The Breakfast Spread: Zion Williamson Returns, Thunder Blow Lead
Zion Williamson exceeded all expectations in a historic return to the hardwood Thursday. North Carolina matched Duke with a win of their own over Louisville, and the two will square off in the biggest game of the week tonight. In the NBA, the Thunder blew a second-half lead to the Indiana Pacers, and Lebron James continues to smash his points props. Here’s a sports betting recap from Thursday and a lookahead to Friday.
The Return of Zion
Duke’s star freshman and ACC player of the year, Zion Williamson, hadn’t played since February when he literally broke though his Nike sneaker. Many speculated that Williamson would sit out the rest of his college career, protecting himself for the NBA draft. In a historic performance Thursday, Williamson played as if he wanted to come back a long time ago.
The 18-year-old led Duke with 29 points, shooting an insane 13-for-13 from the field in Duke’s 84-72 win over Syracuse. The win moves Duke to the ACC Tournament semi-final round Friday.
With Zion back, public money poured in on Duke throughout the day, moving the opening line from Duke -11 to -12.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook and -10.5 to -11.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook by tip-off. Per usual, oddsmakers were right on the money as Duke won by 12 points, bringing in mixed results for Duke backers. The Blue Devils were covering 84-69 in the final seconds but a deep three-pointer by Syracuse’s Frank Howard turned into a bad beat for some Duke bettors who got the closing line of -13.
Thanks to North Carolina’s 83-70 win over Louisville (+7), the Tar Heels and Williamson will meet up on the hardwood for more than just 30 seconds Friday night.
Senior forward Luke Maye led North Carolina with 19 points and 8 rebounds. Three other Tar Heel players added 11 points or more, helping North Carolina bettors cover the 7-point spread.
The Tar Heels swept the regular season series and covered both games with 88-72 and 79-70 wins over Duke. Of course, North Carolina was afforded the luxury of not playing against Williamson. Friday will be a different story.
Oddsmakers at FanDuel Sportsbook opened Duke as 2.5-point favorites (Over/Under 163).
It’s going to be tough not to take Duke in this spot. We’ve seen just how valuable Williamson’s presence on the court is to the Blue Devils, and I expect them to be as motivated as ever trying to avenge their two regular season losses to the Tar Heels.
The key here, if you want Duke, is to hop on the early number. This will be one of the most bet on games if the year and a lot of money will be on Duke simply because of Williamson’s return. Breakfast Pick: Duke -2.5 (get the number early!)
Oklahoma City Squanders Second Half Lead
The Indiana Pacers defended their home court, fighting back from a 19-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-106 and cover as 1-point favorites.
Pacers backers had to sweat every minute of it, as Indiana ended the game on a 23-10 run before winning on a Wesley Matthews’ tip-in with 1.8 seconds left.
Astonishingly, Indiana had six players score at least 10 points. Bojan Bogdanovic and Domantas Sabonis led the Pacers with 23 and 26 points respectively.
While Oklahoma City couldn’t get the win, the Thunder should find optimism in Paul George’s 36-point performance. George has struggled in recent weeks while battling an injured shoulder. Shooting 6-for-11 from the arc Thursday night, it didn’t appear as if the shoulder was a problem.
The Thunder will take a day off before hosting the Golden State Warriors Saturday. Kevin Durant is still listed as day-to-day with an ankle injury, but the Warriors expect Durant to return at some point during the team’s four-game road trip. The trip includes a back-to-back in San Antonio and Minnesota beginning next Monday.
Prop Shop: Lebron James Over/Under Points
James scored 29 points in the Lakers 111-98 loss to Toronto Thursday, making it eight straight games with 27+ points. The Over on James’ points props is 6-2 in that same span.
James continues to lead the Lakers in scoring despite seeing reduced minutes now that LA is out of the playoff race. It’s almost as if this is James’ form of throwing in the towel. When he’s on the court, he’s looking shoot now that there’s little to play for. In fact, James has taken 22 or more shots in his last four games.
Player props still aren’t out yet for the Lakers matchup with the Detroit Pistons, but so long as it’s no more than 27.5, I’m going to ride James scoring streak until it bucks me off. Breakfast Picks: Lebron James Over 27.5 (or less) points.
Marvin Bagley III will play in his second game in as many days when the Sacramento Kings take on the Philadelphia 76ers Friday. Bagley scored 14 points in just 19 minutes against the Boston Celtics after a two-week hiatus with a knee injury. The Kings are 10-point underdogs and the Over/Under is 233.
Stat of the Day
Williamson’s 13-for-13 shooting performance ties the most made-shots without a miss in ACC history. Additionally, Williamson joins Christian Laettner and Grant Hill as only the third Duke player to record 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 steals in a game under Coach K.
The Players Championship Update
Keegan Bradley and Tommy Fleetwood tied for the lowest rounds Thursday shooting 7-under 65s. Two other players, Byeong Hun An and Brian Harman, trail by one shot and Rory McIlroy and Ryan Moore are only two strokes back at -5.
McIlroy and Fleetwood (+600) are the current favorites to win the tournament. Oddsmakers are less bullish on Keegan Bradley (+1200) after Bradley blew a similar early-tournament lead last weekend. Hun an, a dark horse pick heading into the tournament, is +2000 following a 6-under 66.
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