat fell to 13-6 SU this postseason but are 15-4 ATS, while the Lakers are 15-4 SU but just 10-8-1 ATS. Playoff numbers to-date: Favorites are just 40-39-2 ATS, while the under has cashed in 47 of the 81 games (58.0 percent). For those following the "Zig-Zag" Theory (that means playing "on" the SU loser of the previous game), they've gone 30-33-2 ATS (47.6%) or minus-6.3 net units.
Game 5 tips tonight at 9:00 ET on ABC. The Lakers are looking for their first title since 2010, when they defeated the Boston Celtics in seven games. A win in Game 5 (or in Game 6 or 7) would give the franchise its 17th title all-time, which would tie them with the Celtics for most in NBA history. LBJ is looking for his FOURTH NBA title in his 10th Finals. Many like to play "the G.O.A.T game" of comparing him to MJ but "I Like Mike," who was SIX-for-SIX in NBA Finals' appearances, winning MVP honors in each one. Anthony Davis is one win away from his first NBA title. "They're going to make adjustments," Davis said after Tuesday's 102-96 victory by the Lakers, giving them a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven game series. "We have to be prepared for it." Ask Miami's Jimmy Butler and despite the hole the team is in, believes the Heat are capable of rallying. "We just got to lock in on us knowing that we can control a lot of these things," Butler said. "But our confidence ain't going nowhere. It's going to stay high. I'm going to make sure that it stays high because it's going to have to be at an all-time to get this next win." LA is favored by seven points and the over/under is 216. Game 6, if necessary, is scheduled for Sunday. My next Ness Notes is Monday, so I'll be back with a recap of the Finals OR, a preview of Game 7.
MLB Playoffs: The Braves beat the Marlins 3-0 in Game 3, giving Atlanta a three-game sweep and its first trip to the NLCS since 2001 (note: the Marlins had won all SEVEN of their previous postseason series!). In the process, the Braves became just the SECOND team in MLB history to throw four shutouts in their first five playoff games, joining the 1905 New York Giants behind Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity. The Braves have already pitched the most postseason shutouts in franchise history and are one shutout shy of tying the MLB record for most in a postseason set by the 2016 Indians over 15 games. Awaiting the Braves in the NLCS will be the LA Dodgers, who complete a three-game sweep of their own with a 12-3 win over the Padres. Los Angeles advanced to its fourth NL Championship Series in five years and the team with MLB's best regular season record in 2020 (43-17), will be making their 14th NLCS appearance, matching the St Louis Cardinals for the most. The Dodgers and Braves will open the best-of-seven NLCS on Monday in the Texas Rangers' new $1.2 billion stadium with fans in attendance for the first time during this pandemic-altered season.
Over in the American League, the Houston Astros beat the Oakland A's 11-6, eliminating the AL West champs, 3 games to one. Houston 'snuck into' the postseason despite a 29-31 record but improved to 5-1 in the playoffs. The Astros and A's combined for 24 HRs (12 each), the most in a postseason series of five games or fewer. The Astros ranked 20th in the majors with a .240 average and 14th with 279 runs during the regular season and while their batting slump continued through the wild-card round, Houston batted .322 as a team in the ALDS, scoring 33 runs (8.3 per) with those 12 HRs. Few people outside of Houston are rooting for the Astros these days but one has to feel good for Dusty Baker, their 71-year-old manager. He earned his first closeout win since the 2003 NLDS, improving (?) to 4-13 in closeout games. The Astros will head to San Diego's Petco Park to await the winner of Game 5 between the Yankees and Rays.
