June 08, 2010 7:06 AM
by Andy Iskoe
But Lakers still favored to win it all
The NBA Finals have become a best of five series after the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers split their first two games in L.A. The Celtics accomplished their objective by winning at least one of the first two games and now return home for three straight games in the NBA’s antiquated 2-3-2 format that has been used since the energy crisis several decades back.
What this format does, in effect, is penalize the team that had the better regular season record (in this case the Lakers) by creating a scenario in which a series that goes at least five games insures that the supposedly lesser of the teams will have played more home games than their opponent, a situation that should not be allowed to occur.
At the same time, barring a sweep by either team of the three games in Boston, the Lakers will return home with two chances to wrap up the series on their home court.
Perhaps the NBA – if it wishes to maintain the current format in the future – might consider allowing the team that has the better record between the two Finalists to choose whether they’d like to start at home or on the road. Some teams might well prefer to open away from home to then have at least two and perhaps three straight home games.
Despite the next three games being in Boston, the Lakers remain the favorite to win the NBA Title as they opened on Monday morning as between minus 130 and minus 135.
For Tuesday’s Game 3 Boston opened as 2 ½ point home favorites with the Total opening at 192 ½.
Los Angeles’ 102-89 win in Game 1 landed right around the Total with some bettors able to middle the number. Boston’s 103-94 Game 2 win produced an OVER by a couple of buckets. In both contests the late money moved in the right direction as the money came in on the UNDER in Game 1 and towards the UNDER in Game 2.
After many years of teams not being able to sweep those middle three games that feat has occurred twice in the past six seasons. In 2004 Detroit won all three home games to win the Title after splitting their first two games in Los Angeles against the Lakers. Two years later, after dropping the first two games in Dallas, the Miami Heat won the next three games at home before winning the Title back in Dallas in Game 6.
As noted in previous weeks, Boston actually had a better road record than home mark this season. In fact, Boston’s 24-17 record on their home floor was just one game better than the Lakers’ 23-18 road record. The Lakers’ also played in the much tougher Western Conference in which they were 35-17, winning 67 percent of those contests. Boston’s record against Western Conference teams was a rather mediocre 17-13 (57 percent). This can lead to making a case that the Lakers are well positioned to win two of the three games in Boston and return home for Game 6 with a three games to two lead in the series.
The recommended wagering strategy would be to play the Lakers as small underdogs in Tuesday’s Game 3 and to play the loser of Game 3 in Thursday’s Game 4 with the expectation that the series will be tied heading into the pivotal Game 5 on Sunday.
Should that indeed be the case the recommended play for Game 5 would be on the Lakers, likely again as small underdogs, with part of the play being the Lakers on the money line. Game 5 would be viewed as a make or break game for the Celtics as they‘d be facing the prospects of playing the balance of the series on the road. But the opinion here remains that the Lakers are the better team and the team more worthy of being backed in key or critical situations.
However, should either team win both Games 3 and 4, the prudent play in Game 5 would be on the team trailing 1-3 in the series to force a Game 6 back in Los Angeles. Part of such a play would be on the money line as we’d be backing long term history to hold up and for neither team to sweep all three of the games in Boston.
The call here remains for the Lakers to win the Title in six games.
As to the Totals, the first two games were significantly higher scoring (191 and 197) than their two regular season meetings (179 and 173). Boston’s ability to force more of a defense favoring pace might be easier to establish on their home court. Thus the preference would remain for the UNDER especially if the Totals are in the area of 191 to 193, as is the case in the opening Total for Game 3.
Unless we witness the third sweep of the middle three games in seven seasons, our final NBA column for this season will appear next week.