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NBA-Play offs 2019-Finals- Golden State looking to survive, Game 4 preview

NBA Finals – Game 4 
Toronto at Golden State (-4.5/215.5), ABC, 9:07 p.m. ET

May 30 – Raptors (-2) 118 vs. Warriors 109 (Over 212.5)
June 2 – Warriors (+2) 109 at Raptors 104 (Under 213.5)
June 5 – Raptors (+3) 123 at Warriors 109 (Over 210.5)

There will be some who won’t believe Kevin Durant is sitting out Game 4 until he’s listed as inactive prior to the contest.

After not being cleared to even scrimmage on Thursday, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr ruled him out of Friday night’s crucial contest, but the star forward wanted to see how he felt in the morning before officially pulling the plug on his availability for a must-win since his Warriors can’t afford to go down 3-1 in the series.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that this could all be gamesmanship by the two-time defending champs, but it’s doubtful they would be that sneaky, especially since Nick Nurse and the Raptors are going to prepare as if he’s playing anyway.

The Warriors have already made no secret of the fact Klay Thompson is returning after missing his first career playoff. Even though he wanted to play in a Game 3 loss that Golden State discouraged him from suiting up for, the gamble to give him a few more days to rest his hamstring strain may still pay off if he’s able to pick up where he left off. Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook and Alfonzo McKinnie weren’t able to adequately replace his production, failing to support Stephen Curry despite his virtuoso 47-point scoring outburst.

Andre Iguodala started for Durant and couldn’t build upon his huge shot to seal Game 2 in Toronto, finishing with 11 points, six boards and three assists in over 30 minutes. Both he and DeMarcus Cousins started and clearly weren’t their usual selves, a troublesome issue for the champs since they won’t have much time to heal up their ailments with just one day in between games. Thompson won’t be anywhere near 100 percent either, but the Warriors missed him on both sides of the floor, particularly since he’s able to switch and defend multiple Raptors.

It’s probably no coincidence that Danny Green got off the way he did, finishing 6-for-10 from 3-point range in becoming one of six double-digit scorers who made themselves right at home at Oracle on Wednesday. Serge Ibaka finished with just six points but helped change the game with six blocks, so all seven Raptors who played major minutes will have confidence entering Game 4 after coming through with big performances in stealing homecourt advantage back.

Kawhi Leonard led Toronto with 30 points, Kyle Lowry was terrific with 23 points and nine assists and Pascal Siakam stuffed the stat-sheet with 18 points, a team-high nine boards and six assists. Marc Gasol and Green set the tone early with excellent first quarters, joining Leonard in getting the Raptors off to a fast start to allow them to play from ahead and keep Oracle from swallowing them whole. If anyone was worried about the moment being too big for the first-time Finals participants, their experienced veterans sent a clear message that they’re able to lead the younger guys.

We’ll see if Thompson’s return can help the Warriors produce some game pressure that will help trip up the visitors after losing all four quarters on Wednesday night, ultimately leading to Toronto running away for a 123-109 win in what has been the highest-scoring game of the series. The Raptors won the third quarter that had been a rallying point for Golden State all postseason 36-31, bouncing back from surrendering the first 18 second-half points of Game 2 in losing at home on Sunday night. They similarly excelled in the Eastern Conference finals, getting the better of a Bucks team that had dominated coming out of the locker room in the first few rounds.

Toronto controlled the paint against the smaller Warriors, taking advantage of Cousins being a step slow and thriving despite Andrew Bogut again putting together a solid performance. The Raptors scored 36 points in the first quarter, putting together the most efficient opening first 12 minutes of the series thus far for either team in immediately setting the tone despite taking the floor in Oakland for the first time since December. They’ve been effective on the road this postseason, following up a regular-season that saw them go 26-15 outside Canada by winning five or their first nine outside Scotiabank Arena in these playoffs.

If the Warriors lose on Friday, they may not make it back for a Game 6, which means this could be the final game ever at Oracle Arena since the team is moving to San Francisco’s new Chase Center this fall. VegasInsider.com NBA expert Kevin Rogers feels they’ll have a much better chance of holding serve with at least one All-Star returning to the mix.

