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THE NBA FEARSOME FINAL FOUR

nba logo 2019James Harden and the Houston Rockets knew that they had a chance to beat the reigning champion Golden State Warriors in the NBA semi-finals this year, and they played like it, right up until the fourth quarter of game 6 on their own home court when super star Seth Curry took over in a whirlwind of flash and speed and accuracy the likes of which we have seldom seen before.

Curry curiously went scoreless for the entire first half leaving fans wondering if he was injured or ill.  He wasn’t, not at all.  After halftime Curry went on to score 10 points in the third quarter and then, with the conference championship on the line and a chance to eliminate, for the fourth time in 5 years, his arch rival Houston Rockets, Curry went into one of the most impressive runs ever witnessed on a basketball court by most of us mortals and scored 25 points in the fourth quarter to shut down Houston’s chances for yet another year.

So, the Golden State Warriors move on to meet the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA’s version of the Final Four for a seven game series to determine who will meet the winners of the matchup between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors for the 2019 NBA Championship.

It took the Milwaukee Bucks just 5 games to eliminate the mighty Boston Celtics after being blown out on their own home court by the Celtics by a score of 112-90 in the first game of the series. Milwaukee is considered among the favorites in the tourney, even getting the nod from TV commentator, and former NBA great, Charles Barkley to win it all.

But first the Bucks will have to finish off the scary Toronto Raptors who took the Philadelphia 76ers to the full 7 games before defeating them on their home court.  The Bucks will be a bit more rested; the Raptors will have the edge still honed fine.  Look for this series to go down to the wire.

Out west, two of the best backcourt tandems in professional basketball, Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson for Golden State, and Damian Lillard & CJ McCollum of Portland, will take to the court at the Oracle as this best of seven series gets underway on Tuesday.

The Warriors will be without star forward Kevin Durant for at least the first games of the series with a calf injury. Look for Seth Curry to fill that void in style as he did against the Rockets of Houston. Las Vegas oddsmakers seem to believe that the Warriors will prevail in both the semi-finals, where they are at      -570 to Portland’s +435, and for the overall 2019 NBA Championship, where Golden State sits at -250 with Milwaukee at Even money.  The Toronto Raptors are at +500 and the dogs of the series are the Portland Trailblazers at +800.

BETHPAGE BLACK IS THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE

bethpage black warning signThe sign outside the entrance to the Bethpage Black golf course sets the tone for the upcoming PGA Championship.  It says, “WARNING-The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers”. 

Fortunately, there will be an abundance of highly skilled golfers in attendance when competition tees off for the 2019 PGA Championship out on Long Island, New York on Thursday.  Bethpage Black was opened in 1936 and to this day still strikes a chord of fear in golfers of any skill level.  The legendary links hosted the US Open back in 2002, which was won by a young Tiger Woods, and then again in 2009 when Lucas Glover took home to coveted cup. This will be the first time that the PGA Championship will be held there.

As one of only four ‘major’ PGA tournaments, certain ‘credentials’ are required of the players just to qualify to participate.  First of all, all former PGA Champs are invited to play.  Then the past five Masters Champs, which include Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Danny Willet plus the past five U.S. Open Champs which brings in Dustin Johnson as well.

The list goes on a bit, but, suffice it to say that all the major contenders will be there with their best name brand outfits and ready to rumble.  Rumble because they all know that taking on this level of competition on the Bethpage Black course means taking their game to the highest possible level and staying consistent over the entire four day tournament, and being very lucky.

After his staggering victory at the U.S. Open, Tiger Woods emerges as the odds on favorite to win the 2019 PGA Championship as well and bettors are already lining up to put down their wagers on the ‘Big Cat’ once again.  Woods has placed in the top 10 in each of the last three majors and has won previously on Bethpage Black.

So OK, Tiger Woods is a legitimate favorite to be the PGA Champ for the third time at 9-1.  However, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson as close behind at 10-1 and charging Rory McIlroy is at 12-1 with Rickie Fowler at 16-1. Justin Thomas was at 18-1 along with Jon Rahm, but Thomas has dropped out of the competition due to a wrist injury.

Such is the renewed faith in Tiger Woods that the same bettor who put down 85 dimes on Tiger at 14-1 to win at Augusta, and brought home a cool $1.19 million has wagered $100,000 of those winnings on Woods completing the 2019 Grand Slam with William Hill in Las Vegas. Will he hit it again?

