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James, Cavaliers Seek Game 6 NBA Finals Win as Slim Favorite

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Game 6 of the NBA Finals might boil down to whether LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ advantage in the paint can continue to cancel out the Golden State Warriors’ three-point potency.

James and the Cavaliers, who are out to become just the third team to force a Game 7 in the NBA Finals after trailing 3-1, are listed as two-point betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com against the Warriors for Game 6 on Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena.

Golden State will have F Draymond Green back after he was suspended for Game 5, but their low-post presence is even thinner now that C Andrew Bogut (left knee) is out for the series.

The total is 207.5 points. The total has gone under in six of the Warriors and Cavaliers’ 11 NBA Finals games over the past two seasons, with two pushes. The total has gone under in 10 of the Warriors’ last 17 road playoff games. There is an even 9-9-1 split across the Cavaliers’ last 19 playoff home games.

With the versatile 6-foot-7 Green back but Bogut gone, the Warriors might turn to having Green play center in a small lineup, as he did when they beat the Cavaliers three times in a row to win the 2015 NBA Finals.

For Golden State, which is 11-8 straight-up and 10-9 against the spread in road playoff games over the last two seasons, Green’s return has a twofold benefit offensively.

His passing can help the Warriors play their ‘pace and space’ game that creates great three-point looks for the Splash Brothers, PG Stephen Curry and SG Klay Thompson. Green and the also undersized but multi-skilled F Andre Iguodala also pose scoring ability that not only must be respected, but also relieves pressure on Curry and Thompson to take ill-advised shots for the sake of it.

Golden State is 7-4 SU and 7-4 ATS in the last two NBA Finals. The Warriors are 5-4 SU and 5-4 ATS in road games against James’ teams since 2012-13.

Cleveland, which won 112-97 in Game 5 on the strength of James and Kyrie Irving becoming the first teammates to ever score 40+ points apiece in a NBA Finals game, is 15-4 SU and 11-8 ATS in playoff home games over the last two seasons according to the OddsShark NBA Database.

The Cavaliers, who have got less than little from PF Kevin Love in the series, likely will continue to rely on a two-man attack until Golden State forces them to find other options. Guard J.R. Smith had 20 points on just 13 shots in their previous home win during the series.

In the low post, the Cavaliers should have an edge through the length and strength of both James and C Tristan Thompson, as long as both of their nimble bigs manage their fouls and stay healthy.

No team has ever overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals.

Markelle Fultz considered lock atop NBA Draft, but intriguing odds abound

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The real challenge in wagering on the NBA draft lies beyond the first two selections.

Washington Huskies point guard Markelle Fultz is now a borderline comical -5000 to be taken first at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The trade that the point guard-hungry Philadelphia 76ers swung with the Boston Celtics on Monday to get the No. 1 pick virtually assured Fultz would be the pick.

There’s actually a lower price on the field (+700) than on either UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball (+1200) or Duke small forward Jayson Tatum (+5000).

Speaking of Ball, the line of him being drafted by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers is -260, while there’s a +200 payout if he’s selected by any other team. The Lakers have also signaled their intentions by announcing they’ll trade incumbent point guard D’Angelo Russell. However, some feel Kentucky PG De’Aaron Fox, due to his athleticism and speed, has a higher ceiling.

Speaking of the aptly named Fox, many of the intriguing NBA Draft betting props involve the over/under on what point of the draft certain budding stars will hear their name called at the Barclays Center on Thursday.

The total for Fox  is 4.5. Tatum also has a 4.5 total. The Boston Celtics, who pick third, are set at point guard, but the Phoenix Suns could be looking at one at fourth overall.

One should probably keep an eye on speculation about Frank Ntilikina, whose draft-slot total of 9.5 seems on the high side. The 18-year-old Frenchman is one of the youngest players in this draft class and has the skillset to also play either guard spot. The New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks, who are in the eighth and ninth slots, are both keen on him, and there’s always the chance of one trading up to get him.

Ntilikina is also a -1400 favorite to be the first international player taken. The total on how many international players will go in the first round is 4.5.

College basketball fans can also carry over their rooting interests by betting on how many players will be taken in the first round. There is a 3.5 total for Duke players taken in the first round. The over pays a generous +145, which would require SG Frank Jackson sneaking into the first round to join Tatum, SG Luke Kennedy and C Harry Giles.

Conversely, the under on the 2.5 total of Oregon Ducks players selected – three players are second-round possibilities – is +220.

The early picks, of course, are mostly comprised of one-and-done talents. There is good value on picking who will be the first college senior taken. Colorado combo guard Derrick White is a slim +185 favorite, with Big 12 rival Wesley Iwundu of Kansas State listed at +210.

Warriors seek 2-0 series lead as double-digit favorite against Spurs

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The Golden State Warriors feasted after Kawhi Leonard was knocked out on Sunday, but they are far from an automatic cover as a huge home-court favorite in the NBA playoffs.

Stephen Curry and the Warriors are listed as 13.5-point favorites against the Spurs with a 208.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com for their Game 2 matchup scheduled for Tuesday.

During the Curry era, Golden State is 12-1 straight-up and 4-9 against the spread in 13 playoff games where they were favored by 10 or more points at home. The Warriors are also 1-6 ATS in their last seven home playoff games according to the OddsShark NBA Database.

Not having Leonard (left ankle sprain) leaves a void for San Antonio, but the Spurs are 6-2 ATS without their all-star small forward this season. That includes their series-clinching win against the Houston Rockets in the second round. One can take for granted that a team under Gregg Popovich’s coaching guidance will find a way to adapt.

San Antonio will need to find ways to get PF LaMarcus Aldridge away from Warriors SF Draymond Green on offense, as well make greater use of PF Kyle Anderson. Jonathon Simmons has also proven capable of replacing Leonard’s scoring.

Over 11 games as the underdog this season, the Spurs are 7-4 SU and 8-2-1 ATS.

Job one for Golden State, which is 18-2 SU and 8-10-2 ATS over its last 20 home games, will be slowing down the Spurs after allowing 111 points at home on Sunday. They usually are tough on defense at Oracle Arena, where the total has gone under in 13 of their last 20 home games. Offensively, the absence of Leonard should free up space for PF Kevin Durant, since San Antonio won’t have a matchup for the four-time NBA scoring champion.

That said, the Warriors will need perimeter shooting from their supporting cast, not just Curry and SG Klay Thompson. With SF Andre Iguodala (knee) questionable, Golden State might be hard up for a complementary shooter to hit open threes.

The other big variable for Golden State is that assistant coach Mike Brown is running the bench in the absence of Steve Kerr (back surgery). Brown does not seem to have Kerr’s deft hand with making the right substitutions, which was why Golden State found itself in a 25-point hole in Game 1.

The total has gone over in 12 of the Spurs’ last 15 games overall and has also gone over in eight of their past 10 road games. The total has gone over in 10 of the Warriors’ last 15 games.