Cavaliers begin playoff run behind Warriors on NBA championship odds

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For all the hand-wringing about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ slump, LeBron James and company enter the NBA playoffs in pretty much the same state as they did before winning it all in 2016.

Having weathered a 19-game absence from Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors are the -160 favorite on the odds to win the NBA championship, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Stephen Curry and the Warriors’ price will only drop farther as the playoff field gets whittled down, assuming they don’t have an epic collapse.

James and Cleveland are listed at +333 after going just 9-11 straight-up and 8-12 against the spread in their final 20 games against the Eastern Conference. However, the Cavs had a so-so stretch run last year, when they were listed at +400 going into the playoffs.

Thirty of the league’s last 35 champions were either a No. 1 or 2 seed, and the last four were No. 1. Based on their championship experience, the No. 2 seed in the West, the San Antonio Spurs, are third on the board at +600. The No. 1 Eastern seed, the Boston Celtics, are a distant +1600, level with the Houston Rockets. That’s not surprising, considering Boston’s per-game point differential (2.7) is the lowest of a No. 1 seed since 1979.

The Cavaliers are a -275 favorite on the Eastern Conference champion odds, which reflects that James’ team has made the last six NBA Finals. The Celtics are at +425. The Toronto Raptors, whose seeding puts them on course to meet Cleveland in the second round, are listed at +900.

The Western Conference board is very similar, with the Warriors at -250 followed by the Spurs (+300) and Rockets (+750).

Among the four major pro leagues and March Madness, the chalk prevails most often in the NBA. Some general trends to be mindful of is that home teams who lose Game 1 – looking in your direction, Toronto – are 49-10 SU in Game 2 since 2003. Higher-seeded teams who win the first two games are also 40-111 SU in Game 3 (on the road) during that span.

Historically, No. 5 seeds win about a quarter of the time and No. 6 seeds win about 20 per cent of the time. In terms of first-round series prices, the Atlanta Hawks (+175) do stand a decent chance of knocking out John Wall and the Washington Wizards (-205), since Washington might struggle to find a defensive matchup for Hawks big man Dwight Howard.

The No. 8 seed Chicago Bulls (+405), with their savviness at point guard with ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo and former champion Dwyane Wade (who’ll have more recovery time for his 35-year-old legs), could be capable of taking out the Celtics (-500). Eighth seeds have a much better success rate than No. 7 seeds.

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.

Defending champion Warriors favored over Cavaliers in NBA Finals

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After overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 96-88 victory in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, the Golden State Warriors will once again face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals as -220 favorites on the NBA series prices at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

In addition to posting three consecutive straight-up wins to knock off the Thunder, the Warriors have also halted a worrisome 2-5 run against the spread, rewarding bettors by covering in the final three games of the Western Finals.

As well, Golden State gets the nod from oddsmakers in the series opener, pegged as 5.5-point chalk for Thursday night’s Cavaliers vs. Warriors betting matchup at Oracle Arena.

Overall, the Warriors have been a strong bet on home court during the playoffs, going 8-2 ATS in 10 contests while being favored by an average of 9.3 points per game, but it has been three months since the Warriors were favored at home by so few points.

Golden State failed to cover a 5.5-point spread in a 109-105 over the Atlanta Hawks on March 1 and are just 1-2 ATS at home this season when favored by fewer than seven points, including an ATS loss to Cleveland as 6.5-point chalk in an 89-83 win on Christmas Day.

Two-time reigning regular-season MVP Stephen Curry has emerged as the favorite on the odds to win the NBA Finals MVP, topping Cavaliers superstar LeBron James with -125 odds on the player props boards at the sportsbooks.

James makes his sixth straight appearance in the NBA Finals sporting +225 odds of claiming NBA Finals MVP honors for a third time, while the Cavaliers sit at +180 on the series prices.

Cleveland has appeared in the NBA Finals on two previous occasions, getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007 followed by a six-game loss to Golden State a year ago.

The Cavaliers needed six games to get past Toronto in the Eastern Conference Finals, disposing of the upstart Raptors with blowout victories in Games 5 and 6 to set the stage for their NBA Finals rematch with the Warriors.

James and company had won 10 straight SU to open the postseason, but have been a lukewarm bet on the road, going 3-4 ATS in seven outings, all as favorites.

The Cavaliers must also overcome a brutal recent record against Golden State, going 4-13 SU in their past 17 games against the Warriors, 6-11 ATS, including five straight losses since capturing Games 2 and 3 of last year’s NBA Finals, their only consecutive wins against Golden State since January 2010.

The NBA Finals tips off in Oakland on Thursday night, and oddsmakers like the matchup so much they’re predicting it will happen again next season – the Warriors and the Cavaliers are the top choices on the early odds to win the 2017 NBA Finals at the sportsbooks.