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Sportsbooks will lose bundle if Lakers win NBA title

Updated October 19, 2021 - 1:43 pm

With or without Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets are the clear favorites to win the NBA title.

The Los Angeles Lakers are the clear second choice and largest liability at Las Vegas sportsbooks, where they’re the ticket leaders by a wide margin over the Golden State Warriors.

BetMGM, which took a $20,000 wager to win $80,000 on the Lakers to win the franchise’s 18th NBA championship, is on the hook for multiple six figures if LA breaks a tie this season with the rival Boston Celtics for most NBA titles.

The Lakers are the only significant liability at the Westgate SuperBook, which took a $28,571.45 wager to win $100,000 on L.A. at +350 after it acquired former league MVP Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards.

Bettors also are banking on the Lakers to go over their season win total of 51½.

SuperBook vice president of risk Jeff Sherman, a lifelong Lakers fan, is skeptical that Westbrook will mesh well on the court with L.A. stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

“I don’t expect to see the results early on. If it works, I think it’s going to take some growing pains to get through,” Sherman said. “I thought, personally, that (sharpshooter) Buddy Hield would’ve been a better fit to what they needed than Westbrook.”

The Lakers, hampered by injuries last season, lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Phoenix Suns.

Cutting down the Nets

Brooklyn is the +250 favorite at the SuperBook to win the title, followed by the Lakers at +350 and the Warriors and defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks at 8-1.

The season tips off Tuesday with a doubleheader of the top four favorites and only teams with title odds of less than 10-1.

The Lakers are 5-point home favorites over the Warriors, and the Bucks are 1-point home favorites over the Nets.

Brooklyn opened as a 1½-point favorite, but the line flipped with the news that the Nets decided not to allow Irving, their mercurial point guard, to practice or play until he complies with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Sherman said he made a slight adjustment to Brooklyn’s season win total, lowering it from a league-high 55½ to 54½. He didn’t move the Nets’ title odds.

“I don’t think there will be much longevity to this,” he said. “I’d be surprised if he took the entire season off.”

Brooklyn, led by former league MVPs Kevin Durant and James Harden, was battling injuries last season when it was eliminated from the playoffs by Milwaukee in a seven-game series.

“Durant and half a Harden still almost beat the Bucks, and those two are now healthy,” Sherman said. “I definitely think a healthy Nets team is the starting point.”

The Bulls’ title odds dropped from 100-1 to 60-1 at the SuperBook after they added DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in the offseason. A BetMGM bettor wagered $1,000 to win $150,000 on Chicago to win the title.

Best bets

■ Bulls (-3) over PISTONS: Sherman bet Chicago -2½ over Detroit in Wednesday’s opener, in part, because he doesn’t expect Cade Cunningham, Detroit’s No. 1 overall draft pick, to be fully recovered from a sprained ankle.

“I don’t think Detroit is ready yet,” he said. “I don’t think Cunningham will be ready.”

■ Rockets under 25½ wins: ESPN “Daily Wager” host Doug Kezirian played Houston under 26½.

“It’s always difficult to go under when it’s a number that’s pretty low. But this is a team full of 19- and 20-year-olds that just doesn’t have that high of a ceiling this year,” he said. “The future is bright, but this year they will have some serious growing pains. They’re in full rebuild mode. I think 27 wins is too much to ask.”

■ Magic under 23 wins: Kezirian played Orlando under 23½.

“This team is pretty bad. They have no star power whatsoever,” he said. “All eight playoff teams in the East are going to be above .500. It’s a deeper conference than we tend to think. There will only be a few bad teams, and Orlando is at the front of the line.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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