Cavaliers, Warriors clear leaders on NBA Conference odds boards

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While oddsmakers have an expectation that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are on a collision course for a third consecutive NBA Finals clash, there is some interesting movement among the challengers.

Just more than a week out from the start of the playoffs, the Cavaliers are the -300 betting favorites on the Eastern Conference futures while the Warriors’ odds are -250 atop the Western Conference board at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

While LeBron James and the defending champion Cavaliers had a losing record (6-10 straight-up) in March, their victory against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday put them in a good position to finish first overall in the East and have home-court advantage for the first three rounds.

The Celtics (+425), led by PG Isaiah Thomas, draw in as the biggest challenger on the Eastern side. Boston is 20-10 SU over its last 30 games, slightly better than Cleveland’s 18-12 SU mark over the same number of games.

The Cavaliers clearly do have issues, particularly with tightening up their defensive play. An opponent could pounce early in the playoffs before James and Kyrie Irving find a groove.

Both the Washington Wizards (+900) and Toronto Raptors (+1200) are neck-and-neck to earn the No. 3 seed, which might mean playing Boston in the second round. The Wizards have great leadership from PG John Wall. The Raptors will have to rely on their defense – that’s why they got PF Serge Ibaka at the deadline – until PG Kyle Lowry, who’s just back from wrist surgery, is 100 percent.

On the Western Conference board, the Warriors’ odds are slightly better than the -333 they were listed at in late February. The absence of Kevin Durant (sprained MCL), who’s expected back just prior to the playoffs, has enabled SG Klay Thompson to rediscover his all-star form, while two-time MVP Steph Curry has also gone a hot streak.

Kawhi Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs (+325) are seen as posing the biggest challenge to Golden State, as their price has come down from +500. The red-hot second half that MVP candidate James Harden and the Houston Rockets (+750) have put together has led to their odds dropping from +900.

Oddsmakers see the Western Conference as a three-team race, at most, with the Los Angeles Clippers (+2500) and Utah Jazz (+2500) each drawing very long odds on the NBA betting futures at the sportsbooks.

Warriors, Cavaliers headline NBA betting lines as playoffs get underway

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Perhaps unlike NBA postseasons past, there is betting value on offer with the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers and the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Although neither of the teams that have contested the last three NBA Finals are a top seed, the Warriors are the +135 favorites on the odds to win the 2018 NBA championship at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Warriors at plus money is worth taking for bettors who believe success is self-perpetuating.

The Houston Rockets, who had the best overall record, are the +160 second favorite, before a drop down to the Cavaliers (+650) and the Toronto Raptors (+850), the top Eastern Conference seed.

The NBA is a front-runner’s league. Fifty-two out of 71 champions were a No. 1 seed in the league, conference or division. The Cavaliers are the No. 4 seed in their conference; only one team has ever won the NBA title from that starting position.

In finals matchup odds, a fourth consecutive Cavaliers-Warriors matchup has the top prop at +345. There is slightly more value on offer for having it all come down to the Raptors and Warriors (+368), Cavaliers-Rockets (+469), or the Raptors-Rockets (+498).

For the first time since James brought his talents back to northeast Ohio, the Cavaliers (+125) are plus money on the Eastern Conference champions futures. Toronto has been the league’s deepest team for the balance of the season and its +155 prop is enticing, since this might be the strongest squad the Raptors have yet assembled. Since there is still a wait-and-see attitude with Toronto, their price is likely to stay higher for longer than the Cavaliers’ price.

The Warriors (-110) are slight favorites on the Western Conference champions futures, followed by the Rockets. As in the East, the choice comes down to whether one thinks the regular season foreshadowed a changing of the guard.

There is also ample value in NBA playoff series prices as Round 1 tips off on Saturday. The Boston Celtics (-170), with guard Kyrie Irving out, might be fine for at least one series, but the No. 7 seed Milwaukee Bucks (+150) and Giannis Antetokounmpo have the athleticism to break down Boston’s excellent defense, and could pull the upset.

With Joel Embiid (face injury, concussion) due to miss at least one game, the talented but callow Philadelphia 76ers (-465) could run into some issues with the Miami Heat (+390). Miami has exceptional depth for a No. 6 seed and its strong defense could pose problems for young 76ers such as Ben Simmons.

On the Western side, the tightest series is likely the Oklahoma City Thunder (-135) against the Utah Jazz (+115). Oklahoma City has the edge in seasoned individual talent – Russell Westbrook, Paul George – but its suspect defense gives Utah a chance to take the matchup to a full seven games.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

 

Warriors into minus money on 2018 NBA championship odds

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Reputation counts more than a team’s record in NBA championship futures, but the upshot is that that can create value for the teams bent on keeping another Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors NBA Finals from happening.

As the league comes out of the all-star break, the defending champion Golden State Warriors of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry fame still have a modicum of betting value as a -180 favorite on the 2018 NBA championship odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The next team on the board, for a change, isn’t the Cavaliers but the Houston Rockets (+400), followed by Cleveland (+600), the Boston Celtics (+1200), Oklahoma City Thunder (+2000) and Toronto Raptors (+2200).

Houston, which is neck and neck with Golden State for the best record in the league, looks like a credible threat. With guards James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets are second only to the Warriors in points per game and also lead in three-pointers made and three-point percentage. There’s also the argument that if the Warriors are to be taken down, it’s probably more likely to happen in the third round, not the fourth once they really get locked into a rhythm.

The Cavaliers’ +600 price is about the best they’ll offer, since the jury is out on how all the new complementary pieces – George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. – will fit around LeBron James. Playoff seeding for Cleveland isn’t as all-important as it is for most NBA teams, due to James’ big-game moxie and ability to help his teams win on the road in the postseason.

It’s probably wise to fade both the Celtics and Kyrie Irving and the Thunder and Russell Westbrook, since neither team seems built for the playoffs. The Raptors offer a much deeper lineup as well as much more betting value, since the first point of reference is how they have expired quickly against the Cavaliers in the playoffs two years in a row. But Toronto is much more efficient this season and that could make a difference in May and June.

Similarly, the Minnesota Timberwolves (+3300), with center Karl-Anthony Towns, forward Andrew Wiggins and two-way forward Jimmy Butler, are an intriguing Western Conference dark horse. The franchise’s 13-season playoff drought means the Timberwolves are off of general-interest bettors’ radar, but they are a talented team and, well, history doesn’t play the games.

For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.