“The Warriors were put in a difficult position heading into Game 3 with Thompson not able to suit up. Curry can only do so much by himself as evidenced by his 47-point effort, but just two other Warriors scored in double-figures,” Rogers said. “Toronto improved to 6-1 SU/ATS in the last seven games following the Game 3 win as the Raptors are one bad stretch in Game 2 away from maybe leading Golden State, 3-0. It has been a very long time since the Warriors dropped successive home games in the playoffs, which came all the way back in the second round in 1991 against the Lakers (yes it was the famous “Run TMC” squad).”

Curry will look to follow up his brilliant contest that featured 6-for-14 3-point shooting with another big scoring game, but needs teammates to fare better than the combined 6-for-22 clip they managed from beyond the arc in Game 3. Getting Thompson back should help matters, but the likes of McKinnie and Cook, who shot 1-for-5 as a tandem off the bench, must be more aggressive and effective.

Toronto hit 17 3-pointers and shot 20-for-21 from the free-throw line, so it really stepped up when it needed to and got wherever it wanted against a defense that looked incredibly shaky. It may help matters to get Kevon Looney back after he was initially ruled out for the remainder of the series since he’s looking to get back from a collarbone injury and a fractured rib in order to help add some quality depth to a team badly in need of it with so many players hobbled and Durant likely sidelined until at least Monday’s Game 5.

After the injury status for Thompson was announced on Wednesday night prior to Game 4, the total dropped from 213 ½ points to a closing number of 210 at most books. Sure enough, Toronto scored a playoff-high 123 points and the ‘over’ cashed in Game 3 with plenty of time remaining in the fourth quarter. Oddsmakers sent out an opener of 216 for Game 4 and that number was pushed up to 216 ½ at a handful of betting shops before being bet back down to the 215 range. VegasInsider.com totals effort Chris David offered up his thoughts for Friday’s number.

“The ‘over’ was a clear-cut winner on Wednesday and that ticket was helped with a barrage of 3-pointers from Toronto, who finished with 17 triples from distance. I often relied on pace as a key factor for handicapping totals but it’s become apparent now that it comes down to 3-point shooting. If the Raptors continue to ring it up from the outside, this series could be over in five games,” David said. “The “if” is a certainly a big one and you could be reluctant to back the Raptors offense again knowing that they were averaging 101.3 PPG on the road in this year’s playoffs prior to the Game 3 effort. Thompson is expected to return on Friday and not only will that help Golden State’s offense but it’s defense as well. Steve Kerr’s team has shown incredible defensive form after a loss.”

The Warriors have only lost multiple home games in a playoff series twice since their remarkable run began back in 2014. They dropped a pair in losing the 2016 Finals to Cleveland and fell twice in Oakland against the Clippers in the first round this postseason. They’re simply not used to slumping in front of the paying customers.

“Including their win in Game 2 at Toronto in this series, the Warriors have now gone 12-2 after a loss since the All-Star break,” David said. “The ‘under’ cashed luckily in that contest and the low side is now 10-4 during this span. One of the reasons behind those ‘under’ tickets is based on Golden State’s defense, which has allowed 106 PPG. There’s no doubt that the Raptors are a legit team and when the shots fall, they’re more than dangerous. While I could be underestimating them again, it’s hard for me to back a team that hasn’t shown much consistency away from home. Toronto’s Team Total is hovering between 105 and 106 points for Game 4 and I would lean low to the Raptors in this spot.”

Despite the ‘over’ result from Wednesday, Toronto has watched the ‘under’ go 6-3 on the road in the playoffs. Going back to the 2016 postseason, the Raptors have watched the ‘under’ go 18-8-2 as visitors in the playoffs. Golden State is 5-4 to the ‘over’ at home in this year’s postseason. The ‘over’ is on a 5-0 run in the last five NBA Finals games played at Oracle Arena.

