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Warriors Head into Conference Finals as NBA Title Odds Favorites

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Now that Stephen Curry is back in their vaunted starting lineup, the Golden State Warriors have moved into minus money on the 2018 NBA title odds entering the league’s final four.

With the conference finals set to tip off, the defending champion Warriors are the -150 favorite to capture the Larry O’Brien Trophy at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Their Western Conference Finals opponent, the home court advantage-holding Houston Rockets, are listed at +240.

On the Eastern Conference side, the Cleveland Cavaliers – and LeBron James – are priced at +550, with the undermanned but resourceful Boston Celtics at +1600. The odds back up the contention the Western Finals are tantamount to the real NBA Finals.

The NBA playoff series prices for the conference finals reflect the champions-until-proven-otherwise notion. The Warriors and Cavaliers each have to start on the road, but after all, they have met in the last three NBA Finals.

The Warriors (-180) will need at least one away win against the Rockets (+160) to take the series. The good news for Warriors backers is that the OddsShark NBA Database shows that Golden State is 10-6 straight-up and 10-6 against the spread in its last 16 road playoff games in the month of May. If Curry is back to peak form after getting into the final four Warriors games, then they should have the deeper starting five.

The Rockets had 65 wins in the regular-season. Only 17 NBA teams have topped that and 12 also won the championship. Whether the Rockets can back up the hype will depend on maintaining their defensive efficiency against a top offense, as well as having the combo of guards James Harden and Chris Paul outplay Curry and Klay Thompson. For what it might be worth, Paul has matched up well defensively against Curry over the years.

The Cavaliers (-280) swept the top-seeded Toronto Raptors in the conference semifinal round, while the Celtics (+235) defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in spite of an accumulation of injuries.

The fact that James-led teams have won the Eastern Conference seven years in a row drives down the Cavaliers’ price, but it’s so tough to go against him. The Cavaliers’ supporting players, such as forward Kevin Love and forward George Hill, also seem healthy after up-and-down regular seasons.

The Celtics are 5-15 SU and 11-8-1 ATS in their last 20 games against the Cavaliers, which is another contributor to their price on top of the “Playoff LeBron” factor. However, the Celtics are a much stronger defensive team than the Indiana Pacers squad that stretched the Cavaliers to seven games in the first round and both center Al Horford and guard Terry Rozier have found ways to get big buckets in the late stages of quarters, when NBA games are ultimately decided.

If one doesn’t worry about feeling foolish for denying James’ greatness, then the Celtics at better than 2-to-1 are a justifiable play.

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.

 

Derek Fisher hired to coach WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks

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LOS ANGELES — Former NBA player and coach Derek Fisher has been hired to coach the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

The Sparks announced the move Wednesday, five says after longtime WNBA coach Brian Agler resigned.

Fisher helped the Los Angeles Lakers win five NBA titles during his 18-season playing career and served as president of the players’ union. He coached the New York Knicks from 2014-2016.

“I’m excited to be the new head coach of the LA Sparks,” Fisher said in a team statement. “There is no finer organization in the WNBA and I can’t wait to work with our ownership group, front office, talented players and staff to cement a culture of sustained excellence, which is what LA basketball fans demand – and deserve.”

The 44-year-old Fisher is the 12th coach in Sparks history.

“Derek is a great basketball mind who brings a ton of high-level experience to our team,” two-time MLP Candace Parker said. “I look forward to working with someone with championship pedigree and who has a track record of strong leadership. Derek has been a strong supporter of women’s basketball for quite some time, so it’s nice to officially welcome him.”

WNBA President Lisa Borders stepping down

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NEW YORK – WNBA President Lisa Borders is stepping down.

The league announced Tuesday she will become the first president and CEO of Time’s Up – an organization dedicated to safe, fair and dignified work for women. Borders says it was fully her decision to leave.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will oversee the WNBA on an interim basis while a search for a successor begins,

Borders joined the league in 2016. She helped the WNBA grow in areas such as live streaming of games on Twitter and the availability of one-day daily fantasy.

Borders is the third executive to leave the league in the last six months. The league is coming off a season in which it had its highest TV ratings in four years. It begins its 23rd season next year.