Ness Notes: Monday, Oct 12

by Larry Ness

This column will be available Monday through Friday (posted no later than 1:00 ET), EXCLUSIVELY at 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: My last update had LA up 3-1 heading into Friday's Game 5. Jimmy Butler became the SIXTH player in NBA Finals history to have multiple triple-doubles in the same title series (35-12-11). Magic Johnson and LBJ have both done it three times, while Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Draymond Green have done it once. All Miami starters were in double digits, including a career playoff high by Duncan Robinson (26). LBJ had 40-13-7 but while he and Davis were a combined 24 for 36 from the floor, the rest of the Lakers were 14 for 46 (30.4%). The Lakers' reserves shot 5 for 22 (22.7%). That forced a Game 6 last night. After failing to beat the Heat in Friday's Game 5, Lakers coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup, moving Davis to the 5 and plugging Alex Caruso in Dwight Howard's place for a smaller, quicker group.

After failing to beat the Heat in Friday's Game 5, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup, moving Davis to the center position and starting Alex Caruso over Dwight Howard's for a smaller, quicker group. The move paid off, as LA effectively put the game away by outscoring Miami 36-16 in the second quarter. They led by 28 at the half, the second-largest halftime lead in NBA Finals history. Jimmy Butler, after a 40-point triple-double in a Game 3 win for the Heat and a 35-point triple-double in a Game 5 win, was contained, finishing with 12 points. LBJ capped his fourth championship with 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, as the Lakers cruised to a 106-93 victory (game was NOT as close as the final score). Anthony Davis had 19 points and 15 rebounds in winning his first NBA title (won a national championship at Kentucky in ). LBJ became the first player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP with three different teams and won the award for the fourth time to trail only Michael Jordan (six). It was the Lakers' 17th NBA title, tying them with the Celtics for the most all-time. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the third wire-to-wire victory to clinch an NBA title in the past 50 seasons, joining the 1982 Lakers and the 1986 Boston Celtics. Much more on the 2019-20 NBA season, the Lakers and LBJ in Tuesday's Notes.

MLB Playoffs: Michael Brosseau hit a dramatic home run off Aroldis Chapman with one out in the eighth inning, as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Yankees 2-1 Friday night in the decisive Game 5 to reach the ALCS for the first time in 12 seasons. The Rays dominated the regular-season series with the Yankees 8-2 and were the AL's No. 1 seed and making the victory even more 'sweet' was that Tampa Bay's $29 million payroll (28th out of the 30 major league teams) was dwarfed by the Yankees, who had the third-largest payroll at $84 million. Waiting for the Rays were the Houston Astros, who followed three straight 100-win seasons by going just 29-31 during this year's COVID-shortened season but were able to get into an expanded 16-team playoff field by virtue of finishing second in the AL West. The Astros then swept AL Central champs Minnesota 2-0 in the wild card round and eliminated AL west champs Oakland 3-1 in an ALDS matchup. The NLDS features the Atlanta Braves and LA Dodgers. The Braves beat the Marlins 3-0 in Game 3 last Thursday, giving Atlanta a three-game sweep and its first trip to the NLCS since 2001. 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. Atlanta draws the LA Dodgers in the NLCS, who completed a three-game sweep of their own last Thursday 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 League Championship Series Prices at BetAnySports (before the start of each series) had the Rays -175 and the Astros +165, while the Dodgers were -215 and the Braves +195. To win the World Series the Dodgers were +160, the  Rays +240, the Braves +425 and the Astros +435. Game 1 of the ALCS was last night and the Rays won 2-1. The Rays took a 1-0 series lead on the back of two timely hits and a pair of critical double plays, the latter coming with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the eighth inning. Randy Arozarena his fourth HR of this postseason. and Mike Zunino plated the go-ahead run with a first-pitch single in the fifth inning. Blake Snell allowed a solo HR in the first inning but that was all he allowed in five innings. The Rays' bullpen then produced another exceptional effort, as four relievers combined for FOUR scoreless innings. Houston wasted a solid effort by Valdez (two runs in six innings with eight Ks), as the Astros left 10 men on base and went 2 of 8 with RISP.

Game 2 of the ALCS ( 4:07 ET on ) sees Lance McCullers going up against Charlie Morton. The Rays are favored (-125) and the over/under is 8. Game 1 of the NLCS (8:08 ET on FOX) features Atlanta's Max Fried up against LA's Walker Buehler (more in a bit). The Braves led the majors in OPS (.832) and ranked second in team BA (.268), runs (348), HRs (103) and slugging (.483) during the regular season. Checking LA's numbers in those same categories reveals the Dodgers had an .821 OPS, a team BA of .256, scored 349 runs, hit 118 HRs and owned a slugging percentage of .430. However, LA's pitching numbers are dominant by comparison. LA owns a team ERA of 3.02 (Atlanta's is 4.41) with a 1.06 WHIP (Atlanta's is 1.36) and a BAA of .213 (Atlanta's is .247). LA owned a MLB-best 43-17 regular season record, while Atlanta was EIGHT games worse at 35-25. More LA dominance is revealed by LA's MLB-best plus-136 run differential, more than DOUBLE that of Atlanta's (plus-60). However, it's just a seven-game series and Atlanta's pitching staff (see above). "Something has to give" in this Game 1, as the Braves are 12-1 in Fried's 2020 starts, while the Dodgers are 9-1 when Buehler starts. The Dodgers are favored (-135) and the over/under is 8.

