ESL One Birmingham 2018 Betting Predictions

ESL One Birmingham 2018 is one of the last two Dota Pro Circuit LAN events of this competitive season. The tournament is attended by 12 of the world’s best teams and is a Major, having a prize pool of $1 million and offering 1500 qualification points for the next edition of The International.

ESL One Birmingham 2018 will take place in Birmingham, UK between May 23rd and May 27th.

Teams and Event Format
ESL One Birmingham 2018 brings together 12 teams from a total of 6 regions:

China: LGD.Forever Young, Newbee.
Southeast Asia: Fnatic, Mineski.
North America: OpTic Gaming, Evil Geniuses.
South America: paiN Gaming.
Europe: Team Liquid, OG.
CIS: Team Spirit, Virtus.pro.
For the Group Stage, the teams will be divided into three groups of four.

Group A:
Virtus.pro
Evil Geniuses
Fnatic
Team Spirit
Group B:
Team Liquid
OG
paiN Gaming
Vici Gaming
Group C:
Mineski
Newbee
OpTic Gaming
LGD.Forever Young
Each of these groups will be played in a double elimination bracket format (GSL). The 3rd and 4th placed teams from every group are eliminated. 2nd placed teams advance to the Quarterfinals. 1st placed teams play Bo1 matches against each other to decide who advances directly to the Semifinals and who joins the remaining three teams in the Quarterfinals. The 1st and 2nd placed teams of these 3 advance to the Semifinals. The 3rd one plays in the Quarterfinals.

Points and Prize Pool Distribution
Being a Major within the Dota Pro Circuit, ESL One Birmingham 2018 offers not only prize money but qualification points as well. These rewards will be divided among participating teams in the following way:

1st place: 750 points; $500,000
2nd place: 450 points; $200,000
3rd place: 225 points; $100,000
4th place: 75 points; $60,000
5th – 6th place: 0 points; $34,000
7th – 9th place: 0 points; $16,000
10th – 12th place: 0 points; $8,000
Strong Contenders
Team Liquid
Team Liquid performs very well when there’s no pressure, so this tournament might just be the perfect opportunity for it to win another title. Liquid is already qualified for The International 2018, so this is just a rehearsal for the most awaited event of the year. The team is currently sitting at number 3 in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings with 6084 points but KuroKy and his squad will surely want to prove to everyone that they’re capable of becoming the first team in the history of Dota to win 2 TIs.

Given the group seedings and the level of opposition at ESL One Birmingham 2018, Team Liquid has a high chance of qualifying for the tournament’s Grand Final.

Virtus.pro
Virtus.pro is another team that’s famous for performing well at big events and has already won 2 ESL One Majors this year. Solo and his teammates will probably experiment with original drafts and strategies at this tournament, so from a betting perspective, it might be risky to take VP’s side in certain matches when the opponent is a world-class opponent. Still, Virtus.pro is a top 3 contender for sure and should have a deep run at ESL One Birmingham 2018. Currently the number 1 team in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings, VP is expected to get a top 4 finish at this event.

Evil Geniuses
Evil Geniuses has a lot to play for at ESL One Birmingham 2018 and needs a top 3 finish in order to climb back into the top 8 and secure a direct invite at The International. If it fails to do this, there’s a very high chance that we won’t see EG at The International 2018, simply because two of its regional opponents are incredibly strong right now. These opponents are VGJ.Storm and OpTic Gaming. EG’s best results this season were a title at GESC: Indonesia Dota2 Minor and a 3rd place finish at DreamLeague Season 8.

Going into ESL One Birmingham, it’s no very likely that EG will get a top 4 finish, but a top 6 should definitely be within their reach.

Fnatic
Fnatic is one of those teams with a great roster, enormous potential and consistent results, except there’s one problem: these results are always slightly below what’s required for them to gain more qualification points for The International 2018 and climb faster in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings. Fnatic got many top 4 and top 6 finishes this season, but it still has problems against most of the top teams.

Going into ESL One Birmingham 2018, I think Fnatic will get a top 6 finish once again but it’s unlikely that the team will climb higher than 5th – 6th.

