Kornegay’s Korner: The Wild Wild West, Talking Heads and Lakers Liability

May 19, 2023

The Denver Nuggets are up 2-0 over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals as the series heads back to L.A. on Saturday night. Denver is now -450 to win the West, despite the fact LeBron James and Co. are a -5.5 favorite in Game 3.

“The Western Conference Final will be a doozy,” says Jay Kornegay, Chief Oddsmaker at SuperBook Sports.

It already has been. Denver has won both games at home, but neither were easy. Now, it’s the Lakers’ turn to hold serve.

Regardless of how you lean, when the Lakers are involved, there’s more to the line just “just the line.” Follow along.

“Operators understand if the ‘local’ team does well, they will most likely have liability attached to that local team. This scenario accentuates if the team had low expectations prior to the season or during the season. The early odds would have been higher due to low season expectations or the odds reflected their poor results,” Kornegay explains. “This year’s Lakers fit the mold.”

The Lakers certainly have had a roller coaster season. There weren’t good, then got considerably better at the trade deadline, but still had to play their way into the playoffs. Once they did, they steamrolled everyone up until Denver.  

“They had low expectations heading into the season and were below .500 early in the season. At that time, the Lakers were as high as 200-1,” Kornegay says. “With those kinds of odds, it doesn’t take much money to create liability. As the Lakers improved, the odds were lowered but money continued to show up as ‘Laker Nation’ was starting to believe. Most of our Laker liability was accumulated at 40-1 to 60-1 odds. Additionally, majority of the money was from recreational Laker fans. In other words, they were saying, ‘Why not? I’ll give them a shot. They might do it.’

“This happens in almost every futures pool we offer, but since the Lakers are a “national brand”, the bets kept rolling in as they showed some life to make the playoffs. In most cases, the team doesn’t make a serious run or if they do, they come up short of a championship. It’s the nature of the beast.” 

The talking heads play a role, too. After their win in Game 2, Nuggets coach Michael Malone lamented the fact that after a historic performance in Game 1 by Nikola Jokic, all anyone could talk about was the adjustments the Lakers made in the second half. The ongoing talk, paired with ESPN employing both Mark Jackson – who failed to put Jokic on his MVP ballot – and Lisa Salters – who said on Thursday she’d “never seen Jokic play – and Nuggets fans are getting cranky about the national narrative.

All this chatter – or lack thereof in the case of the Nuggets – also impacts lines and futures.

“If the media – both local and national – starts pumping up a team, it will be reflected in the betting pools,” says Kornegay. “It all makes sense, and we understand it. This isn’t a complaint, but that’s how the lay of the land rolls.

“On the other side of the coin, the media could be critical of a team and that will deter wagers.”

Kornegay, a lifelong fan of the Nuggets, is watching closely. He’s watching the lines and the futures, too, as Lakers Nation most certainly has the ability to move the needle.

Friday Night Trio

Three bets worth considering when the weekend kicks off

Miami Heat at Boston Celtics
TD Garden – Boston, MA
7:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Boston -9.0

The Celtics were an 8.5-point favorite on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in which they faced off against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat. However, it was the Heat who got the win as they shocked the Celtics in Boston.

On Friday, the Celtics will be favored by even more. While the lack of recognition for the Heat is still mind boggling, it makes sense that Boston is heavily favored. The higher-seed team rarely loses both games at home.

Not only is Boston a star-studded team poised for a title run, but they will likely have the whistles go their way. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were great in Game 1, combining for 52 points. They will have to replicate that kind of performance in Game 2.

And someone else on the team will need to step up for Boston to have a shot.  Whether it’s Malcom Brogdon or Marcus Smart or even Robert Williams, someone else needs to aid Tatum and Brown.

Another key to the Celtics success will be containing Butler. That is no easy task, but even preventing him from scoring 30-plus points would be a small victory that could help get Boston over the top.

For Boston, losing the first game of the series is nothing new. During their round-two win over the 76ers, the Celtics lost the first game at home, as well. But they were able to come back and win the series in a Game 7 blowout.

Despite their loss on Wednesday, the Celtics are still favored to knock off the Heat. In order to do so, they will need to win on Friday night. They’ll get that done.

Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Boston M/L (-400)


Dallas Stars at Vegas Golden Knights
T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV
7:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Vegas -130

The Golden Knights were not the favorites to win the Western Conference when the playoffs began, despite having the best overall record in the west. The Avalanche and the Oilers were the two teams that had better odds.

Colorado lost in the first round to Seattle and Vegas knocked out Edmonton in the second round. Now, Vegas will face the Stars, who were not expected to make it this far either.

Dallas beat Minnesota in six games after trailing 2-1 in the series. Then, the Stars played the Kraken, the No. 7 seed which had knocked off the defending champs. Despite falling down 2-1 yet again, they were able to get the job done in seven.

Both teams will be faced with their toughest challenges yet. This one is set up to be a great series. But who takes Game 1?

Both teams have had plenty of rest and neither team is plagued with any substantial injuries. The home ice for the Golden Knights currently lifts them over the edge when it comes to the odds and it is easy to see that as an advantage.

But in reality the Stars are the better bet. They have been on an absolute rampage and seem to be firing on all cylinders. Head coach Peter DeBoer has his team playing exceptionally well.

DeBoer has a bit of a chip on his shoulder, as he will be going up against the team that fired him last May. He knows it, the players know it and so do the fans. DeBoer wants to win this one in front of the team that fired him after he led them to a 98-50-12 record over parts of three seasons.

It feels like a revenge game. Oftentimes, that leads to satisfying victories. Take the Stars to steal Game 1.

Norm LaChatlier’s pick: Dallas M/L (+110)


Arizona Diamondbacks at Pittsburgh Pirates
PNC Park – Pittsburgh, PA
6:35 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Pittsburgh +160

Zac Gallen has been one of the MLB’s best pitchers this season. The Diamondbacks’ star is tied for the second most wins of any pitcher, is fourth in strikeouts and has an impressive ERA of just 2.35.

He will be starting for Arizona on Friday, which is the main reason the DBacks are favored despite being on the road. The pitcher has had success against Pittsburgh in the past. He is 1-1 against the Pirates in his career with an ERA of 1.38.

The Diamondbacks have had a good start to the season, as they are 25-19. They’re surprisingly sitting in second place in the NL West.

The Pirates aren’t doing too bad themselves. They are 23-20, good for second in the NL Central. Both teams are coming off wins on Wednesday.

Pitching for the Pirates will be Johan Oviedo. Oviedo is 2-3 this season with an ERA of 5.14.

A good pitcher makes a difference. Gallen is 6-1. Oviedo is below .500.

Take Gallen’s squad to get it done. The Diamondbacks stay hot.

Richard DeMala’s pick: Arizona M/L (-190)