Given the format, is there any reason not to put Team LeBron in your All-Star NBA picks for Sunday’s game versus Team Durant?
Team Durant vs. Team LeBron
Sunday, February 20, 2022 – 8:00 PM EST at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
It’s almost time for another edition of LeBron James Weekend. The NBA All-Star Game is coming up this Sunday in Cleveland; for the fifth straight year, it will be Team LeBron versus a team captained by some other guy – Kevin Durant will do the honors this time – and it was Team LeBron winning the other four games at 3-1 ATS. It’s over.
Speaking of which, the over was the right call in 13 of the last 15 All-Star Games, so that’s another compelling choice for your NBA picks. The odds at press time have Team LeBron favored by 5.5 points at Caesars Sportsbook, with a ginormous total of 320.5 points. Either bet makes sense, but given this particular format, Team LeBron appears to be the safer pick of the two.
Elam Is the Future
Not that you’re limited to making just one All-Star bet yourself. Parlaying the favorite and the over is a fairly common old-school trick to get the most value out of these somewhat complementary NBA odds; larger spreads are easier to beat in higher-scoring games, or so the logic goes.
But for our official picks, the main reason we’re shying away from the total is the Elam Ending. In case you’ve been ignoring the All-Star festivities for a while, the Elam Ending was introduced in 2020 to help make the game more interesting – and it does. Sunday’s game will actually be four mini-games rolled into one, and the entire fourth quarter will be played using Elam rules and a target score of 24, in honor of the late Kobe Bryant.
Here’s a breakdown of how it went the first time. Team Giannis (as in Giannis Antetokounmpo) was up a combined 133-124 after the first three quarters/mini-games, so using the Elam Ending, the first team to score 157 points (133+24) would be the winner.
Final score: Team LeBron 157, Team Giannis 155. That was the only time LeBron’s side (–6.5) failed to cover. They also went well Over the 305.5-point total, in part because Team LeBron had nine more points to score to reach the target.
First in Line
What if the game had been closer, though? By design, there wouldn’t have been as many points available to be scored in the fourth quarter. It might not have made a difference two years ago, but it could this year – who knows. What we do know is that LeBron James always gets to pick first when they do the schoolyard-style draft before the All-Star Game, because he’s always the leading vote-getter of the two captains.
That’s a real advantage for Team LeBron. They’ve got Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Jokic as their first four selections this year; Team Durant has Joel Embiid, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum and… Andrew Wiggins. Bet accordingly.
NBA Pick: Team LeBron –5.5 (–110) with Caesars Sportsbook