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January 23, 2018

Turns out the Chosen 1 is not actually a great choice — at least at the books.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, are a nightmare for casual gamblers this season. The Cavaliers have been awful at beating their predicted point spreads, ESPN explains: Despite compiling a winning 27-18 record, the team is only 11-33-1 relative to their predicted scores, "which is on pace to rank dead last among [any team] since 1990-91."

In point-spread betting, gamblers place money on the margin of the final score of any given game. Unlike the Golden State Warriors, who upend Vegas point spreads by winning games with unpredictable scores, the Cavaliers are fairly easy for Vegas to get a read on. They've regressed this year due to an aging roster plagued with with chemistry problems — but because the Cavs still employ James, arguably the best basketball player ever, casual bettors still throw their money at the team.

That means that despite the fact that the Cavs have lost 7 of their last 10 games and trot out the second-worst defense in the NBA, Vegas has yet to adjust its betting lines because it's still making money on fans' good will, even as the team continually underperforms. As NBA oddsmaker Jeff Sherman explained to ESPN: "It's just hard for the public to go away when you have a commodity like LeBron."

So if you've got a contrarian streak, you're in luck, because the smart bet is to bet against the 2016 champs. Read more at ESPN. Kelly O'Meara Morales

December 15, 2017

If you want easy money, don't bet on the Golden State Warriors. ESPN reported Friday that final scores in Warriors games this season are an average of 10.5 points off of their predicted point spread — a nightmare for bettors.

In point-spread betting, gamblers bet on the difference, aka "spread," of a game's final score. And while the defending NBA champions win most of their games, their quality of play fluctuates drastically from night to night, which means the scoreboard's final tallies are extremely unpredictable. Professional bettor Erin Rynning summed up the issue to ESPN: "It's a headache. You do all this research and you want to think you're going to get 100 percent effort ... [but they] are bored. They have bigger fish to fry."

In order to minimize fatigue in the long 82-game regular season — not to mention conserve energy for an expected lengthy postseason run — the Warriors generally rest one or two key players per game under the guise of a minor "injury." These rests rarely lead to actual losses for the Dubs, but the absence of a star player like point guard Stephen Curry can lead to reduced margins of victory that mess with the spread. The Warriors are also notorious for playing possum in the first half of games and then either racing to huge leads in the second half or squeaking out victories in a game's final minutes.

While the Warriors' ability to "flip the switch" makes for great TV, it doesn't make for good predictions. In a season where the Warriors' actual win-loss record is 23-6, their record against the point spread is only 14-15. Read more at ESPN. Kelly O'Meara Morales

September 17, 2015

NBA legends and former Los Angeles Lakers teammates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson have never seemed a lot alike — in playing styles or in personality. In an interview with The New York Times, Abdul-Jabbar, 68, offered up some candid commentary as to why Johnson drew more support from both fans and the press in the '80s.

"I understood why people liked him," Abdul-Jabbar said. "He had that great smile, so white people thought his life was okay. They thought that racism had not affected him. They were wrong, of course. But that's what they saw when they saw him. Magic made white people feel comfortable. With themselves."

Abdul-Jabbar, now a prolific columnist on racial justice, said he regrets not cultivating a better relationship with reporters over the years in the interest of appearing more likable to fans.

Check out the whole profile here, especially if you've been dying to know what it's like taking a casual trip to the zoo with a basketball great. Julie Kliegman

April 24, 2015

Stephen Curry showed us all last night that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. After bricking a wild shot to tie Game 3 of the Golden State Warriors' first-round playoff series with the New Orleans Pelicans, he took an even wilder shot to send the game into overtime and cap a 20-point comeback in the fourth quarter, the third-largest in playoff history. The Warriors would go on to win 123-119 in overtime. —Ryu Spaeth

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