On Jan. 6, the Utah Jazz lost to the New York Knicks. They were 4-4, with the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves among the teams they'd lost to.
They were about to go on one of the great against-the-spread streaks in recent NBA history.
If you've been betting the Jazz lately, you know. Starting with a Jan. 8 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, the Jazz have won 19 of 20. On Monday night they played the Philadelphia 76ers, the team with the best record in the East, and were a heavy 8.5-point favorite. Utah won by 11. Another night, another winning Jazz ticket for bettors who caught on to the NBA's most profitable team.
Monday was the seventh straight time the Jazz have covered the spread. The last time they didn't cover, they won by 12 against the Detroit Pistons as 12.5-point favorites. Before that, they had an 11-game streak of covering the spread. Winning 19 of 20 in the NBA is very hard, but covering the spread 18 of 20 times (with a half-point ATS loss) is practically impossible.
The inflated spread on Monday night's game indicated sportsbooks are tired of people cashing Jazz tickets. Utah covered anyway.
"Today, we played a game against the best team in the West," Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said after Utah beat Milwaukee 129-115 last week. "They've been playing amazing."
The futures odds aren't convinced. Not even close.
The Jazz are +600 to win the Western Conference at BetMGM, behind the Los Angeles Lakers (+110) and Los Angeles Clippers (+280). They're tied for fifth to win the NBA Finals at +1200. If you believe Antetokounmpo and the Jazz are the best team in the West, the odds are still pretty good.
The Jazz have embraced the 3-point shot, averaging a stunning 42.4 threes a game. That leads the NBA. They play strong defense and are the best rebounding team in the NBA. They don't have a clear weakness. But, with apologies to Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, they don't have an elite superstar and that usually makes a difference in the playoffs. Perhaps Mitchell establishes himself as a top-tier star in the playoffs this season, but until then the futures market remains a little skeptical of the team that leads the NBA at 23-5.
Even if the Jazz can't keep this going through the NBA Finals they have been a remarkable story for bettors, who have made plenty of money no matter when they jumped on the train.
Here are the winners and losers from the past week in the sports betting world:
Ohio State: When the NCAA tournament selection committee revealed its top 16 seeds over the weekend, some people might have been surprised to see Ohio State as a No. 1 seed.
The Buckeyes have been rolling, and for bettors too. Ohio State has covered in eight of their last 10 games in a deep and difficult Big Ten. They are 17-4 overall, winning without a lot of stars but a deadly efficient offense. They already have road wins at Iowa and Illinois, two of the top 10 teams in the nation, and the Big Ten schedule will mean they're battle-tested before the NCAA tournament.
Gonzaga and Baylor are the two clear favorites this season, but the Buckeyes are more than capable of making a run too.
Michael McDowell: It's worth resetting the great story of McDowell's win at Daytona 500, even if there are hardly any bettors who could celebrate it.
McDowell was 100-to-1 at BetMGM to start the week, and the sportsbook didn't take a single bet on him at those odds. At 66-to-1 BetMGM took a few bets, but only 0.4 percent of the tickets were on McDowell, who had never won a Cup race in 357 starts. The biggest bet on McDowell was $100.
McDowell won on a crazy final lap. He never led the race until that final lap, but got his first Cup win at the Daytona 500. It's a great underdog story, even if few cashed a big ticket on him.
Nate Lashley: Lashley was a huge underdog to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, with more than 100-to-1 odds at most sportsbooks. On the 16th hole in the final round, he was tied for the lead.
Then, he unraveled.
Ouch. That's rough for Lashley and whoever bet him to win the tournament. Lashley's four-putt triple bogey allowed Daniel Berger to take the tournament.
Kentucky: Even when Kentucky plays fairly well, it can't cover the spread.
Last week the Wildcats were -3.5 and had a nice lead over Auburn. The Tigers rallied to make it close and then a questionable call on a 3-point shot with 1.1 seconds left allowed them to get a ridiculous backdoor cover.
Kentucky has failed to cover the spread in eight of their last nine games as one of the worst seasons in program history continues. The Wildcats are a shocking 6-13 this season.
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