Vici Gaming
Vici Gaming is an excellent Chinese team that finished 3rd at the recent MDL Changsha Major. Vici Gaming is currently sitting at number 6 in the Dota Pro Circuit rankings and has multiple top 4 finishes in Dota Pro Circuit events this year, including 4 Grand Final apparitions.

Newbee
The TI 7 finalists have had a pretty rough season, but the team’s results were still good enough for a top 8 placement within the Dota Pro Circuit rankings. Newbee is currently sitting at number 7 in this hierarchy with 2445 points. At the recent MDL Changsha Major Newbee finished 4th, proving that it’s still one of the world’s best teams.

Mineski
Mineski is not that far from its peak form but is still slightly weaker than the other top candidates. Currently sitting at number 5 within the Dota Pro Circuit rankings, Mineski finished 5th – 6th at MDL Changsha Major being defeated by Newbee.

Going into ESL One Birmingham 2018, Mineski is very likely to get a similar result.

OpTic Gaming
OpTic Gaming is the strongest underdog of this tournament and we’ve yet to see how much ppd and his teammates have improved since their 1st place finish at StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5. Given the group seedings and the level of competition at ESL One Birmingham 2018, it will be difficult for OpTic Gaming to get out of the Group Stage. Still, the team is led by a former TI champion and should be regarded as a strong contender that could produce incredible upsets.

Betting Predictions
Fnatic vs. Evil Geniuses
This is a match between two teams of similar strength, but Fnatic is still slightly favored to win it. At the latest tournament it participated in, EG showed many signs of weakness and lost against multiple teams, including Fnatic. Both EG and Fnatic have everything to play for at ESL One Birmingham 2018, so this battle will no doubt be fierce.

2018 NBA Finals Preview

Although both teams took unconventional roads to get here, we ended up getting the NBA Finals we were expecting all along. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will lock horns for Association supremacy for an unprecedented fourth straight time after each overcame 3-2 deficits in their respective conference finals.

For the Warriors, it’s a chance to cement their place in NBA history as a legitimate dynasty (three titles in four years would look a lot better than two in four). Meanwhile, a Cleveland victory could move LeBron James past Michael Jordan in the minds of many when it comes to the ongoing debate of who is the greatest player in NBA history.

Golden State won both regular-season meetings this year, posting a seven-point win at home on Christmas Day and then beating the Cavs by 10 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Cleveland. But the Cavaliers blew up their roster with a series of trades just a few weeks later, and this will be a much different-looking Cleveland squad that takes the court when the Finals tip off Thursday in Oakland.

Let’s look at the betting odds for this series, then break down the matchup to see where the best betting value lies.

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 10 a.m eastern on May 30, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

2018 NBA Finals Odds
This series looks incredibly lopsided on paper, and the oddsmakers agree. BetOnline lists Golden State as a -960 favorite to win the best-of-seven Finals, which implies the Warriors have more than a 90% probability of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for the third time in four years.

NBA Finals Series Odds
Cleveland Cavaliers: +710
Golden State Warriors: -960
On the other hand, there’s a ton of value on the Cavaliers, whose +710 potential takeback is the highest of any team LeBron James has taken to the finals. It doesn’t take Lloyd Christmas to realize that if you’ve got The King, you’ve got a chance, and LeBron already took down this Warriors dynasty a couple of years ago.

That said, asking James to do the same this year is a very tall order. He no longer has Kyrie Irving at his side, Kevin Love’s availability is cloudy (more on that later), and the rest of his supporting cast has been spotty at best.

Fortunately, there are many other ways to bet on the NBA Finals series without laying 10 to win 1 on the Warriors or taking the Cavs on a wing and a prayer. Here are some of the NBA Finals series props currently available at BetOnline:

