The rally cry for Cleveland fans over the past 52 years of trying to win a championship of any kind has been “We Believe.” There may have been no better proof of fans believing in the Cavaliers than what happened in Las Vegas sportsbooks Sunday night for Game 7 of the NBA Finals when they emphatically put their money on the counter.
The Cavaliers’ 93-89 win over the Warriors made most Las Vegas sportsbooks big losers on the day with a combination of payouts taking the Cavs +5, +150 on the moneyline and a variation of series prices with a high of 10-to-1 odds after Game 4 when the Cavs were down 3-1.
Despite the media constantly questioning LeBron James’ legacy following a Game 4 loss, the fans and bettors believed enough in the Cavs to make the books losers in Games 5, 6 and 7.
“It wasn’t a good day for us at all,” said MGM Resorts sportsbook hub manager Jeff Stoneback. “We had a bunch of house players take the Cavs (+5) with six figure wagers and then we had that big loss on the series price after Game 4.”
Last week Stoneback said after Game 4 that his books had taken over $100,000 in risk on the Cavs to win the series at 10-to-1 odds. Before Games 5 and 6, he tried to offer the lowest series price on the Warriors in town, but no one wanted them and kept betting the bad price on the Cavs.
No team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals, but the Cavs fans believed and put their money where their hearts were and cashed big time Sunday night.
Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick said they escaped with a small win on Game 7 just because the game stayed UNDER (206) the total, but said they got “beat up pretty good on the series.”
CG Technology’s VP of risk management Jason Simbal said they lost on both the game and series. Westgate SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay said, “We needed Golden State in Game 7 for almost everything. It wasn’t a knockout punch, but it was a solid jab.”
The scene at the Mirage sportsbook prior to Game 7 was something that kind of shocked Stoneback.
“I’ve never seen a crowd so big for an NBA game, ever,” said Stoneback who has worked in Vegas books for 28 years. “It was standing room only, a massive crowd. We had every seat taken in the room an hour-and-half before the game. Never seen that before – all the bleachers along the side and couches were occupied hours before the game.”
The build up for Game 7 was simply because of the Cavs’ momentum winning Games 5 and 6. All six games were won by double-digits, yet the combined score heading into Game 7 was all square at 610-610.
You could see the Warriors unraveling mentally, whether it was Draymond Green getting suspended for Game 5 or Stephen Curry getting ejected and throwing a mouth piece at a fan in Game 6. It was the first time in his career he’d been ejected.
The Warriors won an NBA record 73 games during the regular season with only nine losses, but lost nine times in 24 playoff games. It was also the first time Golden State coach Steve Kerr lost three straight games.
With all the heart-breaking tragedy Cleveland has had with its sports teams whether it was Brian Sipe throwing an last minute playoff interception, John Elway’s drive, Earnest Byner’s fumble, or Edgar Renteria’s extra-inning Game 7 single, Cleveland fans still believed enough to lay their money down. I love that! And I love it more that they cashed. So now Cleveland fans can ease their pain with a title and also have a little extra cash.
The Cavs felt like taking their party up a notch after the game Sunday and flew straight to Las Vegas from Oakland and then came home to a crowded Hopkins International airport on Monday afternoon.
The parade will take place on Wednesday and city planners will finally get to unveil their parade route through downtown that has been derailed with so much pain for over 52 years. That’s going to be one heck of a party.
On Monday morning the Westgate updated their 2017 NBA Championship odds with Golden State at 2-to-1 and the Cavs at 5-to-2. The Spurs are 13-to-2 and the Thunder are 7-to-1. Everyone else is 15-to-1 or higher. No team in the East looks capable of dethroning the Cavs, who lost in the NBA Finals last season to Golden State.
While many fans might want to see some fresh blood in the Finals, I think I’d very happy to see the best team in each conference hook up again for a third time. Did we hate it when the Lakers and Celtics met multiple times in the 1980’s?
No, we still look back at that decade as the Golden era. Here we have the two best players in the NBA playing in the spotlight for a championship and the two sides are now tied 1-1. Let’s see the tie-breaker next year.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Twitter: @MicahRoberts7 Email: [email protected].