NBA Must-Win Games


We're getting down to the real nitty-gritty time of this 2017-18 NBA regular season and that generally means one thing in the handicapping world:

Teams in a "must-win" mode are overpriced items and you can take full advantage.

Consider in Wednesday night's late game where the San Antonio Spurs - now 45-34 and very much locked in a ferocious fight for a playoff spot with five or six other Western Conference foes - were a 6.5-point betting favorite at the albeit short-handed Los Angeles Lakers (no PG Lonzo Ball, no G/F Brandon Ingram).

The Lakers long ago waved bye-bye to any post-season dreams and so they were in the true spoiler role here but consider they were grabbing more than a fistful of points against a Spurs' squad that came in on a six-game SU (straight-up) road losing streak.

The Spurs - as the TV broadcasters like to say - "had to have this one" when you considered they still had home games remaining against Portland and Sacramento and a season-ending road game in New Orleans ... yes, the Pelicans are one of those many NBA Western Conference crews in a hunt for a playoff berth.

So, there was major value in snatching up the Lakers and they obliged their backers with a thrilling 122-112 overtime win.

No doubt - as we've been saying for years - all games must be handicapped on its own but the truth is these Western Conference playoff wannabes - that's Utah, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Minnesota, Denver and even the Los Angeles Clippers -- will be go-against teams (more likely than not) in their late-season games when favored while all eight of the Eastern Conference playoff bids have been wrapped up and so we won't exactly go crazy trying to figure out which teams want which seeds here. Okay?


We know, we know. The 2018 Major-League Baseball season is barely a week old but gotta say it's been an eye-opening first week in many respects - and one topic that has our attention here is a couple of starting pitchers that have roared out of the starting gates at 2-0 ... here's some thoughts:

PATRICK CORBIN, LHP, ARIZONA - All hail the born-again southpaw who might well be making early-season inroads on the National League Cy Young Award. In Wednesday's dominant 3-0 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Corbin retired the first 14 batters to start the game and wound up allowing a mere fifth-inning double by Dodgers' OF Matt Kemp in 7.1 innings of work - Corbin fanned 12 batters in all and walked only one and through two starts he's pitched to a 1.38 ERA while surrendering just 8 hits and 2 BB in 13 innings of work (also beat Colorado 8-2 on Opening Day).
True, Corbin's five-plus years in the "bigs" has 'em a .500 pitcher - that's 47-47 with an ERA hovering around 4.00 -- but we've always liked this upstate New York slinger save for some injury woes and he could present major value now before oddsmakers "catch up" with him. Next start is slated for Monday night in San Francisco ... you have been forewarned.

LUIS SEVERINO, RHP, NEW YORK YANKEES - It's no secret that this still under-the-radar ace of the Yanks has a huge burden on his shoulders this year: Sure, the Yankees have that three-headed home run monster of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, but you never really know if this fragile starting staff is gonna make all its starts - what, you think it's a given that Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia are good for 85 starts among 'em this year, 'cause we don't! So, Severino remains a major puzzle piece as the Yanks gun for their first championship since 2009 and in Wednesday's rain-delayed 7-2 win against Tampa Bay, there was "Seve" going 7.1 innings while allowing just two runs and 5 hits with 7 Ks. It wound up being - so far - the longest outing by a Yankees starter this year and note Severino threw 63 strikes among his 92 pitches. Will he be this year's Cy Young winner in the American League? Hey, the 24-year-old native of the Dominican Republic was in the mix last year as he finished third behind winner RHP Corey Kluber (Cleveland) and LHP Chris Sale (Boston) and he's off and rollicking now with two wins and a tasty 1.38 ERA. Next start: A big one in Boston on either Tuesday or Wednesday.