Only a few days ago, the Chicago Bulls had some hope. The Denver Nuggets' hope faded pretty fast.
The Bulls and Nuggets both face roads that most teams haven't been able to navigate. They're each down 3-1 in their series, needing to win three in a row to move to the second round. In the Nuggets' case, they're trying to come back from an 0-3 deficit, which has never happened before.
Both teams are significant underdogs heading into Wednesday's NBA playoff games. The Bulls are 12.5-point underdogs to the Milwaukee Bucks at BetMGM. The Nuggets are 8.5-point underdogs at the Golden State Warriors.
The discrepancy makes sense. The Nuggets, despite being down 0-3 earlier in the series, at least have some signs of life. They won Game 4, which might just set up a gentleman's sweep, but we know the Nuggets haven't given up hope. They battled in Game 4 to avoid going fishing for the offseason, holding on for a 126-121 win. It gets a lot harder heading to San Francisco for Game 5, but they are still capable of a solid effort to keep their season alive. Maybe they won't win but can cover a pretty big spread, though the first two games at Golden State were blowout Warriors wins. We know Nikola Jokic will play well enough to give the Nuggets a chance to cover. We'll see what kind of help he gets.
The Bulls are a different story. They won Game 2 and combined with Khris Middleton's knee injury, there was some hope for an upset. Then the Bucks destroyed the Bulls in Games 3 and 4. Then on Tuesday, Bulls guard Zach LaVine entered COVID protocols and is unlikely to play in Game 5. Most teams have pride and won't just roll over in an elimination game so it can be a betting mistake to assume otherwise. However, it's fair to wonder how confident the Bulls are after two blowout losses at home and without LaVine. It wouldn't be comfortable to bet on them, though the Bulls are getting a lot of points for a playoff game.
Both road teams playing Wednesday face long odds to even extend their respective series to a sixth game. Bettors who take the underdogs are hoping for at least one more win on them against the spread this season.
Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Wednesday:
A full MLB schedule with some matinees
We're treated to a few afternoon games on Wednesday as teams finish up series. At 1:15 p.m. Eastern, the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets (-120) get going. Then at 2:10 p.m. the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox (-200) start up, followed by the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Arizona Diamondbacks at 3:40 p.m.
The Dodgers are a big -190 favorite over Arizona, as expected, but there might be some value on the Diamondbacks. Arizona starter Zac Gallen is the D-Backs' best pitcher, and perhaps he can keep them in the game. It's just hard to bet against the Dodgers. It's also hard to bet on the 7-11 Diamondbacks so far this season.
What about the night games?
Surprisingly, one of the best games on the schedule is the Seattle Mariners at the Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners are off to a fine start this season, and while the Rays aren't off to a great start they're usually one of baseball's best teams.
The marquee game of the night is the Boston Red Sox at the Toronto Blue Jays. The Red Sox are off to a disappointing start and are 7-11 as May approaches, but they have an elite offense and will presumably be an AL East contender. Toronto, which is off to a good 12-6 start, will be too. The Blue Jays are -145 favorites.
What else is on the schedule?
There’s a Champions League match, as Liverpool takes on Villarreal. Liverpool is a -300 favorite on Wednesday.
The NHL has five games on the slate as the regular season winds down. The regular season ends on Friday. All but one playoff spot has been claimed with just a few days left.
What’s the best bet?
The two basketball games are hard to figure out, so we'll go to baseball. The Houston Astros odds look a little off at just -125. Christian Javier, the starter, has pitched well though he hasn't started yet and it's likely to be a bullpen game. The Astros are just 8-9 but they are the better team and we'll take them at reasonable odds.