NBA betting market report: LeBron and the Lakers are struggling to score

A look at the trends, tidbits and angles of the betting market.

Monday, Aug. 3

The Los Angeles Lakers have played two games in the bubble and have scored 103 and 92 points for a 1-1 start. That level of scoring might be great for the early 2000s, back when we were just learning about life with the internet, but that doesn’t cut it anymore.

The losses of Rajon Rondo (injury) and Avery Bradley (opt-out) appear to be hurting the Lakers’ offense, and LeBron James, a 35-year-old in his 17th NBA season, hasn’t looked the same in the restart. The four-time league MVP likely just needs some time to find his rhythm and get back in the flow.

So the question is: How long will that take?

In the Lakers’ restart opener, their implied team total was 110.5 and they scored 103. In their second game, they scored 92 with an implied team total of 110.5. 

Now, the level of competition has something to do with it, with the Lakers edging the Clippers and then getting smoked by the Raptors.

The Jazz are next in for L.A. on Monday night, and they have been having scoring issues of their own, totaling 106 and 94 points against the Pelicans and Thunder, respectively. 

The Lakers’ implied team total is … 111.5, so BetMGM is expecting the Lakers to find their groove. 

And that appears to be a smart assumption. The Lakers rank 11th in pace of play this season, ahead of the Mavs who run the most efficient offense in NBA history. Do we see them doing enough in Game 3 in the bubble to hit the game over of 217.5 against a Jazz team that ranks 25th in pace? That may be a tall task with two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert manning the middle. 

This may be the last chance to bet the under before the Lakers get it together.

Scoring hasn't been easy for LeBron James and the Lakers. (AP/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Scoring hasn't been easy for LeBron James and the Lakers. (AP/Ashley Landis, Pool)

Saturday, Aug. 1

You’ll hear a lot about getting the best of the number, and that is one of the tenets of being a long-term successful bettor.

And because of the pandemic and the odd circumstances of the NBA restart, there has been an early variance in the market that sharp bettors have exploited. 

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On Thursday morning, the market consensus on the over/under for Saturday’s Philadelphia 76ers-Indiana Pacers contest was 212, and we quickly moved on the over. On Saturday morning the total had been bet up to 219.5 at BetMGM.

The Los Angeles Lakers-Toronto Raptors O/U was 214.5 on Thursday morning, and yes, we took the over there too. That number moved to 223.5 at BetMGM on Saturday morning.

That’s the line value that every bettor should be pursuing. Does it mean that we’ll automatically win those wagers? Or course not. But you are gaining an edge on the number that will pay off in the long term.

After Thursday’s unders sweep, the course corrected on Friday night, with every game blowing away the implied total — the Rockets and Mavericks crushed the over by 49.5 points in regulation before they even went to OT —and the market was adjusting by Saturday morning.

How much value remains going forward and how the market continues to adjust will be the keys to success. These sweet spots won’t last much longer as the players, games and market settle into a rhythm.

You can depend on the Rockets and Mavericks to put up points. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)
You can depend on the Rockets and Mavericks to put up points. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

Friday, Aug. 31

It’s just one night of basketball in the NBA’s return, so we shouldn’t overreact, but scoring was way down.

The Pels-Jazz over/under went off at 222.5 at BetMGM and came in at 210. The Lakers-Clippers matchup was 216.5 and came in at 204.

The markets had adjusted for lower totals for the NBA restart, but this was something. And frankly it was to be expected, with the new environment on Disney’s campus, the new game experience, the emotions of the protest demonstrations and players coming off a long layoff.

Players’ legs looked heavy and there were long stretches of inconsistency on both ends of the court.

A lot of sharp bettors were all over Utah’s Joe Ingles going over 19.5 in total points, rebounds and assists to pick up the slack for Bojan Bogdanovic, a 20-point scorer who is out for the year because of injury. You guessed it: Ingles totaled 18.

And it also should be noted: both underdogs covered — Clippers +4.5 and Jazz +2.5 (outright winner).

The players will correct — as will the betting market — so it will be interesting to see how long there could be value on the unders.

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