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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 1:00 PM

While the Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the 2018 NBA Championship, sports bettors like you and me are more worried about who's going to be covering point spreads...whether it's a four-game laugher or a seven-game thriller.

How do we go about doing that? You students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping have already done intensive work throughout the regular season and playoffs to get ready. I'm sure you have some ideas about Game One. What I want to talk to you today about involves the ability to read and react as the series progresses. While it's important to trust your reads after you've done your homework, you must stay open-minded about potential monkey wrenches.

*Everyone agrees that Golden State is the much superior team top-to-bottom. What if that makes the Warriors so overconfident that they don't bring peak intensity? The Warriors are prone to fall into that trap at least once each series, as we saw in bad losses to Golden State, New Orleans, and Houston. If Golden State is "supposed" to win home games by a dozen, and road games by about five or six...but they come in arrogant and sloppy...then Cleveland is going to offer point spread (and maybe even money line) value more often than not.

*On the other hand, what if Cleveland's role players decide they have no chance to compete, and start making early vacation plans? I've studied the mindset of those guys, and this wouldn't surprise me at all. LeBron will do what he can for as long as he can. But, if he's not getting support from his teammates, this could get nasty quickly and end up with four Golden State blowouts that wrap the series up in four or five games. Cleveland's losses to Boston were by 25, 13, and 13 points. Golden State's a lot better than Boston. (And, the fact that the media is starting to become obsessed with where LeBron will end up NEXT year can't help the Cavs' mindset.)

Your homework from Thursday night through the series is to study body language of the players while you're watching the games, and to study the following key stats for evaluating attitude and hustle.

PACE: Golden State loves to run the ball, while Cleveland prefers to slow games way down to take advantage of LeBron James' abilities in the half court. If Cleveland throws in the towel, then Golden State will run and gun to its heart's content. If Golden State slacks off, then Cleveland will shorten the game and hang within striking distance. Watching the flow of the game during the telecasts than counting up possessions in boxscores will give you a very good read on team attitude quarter-by-quarter and game-by-game. It's possible that pace factor by itself will be all you need to evaluate team commitment.

REBOUNDING: the team that cares more about a series almost invariably wins the battle of the boards. I will add that in a case of a big favorite, the fact that an underdog can keep rebounding differential even is enough to cover point spreads. If Golden State owns the glass, this will be a short series with current point spreads either being accurate or too low. If Cleveland can at least hold its own, the Cavaliers will be the money team at these prices. The combination of Cleveland playing tough on the boards in "slow" games could make things very interesting.

GUARDING THE ARC: this one particular element has become very important of late. Disinterested defenses allow way too many open looks from long range (Golden State got arrogant, but was lucky the Rockets couldn't hit a trey to save their lives). Aggressive defenses deny open looks and force up bad shots. During telecasts, keep a running log of how many three-point attempts are guarded or unguarded. When reading boxscores, think about three-point "defense" rather than three-point "offense."

It's a shame the series is so drawn out at the beginning. The first three games are Thursday, Sunday, and Wednesday. Bad news for gamblers who already have a good read. But, that extra time does give you a chance to reflect and learn on the fly if needed. Might as well take advantage of it if it's there.

I have my plans in place. You long time customers know that I often have 100-unit or 200-unit Game of the Year caliber selections when championships are on the line. Many of you do-it-yourselfers will have your own ideas. But, if you'd like additional assistance, KELSO STURGEON'S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the office by calling office at 1-800-755-2255 during normal business hours. I do have great rates for extended packages that go through the NBA Finals, the MLB all-star break, or the full baseball season.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance. We'll continue to have two classes per week through the summer, which will let us pursue baseball aggressively while getting ready for college and pro football. Our next get-together will be Monday, and is scheduled for baseball. We'll pick up again with the NBA on Friday of next week, with three games in the rearview mirror and a fourth about to tip off. Thanks for your hard work! See you Monday.

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