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."
LBJ led the Lakers into the 2020 NBA Finals, marking his 10th appearance (with three different teams). His teams had won just THREE of his previous nine Finals appearances and it sure didn't help that those teams had gone 1-8 in Game 1 of past finals, including a stretch of SEVEN consecutive Game 1 losses! LBJ may have thought "here we go again," when the Heat scored on SIX consecutive possessions in what became a 13-0 run to take a 23-10 lead midway through the opening period. However, it was ALL Lakers after that. Anthony Davis scored 34 points and added nine rebounds, while LBJ had 25 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, as the Lakers cruised to a 116-98 win. The Lakers did whatever they wanted. They outrebounded Miami 54-36, led by as many as 32 points and made 15 three-pointers. Adding insult to injury, Miami Point PG Goran Dragic left in the second quarter and word is, he has a torn plantar fascia in his left foot (if so, he's done). More bad news was that Bam Adebayo left in the third quarter after apparently aggravating a left shoulder strain and Jimmy Butler played through a twisted left ankle. Game 2 is Friday and I'll update the situation in tomorrow's Notes.
MLB Playoffs: The NL 'joined the party' on Wednesday with four Game 1s. The first game out of the box (Cin/Atl) featured a terrific pitching matchup between Trevor Bauer and Max Fried. The result? Wednesday's starters combined to throw 14.2 scoreless innings and strike out 17 batters in a game eventually won 1-0 by Atlanta in 13 innings. NO postseason game had ever gone so deep into extra innings before the first run was scored and the teams combined for a playoff-record 37 strikeouts. The Marlins and Cubs followed from Wrigley Field with Miami winning 5-1 on the strength of a five-run 7th (ghosts of Steve Bartman?). The Cards beat the Padres 7-4 in San Diego, meaning they need just one more win to eliminate the Padres from the postseason for the FOURTH time since 1996. They swept the Padres in the NLDS in 1996 and 2005, and won 3-1 in the NLDS in 2006, which was the last time San Diego made the postseason. The NL schedule concluded with the No. 1 LA Dodgers taking care of the No. 8 seed Brewers, 4-2.
Back in the AL, the Astros (just 29-31 in the regular season) eliminated the Twins with a 3-1 win in Game 2. The Twins are now 0-18 in the playoffs since winning Game 1 of their ALDS at the New York Yankees back on Oc. 5, 2004, losing SEVEN consecutive series. Kudos to Dusty Baker, who took his fifth different team to the playoffs with Houston this season and advanced for the first time in SEVEN series since winning the 2003 NLDS with the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees followed their dominating 12-3 win over the Indians in game 1 with a 10-9 win over the Cleveland Indians, what is now the longest nine-inning game in major league history. It lasted 4 hours, 50 minutes and that does NOT include two rain delays totaling another 76 minutes. The top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays eliminated the Blue Jays with an 8-2 win, The Al's top team (40-20) saw starters Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow dominate Toronto batters, pitching a combined 11.2 innings while allowing just two ERs with 17 Ks and just three walks. While the Blue Jays, Indians and Twins are going home, the A's forced a Game 3 with the White Sox with a 5-3 win. Chicago's Dallas Keuchel allowed FIVE runs (three earned) in just 3.1 innings.
It's a deciding Game 3 in the AL between the White Sox and A's on Thursday plus four Game 2s in the NL, with the Brewers, Cubs, Padres and Reds all facing a "win-or-go-home" scenario. So far, home teams have gone 5-7 and there have been five overs and seven unders in MLB's playoffs.
CFB 2020 has been greatly impacted by COVID-19 and the month of September was an unusually 'quiet' one. No one is saying "we are out of the woods" just yet but the hope is that we will see MUCH more CFB being played the rest of the way, as the Big Ten begins play in late-October plus the Pac-12, MAC and MWC start up in early November. Fingers crossed. The entire month of September saw just FOUR games played between ranked teams. The higher ranked team won all four, going 3-1 ATS. Saturday provides two contests between ranked opponents, both in the SEC. No. 2 Alabama will host No. 13 Texas A&M ('Bama is favored by 18) and No. 4 Georgia will host No. 7 Auburn (Bulldogs are favored by 6 1/2-points).
The CFB weekend opens on Friday, as No. 22 BYU, coming off a disappointing 7-6 season, is hosting La Tech. The 2-0 Cougars are favored by 24 points over a La Tech team that is also 2-0 and is coming off a 10-3 season in which the Bulldogs beat Miami 14-0 in the Independence Bowl. For what it's worth, the Bulldogs became the first Group of 5 school to shut out a Power-5 school in a bowl game since the BCS/CFP era began in 1998. BYU is one of 13 ranked teams playing unranked teams this weekend, including three top-10 schools. No. 1 Clemson is home to UVa laying 28 points, No. 3 Florida hosts South Carolina and is an 18-point favorite and No. 9 Texas hosts TCU and is laying 12. Beware of ranked teams playing unranked opponents, as Y-T-D, ranked teams are 24-4 SU but only 10-17-1 ATS (that's 37.0 percent). when playing unranked opponents. Will it turnaround? I'll update this trend in Monday's Notes.
Before I go, it's Thursday Night in the NFL, as the NFL Network brings us a "Losers Night Out" contest with Denver playing at the NY Jets. The Broncos and Jets are both 0-3 for the second straight season, and each is looking to avoid dropping their first four games in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. Barring a tie, one team will avoid an 0-4 start. Denver opened a 2 1/2-point favorite but with the news that the Broncos will start their third different QB this season, the Jets are currently favored by 1 1/2-points (and climbing?). Brett Rypien (nephew of Super Bowl-winning QB Mark Rypien) will make his first NFL start. You make the call. I'm passing. Friday's Notes will focus on NFL Week 4.