Playing with the deck stacked against him isn't new to LeBron James.
Some of the most successful Cleveland Cavaliers teams, especially of James' first go-around there, weren't exactly loaded with talent. The 2007 team that went to the NBA Finals or the 2009 team that won 66 games were basically James and ... well, that's about it.
That's why it's hard to completely rule out the Los Angeles Lakers, even as they go to face a 51-21 Phoenix Suns team in Game 5 and will likely be without Anthony Davis. The Lakers are 5-point underdogs at BetMGM for Tuesday's game. The odds of them winning the series shifted to +145 with news that Davis was unlikely to play in Game 5.
The Lakers will likely be without Davis, who has a groin injury, and potentially Kentavious Caldwell-Pope too. But they do have James.
This isn't the same prime-age James that was carrying the Cavs more than 10 years ago, but early this season he looked like the MVP favorite before a high-ankle sprain. He might not be able to carry a flawed team to 66 wins over a full season anymore, but he still has the ability to carry a shorthanded team to two more wins while Davis heals up for the next round.
The Suns have looked great in both wins over the Lakers this series, and if Chris Paul's shoulder continues to improve then Phoenix is a tough team to beat. There's a reason the Suns were the second seed in the West. If they look like they did in Game 1 and Game 4 wins, especially against a banged-up Lakers team, it shouldn't surprise anyone.
Yet, this type of scenario is why the greatest players are considered great. James is scary to bet against, especially when the stakes are highest. As the odds shift with Davis likely out, it's worth taking the Lakers +5 and trusting James to carry his team further than it should go. He has done it before.
Here's a first look at the betting slate for Tuesday:
Nuggets look for a big home win
The Denver Nuggets-Portland Trail Blazers series has been strange. None of the games have been close, but it has been quite an entertaining series.
The Nuggets are 2-point favorites for Game 5, which shows there's not a lot of respect for Denver in the betting market. Despite the series being tied 2-2 and two of the final three games in Denver, the Trail Blazers are still -140 favorites to win the series.
I think the Nuggets will win Game 5 and eventually the series. Nikola Jokic was strangely off in Game 4, and the presumptive MVP will bounce back. So will Denver, putting the pressure back on Portland for Game 6.
Do the Celtics have any chance in Game 5?
Maybe the whole logo stomping controversy from Kyrie Irving will give the Boston Celtics some new life. But it's doubtful.
The Brooklyn Nets have been the far superior team, and they're robust 12.5-point favorites at home for Game 5. Perhaps the Celtics can cover, but they've lost by 11, 22 and 15 points in their three losses this series. It's probably best to pass this game and wait for Game 1 of Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks, which will be Saturday if the Nets win Game 5.
Who cashed tickets on Monday?
Both +170 NHL underdogs won on Monday, and we told you in this spot that both the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders were the right sides. Losing to the Canadiens in Game 7 was brutal for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who just can't shake their long-running curse. The Boston Bruins lost in overtime, but they're still -190 to win that series against the Islanders.
The Tampa Bay Rays, who you also should have bet on after reading The Daily Sweat yesterday, won 3-1 as slight underdogs at the New York Yankees. Mostly favorites ruled the day on Memorial Day in MLB, with a few small underdogs winning.
In the NBA the Philadelphia 76ers lost Joel Embiid in the first quarter to an injury and then lost the game to the Washington Wizards, who were down 3-0 in the series and an 8.5-point favorite. In the other game, the Utah Jazz won by 8 over the Memphis Grizzlies, covering the 8.5-point spread and taking control of that first-round series.
What looks good on the MLB menu?
The Rays were underdogs against the Yankees on Monday and it didn't make much sense. The Rays have been the better team lately, had the better starting pitcher and won 3-1. The pitching matchup is even worse for the Yankees on Tuesday, as Tyler Glasnow goes for the Rays against the Yankees' Domingo German. The Rays are favored, and it's tempting to take the Yankees as a +110 home favorite, but Glasnow is dominant, the Rays are very good and they're the better side at -120 at BetMGM.
The Marlins (+125), Padres (-115), Red Sox (+105) and Mets (-120) are also worth a look on Tuesday.
Best play of the day
It's the Rays. Better team to this point, Yankees are slumping, far better starting pitcher ... we'll ride Tampa Bay for another day at decent odds.