Bucks will need more than Khris Middleton tonight, plus other best bets for Friday night

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USATSI

This newsletter is the official start of your weekend. Welcome! We’ve got plenty of sports awaiting you this evening and for the next few days, and I’m here to help you get through all of them. But before we get to that, I want you to know that I’m feeling a sense of withdrawal.

The Euros resume on Saturday with the knockout rounds getting underway, but I’ve spent the last two days unsure of myself. As somebody who did most of his work from home long before the pandemic made it the norm, I was in heaven the last two weeks. I’d wake up in the morning, and soccer would be on. It would lead into the evening when baseball, basketball and hockey would take over.

I was living the dream!

And then the Euros took Thursday and Friday off, and I was like a lost puppy, unsure of where it was and how to get home. Thankfully the action will return tomorrow, but the morning soccer is gone. If any commissioners of major sports leagues are reading this, I’d like you to consider making morning sports a permanent thing. 

Now let’s start the weekend with some winners.

All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook


🔥 The Hot Ticket

Hawks at Bucks, 8:30 p.m. | TV: TNT
The Pick: Khris Middleton Under 23.5 points (-115)
: Here’s hoping Khris Middleton doesn’t do the same thing Trae Young did to us in Game 1. It’s always amusing to take the under on a player’s points total and then watch that player nearly eclipse it before halftime. Anyway, I’m not expecting a similar performance from Middleton tonight.

While the Bucks have reached the Eastern Conference Finals, they’ve done it without Middleton being at his best in the postseason. During the regular season, Middleton was a 41.4% three-point shooter and averaged 20.4 points per game. In the playoffs, his points per game have risen to 22.4, but he’s shooting only 34.1% from three. Making matters worse, if we remove Game 6 against Brooklyn (38 points, 5-for-8 from three), Middleton’s averages in the playoffs drop to 21.2 points per game and 31.3% from three. In the first game of the series, Middleton was 0-for-9 from three, 6-for-23 overall, and finished with 15 points.

In three regular-season games against the Hawks, Middleton averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 33.3% from three. He has yet to score more than 23 points in a game against the Hawks this season, so it’s hard to bet on him going over 23.5 tonight. It’s not as difficult to bet the under.

Key Trend: Khris Middleton hasn’t scored more than 23 points in any of his four games against the Hawks this season.

Here’s what SportsLine is saying about the game: If you’re looking for a more traditional play, SportsLine experts Mike Barner and Matt Severance are both on one side of the spread tonight.


💰 The Picks

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⚾ MLB

Orioles at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Blue Jays -1.5 (-145) — 
IN THIS NEWSLETTER, WE FADE MATT HARVEY! Of course, with the Blue Jays at (-255) on the money line tonight, there’s not much value to be had (though there is some). The most value can be found on the run line.

The Orioles are only 5-10 in Harvey starts this year, but that record is a bit misleading since the Orioles won four of his first six starts. 

They’ve lost eight of nine with Harvey heading into tonight, and, more important to our interests, those 10 losses have come by an average of 4.8 runs per game. Only one of them — a 6-5 loss to Washington in May — came by fewer than two runs. In his start against Toronto last week, Harvey allowed four runs and nine hits in 4.1 innings as the Blue Jays won 7-4. Let the fade continue.

Key Trend: Only one of Baltimore’s 10 losses during Matt Harvey starts has come by fewer than two runs.

Nationals at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. | TV: MLB.TV
The Pick: Nationals (+135) — 
I have continued to track our NL Least principle: the principle being that nobody in the NL East is good enough to be favored over the other, so any time there’s a divisional game, you should bet the underdog.

The principle is strong.

On the season, underdogs in NL East divisional games are 37-40 for a return of roughly 8.25 units. That’s nearly an 11% return on investment, and we are adding to the portfolio again tonight.

What makes the Nats attractive tonight is the Marlins’ struggles against left-handed pitching. Coming into tonight’s action, the Marlins wOBA of .285 against lefties is tied for the lowest in baseball with the Detroit Tigers. Only the Tigers and Rays have struck out more often against lefties, and Miami’s HR% of 2.6% ranks 27th in the league. Also, the Marlins offense is just in a funk right now. As a team, Miami has hit .196/.258/.306 over its last 10 games, which helps explain why it’s only won two of them.

Key Trend: The Nats have won 44 of their last 60 games against Miami.

🏒 NHL

Islanders at Lightning, 8 p.m. | TV: NBCSN
The Pick: Under 5.5 (-170) — 
You might not realize it, but basketball and hockey have a lot in common. Both sports are played simultaneously and (not including goalies) consist of two groups of five players going against one another at any given time. The purpose of both sports is to put an object into a net to get points.

Games tend to be lower-scoring when they get to Game 7 of a playoff series.

It’s not difficult to understand why. There’s a lot on the line in a Game 7, and no matter what sport you play, the tendency is to get more conservative. Nobody wants to be the person or team that makes the mistake that ends their season. There’s also a greater emphasis on defending, and even officials are more likely to let players get away with things because they don’t want to make the call that decides a series, either. All of which usually leads to lower-scoring games, and that’s what we’re banking on tonight.

Key Trend: The under is 6-2 in the last eight Game Sevens in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: In this newsletter, we Fade Matt Harvey, but what does the Advanced Computer Model have to say about tonight’s game between the Blue Jays and Orioles?


💸 The DFS Rundown

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Top Three Starters

  • Carlos Rodon, White Sox
  • Framber Valdez, Astros
  • Dane Dunning, Rangers

Value Starter

  • Domingo German, Yankees

Today’s Top Stack

  • Marcus Semien, Blue Jays
  • Bo Bichette, Blue Jays
  • Vladimir Guerrero, Blue Jays
  • Teoscar Hernandez, Blue Jays

Value Hitter

  • Austin Slater, Giants

⚽ Euro 2020 Weekend Parlay

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Our parlay this weekend pays +389, but pay attention because this is key. We are betting on Netherlands on the 90-minute line. In other words, the Dutch need to be winning their match after the 90 regulation minutes. If it’s tied and they go to extra time or penalties, the bet loses.

In that same vein, we are betting on Belgium to advance. It doesn’t matter if they win it in regulation or penalties. Got it? Good.

  • Italy Over 1.5 Goals (-137)
  • Netherlands (-143)
  • Belgium to advance (-150)