NBA Finals Matchups
by Trevor Whenham - 05/29/2008
As the conference finals have progressed in the NBA it has seemed more and more likely that the Celtics and the Lakers will meet for the big prize. That seems like a blast from the past, and it's a marketing dream for the league, but is it the best possible outcome for bettors? Here's a look at the four possible NBA finals matchups to see which you should be cheering for if you are hoping to make some money in the first couple of weeks in June.
1. Boston and San Antonio - This is definitely not the best choice for fans. Anyone who watches a significant amount of San Antonio action is in sudden and instant risk of slipping into a coma. This one hits the top of the list for bettors, though, because it features the promise of what bettors most value - predictability. Each team has only failed to win just once at home during the playoffs. Each team has only won once on the road. That means you could bet on the home team, put your betting on cruise control, and get an early start working on your tan. The Celtics in seven would seem like the obvious outcome, and you don't even have to think about it. Or maybe it's not that easy. When the two teams met in Boston the Celtics won and covered the spread. So far so good. Unfortunately, the same thing happened when the teams met in San Antonio. So much for cruise control. It gets even muddier when you consider that the Celtics seem to be playing better than San Antonio. The Celtics have won four of six, while the Spurs have won just one of their last four and have resorted to whining about missed calls instead of focusing on actually shutting down Kobe. Still, this is the matchup that has the best chance to go to form, so it is the best possible outcome. It's not likely to happen, but we could hope.
2. Boston and L.A. - Since this is the most likely to happen, we might as well go into it with a positive attitude. I put this one at this point on the list because there is a decent chance that it could go in a way that is opposite to the public's expectations. That's always good. The Lakers would likely be a heavy public favorite. They have the glitz and glamour, and they come from the much-respected Western Conference. There's one thing, though - Boston beat the Lakers twice this year. Handily. They won by 13 in Boston, and 19 in Los Angeles. There is a major proviso, of course - Pau Gasol hadn't moved west yet when either game was played. Still, a couple of things were notable. Kobe Bryant was held below his season average in both games, and was particularly well contained in the second game. Second, the players who matter for Boston were able to do their thing. Kevin Garnett was solid in both games, and Paul Pierce had an outstanding night in the second game. The Celtics would probably be an underlay in this series, and there is at least some reason to think that they would be an attractive one.
3. Detroit and San Antonio - This is another case where the Western Conference team would probably be favored in the public perception, but the Eastern team would match up reasonably well. The teams played twice during the season, and Detroit won both of them. The most recent Pistons' victory came towards the end of the season, and the teams were mostly both at full strength, so it is a reasonable indicator of what could happen. The most interesting outcome of the games involved Chauncey Billups. He's banged up and likely won't be at full capacity if his team can make it to the finals. He didn't have particularly good games either time against the Spurs, though, and his team still came out ahead. That's another reason to think that this one might not be as one-sided as the public might think it will be.
4. Detroit and L.A. - This is the least attractive series because the teams are the hardest to figure out. During the season the teams split their two games. Ironically, Kobe Bryant was very good in the loss, and less than his best in the win. Neither game included Gasol, so things have obviously changed a bit. The other reason not to like this matchup is more current, though. The Lakers are 9-4 ATS so far in the playoffs, and the Pistons are 10-6 ATS. These are the two strongest ATS teams right now, and they are the two teams that can probably cause each other the most problems in a series, so from a betting perspective I have very little interest in seeing them play.