Draymond Green, who scored 17 points but had series-lows in rebounds and assists in Game 3, will look to bounce back from committing a team-high four turnovers and must be sharper in facilitating offense, which should also be easier with Thompson back in the fold. Most sportsbooks now have the series as a pick’em despite Golden State being down 2-1, so if you still believe the champs will three-peat, now is the time to strike. Dropping Wednesday’s game led to the Warriors being demoted from the role of NBA title favorite for the first time all season, odds-wise.

Toronto has looked like the better team in the series and are currently one second-half lull from a 3-0 lead over the depleted champs. Given the impending free agency of Durant, Thompson and Green and all the injuries, the NBA’s top dynasty since the 1990’s Chicago Bulls is on the ropes. We’ll see if the Warriors can keep themselves off life support by responding at home to ensure at least one more game in Oakland regardless of what happens in Monday’s Game 5.

NBA-Play offs 2018-Finals – Game 3 preview

The Warriors return to the Bay Area knotted up at 1-1 with the Raptors, but Golden State hopes to field a healthy enough squad moving towards its fourth championship in five seasons.

After Toronto captured Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Raptors were poised for a 2-0 series advantage before traveling west to daunting Oracle Arena. Toronto built a 58-48 lead with 1:03 remaining in the first half of Game 2, but Golden State crept back to cut the deficit to five at halftime thanks to six late points from Stephen Curry.

That spurred an incredible 20-0 run by the defending champions as the Warriors eventually grabbed a 72-59 lead on their way to a 109-104 victory as 2 ½-point underdogs. Golden State had to sweat out the final five minutes after taking 106-94 advantage as Toronto roared back with a 10-0 run before Andre Iguodala’s three-pointer with seven seconds left to steal home-court advantage back.

Now on to the walking wounded Warriors. Kevin Durant will miss his eighth consecutive game with a calf strain, which shouldn’t be a big surprise. Curry fought through an illness in the first half but finished with 23 points in spite of 6-of-17 shooting from the floor. Klay Thompsonsuffered a hamstring injury and still managed a team-high 25 points as his status is up in the air for Game 3. Center Kevon Looney will be on the shelf with a broken collarbone after playing 10 scoreless minutes.

The Raptors were paced by Kawhi Leonard’s 34 points, although nearly half those points (16) came from the foul line. The unexpected breakout games from Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol in the series opener didn’t carry over to Game 2 as Siakam’s production dropped from 32 to 12 points, while Gasol slipped from 20 points in Game 1 to only six points in Sunday’s defeat.

Toronto is making its first trip to Oracle Arena since December 12 as the Raptors dominated the Warriors, 113-93 as eight-point underdogs. The Raptors cruised to their first win in Oakland since 2004 as Leonard sat out due to injury, while Curry and Thompson combined for 24 points, including 2-of-13 from three-point range.

The Warriors have failed to cover in five of eight home playoff games, while taking the court at Oracle Arena for the first time since May 16 against Portland in the Western Conference Finals. Golden State owns a 6-2 home record in the playoffs with the last loss coming to the Clippers in Game 5 of the opening round. During this five-year stretch of playing in the NBA Finals, the Warriors are 9-3 at home with the most recent defeat occurring in Game 7 back in 2016 against Cleveland.

The Raptors have posted a 4-4 SU/ATS record away from Scotiabank Arena in the playoffs, as half of those wins came at Orlando in the opening round. Toronto won once at Philadelphia in the second round and captured Game 5 at Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals, but all four losses are by eight points or more, including two defeats by 20 points or more.

Bettors taking the ‘under’ (213 ½) in Game 2 were gifted a lucky win and those taking the ‘over’ certainly are still stewing over the loss. Despite going cold in the third quarter, Toronto still managed to put up 21 points. While that drought was costly, it was Golden State’s finish in the fourth quarter that really killed ‘over’ wagers. The Warriors scored 21 points in the final 12 minutes but they only scored five points in the last six minutes. Injuries certainly played a major factor for Golden State’s offense and the battle of attrition can’t be overlooked for Game 3.

