Best Bets of the Weekend
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors – Sunday 6/19/16
It’s been a wild and memorable NBA Finals and we now arrive at a Game 7. After looking dead in the water following a crushing home loss in Game 4, the Cleveland Cavaliers have rallied to take the last 2 games and force the deciding game. It’s been such a tough series to handicap because of the wild swings. I really thought Cleveland was going to even the series at home in Game 4 and when they lost, just felt like Golden State had sucked the life out of that team and the series was over. No doubt the Draymond Green suspension was huge, which is why I picked Cleveland in Game 5. But I did not expect LeBron to be locked in like this. I had been waiting for the best player in the world to take over and he’s responded in a big way. His 41 point, 16 rebound, 7 assist, 3 steal and 3 block game was one of the greatest performances in recent NBA Finals history. The biggest difference though for the Cavs has been Kyrie Irving. Cleveland desperately needed him to show up and at least match some of the production of the Splash Brothers. He not only matched, but he’s outperformed the unanimous MVP. Averaging 32 PPG over the last 4 games in this series, Irving has been the difference maker. So who has the edge in Game 7?
Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers +5
It just feels like a huge momentum shift in the series, right? Whether or not you believe Draymond should have been suspended, something happened in his absence that changed this series. The Cavaliers look like a confident team on a mission while the Warriors have been playing like a team with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Now a Game 7 at home, the pressure of blowing a historic season looms for the Warriors. It’s now been 2 straight finals where Steph Curry hasn’t shown up, and I don’t think he has what it takes in the face of adversity. I’m backing the Cavs to cover, but I actually think they will win outright and LeBron will cement his legacy as one of the greatest of all-time.
Atlanta Braves at New York Mets – Friday 6/17/16
The best bet of the weekend is in New York where the Mets, behind Matt Harvey, host the lowly Atlanta Braves and John Gant. It’s the first game of a 3 game series. The New York Mets have had a very up and down season after making the World Series a season ago and it reflected in their record early on. Now they find themselves on the right side of .500 and have won 5 of their last 8 games. Matt Harvey in particular has had a wild season and took some criticism early on. But in his last 3 starts, Harvey has only allowed 2 ER in 20 innings. The Mets went 2-1 in those starts and it was really a matter of not giving Harvey run support. They get the Braves who are just a trainwreck this year at 20-46. John Gant is a reliever being converted to a starter and so far the results haven’t been great. He has a 5.63 ERA and in his first most recent start he walked 4 in 4 innings allowing 2 runs. The Braves lost that game 13-2. Gant has a 6.52 ERA in night games.
Pick: New York Mets -1.5 -115
The Mets should take care of business in this one. If Matt Harvey pitches well, which I expect him to do, we can also expect a tough night for Braves hitters. They just don’t have the firepower in their lineup. The Mets can get to Gant and should make up for the lack of run support they’ve given their ace. I predict a 5+ run effort while Harvey holds Atlanta under 2 runs. The moneyline doesn’t hold any value so we will take the spread.
ATP Halle Semifinal: Roger Federer vs. Alexander Zverev – Saturday 6/18/16
Tennis bet for the weekend takes place in Halle, Germany on grass court where Roger Federer, the world number 3 from Switzerland, takes on young gun Alexander Zverev, the German and world 38. It’s a clash of old vs. new in the second meeting between these two players. Federer won the first meeting between them earlier this year on clay, 6-3 7-5. The great champion Roger Federer looks to add another title to his storied career while also tune up his grass court game for Wimbledon. After a semifinal loss in Stuttgart last week, Federer has breezed into the semifinals winning three straight matches in straight sets. He is maybe the greatest grass court player of all-time though it’s been clear, especially this season, that he is in a different phase of his career. He has to deal with the hometown teen Alexander Zverev who is quietly climbing the rankings and been very impressive on this surface. This was his first grass tournament of 2016 and he’s also breezed through and won each match in the minimum number of sets. If Federer isn’t careful, the youngster could surprise him with the upset. We all know Federer’s game but many of you may not be familiar with the German. He is a tall, athletic kid with a big serve and forehand. The fast court can make him very tricky to deal with.
Pick: UNDER 2.5 sets -200
The edge here will be playing the sets because the odds don’t offer much value with Federer being a huge favorite. I don’t see a very long match though I think it can be competitive. But Roger Federer is so tough on grass, especially if you haven’t faced him often. Many young players idolized this man growing up and many times I’ve noticed players can be a little awestruck sharing the same court as him. I think there’s potential for that here. The one thing that scares me and that Zverev has in his favor is that he’s playing in front of his home crowd in Germany. No doubt he will have a ton of support. But that type of thing shouldn’t faze a seasoned champ like Roger. Style-wise, Zverev is at a disadvantage because Federer is such a good player at turning defense into offense. Zverev is a very aggressive, offensive-minded player so if he can’t get free points on his serve, I don’t expect him to win the longer rallies. We could see a tiebreaker and I expect Zverev to play well, but I think in the end Federer is going to want to avenge his loss to another young player last week in Thiem and show everyone that he is still the King of Grass. Grab the under.
Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap – Saturday 6/18/16
Our best bet in horse racing takes place at Churchill Downs for the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap. It’s a 1 1/8 mile race on dirt for $500,000. This race has featured and produced many great champions over the years including Curlin, Saint Liam, Victory Gallop, and Awesome Again. The field this year features a nice group of older horses with the likes of Eagle, International Star, Bradester, Majestic Harbor, and the favorite Effinex. Many of these horses have set career best marks in speed figures this year so on paper it looks like a competitive race. It’s a big weekend at Churchill with 4 graded stakes races on Saturday and this is the main event.
Pick: #3 Effinex 1/1 ML odds
I never like to give out such a heavy favorite but these are the “best bets” of the weekend and this horse gives us the best chance at a win on Saturday. Effinex is all class when compared to the rest of the field. He’s a multiple Grade I winner and a Breeder’s Cup Classic runner-up. By the numbers though, Effinex’s career best speed figure tops the field and his best speed figure just this year is on par with the career best of most of these other horses. I like the post position for the distance as he should be able to save ground without being directly on the rail. Gary Stevens will ride this horse as chosen by his regular jockey Mike Smith since Smith will be off riding Songbird at Santa Anita. Effinex was so impressive in the Oaklawn Handicap. It’s hard for me to make a case for any other horse in here so back the favorite with confidence and even if we have to settle for around even money, it’s all profit.
- #3 Effinex
- #2 Bradester
- #7 Eagle
- #1 International Star