Starting the week, both NBA Conference Finals had seen three games played with each featuring 2-1 leads despite unfolding differently. One similar aspect of both series has been the blowout nature of both series as all six games have been decided by double digits.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston won the opening two games at home before the series moved to Cleveland where the Cavs won this past Saturday. Boston’s victories were by 25 and 13 points with Cleveland winning by 30. All three games stayed UNDER the Total.
In the Western Conference Finals, Houston split its first two games at home, losing the opener to Golden State before defeating the Warriors in Game 2. Golden State won Game 3 at home on Sunday. Golden State’s wins were by 13 and 41 points, sandwiched around Houston’s 22-point win in Game 2. Both Golden State wins stayed UNDER the Total, with Game 1 falling just a half point UNDER at many books. Houston’s win was in a game that went OVER the Total by about a half dozen points.
Despite being lower seeds both Cleveland in the East and Golden State in the West were made solid favorites by the oddsmakers to defeat the higher seeded Celtics and Rockets and meet for a fourth straight season in the NBA Finals.
Along that line of thinking the first two games in Boston between the Cavs and Celtics were priced within a point of pick ‘em while Golden State was favored by between 1.5 and 2.5 points in their first two games at Houston.
When both series moved to Cleveland and Golden State the hosts were made solid favorites of between 6 and 7 points for their respective Game 3’s. For Monday’s Game 4 in Cleveland the Cavs were pretty solid 6.5 point favorites as they sought to even their series against Boston at two games apiece.
The line for Tuesday’s Game 4 at Golden State was adjusted significantly as the Warriors, fresh off of Sunday’s 41-point blowout of the Rockets, opened as 8.5 point favorites as they seek to take a 3-1 lead back to Houston.
In going 9-5 SU thus far in the Playoffs, Cleveland has gone just 5-9 ATS and has not covered in any of their five SU losses. After playing five straight UNDERs to open the Playoffs, five of the next six went OVER (although one of them needed overtime). But, as just noted, their next three games – all in the Conference Finals – have stayed UNDER.
In going 10-5 SU thus far in the Playoffs the Celtics have been a very profitable 11-4 ATS. They have won – and covered – all nine home games in the Playoffs but are just 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS on the road. Prior to playing three straight UNDERs against Cleveland the Celtics were 4-3 to the OVER in their seven-game opening series win over Milwaukee and 3-2 to the OVER in their five-game series win over Philadelphia.
In winning 10 of their first 13 Playoff games SU the Warriors have gone a modest 7-6 ATS. Five of their games have gone OVER with eight staying UNDER with no overtime games.
The Rockets have gone 9-4 SU but are also 7-6 ATS. Houston has played six OVERs and seven UNDERs in the Playoffs with none going into overtime. It would not be surprising if Cleveland won that game but failed to cover as 7-point chalk. That would follow the pattern of Boston in its opening round series against Milwaukee.
After winning the first two games at home (and covering) Boston lost by 24 points in Game 3 in Milwaukee. In Game 4, as 6-point underdogs, Boston lost Game 4 to even the series at two games apiece but covered the spread in the 104-102 loss.
Boston coach Brad Stevens made the needed adjustments to be more competitive in Game 4 and it would not have been a surprise to have seen him outcoach Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue on Monday night, even if the Celts came up just short on the scoreboard.
Boston will remain the pointspread play for the duration of the series except if the Cavs are facing elimination in Game 6. Game 5 back in Boston should be very competitively priced (similar to Games 1 and 2). If the Celtics won on Monday and can eliminate the Cavs in Game 5 that would be an excellent spot to back them.
Cleveland would be in a prime spot to put forth a big effort in Game 6 back home if facing elimination or, if they win both Games 4 and 5, wrap up the series in six. That would have meant three straight wins for the defending Eastern Conference champions, answering many questions about whether or not the Cavs could make it back to the Finals.
But if there is a Game 7 it would be hard to go against Boston and, if in a competitively priced game, the Celtics would be the preferred play. The UNDER still is attractive in the 205 to 207 range we’ve seen for the first four games.
Game 4 will be key in the Golden State versus Houston series. If the Rockets are able to even the series with a win Tuesday night they remain the pick to win this series. Should Golden State take a 3-1 lead back to Houston. The play in Game 5 would be the Rockets with the Warriors the choice back home to win the series in six.
Again, a Game 7 would make Houston the preferred play as the home court edge they sought all season would finally be in play in the game that decides the Western Conference champion.
By the time next week’s column is written the matchup for the NBA Finals could be known. The Eastern Conference champion will be known as a potential Game 7 would be played in Boston on Sunday. And if the Western Conference Finals end in six games or less we will know their champion as well with Game 7 scheduled for next Monday, Memorial Day.
Let’s hope for games that are more competitive than we’ve seen for the first six games. Best wishes for the Memorial Day weekend.