“The Warriors won’t have Durant again for Game 3 and Thompson is expected to go but if he’s not 100 percent, you’re betting on role players to make shots again. After watching the Clippers explode for 135 and 129 points in the first round at Oracle, the Warriors have found their form defensively at home. In their last five games, they’ve only allowed 102.6 PPG. Fortunately for Golden State, the Raptors offense hasn’t traveled well in the postseason. Nick Nurse’s club is averaging 101.3 PPG away from home in the playoffs and that’s led to a 6-2 ‘under’ mark. The Team Total (103 ½) for Toronto looks low but based on what we’ve seen, it probably should be 102,” David added.

Going back to the 2016 playoffs, Toronto has watched the ‘under’ go 17-8-2 on the road in the playoffs. Golden State saw the ‘under’ go 8-7 at home during the regular season versus teams from the Eastern Conference and that included the outcome of Toronto’s 113-93 win at Oracle Arena on Dec. 12. That total closed at 226 ½, which shows you the drastic difference between regular season and postseason numbers.

My expectation is that we’ll see Serge Ibaka play a huge role in this one, but Leonard and Kyle Lowry have to set the tone with a strong first quarter. Fred VanVleet’s defense on Curry was an immense part of Toronto’s success at home, so he’ll have to carry that solid play over to Oakland. Given the guys coach Nurse has to rely on to be successful, we should see small ball become their primary weapon, which may lead to the highest-scoring contest in the series. Golden State should see reserves like Alfonzo McKinnie and Quinn Cook feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings, which should also contribute to more points on the scoreboard.

The Warriors currently sit as 4 ½-point favorites at most sports books, while the total is hovering between 212 ½ and 213. Wednesday’s game tips off at 9:07 PM EST and can be seen nationally on ABC.


NBA-Play offs 2019-Finals-Game 2 preview

Two weeks ago, the Raptors were sitting in an 0-2 hole against the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Five victories later, Toronto is fresh off its first ever win in the NBA Finals as the Raptors lead the two-time defending champion Warriors, 1-0 following an impressive 118-109 triumph in Game 1.

The Warriors lost an NBA Finals opener for the first time under Steve Kerr in five tries, which coincides with Golden State not owning home-court advantage for the first time in this stretch. Toronto used the energy of its fans (even Drake) at Scotiabank Arena to improve to 9-2 at home in the playoffs. The most shocking part of Game 1 was the Raptors didn’t have to lean on star Kawhi Leonard to carry them to victory.

Leonard is averaging 30.7 points per game in the playoffs, but converted only five field goals in 14 attempts and posted 23 points in his first NBA Finals appearance since 2014. The real star for Toronto was Pascal Siakam, who knocked down 14-of-17 shots from the floor for 32 points, a playoff career high. Siakam put up a total of 32 points in the final two games of the Milwaukee series, but his efficient evening helped contribute to Toronto shooting nearly 51% from the floor.

The Raptors also received solid outings from Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet, who combined for 35 points, helping overcome the 18 total points from the starting backcourt of Kyle Lowryand Danny Green. Toronto helped itself at the foul line by shooting 27-of-32, while outscoring Golden State in three of four quarters.

The Warriors continued to play without Kevin Durant, who is expected to miss Game 2 with a lingering calf injury and there is not timetable for his return. Stephen Curry led all scorers with 34 points, including 14 points from the foul line. Klay Thompson posted 21 points, while Draymond Green compiled another triple-double with exactly 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. Six other Warriors scored at least six points, but none of them hit double-figures as Golden State saw its 12-game winning streak in playoff openers snapped.

The ‘over’ (212 ½) connected in Game 1 as the teams combined for 227 points. The oddsmakers sent out a total of 215 for the second installment and Chris David of VegasInsider.com offered up his thoughts and handicap for Sunday’s total.