Cavaliers Series Handicap
Cleveland +1 Games: +600
Cleveland +1.5 Games: +400
Cleveland +2 Games: +340
Cleveland +2.5 Games: +210
Cleveland +3 Games: +100
Warriors Series Handicap
Golden State -1 Games: -800
Golden State -1.5 Games: -550
Golden State -2 Games: -425
Golden State -2.5 Games: -250
Golden State -3 Games: -120
Series Game Total
Over 4.5 Games -220/Under 4.5 Games +180
Over 5 Games +125/Under 5 Games -145
Over 5.5 Games +170/Under 5.5 Games -210
Over 6 Games +400/Under 6 Games -500
Over 6.5 Games +550/Under 6.5 Games -700
Series Exact Outcome
Cleveland in 4 Games: +15000
Cleveland in 5 Games: +5000
Cleveland in 6 Games: +1400
Cleveland in 7 Games: +1600
Golden State in 4 Games: +175
Golden State in 5 Games: +150
Golden State in 6 Games: +500
Golden State in 7 Games: +700
When Will Series Finish
Game 4: +175
Game 5: +150
Game 6: +425
Game 7: +525
Where Will Series Finish
At Cleveland (Game 4 or 5): -130
At Golden State (Game 6 or 7): +110
NBA Finals Individual Game Odds
It’s also going to be difficult to find value on the Warriors in individual games, judging by the point spread for Game 1. Golden State is a 12.5-point favorite to crush the Cavaliers Thursday in Oakland, marking the largest point spread in an NBA Finals opener since Allen Iverson singlehandedly carried the undermanned Sixers to the 2001 Finals versus the powerful Lakers. (Philadelphia pulled off the outright upset in Game 1, by the way, before losing the next four games in the series.)

The best times to back Golden State in individual games should be in Cleveland, where the point spreads will be much lower to account for the Cavaliers’ home court advantage. With home floor worth approximately 3 points on the NBA point spread, that means we should see the Warriors favored by 6-7 points in games played in Ohio. Conversely, the Cavs will have their most betting value when playing in Golden State, where they might backdoor a point spread or two with a meaningless bucket in the final minute of a blowout.

Five Things To Watch For In The NBA Finals
Golden State’s Dominance In Third Quarters
The third quarter has been Golden State’s best frame all season, and that trend has continued into the postseason. The Warriors have outscored opponents by 130 points in the third quarter during these playoffs, and by just 20 points in the other three quarters combined. Steve Kerr is obviously making some effective adjustments during halftime, and Golden State has also had to play with some urgency in third quarters after sleepwalking its way through the opening half of several games in these playoffs.

With Cleveland shooting less than 35% from the field during third quarters of this postseason, it’s a great recipe for a Warriors live bet once the third quarter begins. However, Golden State’s dominance of the third frame is hardly a secret, especially after the Dubs outscored Houston by 35 points in the third quarter of the last two games in the Western final. With the oddsmakers likely to adjust for this trend, it could be hard to find betting value.

Injuries
Both teams come into this series with concerns about the health of important players. Cleveland had to play Game 7 of the Eastern final without five-time All-Star Kevin Love (concussion), while the Warriors were without Andre Iguodala (leg contusion) for the final four games of their series against Houston.

Iguodala can be a bit of a forgotten man on a Golden State roster that is loaded with so much talent but don’t forget that he was the NBA Finals MVP against Cleveland just four years ago. Although the Warriors can also choose to guard LeBron James with Draymond Green or even Kevin Durant, Iguodala would be their ideal choice to try to contain The King, and his return would be huge for a Golden State team that struggled without him in the Western final.

But while the Warriors can still win this series without a healthy Iguodala, the same can’t be said of the Cavaliers if Love isn’t a big contributor. Other than James, he’s the only Cleveland player who is averaging double-digit point totals in the playoffs, and his ability to score in the paint would allow the Cavs to exploit Golden State’s biggest weakness defensively.

Cleveland’s Three-Point Shooting
With how prolifically the Warriors can shoot the three-ball, opponents don’t stand a chance unless they can hit the 3 themselves. Cleveland’s ability (or inability) to stroke it from beyond the arc will go a long way towards determining if the Cavaliers can even keep things close in the NBA Finals.

Judging by the playoffs so far, things don’t look good for the Cavs. Although they were a strong three-point shooting team during the regular season (37.2%), they’ve hit just 33.9% of their treys in the first three rounds. And while it’s true that Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith can get hot at any time, they’re now facing a Golden State squad that has clamped down on opposing three-point shooters in the playoffs, allowing a league-low 31.9% from distance.

