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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Las Vegas continues to buzz with excitement about the NBA Championships that begin Thursday night. California teams usually have a strong following at Nevada sportsbooks…particularly when a team is playing for a championship. You should have seen all the Lakers fans come out of the woodwork during Kobe Bryant’s best years. Golden State is new to the championship picture. But, the San Francisco 49ers might as well be a home team here when they’re winning. “Locals” have already adopted the Warriors.

That being said, the public also loves to bet on LeBron James…so Cleveland is getting a lot of betting support too. In fact, some media reports are suggesting that the Cavs are getting the bulk of “series price” betting because people can’t believe they’re getting 2-1 on LeBron’s team. They’re also hearing a lot of TV pundits taking the Cavs, which is driving that money as well.

So, we’re going to have a heavily bet series, at least as long as it’s interesting. Some Warriors fans are still calling for a sweep! Let me tell you how the Dean of Sports Handicapping thinks you should handicap this series.

*First, pay attention to DEFENSE. I know I usually talk about PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS as a top priority. But, there are no secrets there any more. These teams have been on TV for weeks. Everyone knows who scores points for both teams. YOU need to focus on defense. Be aware that:

Golden State has the best per-possession defense in the NBA

Cleveland has greatly improved its defensive intensity in the playoffs

I strongly believe that the straight up and pointspread winners in this series will come down to which defense does the best job of disrupting what the opposing offense is trying to do. I’m not always in the “defense wins championships” group. But, in this case, it seems to be the most overlooked element in the marketplace. Too many bettors don’t realize Golden State actually has a great defense. And, too many numbers guys aren’t giving Cleveland enough credit for their recent improvement.

*Second, pay attention to fatigue. I think the biggest strike against Cleveland is that too few people are doing too much of the work. After a long layoff, that probably won’t matter right away. And, because Game Two isn’t until Sunday, it may not even matter until next week! But, on Tuesday, Thursday, and then possibly a final Tuesday if the series goes the distance, it’s going to be very hard for the Cavs to maintain high levels of play in the spots where there’s only one day off between games.

Watch the games with a sharp eye, study minute allocations in the boxscores, and try to anticipate when freshness or fatigue is likely to matter most. Unless Golden State just blows Cleveland out of the water right away…this is likely to become an important issue.

*Third, pay attention to Golden State’s focus. That team has a tendency to get way too overconfident when things are going well. They lost two games to Memphis, and had to sweat a lot more vs. Houston than they had anticipated. As great as the Warriors look when things are going well, they actually have a losing record ATS so far (7-8) because they lose focus and get sloppy.

It’s fair to say that I think the games Cleveland covers will be keyed by their freshness vs. Golden State’s overconfidence…and the games Golden State covers will be keyed by their focus vs. late game or overall fatigue issues for the Cavs.

TV coverage is going to focus on LeBron James, Steph Curry, and whoever happens to be making three-pointers on any given day. The ebb and flow of this series…which is where handicappers make their money in the NBA Playoffs, will be much more dramatically shaped in my view by the issues I’ve laid out for you today.

If you’d like some help finding the best betting options in every game of the NBA Finals, you can purchase those right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Call during normal business hours any weekday, and be sure to ask about combination packages that include both the NBA Finals and daily Major League Baseball.

I’ll be back with you again early next week for another class here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. I haven’t yet decided if that will be a basketball report…reading and reacting to the first two games of the Finals…or a baseball discussion. I think we’re most likely going to be reviewing the first two games from Oracle, as we look ahead to Games 3-4-5 on Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday of next week. I think the biggest strength of our coursework is that we stay so tightly connected to real world sports betting developments.

Thanks very much for your attendance and attention. Enjoy the basketball and all of this huge multi-faceted sports weekend. I look forward to seeing you again next week.

Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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