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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Yes, there’s a lot of basketball yet to be played in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. But, that only involves teams who won’t have much of a chance to win in their conference finals!

Whoever survives Houston/San Antonio is clearly good enough to be “championship caliber” in most seasons based on their production and Power Ratings. But, that survivor will be a prohibitive underdog to a well-rested and healthy Golden State Warriors squad.

Whoever survives Boston/Washington will be a physically drained team that’s lucky to be in the inferior conference! Would Washington have even made the playoffs if they had to play a grueling Western schedule? Respected Power Ratings make that a borderline call. Boston is built to thrive in the regular season, outsmarting and out-hustling opponents who are coasting through the grind. The Celtics might have lost to #8 seed Chicago in the first round if Rajon Rondo hadn’t been injured. It’s far from a sure thing the top seed will wiggle past Washington.

Cleveland, in its current form, will CRUSH that survivor even worse than they just dominated Toronto.

For now, you have to assume that it’s going to be Golden State/Cleveland in the Finals. Each team could weather a key injury (except to LeBron James) and still make it. The markets are already pricing this scenario as a virtual lock.

In fact, the markets are already pricing the Finals! Golden State is around -280 vs. the field to win the trophy this season. The “field” is assumed to be mostly Cleveland, with a hint of San Antonio in the pricing. Barring injuries or other surprises, the Warriors will be priced near that head-to-head with the Cavs in a couple of weeks.

How does the series break down?

DEFENSE: you regulars know we always emphasize this stat. Golden State was MUCH better than Cleveland during the regular season on the defensive side of the floor. Even when the Cavs flick that switch for playoff mode, they don’t rise up to where Golden State always is. More intensity, more depth. Golden State is the superior defensive team.

REBOUNDING: Hey, “defense and rebounding wins championships!” Golden State was about 10 spots better in the league rankings in rebound rate during the regular season. Both teams have a knack for lifting this element in the postseason. You just saw the Warriors dominate the Jazz on the boards even though Utah was #3 in the league off the glass heading into the playoffs. Edge to Golden State, though the Cavs are better than they’re given credit for when in playoff mode.

OFFENSE: Wow…Golden State has the ultimate “modern” offense that emphasizes pace, three-point shooting, and challenging opposing defenses to chase down all the truly dangerous scoring threats. Cleveland has the ultimate “modern superstar” in LeBron James, who has taken what Michael Jordan accomplished and lifted it with more physicality and sheer force. These aren’t just great offenses, these are historically unstoppable offenses because of schematic and superstar-power. Tough call. Cleveland only garners an edge if LeBron draws a lot of fouls in a slower-paced series. Golden State gets the clear edge if the teams settle into a faster pace.

You can see why Golden State is almost a 3-1 favorite over the field. They grade out well against their biggest threat. But, it has to be said that Cleveland could be the “value” side at the market price or on a game-by-game basis. Golden State might be laying 1-2 points too many. Maybe Golden State should only be -200 instead of -280. Smart bettors look for VALUE.

We’ll have to wait a bit to see what the game-by-game lines are going to look like. We will give you this early heads up that PACE will likely be the deciding factor. Cleveland beat short-handed Golden State last year by letting LeBron James control the flow in a halfcourt battle. Cleveland sure doesn’t want to run with the Warriors, they don’t have the defensive depth…and they REALLY can’t let LeBron develop tired legs or his perimeter game will disappear.

Between now and the finals, LET’S GET THE MONEY through the rest of San Antonio/Houston and Boston/Washington. There’s also plenty of baseball on the nightly card. Purchase BIG, JUICY WINNERS in basketball and baseball right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, please call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about longterm packages that will take you through the NBA Playoffs, the MLB All-Star Break, or all of baseball through the World Series.

Smart bettors plan ahead. These early sweeps by both the Cavs and Warriors have created an opportunity for YOU to plan ahead with your legal sports betting strategies. If you’d like some help, never forget that when CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE ON THE LINE, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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