He said, “The ‘under’ looked like the right side early in the opener as the Toronto led 25-21 after the first 12 minutes but that false hope faded quickly. The pace wasn’t fast by any stretch as Golden State and Toronto attempted 78 and 77 shots respectively. However, the pair did combine for 25 three-pointers and the ultimate ‘under’ killer was 56 made free throws on 63 attempts by the two teams. Most of the fouls were deserving and you could argue that Golden State (29-of-31) probably should’ve taken more. Handicapping the free throw game in basketball is similar to forecasting for penalties in football, impossible! With that being said, I’d be surprised to see both teams earn 30-plus attempts at the charity stripe on Sunday.”

Including Thursday’s result, Golden State has now watched the ‘over’ go 7-2 on the road in the playoffs while Toronto is 6-5 to the ‘under’ at home but three of the last four at the Scotiabank Arena have gone ‘over’ the number.

David dug up some other numbers for Sunday, which focuses on Golden State’s ability to rebound after defeats.

“Since the All-Star break, Golden State has gone 11-2 after a loss and it’s averaged 118 PPG. That includes a 3-1 record in this year’s playoffs. While many bettors would run to the counter and push the ‘over’ agenda, make a note that the ‘under’ has gone 9-4 in those 13 games and those results point directly to Golden State’s defense which has only allowed 106.1 PPG. Knowing that Toronto has been much better offensively at home (108 PPG) in the playoffs than on the road (101 PPG), you might be hesitant to go against the hosts on Sunday.”

“While the home energy has certainly helped the Raptors, I don’t see Toronto shooting 50 percent from the field again and I believe the free throw numbers will temper down. Toronto’s Team Total is hovering at 108 ½ for Game 2 and it’s only surpassed this number six times in 19 playoff games. I expect the Raptors to try to muck it up again but I’m not buying their offense again,” David added.

From 2009-2015, the team that lost Game 1 came back to win Game 2 of the NBA Finals. However, the winner of Game 1 each of the past three seasons (Golden State) has gone up 2-0 with victories in Game 2. The last team to win Game 2 following a series opening loss in the Finals is Cleveland, who edged Golden State in overtime back in 2015, but they ended up losing the series in six games.


MLB-Sunday night- Red Sox at Yankees in the game of the night

Last season, Gary Sanchez never got on the hot streak that the New York Yankees saw in 2017 and in the final two months of the 2016 season.

After an injury-plagued 2018, Sanchez is displaying the power the Yankees saw earlier in his career. With sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge recovering from injuries, the catcher’s offense is among the causes of New York’s surge.

Sanchez hit his 18th homer Saturday, matching his total from last season, and he gets his first crack at surpassing it Sunday night at Yankee Stadium when the Yankees go for a sweep of the Boston Red Sox.

Sanchez and the Yankees will face David Price, who was 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA in four starts against New York in 2018. Although Sanchez last season hit .189 in 89 games with two stints on the injured list, he hit two homers off Price and is 7-for-14 with six homers and 12 RBIs lifetime against the left-hander.

The Yankees own a 9 1/2-game lead on the Red Sox after Sanchez hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the fifth off Rick Porcello in Saturday’s 5-3 win. Sanchez’s homer helped the Yankees win their fifth straight and improve to 15-3 in their last 18 games.

“We’ve played really well,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “There’s no question and we’ve done it in a lot of different ways. We’ve won in a lot of different ways.”

After producing the biggest hit Saturday, Sanchez has homered in six of his last nine starts and has 12 homers in his last 26 games.

“He’s a very, very talented hitter,” Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said. “When he’s in a good position to hit, even when he’s a little bit out front like that, he can still do some serious damage. We’re obviously just fortunate to have him on our side.”

The Red Sox are on a four-game losing streak and are 2-6 in their past eight games after getting within three games of the division lead on May 13.

They are hoping to rebound from tying a season high with 14 strikeouts and going 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position Saturday, when they totaled at least 10 hits for the fourth time in five games.

“We’re not closing the gap,” Porcello said. “We’re making it bigger. It’s tough. We’re in a tough spot coming in. We’re in an even worse spot right now.”

After the rough outing by Porcello, the Red Sox hope Price can keep his decent run going when he opposes CC Sabathia.

