The United States men's basketball team's easy cover against Iran can be viewed in different ways.
Maybe it was a highly talented team finally figuring things out. Having Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday settle in, after playing in the opener a few hours after landing in Tokyo from the NBA Finals, obviously helps. Adding three NBA All-Stars is a nice luxury.
Or, maybe it was just Team USA beating up on an Iranian team that has zero current NBA players. There's a reason Iran was a 39.5-point underdog. Maybe the win proved nothing and this is still the same vulnerable team we've seen lose three times, counting exhibitions.
The American team takes the court again Saturday morning against the Czech Republic. Team USA is a 23.5-point favorite at BetMGM. The line seems like an overreaction to the United States' struggles. It has lost to three teams, two in the exhibition season and then France in the opening game.
The Czech Republic might not have the top-end talent to keep up. Tomas Satoransky is the only player on the Czech roster currently playing in the NBA, and he averaged 7.7 points with the Chicago Bulls this past season. Jan Vesely played six NBA seasons, the last one in 2014.
The stories about Team USA have been negative, which is expected considering the rare losses. But it still has a roster full of NBA All-Stars. While there are challenges slapping together a team of stars with little time to practice, its talent should overwhelm most opponents.
And Team USA should overwhelm the Czech Republic. If not, there will be another round of angst over why this American team isn't annihilating everyone in its path.
Here's a first look at Friday's sports betting slate:
The Olympics aren't just basketball
Every day there are plenty of sports that we don't generally bet on going on in Tokyo, and BetMGM is putting betting odds on them.
There will be some water polo, swimming and table tennis. There's also traditional tennis, a sport many like to bet on. There's practically endless ways to bet on the Olympics.
Who cashed tickets on Thursday?
Well, it wasn't the New York Yankees. Although the Yankees made a major trade to get first baseman Anthony Rizzo from the Chicago Cubs, they fell flat on the field. New York, with Gerrit Cole starting, lost 14-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays as -140 favorites. The Yankees have added at the trade deadline but they have a long way to go.
Speaking of adding at the trade deadline, the Los Angeles Dodgers pulled off an insane deal by getting Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals. The Dodgers are +325 favorites to win the World Series, and that still seems too long. They did, however, lose 5-0 to the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.
A full MLB schedule
There's a normal 15-game Friday slate. No afternoon games, unfortunately, but a solid slate overall.
The biggest series of the weekend will be the Boston Red Sox vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. Unless the Toronto Blue Jays make a big move soon, either the Red Sox or Rays will be the AL East champion.
There's a great interleague series, with the Houston Astros facing the San Francisco Giants. The Giants have the best record in the National League and the Astros entered Thursday tied with the Red Sox for the best record in the AL.
What's the best bet?
It's hard to beat the last three days, when the Cincinnati Reds were the best bet each day against the Chicago Cubs and went 3-0. For Friday let's go with the Philadelphia Phillies, off a great comeback win capped by Brad Miller's walk-off grand slam in Game 2 of Thursday's doubleheader, against a reeling Pittsburgh Pirates team that lost 9-0, 7-3 and 12-0 to the Milwaukee Brewers the last three days. The Phillies are -140 favorites, and that seems light.
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