With Lakers Favored to Win NBA Title, Play-In Game Will Provide Appetizer

Posted on: August 15, 2020, 08:12h. 

Last updated on: August 17, 2020, 10:04h.

The NBA playoffs start Monday, with the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers an 11/4 favorite to win the championship, according to the Westgate SuperBook.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks and LeBron James of the Lakers lead two of the prime NBA championship contenders. (Image: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

But before James can begin his quest for a fourth championship ring, there’s a play-in game on Saturday. The Portland Trail Blazers (35-39) will battle the Memphis Grizzlies (34-39) at 2:30 p.m. EST (ABC) for the right to be the eighth seed in the Western Conference. If Memphis wins, the teams will play again on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. EST (ESPN).

Portland is a 6.5-point favorite, according to MGM, with an over/under of 233.5 points. FanDuel has Portland at minus-6.

According to OddsFire on Friday, 76 percent of the bets and 85 percent of the money on the spread was placed on the Grizzlies. As of Saturday morning, that had switched to 56 percent of the bets and 47 percent of the money on Portland.

Play-In Game

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has averaged a bubble-high 37.6 points per game during the NBA’s COVID-19 restart in Orlando, Fla. However, their defense has been abysmal. They’ve allowed at least 115 points in six of their eight August games. Nonetheless, they’ve won five of their last six games and became a chic championship pick since the NBA resumed play in late July.

Memphis, on the other hand, is 2-5 in August. One of those victories came on Thursday against Milwaukee, which was without star Giannis Antetokounmpo (one-game suspension) and had nothing to play for, with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference locked up.

Being that underdog doesn’t matter to us at all,” Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant told reporters after the Milwaukee game. “We love being the underdog. It’s just extra motivation, fuel to the fire. It just makes our success that much better.”

The prize for earning the eighth seed? A first-round series against the top-seeded Lakers.

Championship Odds

SuperBook has the Lakers at 11/4, followed by Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Clippers at 3/1, Boston, and Toronto at 10/1, Houston at 14/1, Denver at 20/1, and Portland and Miami at 40/1. Further back are Oklahoma City (50/1), Utah (60/1), Dallas (60/1), and Philadelphia (80/1).

The real long shots are Indiana (200/1), Memphis (1,000/1), Brooklyn (1,000/1), and Orlando (2,000/1).

The Bucks, who are led by the “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo, finished as the East’s No. 1 seed with an NBA-best 56-17 record. They are 2/3 to win the conference and advance to The Finals. Boston and Toronto are considered the top challengers at 4/1.

The Lakers (8/5) and Clippers (7/4) are the overwhelming favorites to represent the West in The Finals.

Here are the prices for the first-round series from the SuperBook. All series are best-of-seven.

Eastern Conference

  • No. 8 Orlando (+3,000) vs. No. 1 Milwaukee (-15,000).
  • No. 4 Indiana (+260) vs. No. 5 Miami (-310)
  • No. 6 Philadelphia (+330) vs. No. 3 Boston (-400)
  • No. 7 Brooklyn (+1,500) vs. No. 2 Toronto (-5,000)

Western Conference

  • No. 8 Portland (+425) vs. No. 1 L.A. Lakers (-550) (Note: No odds for Memphis vs. Lakers)
  • No. 5 Oklahoma City (+155) vs. No. 4 Houston (-175)
  • No. 6 Utah (+175) vs. No. 3 Denver (-200)
  • No. 7 Dallas (+375) vs. No. 2 L.A. Clippers (-400)