It was no surprise to see the Westgate LV Superbook tighten up their odds to further strengthen the position that the Warriors and Cavs will play for this season’s NBA title.
The Cavs have already advanced to the Eastern Conference finals and the Warriors will soon open the Western Conference version at home after disposing of Utah.
If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’re already in on Warriors-Cavs III and counting down the victories toward cashing your conference champion futures. The lean toward Golden State has remained firmly in place all season, even when All-Star forward Kevin Durant went down with an injury.
You’ve also read here that no one in the Eastern Conference was taking down Cleveland, even when its defensive efficiency climbed into the gutter and produced a brutal finish down the stretch, ultimately costing it the top seed when they fell behind the Celtics approaching Game 80.
No homecourt? No big deal.
Inevitably, LeBron James would recalibrate, get it together and guide his Cavs back to an NBA Finals for the third straight time since returning to Northeast Ohio. He sat the final week of the regular-season, basically telling Boston it can enjoy homecourt but it’s not going to make a difference. Only the Celtics or Wizards stand in the way of that, and barring injury, neither is experienced or polished enough to beat Cleveland four times out of seven.
This season has seen the Warriors and Cavs on a collision course toward a third consecutive NBA Finals meeting ever since Durant agreed to leave Oklahoma City for Oakland last July 4, so there’s no doubt the teams are aware of what the other is doing. Cleveland started 10-0 in the 2016 postseason and has won all eight games to date, while Golden State’s 7-0 run through the series against Portland and Utah has set a franchise playoff record.
Cleveland is now 4-to-9 to get out of the East after being 1-to-2 just last week. The Cavs are 7-to-2 to win a second straight title after residing at 5-to-2 to close out April. Golden State is 2-to-9 to get out of the West after being nearly even money last week, so you missed out if you continue to wait. The Warriors are 5-to-12 to win the championship after being a 3-to-2 favorite.
Of teams that can potentially spoil the three-quel, Boston is at 11-to-4 to win the Eastern Conference, while the Wizards are way down at 15-to-1 despite evening up their semifinal series 2-2 with an impressive Sunday afternoon victory that featured a 26-0 run. The books are factoring in homecourt potentially making a difference, but Washington held double-digit first-half leads at TD Garden and should’ve gotten out of there with at least a split of the first two games, so it won’t be intimidated by the prospect of stealing a Game 5 or a Game 7.
As for who would give the Cavs a tougher matchup, it’s hard to imagine John Wall being easy for Kyrie Irving to contain and he’s one guy who James can’t really get a handle on due to his speed. Washington does have depth issues, but they would appear to be the tougher task for Cleveland. The Celtics have better one-on-one defenders on the wing in Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart, but there is no such thing as a LeBron stopper in the Eastern Conference, as we’re being consistently reminded of throughout these playoffs.
Draymond Green may be the only player capable of doing enough to throw James off his game, but he’ll still need to help corral either Kawhi Leonard or James Harden to get out of the West. Books have made San Antonio a 9-to-2 shot to get out of the West but are offering a return of just 8-to-1 to win the title, a nod to Leonard’s brilliance and the championship pedigree of Gregg Popovich’s regime. Although they enter the week in an identical situation as Houston, Boston and Washington, tied 2-2 in the conference semis, the Spurs are being viewed as a far more significant threat.
Boston and Houston are 20-to-1 to win the NBA title, while Washington comes in at 60-to-1.
The NBA playoffs have been rather predictable thus far. Some might even say they’ve been boring. The first round produced a single Game 7. Entering Monday night’s Jazz-Warriors Game 4, favorites had gone 44-15 straight up in this postseason, including a 13-2 mark in the conference semifinal round.
Hang in there, though. There may not be many surprises ahead, but the payoff is coming in what should be an epic NBA Finals that will make this all worth it in the end. Hopefully, you’ve already locked in a few wagers at more favorable odds than currently available to serve as your consolation prize through the lack of on-court thrills.