Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at 12:00 PM
Lost in the shuffle amidst all the media complaining about blowouts, and how some teams look great one night but horrible the next...is the reality that the market has been overpricing Over/Unders so far in both the Eastern and Western Conference championships in the NBA.
Game One stayed Under 204 with a scoring sum of 191
Game Two stayed Under 205.5 with a scoring sum of 201
Game Three stayed Under 207 with a scoring sum of 202
Game Four went Over 204 with a scoring sum of 213
Game One stayed Under 225.5 with a scoring sum of 225
Game Two went Over 225 with a scoring sum of 232
Game Three stayed Under 226.5 with a scoring sum of 211
Game Four stayed Under 227.5 with a scoring sum of 187
We didn't see an Over in Cleveland/Boston until the fourth game, and that took a surprisingly fast pace to get there (about 99 possessions per team instead of what had been a standard 93 in that series). The only Over out West was back in the second game, with scoring falling off a cliff since then. And, that's with the market lifting Game Four when it was learned that defensive stalwart Andre Igoudala was going to miss the game. Sharps bet Over and the game stayed Under by 40 points! (Note that G4 was the slowest game pace-wise of the Western series...in fact, it was slower at 91 possessions per team than any other game in either series.)
That's 75% for Unders in both matchups, and for the conference finals round as a whole. This is historically odd because the general rule had been that you see Overs early before the Unders hit late when games slow way down, teams play more intense defense, and referees swallow their whistles. Casual basketball with some pace to it in the first few games. Wrestling in the mud once the season felt like it was hanging on every possession.
Are we going to end up around 80% Unders because it's about to get ugly? Or, will the market start knocking it's totals down to an area that does a better job of reflecting reality?
For now, we have this:
Boston/Cleveland: average of 201.75, midpoints of 201-202
Houston/Golden State: average of 213.75, midpoints of 211-225
Totals handicappers are very much at the mercy of coaching decisions that influence pace. So, it's dangerous to ONLY look at math when trying to find BIG, JUICY WINNERS. The math by itself suggests 202 is a good number for Celtics/Cavs assuming "normal" pace...possibly lower if crunch time brings an increase in defense and a decrease in free throw attempts. Game Four wasn't "normal," which may be an outlier or a sign of a change in tactics.
Out West, something in the 218-219 range looks best. Though, if Houston is going to continue playing intense defense while slowing down the pace...that could still be too high.
All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that reality will shade to the Under moving forward. Tough in 2-2 series for teams to STOP playing defense. And, it's tough to play run-and-gun basketball when so much is at stake. Officiating is the main monkey wrench right now. If officials want camera time, Under bettors will have to sweat marches to the free throw line.
These aren't official selections. Just stat-related notes for those of you who like considering totals. The final word every day comes from long time PROVEN WINNER JIM HURLEY. He and his NETWORK of experts are coming off a big outright winner Tuesday night on the Houston Rockets (+8.5) in their 95-92 shocker at Golden State. Big plays will continue all the way through the final game of the championship round.
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