John P. Lopez: Just a sprinkle: Parlay like it’s 1999, fun with soccer, and … time to fade the Astros?

May 7, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden (1) reacts after overtime win against the Boston Celtics of game four of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

John P. Lopez: Just a sprinkle: Parlay like it’s 1999, fun with soccer, and … time to fade the Astros?

There’s one born every day. I’ve been a sucker on more than a few occasions.

But experience and insight can go a long way toward making the best, smartest play a parlay. It should not be habit-forming, but definitely should not be ignored, either, when it just makes sense.

This week, it makes sense. Three times.

The Astros are a vexing team in the midst of multiple layers of trouble. From first baseman Jose Abreu’s awful start that does not seem to have any end in sight, to pitching injuries and inexperience, to battle-tested veterans like Alex Bregman still trying to find their strokes.

Entering this week’s series in Anaheim, the Angels had won five of their previous seven games, while the Astros were officially off to their worst start in seven years. That year was 2016 when Houston won 84 games and missed the playoffs.

This Astros team clearly needs starting pitching, but the bullpen has been a bigger mess, collapsing in J.P. France’s first MLB start. And while help is on the way offensively, there are no guarantees what kind of production Michael Brantley and Chas McCormick will provide when they return.

You feel good about J.P. France, Brandon Bielak, and Hunter Brown making up 60% of your rotation? Brown has been more than fine, but he’s on pace to throw nearly 60 more innings than he ever has … and all as a starter, which would be a first for him.

The hope is Framber Valdez can go head-to-head to head vs. Shohei Ohtani in Tuesday’s game, but in this week’s Just A Sprinkle, there’s reason to lean Anaheim’s way. Twice, as in a logical parlay.

Tuesday … Parlay Angels moneyline and Shohei Ohtani over 6.5 strikeouts.

Sometimes it’s gotta hurt to make hay in Vegas and, sure, this one will hurt Astros fans. If it hurts too much, don’t do it. But if you like smart plays, this is it.

The Astros are a notorious high-strikeout team, currently averaging 8.18 strikeouts per game and 9.33 in the past week. Ohtani, on the other hand, finally has a team he can be proud of and has been cruising, leading the American League with 59 strikeouts thus far.

Perhaps Valdez induces lots of groundouts and the Astros have their day, but the Angels are a middle-of-the-pack ground out team and will be playing in their friendly confines.

Wednesday … Devin Booker NBA Finals MVP

If you’re in already on the Suns to win the NBA Championship, as I am, it only makes sense to throw something on Devin Booker to be named NBA Finals MVP. But do it soon. It effectively will be a parlay, but a smart one.

Even before point guard Chris Paul injured his groin, Booker was coming into his own as a bona fide superstar. With Paul out, he’s entered an altogether different stratosphere.

Opening odds on Booker winning Finals MVP were plus-2500. But even now, after averaging 36.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game, most books have him at plus-1500. That’s huge value for a player that, if the Suns can make it to the Finals, surely will be in the discussion for MVP.

Already, he’s dropped a playoff career-high 47 points twice and if not for Jimmy Butler’s taking over the Eastern Conference and stealing headlines, would be an even bigger NBA betting favorite. As a comparison, Booker has done everything Butler has done, yet Butler’s MVP odds in the much-tougher East stand at plus-800.

If you believe in the Suns, you better believe Booker could be there at the end – and the payoff is tantalizing.

Tuesday … Parlay Sixers plus-7.5 and James Harden Over 21.5 points

Trust the process … and James Harden?


Rockets fans know better, and maybe I’m a sucker again. Betting on the unpredictable Sixers, complete with a knee that still is barking at Joel Embiid, has been a fool’s errand. Still, us fools like this one. And we like it enough to get a better payoff with a parlay.

Despite Harden’s roller-coaster postseason points production this postseason, that over/under number of 21.5 seems AWFULLY low. Especially with so much familiarity the teams have with one another now and no more surprises in store either way when it comes to defensive strategies, this one has all the markings of a close, nail-biting game that could go either way.

Hence, I wouldn’t bet the Sixers moneyline, but Harden over 21.5 and keeping it within 7.5 seems safe after Harden definitely found his groove in Sunday’s Game 4. Harden made a clutch 3-pointer to ice the game and his 42-point effort.

For a guy that’s deservedly been criticized for not rising to the occasion in the postseason, Harden hit a difficult floater to send the game to overtime, then knocked down a corner three for the game-winner. He also nailed the game-winning triple in Game 1.

Bonus fun pick … Liverpool plus-430 to beat Leicester in English Premier League

What to do with all those winnings? Go overseas. If you follow the English Premier League, you know Liverpool has turned around their fates quite nicely in recent weeks. After a horrible start to the season, the Reds now have won six consecutive matches and have not lost since April 1.

With more than a week off until next Monday’s game against Leicester City, the rested Reds now stand a chance to qualify for the prestigious Champions League. On the road against a Leicester team that has not won in four games, Liverpool has a lot to play for and is maybe the hottest team in the EPL right now.

If none of this makes sense to you, trust me. This is a team and value that should not be ignored. Just have fun with it.

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