The NBA is down to its version of the Final Four so perhaps we can call the next two weeks “May Madness” as the Conference Championship matchups have been determined and in roughly two weeks we shall know the two teams that will vie for this season’s NBA Championship.
The top seeds in each conference advanced with Golden State besting Portland in five games to set up a Western Conference Championship showdown with Oklahoma City, which bested second seeded San Antonio in six games.
In the East top seeded Cleveland completed a second series sweep with its four game ouster of Atlanta. Toronto needed all seven games to get by Miami for this showdown with the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Over the past several years we have been given more and more betting opportunities in the form of propositions surrounding individual games, a series of games and the like. Although it’s too late for these NBA Playoffs, one possible addition to the list of offerings might be considered for next season, or even for the 2016 Major League Baseball Playoffs. Which of the several best of five or best of seven series will last the longest?
For example, it would be appealing to be able to wager which of the two NBA Conference Finals will last longer. Three options could be offered. Warriors/Thunder or Cavs/Raptors or Both Series Go the Same Length.
Through those first two Playoff rounds Home Teams are 44-22 (66.7 percent) SU and 39-27 (59.1 percent) ATS. Home Favorites are 29-16 (64.4) ATS and Home Underdogs just 9-10 (47.4) ATS with 2 games closing at Pick ‘em (with the home team winning once and road team once).
Of the 66 Playoff games thus far the points have mattered in 11 games (16.7 percent) with no games resulting in a push (using the closing lines at the Westgate).
To put that percentage into context of the 1,230 regular season games the SU game winner lost ATS in 227 games (18.5%) with another 18 games resulting in pushes (1.5%).Totals remain heavily tilted towards the UNDER, holding a 40-26 edge (60.6%).
Here’s a preview of both Conference Championship series, the first of which began Monday (Oklahoma City at Golden State) and the second beginning on Tuesday (Toronto at Cleveland).
Cavs (1) vs Raptors (2): The top two seeds in the East advanced to the Conference finals although Toronto’s path was much more grueling. The Cavs swept both Detroit and Indiana, playing the minimum 8 games to reach this round. Toronto was extended to the maximum 14 in eliminating first Indiana and then Miami. As such, Cleveland is a very healthy choice to get past the Raptors, favored at -1500 odds from a sampling of major Sports Books.
In the regular season the home team was 3-0 both SU and ATS during the regular season although the teams last met Feb. 26, just after the All Star break. Cleveland defeated the Raptors at home by 22 points, which was sandwiched between a pair of Toronto home wins, by 4 and 2 points. Cleveland was favored in all 3 meetings including by 8 points in that 22 point home win.
The Raptors can be given an emotional boost by having won their first two Playoff series after seasons of frustration and failure but the experience of playing for the right to go to the NBA Finals held by Cleveland is no small factor.
Add in that the Cavs are intent upon winning the Title after falling short in the Finals last season – and are healthier than in that series against Golden State in which the Cavs were without both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving – makes it hard to envision a scenario in which the Raptors can pull off the major upset. CLEVELAND in 5.
The most likely spot for the Raptors to get the win would be back home in Game 3 if down 0-2 in the series. As to the pointspread plays the Raptors might be worth a play in Game 2 on Thursday if the Raptors are reasonably competitive, at least in stretches, in Tuesday’s series opener.
Warriors (1) vs Thunder (3): Golden State needed just 5 games in both of their series to get by Houston and Portland, even with star Steph Curry missing several of those games. The Warriors went 7-3 ATS in reaching the Conference Finals. Oklahoma City defeated Dallas in 5 games to open its Playoff run and then ousted San Antonio in 6 games, making the Spurs look very old in the process.
In retrospect perhaps there were signs that the Spurs’ run might not last deep into the Playoffs as San Antonio in games against the NBA’s top teams, including the Playoffs, was just 7-11 SU but an ugly 3-15 ATS. And although that ATS record includes that last series against the Thunder it does not include their opening round victorious series against Memphis, a team that was far from elite, especially down the stretch and in the Playoffs when the Grizzlies were extremely shorthanded due to injuries.
Oklahoma City has gone 7-4 ATS in the Playoffs, including wins and covers in their final 3 games against the Spurs. So what are we to make of the Thunders’ elimination of the Spurs and their chances against the Warriors? Golden State won all three meetings in the regular season, covering in the 2 home wins and pushing in the lone game at OKC. All 3 games were high scoring although the Totals were also high, resulting in 2 UNDERs and 1 OVER.
In the wins Golden State scored in a relatively narrow range, netting 116, 121 and 121 points. OKC’s range was a bit wider but only with a gap of 12 points, scoring 108, 118 and 106 points. The second of their 3 meetings did go overtime, tied at 103 after regulation and but for the extra session would have stayed UNDER the Total by 28 points. Thus the teams were an overtime period away from having all 3 games stay UNDER the Total despite the high scoring nature – and reputation – of both teams’ offenses.
Note that the three games were played within a narrow span of time, between February 6 and March 3. On average Golden State could be found as roughly a 4-1 favorite to win this series before Monday night’s opening game. The price seems justified. The Warriors set the all-time regular season record with 73 wins and showed an ability to rally from double digit deficits when not playing their best.
OKC does have a big rebounding edge but whereas that may have been a factor in getting past the Spurs it may not be as significant an edge against Golden State with the Warriors relying more on the outside game which often produces atypical rebound opportunities after misses.
The forecast: GOLDEN STATE in 5 or 6.
The combination of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook gives OKC a chance to pull off the upset and the Thunder will be comfortable in forcing or maintaining an uptempo pace. But the Warriors have more reliable options and we have seen those options come through when Curry was out due to injury or off his game – and even then he was rarely off for extended stretches of time.
This should be one of this season’s most entertaining Playoff series and will be played at a high lever. But ultimately it should play out as expected and, if things go as expected in the East, set up the highly anticipated rematch of last season’s Finals between Cleveland and Golden State. In betting this series OKC should be considered as roughly double digit underdogs in Wednesday’s Game 2, assuming the Warriors won on Monday as they were favored to do.
If the Warriors are up 2-0 when the series moves to Oklahoma City the Thunder will be worth backing as small home Underdogs. But if the series is tied (or OKC is in the unlikely spot of being up 2-0) Golden State would be the play in Game 3 if laying 5 points or less and again in Game 4 if laying 3 points or less. Using 225 as a guide the UNDER will be preferred at that Total or higher.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]