The NBA Finals are set to begin this Thursday after what felt like an endless delay, particularly in this 24/7 social media cycle that sports fans live in. The only upside behind the week off has been the fact that the players will now be rested and ready to go for Game 1. If the series had started earlier, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving might not have played. For bettors, the NBA Finals is a chance to focus on a single game and squeeze the most profit out of the various lines and prop bets the sportsbooks have to offer. Let's take a closer look at a few NBA Finals wagers, separate the good ones from the bad, in this edition of good bet, bad bet. All odds come from Bovada.
Good Bet : Warriors -5.5 for Game 1
Over the last 11 seasons, Game 1 has been controlled by the home team. During that span the home squad has covered nine of 11 matchups for an 82-percent win rate. The Warriors are a difficult team to prepare for as most of their offense revolves around ball movement and precision shooting, which are two elements that an opposing team simply cannot stop.
Much like San Antonio, the only way to beat Golden State is to play better than Golden State, because they will not make many mistakes. Cleveland will do most of the adjusting in this series, and a Game 1 blowout is probably what is in store. Now, that does not mean the Cavaliers will not win the series, it simply means they will have to make the first adjustment. This is a situation where bettors probably shouldn't over think things. Home teams cover Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Bad Bet : The "Over"
Cleveland has gone "under" in six of 14 matchups during these playoffs, but the big surprise has been Golden State producing a 3-11-1 totals mark and essentially turning into an under team. The Warriors ended the regular season as the best defensive group in the league while also producing a double-digit point differential, which amounts to lower-than-expected totals. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson get most of the attention because of their flashy shooting, but Draymond Green, the lockdown defensive specialist, is the player that drives the squad. Bettors love to go over, but expect slower-paced matchups that turn into a grind in the fourth quarter-Cleveland does not want to run with Golden State.
Good Bet : LeBron James MVP Odds +160
The reason this is a good bet is purely a mathematical exercise. The NBA Finals MVP tends to come from the winning team (the legendary Jerry West is the only player in league history to win the award on a losing squad), and if Cleveland happens to win the title, it's almost impossible that James will not win the award. Kyrie Irving is hobbled, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert do not fill up the box score the way James does, and there is simply little chance anyone else will have a sustain performance over a long series to steal it.
Cleveland is currently a +125 series price dog, so if James is nearly a shoe-in to win the award if the Cavaliers win the title, wouldn't skipping the +125 for +160 be the smarter way to go? Sure, there is a small chance that something goes off script and James does not win the award, but isn't getting a much better payout worth the risk?
Bad Bet : Golden State or Cleveland Sweep
The Warriors and Cavaliers are currently receiving +800 and +1800 odds, respectively, to produce a sweep during the finals. Both are enticing odds, particularly on Golden State, who can be utterly dominant during stretches. However, there has only been one NBA Finals sweep over the last eight years, two over the last 13 and three in the last 20. According to those numbers, a sweep is probably due sometime soon, but don't expect it to come during this series. If the Warriors lose this matchup, it will be in six or seven games, and Cleveland has enough talent to win at least one game against Golden State. Stay away from the sweep prop bets.
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Read more articles by George Monroy
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