BET ON COLLEGE BASEBALL

BB WSWhile college football and basketball are national passions, college baseball is just now coming into its own, and becoming an attractive wagering option for many bettors as well.  The level of sophistication and competition has risen in recent years to bring university level baseball into the national limelight at last.

The season for college baseball is out of line with regular season MLB. It is set up to accommodate life on campus and still allow time for the necessary academic class work. The season starts right after the Christmas holidays and runs through mid June when the annual College World Series is played in Omaha at Ameritrade Park.

As it works out, just about the same time that a team gets to the final weeks, and the most critical games of the year, it’s also time again for final exams. That’s quite a load to carry and something that the pros don’t have to worry about.  These kids are doing double duty for the glory of the university and yet Mark Emmert and the NCAA continue to hold on to their long outdated notion that paying student athletes with ruin the sport.

The student athletes who participate in baseball while still at university do so for love of the sport.  In addition to playing 3-4 games a week during the entire spring semester, they must also keep up with class work, home work, term papers and final exams.  It’s a pretty hectic 5 months.  Those who excel stand a chance at being drafted into the MLB, probably into the minor leagues at first, but their futures will still be looking pretty bright.

Baseball facilities at many universities have been revamped and rebuilt to modern standards and as many as 12,000 boisterous fans fill the stands for each home game.  Just as in college basketball, there is an excitement and spirit that exists at the university level that somehow does not always translate to the professional.

Today’s modern bookie might want to let his players know that there is another exciting sport happening right now and available for wagering, especially as we approach the conference tourneys and the World Series in June.

This applies especially to those of you who have a contending college baseball team in your area. If your local fans are passionate about football and basketball, chances are they will soon be feeling the same about college baseball as well.

The SEC Conference Tournament commences on Tuesday, May 21st and runs through the 26th, as always, in Hoover, Alabama.  The other conference tourneys take place around the country at this time as well.

Directly thereafter, on Friday, May 31 the NCAA Regional Tournaments begin around the country. The NCAA Super Regionals will take place between June 7 and 10. The sites of these games will be determined by the winners of round one of the Regionals.

The NCAA College World Series will take place starting on June 15th at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska with the finals on June 26th.

College baseball is fun, exciting and could possibly turn into a good money maker for the savvy bookie.

BIG BOY BASKETBALL BEGINS

NBA-Playoffs-logoIf you are just now tuning in on the NBA finals, you’ve come at the right time.  The prelims are over and the only guys left in serious competition are all out to win the NBA championship for 2019.  They are big and they are strong.  This is where we separate the champions from the contenders.

The last event that a lot of basketball fans watched was the NCAA finals known as March Madness when Virginia was crowned national champs.  Now the kids are all home or back in school and it’s time for the big boys to take the court.

The difference in action between the college hoops games we all enjoyed so much this year and the professional basketball players of the NBA is amazing.  Physical contact, which would have never been allowed in NCAA competition, goes on during every possession in NBA.  Guys are in there pushing and shoving, going for the ball and not too worried about getting called for a foul.

The quality of play at the professional level in the NBA is almost absurd. It has been proposed that the goals be moved up a bit or the court lengthened, but that is impractical.  So we have a bunch of guys that look way too overgrown to be playing on that same small court that they used in high school.

However, what the NBA players do on that small venue is nothing less than amazing.  The moves and shots made by these guys approach artistry in motion as they appear to defy gravity itself on those spectacular dunk shots.

So now we are down to the best eight teams in the NBA.  The defending champion Golden State Warriors are having a rough go with James Harden’s Houston Rockets and the series is now even at 2 victories each. Games 5-7 are going to be a war!

Current finals favorite Milwaukee is on the verge of defeating the legendary Boston Celtics, who won the first game easily on the road but have fallen to the Bucks for the next three games in a row, and now they are back in Milwaukee.

The Raptors of Toronto and the Philadelphia 76ers are playing a strange series.  Each is winning games on the opponents’ home court.  Game 6 is back in Philly and the 76ers will be eliminated should they lose at home again.

The Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets went to four overtimes before Portland finally managed a 140-137 victory over the Nuggets.  Game six is at Portland and Denver is once again trembling on the brink.

None of these games are going to be easy.  None will be runaway victories. The pros left on the court are dedicated and strong.  It’s their time to shine and the action will be fast and furious from here on out.

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