During the “Dog Days of Summer”, Christmas Day is the last thing on sports bettors’ minds. But the NBA shook us from our summer slumber, releasing its schedule for Open Night and the Christmas Day showcase games this week.
There is a pair of marquee matchups to tip off the 2018-19 NBA season on October 16, with the Philadelphia 76ers visiting the Boston Celtics as 4.5-point road underdogs, and the Oklahoma City Thunder taking on the Golden State Warriors as 8.5-point pups in the Bay Area.
All four of those teams are back in action on December 25 – the annual Xmas Day slate which saves the most highly-anticipate matchups for the holiday. Sportsbooks in Las Vegas and online sports betting sites were quick to react to the Christmas schedule, and opened odds for each of those five games. We look at the bets three Xmas Day games, with insight from oddsmakers:
Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors (-10.5)
Depending on where you bet, books opened this Western Conference war between Warriors -8.5 and -10.5. This matchup will garner a ton of money in Vegas, which is known as a “Lakers Town” due to its proximity to Los Angeles and the flood of Lakers money that shows up every NBA season – regardless of whether the team is good or bad.
The draw of LeBron James versus the Warriors once again – but now in purple and gold – will make this the most-bet of the Christmas Day contests, so books expect this line to move a lot before tipoff. The status of Golden State center DeMarcus Cousins will have a big impact on this line, as his timeline for returning from an Achilles injury is fuzzy.
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Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (-4.5)
The Christmas Day line is the same as the Opening Night spread, but that debut matchup will undoubtedly have influence over the December 25 market. A thin Boston roster bounced the Sixers from the playoffs in five games last year, and the Celtics are expected to have Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy for this contest.
The 76ers young core is another year older and predicted to contend for the Eastern Conference crown, now that LeBron has left for the Lakers. Some online books, like Bookmaker.eu, opened Philadelphia as a 6-point road pup for the Xmas Day meeting in Boston – a point and a half higher than other shops.
“Philadelphia will now have high expectations and it will be interesting to see how they handle the added pressure,” says D.J. Fields, an odds consultant for Bookmaker.eu. “This matchup will be highly anticipated since it will give us an idea of how the Eastern playoffs might look like.”
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets (-5)
This could be the most entertaining game of the holiday, with so many intriguing storylines feeding into the noon ET tipoff.
The Rockets, who finished first overall last season but just missed on knocking off the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, opened between -5 and -6.5. They lost some key defenders this offseason and added the glass-half-full talents of former OKC forward Carmelo Anthony, so a lot could change between opening week and December 25.
“The Thunder versus Rockets - Carmelo versus his old team - is very difficult line for me to set,” Peter Childs, supervisor of risk management for Sportsbook.ag, told Covers. “I went back and forth with my guys, as I want to be closer to five, but all my guys had Rockets -7 or higher. So, we settled on -6.”
Other Christmas Day spreads:
Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks (-4)
“That line is with no (Kristaps) Porzingis but if he’s available (ACL tear) that brings that game down to pick’em price,” says Childs.
Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz (-5.5)
Odds courtesy of Las Vegas Superbook, Sportsbook.ag, and Bookmaker.eu.