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.

The Cavs have been here before, but the Warriors are a different team

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CLEVELAND — LeBron James is stressed out.

Two years in a row, James’ Cavaliers have fallen into a big hole in the NBA Finals against the Warriors. Last year, it was a 3-1 deficit. This time, it was a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 hole. For the second year in a row, the Cavs must make an improbable comeback if it wants to hoist the trophy.

“It causes too much stress, man,” James said after a 137-116 victory in Game 4 to stave off a sweep. “I’m stressed out. Keep doing this every year.”

The win on Friday, though, may have done more than stress out LeBron. It might have pushed some stress to the other side. After all, “blowing a 3-1 lead” has become a widely circulated joke. And these two teams are in the same situation again, with the Cavaliers down 3-1, heading to Oakland for Game 5.

“Man, different team,” Stephen Curry said, shooting down a question about the familiarity of the situation.

He’s right. The Warriors suiting up on Monday will be much different from the team at the same point in 2016. For one, instead of Harrison Barnes, who averaged less than 10 points per game in last year’s Finals, the Warriors upgraded to Kevin Durant, whose 34.3 points per game average might have him in line for Finals MVP.

In addition, Draymond Green, who was suspended for Game 5 last year, will be playing. With all of the Warriors’ big guns healthy, the Cavaliers understand where they stand.

“They got us where they want us,” James said.

Kyrie Irving added: “We understand how special that team is down there. We don’t knock them off of taking one loss or us getting one win.”

A lot was said before these Finals about the non-competitiveness of the NBA playoffs – the Warriors became the first team in history to start the playoffs 15-0 and sport a point differential of 13.8 points, while the Cavaliers lost just once before the Finals. Before Game 4, there were grumbles as the Warriors breezed through Games 1 and 2 at home and stole Game 3 on the road to take a 3-0 lead.

Still, the series could easily be tied 2-2. The Cavaliers brought their A-game in Game 3, which they could have won if not for an open missed corner 3-pointer by Kyle Korver and Durant’s heroics. At the very least, the near-win gave Cleveland some life.

“We know we’re down 3-0, but we thought we gave a game away in Game 3,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. “So we knew this team was beatable, we knew we can play better, and [Game 4] is the result you get when we play at our best.”

Irving said that the Cavaliers “finally settled in.”

“It was about damn time, for all of us to really see what playing well as a group looks like against a great team like the Warriors,” he said.

But there’s no indication that the 3-1 talk is going to get to the Warriors. This is a different year, a different situation, and, as Curry said, a different team – one with more experience, and with Kevin Durant.

“I love the vibe we had in the locker room after the game, understanding what we need to do differently to play better,” he said.

And on the other side?

“We’re a resilient team,” Love said. “We have been in this situation before. We never count ourselves out.”

If the Cavaliers want to prove their resilience, they’ll have to win three more stress-induced games like the last one, starting Monday.