Money Monday

March 27, 2023

Three suggestions for early-in-the-week action

© Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers at Denver Nuggets
Ball Arena – Denver, CO
9:30 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Denver -5.5

It’s not hyperbole to say the MVP could be on the line Monday night at Ball Arena in Denver. Back-to-back winner Nikola Jokic was the favorite the last couple of months, before being passed by Joel Embiid as the Nuggets hit a skid and the 76ers caught fire.

It also helped that when they met up back in January, Embiid got the best of Jokic, posting a ridiculous 47 points and 18 rebounds in a 126-119 victory by the Sixers. Jokic had a fine night with 24 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, but all three of those totals are below his season averages.

The reality is winning MVP is a very big deal to Embiid, something he’s acknowledged and agonized over, while “The Joker” couldn’t care less about individual awards. And that’s where the bet for this game begins to come into focus.

Despite dropping two straight, this is the Super Bowl for Embiid and Philadelphia. Everything will be on the line (in theory). For Jokic, it’s just another night at the office.

Even though the Nuggets have won three in a row to get back on track, they’ve showed some real cracks of late, going just 4-5 over their last nine games, including home losses to both the Bulls and the Nets.

The 76ers are better than each of those teams and will have all the motivation in the world to keep this one very tight. It’s too many points for Philly to be getting, so grab them.

Jason Schlefsky’s pick: Philadelphia +5.5 (-110)


© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers
Moda Center – Portland, OR
10:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: New Orleans -8.5

It’s a tough time to be a Portland fan, as the team has fallen out of the play-in tournament picture and a report surfaced over the weekend that they’re “leaning toward” shutting down star point guard Damian Lillard for the season. The Blazers find themselves 4.5 games out of the No. 10 seed with multiple teams to jump, so the decision makes sense.

In their first game without Lillard on Friday night, the Blazers got absolutely smoked by the Bulls at home by a final score of 124-96. It was the exclamation mark on a brutal nine-game stretch they’re in, going to 1-8 during that time.

They’ve played New Orleans twice in the month of March and have lost by double-digits both times, falling by 11 on March 1 and 17 on March 12. Plus, the Pelicans are hot, as they rescue their season and certainly look like they will be part of the play-in tournament if not more.

The Pels have won four games in a row, including a very impressive 131-110 road victory over the Clippers on Saturday night. New Orleans currently sits as the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, but the distance between the Nos. 4 and 12 in the West is ridiculously close. They could very well crawl into top-six positioning by the time the regular season is over.

The Pelicans will take a step toward that on Monday night as they blast the Blazers and cover this spread.

Jason Schlefsky’s pick: New Orleans -8.5 (-110)


© Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Kraken at Minnesota Wild
Xcel Energy Center – St. Paul, MN
8:00 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Minnesota -135

Minnesota has taken over the top spot in the Central Division, using two late goals against the Blackhawks on Saturday to jump to 93 points and overtake Dallas by one. The Wild are playing good hockey at the right time of the year, going 14-1-4 over their last 19 games.

Think about that for a moment. Since February 15, they’ve lost just one time in regulation, and, oh by the way, that came against the Bruins, a team that remains strong Stanley Cup favorites.

Minnesota hasn’t skated with Seattle since November. But it is worth nothing the last time they played, the Wild beat the Kraken 1-0 behind an amazing night from Marc-Andre Fleury. He stopped all 28 shots he faced in that one to earn the shutout.  Considering Fleury and Filip Gustavsson have been alternating starts, expect to see him against a Seattle team he stonewalled last time.

While the Kraken are still likely to make the playoffs as a wild card, they have cooled off as of late. Seattle is just 3-5 over its last eight games in terms of skating off as winners or losers, which is what you’re betting on here.

The Kraken are playing their fourth road game in a row, wrapping up a long trip that took them to the opposite side of the country. The Wild stay hot and extend their division lead by feasting on a tired Seattle team.

Norm LaChatlier’s pick: Minnesota M/L (-135)

Perfect Parlay

Today’s best packaged deal

  1. Denver Nuggets M/L (-200)
  2. Sacramento Kings M/L (-200)
  3. Los Angeles Clippers M/L (-165)

Jason Schlefsky’s Three-Leg Parlay = +261

Three good teams in the Western Conference, all with plenty to play for down the stretch, are solid bets at home late in the season. The Nuggets are looking to avenge a previous loss to the Sixers. The Kings are a very good home team, while the Timberwolves are below .500 on the road. And the Clippers get a Bulls team that gave everything they had yesterday in a win over the Lakers. Bundle these three tonight!

Three Things We Learned…

Takeaways from a weekend full of great games and performances

Preseason Polls are Worthless

It always seemed silly to rank teams before they ever played a game. But because it generates conversation, college sports have always released preseason rankings. They create a pecking order before a single kickoff, tipoff or first pitch. Recently, these preseason polls have proven more and more inaccurate. And the NCAA Tournament is the latest evidence. When Creighton was eliminated on Sunday by San Diego State, it meant that not a single preseason top-10 team would advance to the Final Four, just the third time that’s happened since 1961.


LeBron James Killed the Lakers Mojo

With their star on the sidelines, the Lakers had crawled back into the playoff race. They were 37-37, sitting with the No. 8 seed in a tightly contested Western Conference. So, when it was announced that LeBron James would return on Sunday, coming off the bench for just the second time in his illustrious career, it was met with excitement by Lakers fans. The celebration might’ve been premature, however. The return of King James seemed to throw the team off their stride, as a three-game winning streak was snapped in a home loss to the Bulls. It’s unfair to say L.A. is better without LeBron, but it’s certainly a hypothesis worth investigating.


A Nosedive in Dallas

Around the NBA trade deadline, the Mavericks were considered a contender. They had one of the game’s stars in Luka Doncic; they just needed to surround him with more pieces. In a bold move, Dallas traded key players to Brooklyn in exchange for Kyrie Irving. It’s safe to say the mercurial guard hasn’t helped things in Big D. Since the deal, the Mavericks are 8-13 as a team; they’re also 3-8 when the two stars are on the court together. The latest setback was an embarrassing loss on Sunday to Charlotte, a defeat that puts Dallas on the outside looking in for the play-in tournament and has Doncic grumbling about not enjoying the game of late. Yikes!