BATTER UP! I have plays in BOTH games!

NFL: It's Monday and that typically means the NFL would be completing its current week with a MNF matchup. However, 2020 has hardly been a "typical" year in ANY aspect of life, let alone the 'world of sports.' The NFL is the 'Big Dog' and likes to think of itself as invulnerable but COVID-19 has had other ideas. Here's what I think we know. The Bills at the Titans (scheduled for yesterday will be played tomorrow (Oct 13). The Broncos at the Pats and Broncos (also scheduled for yesterday) will now be played during Week 6 on Sunday Oct. 18. As a result of that game, the Broncos' Week 6 matchup against the Miami Dolphins has been pushed back to Week 11. 

From what I've read, here are the other remaining changes to the 2020 schedule: The Kansas City Chiefs-Buffalo Bills Week 6 game on Thursday, Oct. 15 moves to Monday, Oct. 19. The New York Jets-Miami Dolphins Week 10 matchup moves to Week 6. The New York Jets-Los Angeles Chargers matchup moves from Week 6 to Week 11. The Jacksonville Jaguars-Los Angeles Chargers matchup moves from Week 8 to Week 7. The Los Angeles Chargers-Denver Broncos game moves from Week 11 to Week 8. The Los Angeles Chargers-Miami Dolphins game moves from Week 7 to Week 10. Got it?

There is a MNF game tonight at 8:15 ET on ESPN. The 1-3 Chargers are at the 2-2 Saints, with New Orleans favored by seven points (over/under is 49 1/2). My usual Tuesday NFL recap will be pushed back to Wednesday's Notes, to cover the Bills/Titans contest.

CFB recap: Heading into this past Saturday (Oct 10), there had been just SIX, top-25 showdowns in 2020, with the higher ranked team having gone 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS. However, we saw FOUR such matchups on Saturday. No. 1 Clemson beat No. 7 Miami-Fl  42-17, No. 3 Georgia beat No. 14 Tennessee 44-21 and No. 8 North Carolina beat No. 19 Va Tech 56-45. All three played at home and covered. However, No. 4 Florida was at No. 21 Texas A&M and lost 41-38 (A&M's winning FG came as time expired), becoming the first higher ranked team to lose to a ranked opponent. The Y-T-D record has higher ranked teams at 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS. As I warned last Thursday, playing on ranked teams when matching up against unranked opponents can be dangerous to one's bankroll. October 10 was a 'nightmare' scenario ATS for the seven ranked teams facing an unranked opponent. Five won but just ONE covered!  No. 17 LSU lost an 'ugly' one at home to Missouri, 45-41, while No. 22 Texas lost its Red River Showdown 53-48 in four OTs to Oklahoma in a "classic" (most combined points in the series' 116-game history)  LSU was stopped FOUR times from the one-yard line with a chance to win and the LSU defense allowed 45 points to a Missouri team that had averaged 15.5 PPG in its first two. With ranked teams going 5-2 SU and 1-6 AY+TS, the Y-T-D record has ranked teams 37-12 (.755) SU vs unranked opponents in 2020 but an abysmal 15-33-1 ATS (that's just 31.3%).

4-0 Clemson remains No. 1 in the AP poll with 59 of 62 first-place votes. Its victory over Miami was the Tigers' 36th consecutive regular season win, the fourth-longest streak of all-time. They can tie Nebraska, which won 37 straight from 1992-96, with a Saturday win at Ga Tech. Alabama is No. 2 after a 63-48 win at Ole Miss ('Bama led just 49-45 with under four minutes to go) and will host No. 3 Georgia on Saturday in the season's 'BIGGEST' game to-date (note: it's the ONLY game between ranked opponents this coming weekend). Notre Dame has won NINE in a row (most of any Power-5 school) and is ranked 4th, while North Carolina climbed to No. 5, the school's highest ranking since November of 1997, when Mack Brown was head coach. Hey wait. He's baaaaaack!

LSU dropped out of the poll (last defending champ to be unranked the following season was Auburn in 2001, post-Cam), after 43 consecutive appearances in the top-25. No. 22 Texas dropped out after its loss to Oklahoma but the win was not enough for the Sooners to sneak back in the poll and is now 'poll-less' for the second straight week, after being ranked for 64 consecutive polls. Last time both Oklahoma and Texas were unranked was Sep 25, 2016. For those remaining in the poll, the biggest drops were SIX spots by Florida (down from No. 4 to No. 10) and Miami (from No. 7 to No. 13). The biggest move up was Texas A&M going from No. 21 to No. 11. Kansas St made its first appearance in the top-25 at No.22, while USC, the AP's preseason No. 17 team), is back at no. 25 without playing a game. The Trojans are one of SEVEN teams ranked, before playing a game. No. 6 Ohio St and No. 10 Penn St are top-10 teams. It's surely a season like no other!

Good luck...Larry

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