Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 at 1:00 PM
It’s always interesting to track the market when an NBA playoff series switches sites for the first time. The line adjustment gives you a sense of how much oddsmakers and sharps are valuing home court advantage at the respective sites. You also have in the added dynamic of bounce-backs off whatever happened in Game Two…and what the mainstream media perceives as must-win situations for the series underdog.
In the case of the NBA Finals, Golden State’s playoff tendencies for strong road results are also complicating matters. Back in the Houston series…the Warriors were installed as short underdogs in Game Three, before going out to win a 115-80 slaughter. The market adjusted quickly, making them -4 and even -5 at the close in Game Four.
That’s the backdrop for these next two games in Cleveland. The first offshore number up for Game Three was Cleveland -1 (similar to the Houston scenario). Yet, sharps (and many squares) have been betting Golden State since. As I write this, the Warriors are now the favorite -1.5. Clearly bettors remember what happened in Houston! And, the trick for finding the right side involves deciding whether or not Cleveland is better than Houston. Can the Cavaliers do what Houston couldn’t, and win a second game against Golden State?
Game Three: Golden State at Cleveland Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC
Sharps definitely liked Golden State at +1…and then again at pick-em (which was the Vegas opener at most locales). Some Wise Guy money was still coming in at -1. But we are reaching a point where the smart money would swing back the other way. I believe we’d see sharps step in on Cleveland +2 if the market ever goes that high. “Public” Cleveland bettors are pressing up after their Game Two victory…which will probably prevent that from happening.
So, in short…I think we may see a solid line of 1.5 between now and tip-off. Should the line move off that in either direction, sharps would likely push it back to the 1.5.
*The sharp case for Golden State at -1 or better: The Warriors have bounced back very well thus far in the playoffs, as they had through the regular season. Coach Steve Kerr makes smart adjustments. Their shooting (particularly on treys) is due to warm up. Cleveland might have a letdown too given all they had to put on the floor to get that Game Two victory in overtime. I can tell you that a few respected sharp syndicates really loved Golden State at +1 or pick-em, as they envision a peak result based on playoff priors.
*The sharp case for Cleveland at +2 or better: Even if you acknowledge that Golden State is due to improve its performance…home court means something! If Cleveland could take BOTH games to overtime at Oracle…that would suggest they were playing at a higher level than the Warriors. Road ties equate to neutral court victories…and neutral court victories don’t equate to +2 on your own home floor. Those sharps who believe Cleveland has been under-valued thus far in the series would definitely consider +2…and will be looking to come back on the Cavs in Game Four if they lose Game Three.
The Over/Under has seen a dramatic move by oddsmakers, who have been overshooting the mark on Golden State totals all through the postseason. After games posted at 204 and 200.5 stayed Under in regulation (Game Two by 26 points), the opener for Game Three dropped all the way down to 194.5. The fact that there HASN’T been a flood of Over money tells you that the relevant market influences have made serious adjustments about how they perceive scoring in this series. Some quants have invested in the Over for value, which has pushed the line up a tick to 195 at some stores.
Odds to Win the Series
Golden State -240
This was what we were seeing before the NBA Finals started. Even though there was an early split at Oracle, the market still sees Golden State as the clear favorite because they have more depth, a more varied attack, and a proven tendency to close each series strong after less than impressive starts. Golden State had an early split vs. Memphis before closing things out…and were lucky not to split vs. Houston before winning in five games. The market expects Golden State to win at least one of the two games in Cleveland, which would re-take home court advantage for the series.
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Last time I talked about how the buzz in Las Vegas had largely faded when Kyrie Irving was ruled out for the playoffs. It’s definitely back! Cleveland fans are walking tall. Golden State fans are still confident…but starting to tone back their trash talking. This is once again a truly major event in the sports betting capital of the world. If Cleveland can stay competitive…this may be the most actively bet NBA Finals ever.
I’ll see you again midday Thursday with another “sharps” report. Thanks for reading.
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