Who Will Stop Durant? Or Curry? Or Thompson?
In last year’s Finals, the Cavaliers simply didn’t have an answer defensively for Durant. KD went off for 35.2 points per game in Golden State’s 5-game victory, shooting a blistering 55.6% from the field on his way to MVP honors. And even if the Cavs put their best defensive player (LeBron) on Durant, it just opens the floor for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson instead.

The scary thing for the Cavs is that last year’s team was a lot better defensively than this season’s outfit. Cleveland was second-last in the NBA in defensive rating during the regular season, allowing a dreadful 109.9 points per game. The Cavaliers’ defense has been improved in the playoffs, but don’t forget that they’ve only had to face Indiana, the perennial playoff choke-artist Raptors, and the defensive-minded Celtics. It’s quite possible, and even likely, that Cleveland’s defense gets exposed in a big way in this series.

Does LeBron Have Anything Left In The Tank?
The King has been absolutely incredible in these playoffs, averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 8.8 assists through the first three rounds. But as dangerous as it is to ever question the abilities of LeBron, we also can’t ignore the possibility that he may finally hit the wall in this series.

Over the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron was on the floor for 94 of a possible 96 minutes. He’s averaged 41.3 minutes of court time per game in these playoffs (3.5 more than Durant and nearly six more than Curry), and that’s after leading the entire NBA in minutes played during the regular season.

A four-day break between the Eastern finals and Thursday’s opener may help him catch his breath, but he’s still 33 years old and Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be his 101st game of the season. Factor in how much weight he has to carry for the Cavaliers every night and fatigue could finally take its toll.

The Overwatch League Betting Predictions for Stage 4 Week 4

Week 4 of Stage 4 of the Overwatch League is already underway and today’s matches offer several Overwatch betting opportunities. This article analyzes these matches but first, let’s have a look at what the teams have done so far in Stage 4.

Standings Table
1st place: Los Angeles Valiant (6 W – 0 L)
2nd place: New York Excelsior (5 W – 1 L)
3rd place: Los Angeles Gladiators (5 W – 1 L)
4th place: Houston Outlaws (5 W – 2 L)
5th place: San Francisco Shock (4 W – 2 L)
6th place: Dallas Fuel (4 W – 3 L)
7th place: Philadelphia Fusion (3 W – 3 L)
8th place: London Spitfire (3 W – 3 L)
9th place: Seoul Dynasty (2 W – 5 L)
10th place: Boston Uprising (1 W – 6 L)
11th place: Florida Mayhem (1 W – 6 L)
12th place: Shanghai Dragons (0 W – 7 L)
Betting Predictions
Los Angeles Valiant (6 W – 0 L) vs. London Spitfire (3 W – 3 L)
Match date: June 7th

After a 7 W – 3 L record and a 3rd place finish in Stage 3, LA Valiant upgraded its playstyle and has crushed everyone so far in Stage 4. The team is currently sitting at the top of the league with 6 wins and 0 losses, even though it has already faced some of the other main contenders. Both New York Excelsior and Los Angeles Gladiators fell to Valiant’s might last week, a sign which clearly proves this version of Los Angeles Valiant is much stronger than any of the previous ones.

London Spitfire is the Stage 1 champion, but the team has lost a lot of its prowess since then. In Stage 3, Spitfire finished in 6th place with a record of 5 W – 5 L. Stage 4 hasn’t been any easier for this team, which is now standing at number 8 with 3 wins and 3 losses. The only important team defeated by London Spitfire in Stage 4 was San Francisco Shock. At the same time, Spitfire’s defeats came against key opponents such as New York Excelsior, Houston Outlaws, and Dallas Fuel.

Overall performance statistics throughout OWL indicate that Los Angeles Valiant will win this match. Recent form statistics are also a strong indicator that Valiant is the better team. The only thing that worries me is the head to head record. Spitfire and Valiant met each other twice in the Overwatch League and both of these matches were won by Spitfire (score 3 – 2 each time). However, considering the fact that Los Angeles Valiant is on a completely different level right now compared to the first 3 stages, it should definitely win this match.