The Tampa Bay Rays went an AL-Best 40-20 during the regular season and captured the AL East title for the first time since 2010. In the process, the Rays took EIGHT of 10 from the Yankees but I doubt anyone on Tampa Bay expected their ALDS with their hated rivals would be a 'walk in the park.' The Yankees won 9-3 ion Game 1, while the Rays rebounded to win Games 2 and 3, 7-5 and 8-4. However, the Yankees didn't flinch under the pressure of an elimination game, as Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres hit impressive HRs, while Jordan Montgomery and three relievers combined on a three-hitter. The Yankees beat the Rays 5-1 Thursday night to even the best-of-5 series at 2-all. The Yankees are trying to reach the ALCS for the THIRD time in four seasons following eliminations by the Astros at that stage in 2017 and last season. Meanwhile, the Rays are trying to advance to the ALCS for the first time since 2008, when they made it to their only World Series. Somewhat ironically, the pitching matchup of Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow is a rematch of last year's ALDS Game 5 between Houston and Tampa Bay. I'm NOT sure why MLB decided to play the four Division Series WITHOUT a day off (Championship Series will be contested without any days off, as well), as it has taxed the pitching staffs of all teams and in particular any that are forced to "go the distance." That's the case here with the Rays and Yanks. Cole will pitch on three days' rest for the FIRST in his career, while Glasnow is being asked to pitch on TWO days' rest. New York is favored (-155) and the over/under is 7 1/2.
Note: Game 5 of NY/TB is my 10* Division Series Game of the Year.
The NFL opened its Week 5 with 3-1 Tampa Bay visiting 3-1 Chicago. The Bucs came in on a three-game winning streak and with all due respect to the Bears' 3-1 start, their three wins had come over a trio of teams that owned a combined 1-11 record. Tom Brady never lost to Chicago in five meetings as a member of the Patriots and was liking 'itching' to get another shot at Nick Foles, facing him for the first time since New England lost to Philadelphia in Super Bowl 52. However, the six-time champion came up short, as Chicago won 20-19. Brady threw for 253 yards and one TD but he and the Bucs couldn't finish their drives, settling for four FGs (three inside of 40 yards). Foles, the Super Bowl 52 MVP, completed 30 of 42 passes for 243 yards and a TD in his second start after replacing Mitchell Trubisky.
Green Bay and Detroit have byes in Week 5 plus the schedule has been 'shuffled' due to COVID-19 issues. For the SECOND consecutive week we will have a MNF doubleheader, as the Denver/New England game has been moved from Sunday to Monday, joining the regularly scheduled MNF contest between the Chargers and Saints. There was early talk that game might be moved to Indianapolis because of Hurricane Delta, but that's no longer an issue. What's more, the 4-0 Bills were scheduled to play the 3-0 Titans in Nashville on Sunday but while the game will go on, it has been moved to TUESDAY!
The Bills (-8.5) and Titans are two of SIX teams still unbeaten. The 4-0 Packers and Seahawks are both also 4-0 ATS and while the Packers have a bye week, Seattle will host the 1-3 Vikings on SNF (Seattle is favored by seven points). The defending Super Bowl champions Chiefs are 4-0 (3-1 ATS) have won 13 straight games (including a 3-0 run in last year's postseason) and will host the 2-2 Raiders, laying 11.5 points (and seemingly climbing). The Steelers are the last of the NFL's six unbeatens at 3-0 and after having their game at Tennessee postponed last Sunday, will welcome in-state rival Philadelphia to the Steel City on Sunday (Pittsburgh is favored by seven points). The Eagles are 1-2-1 but reside in first-place in the pathetic NFC East, ahead of 1-3 Dallas and Washington, plus the 0-4 NY Giants. NFC East teams are 3-12-1 SU and 5-11 ATS. In contrast, AFC West teams are a combined 11-5 ATS.
There remain four winless NFL teams, as the Falcons, Giants, Jets and Texans are all 0-4. The Falcons, Jets and Texans are all also 0-4 ATS, while the Giants are 2-2. With Chicago's win last night, home teams moved to 26-22 SU, while going just 21-25-2 ATS in 2020 (Home dogs are now 5-13 SU and 8-8-2 ATS). I mentioned in Thursday's Notes that NFL games have averaged a combined 51.3 through four weeks of a season, the highest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Last night's game stayed under but overs still lead unders at 26-20-2 (56.5%). Linemakers have adjusted totals higher very quickly.