The new set up for the All-Star Game instituted by commissioner Adam Silver last season made for a surprisingly competitive game. Year 2 projects for much of the same when Team LeBron squares off against Team Giannis on Sunday night in Charlotte.
It’s obviously tough to determine which team truly has the advantage since both squads were picked evenly among the 24 participants, whereas the Western Conference had been much stronger than the East in recent years.
It’s also difficult to guess which team will take the game more seriously or who might gun for MVP and in the process carry their team to victory in an exhibition.
Even a casual glance at the roster makes it clear that Team LeBron holds a distinct advantage on paper.
It’s not any knock on Antetokounmpo, but the Greek All-Star took his teammate Khris Middleton with the first reserve pick and then drafted International players in Nikola Jokic and Nicola Vucevic maybe a little bit earlier than expected.
Team LeBron’s starting five is King James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. It’s star-studded, and James, Davis, Irving and Durant are responsible for four of the last seven All-Star Game MVPs.
For that reason, and because we’re getting to see James and Dwyane Wade team up one last time, it makes sense that they’ll gun for a victory. We like Team LeBron to win the game outright at -245 and to also cover the -6 spread with SugarHouse.
The game came down to the final possession last year, but we think it could be a more decisive win this season.
And last year’s rule change also made a significant difference in the over-under. There was far more defense played in the final quarter than we’ve seen in years and it produced the lowest point total (193) in an All-Star Game since 2013.
Basketball bookmakers aren’t expecting a repeat performance, as the over-under for Sunday’s game sits at 310.5. We think the offense will pick up, too.
The players seemed motivated in the first year of the new rules and made it into a serious game, but it’s only natural that it’ll go back to more of an exhibition in the second year.
That, and offense is at an all-time high in terms of 3-point shooting and efficiency. For that reason, we’ll go with the over at 310.5 with Betfair.
We fully expect Joel Embiid to win the opening tip against whoever Team LeBron brings out as their center, likely Anthony Davis. And since there won’t be many possessions where teams don’t score, Team Giannis should get on the board first in the game.
Why’s that important? 888Sport is offering a prop bet on which player will score the game’s first basket. Looking at Team Giannis, it’s a good bet that Antetokounmpo himself will get the first crack at it.
For that reason, we like his +650 odds to get the scoring started – he has the second-best odds in that category behind Kevin Durant (+600), for what it’s worth.
The dark-horse pick is Kemba Walker. He’s also on Team Giannis, and since the game’s in Charlotte, his team could feed him on the first possession to get the scoring started in his own stadium. Consider him a solid bet at +800.
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