Price is 1-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last four starts.

He got two outs in Houston on May 25 before exiting due to illness and returned three days later to pitch six scoreless innings in a no-decision against the Cleveland Indians in a game Boston lost 7-5.

Price is 15-14 with a 4.90 ERA in 42 career appearances (41 starts) against New York. He is 2-7 with a 7.71 ERA in 11 starts against the Yankees since joining Boston.

Sabathia is returning from a brief stint on the injured list due to right knee inflammation and needs one victory to become the 48th pitcher in baseball history to reach 250 career wins. Sabathia enters Sunday two behind Hall of Famer Bob Gibson for 47th on the all-time wins list.

Sabathia last pitched on May 22 against the Orioles in Baltimore, where he allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits in five innings.

He is 18-13 with a 4.14 ERA in 42 career starts against Boston and is 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA over his last eight starts against the Red Sox.

UEFA-Champions League Finals-Liverpool scored early and late to win

MADRID – No tears of pain this time, just redemption for Mohamed Salah.

Only 108 seconds were needed to banish the Champions League final heartbreak of a year ago.

Once Salah dispatched his early penalty against Tottenham, Liverpool was on the path to a sixth European title with a 2-0 victory on Saturday.

And a year after defeat in the final to Real Madrid, Juergen Klopp has his first title after four years as Liverpool manager.

A shoulder injury forced Salah out of the Kiev showpiece last year.

This time it was Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko’s arm that gifted Liverpool the early penalty opening – blocking Sadio Mane’s shot after 21 seconds – and Salah converted from the spot after a video review check.

“I have sacrificed a lot for my career,” Salah said. “To come from a village, to go to Cairo, and to be an Egyptian at this level is unbelievable for me.”

On a hot and humid night in Madrid, Tottenham came to life only in the final 20 minutes of its first European Cup final.

But Liverpool completed the job in the 87th minute thanks to one of its semifinal saviors.

Divock Origi had to accept a place back on the bench despite producing two goals while deputizing for the injured Salah last month. But the substitute had the final big say in the Spanish capital, rifling a left-footed shot inside the far post.

“Every single player fought hard today,” Origi said. “So it’s just special.”

After two losing finals since triumphing in 2005, Liverpool finally rose to third in the all-time list of European champions behind 13-time winner Real Madrid and AC Milan on seven titles.

Few fans – even from Liverpool – will want to watch just how it was achieved.

Both sides had gone three weeks without playing. It showed.

The sharpness was deficient, as was the ability to string passes together.

“When we look back on tonight we aren’t going to think it was a sluggish game,” Liverpool-born defender Trent Alexander-Arnold said. “We are going to think we have just won the European Cup.”

Tottenham will have only regrets as its luck run out after a season of comebacks and great escapes in the competition with a squad that had no additions.

Lucas Moura’s goal in Barcelona in December carried Tottenham into the round of 16. The Brazilian’s hat trick last month then completed a turnaround against Ajax. The reward in Madrid was a watching brief from the bench for two thirds of the game.

Instead, Harry Kane was thrust into the starting lineup despite 53 days without a game since limping off with an ankle injury in the quarterfinal first leg against Manchester City.

The striker was largely anonymous as Tottenham, which finished 26 points behind Premier League runner-up Liverpool in fourth place, couldn’t even get a shot on target until the 73rd minute.

Alisson Becker scooped up a spinning shot from Dele Alli and made a double-save from Son Heung-min and Moura with 10 minutes to go.

It was goalkeeping that made the difference, showing $85 million was well spent by American owner John Henry after Loris Karius was banished for making costly mistakes in last year’s final.

“You have a goalkeeper who makes difficult things look easy,” Klopp said. “Thank you very much.”

No wonder Klopp was relieved after six losing finals, stretching back to his spell at Borussia Dortmund.

“Did you ever see a team like this? Fighting with no fuel in the tank,” the German said.

Victory against Tottenham came six years after Dortmund was beaten by Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

Klopp is now European champion for the first time.