NBA betting: Conference finals betting preview
Chris Sheridan previews the final four in the NBA playoffs, as the Celtics take on the Heat and the Mavericks face the Warriors for a place in the Finals.
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Sunday’s secondary heroes are listed as follows:
Grant Williams for NBA Finals MVP: +8000.
Spencer Dinwiddie for the same award: +12000.
Max Strus of Miami, the guy who backed up Jimmy Butler so well, is off the board.
Klay Thompson, who knocked down eight 3-pointers in the Golden State Warriors’ elimination game against Memphis, is +2000.
So if you are in the mood to place your bets on NBA Finals MVP this particular Monday, you have lucrative choices. Yes, it is most likely that Butler, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic or Jayson Tatum will end up getting the award.
Those guys are superstars, and the last non-superstar to win the award was Andre Iguodala back in 2015. Prior to that, the last non-superstar to be named Finals MVP was Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell of the Boston Celtics back in 1981. So a cautionary note is necessary: If you like a longshot, history is not exactly on your side.
That being said, what we are witnessing in the NBA playoffs is extraordinary. Last year’s finalists, Phoenix and Milwaukee, are gone. The four-time Finals MVP, LeBron James, is celebrating Liverpool FC’s victory in the FA Cup, seeing a payoff from a team that he invested in more than a decade ago. The other guys who have won the award over the last six years, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, have gone fishing.
So this is somewhat uncharted and/or unexpected territory as the world takes stock of what happened Sunday, the Bucks losing to the Celtics because they never anticipated Williams being the player who could beat them from 3-point range, and the Phoenix Suns getting embarrassed by the Dallas Mavericks with a 33-point loss at home that may have been DeAndre Ayton’s final home game in Arizona.
The four survivors get back at it beginning Tuesday with Miami hosting Boston as a two-point favorite, and the Western Conference finals beginning Wednesday night in San Francisco with the Warriors a 5.5-point favorite over Dallas.
The Mavs were on the board yesterday (Sunday) at +10000 to win the championship, and you have to imagine that owner Mark Cuban found a way to get a piece of that action prior to Doncic taking apart the Suns almost singlehandedly in the first quarter before Dinwiddie got in on the fun, finally.
What it all means is that we are going to have a new NBA champion, and the trick for gamblers is to find the value the same way that Cuban presumably did, assuming the Mavs are the eventual champion. The longest shot in the final foursome is those very same Mavs, but they are down to +500, while Golden State is favored at +135, Boston is +190 and Miami is +475.
Let’s have a closer look at the two upcoming series:
Boston vs. Miami: The Celtics won the season series 2-1 as the teams played only three times, once way back in November when Jabari Parker, Juancho Hernangomez, Enes Kanter, Bruno Fernando and Dennis Schroeder all got playing time for the team in green and Duncan Robinson was still in Miami’s starting five.
Boston won by 30 at home on Jan. 31 as Butler was out with a toe injury, P.J. Tucker had a knee issue and Kyle Lowry was out for personal reasons. In the final meeting on March 30, Miami won 106-98 as the Heat outscored Boston 27-15 over the final 12 minutes to retake first place in the conference, where they remained for the remainder of the regular season.
Butler will be the focus of the Celtics’ No. 1 defense, and the line they will try to hold him under is 30.0 points per game after he reached that number five times in the Heat’s 10 playoff games. Where Miami gets its secondary scoring is a mystery, as nobody on the Heat is even averaging 15.0 points, with Bam Adebayo closest at 14.7 points per game and Tyler Herro behind him at 13.8, and Strus now fourth at 12.5.
The Heat have gone under in nine of their 11 playoff games, and the Game 1 line of 206 is especially low by historical standards (in Game 1 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals, the Bucks and Hawks combined for 229 points, and in the six-game series they were only under 200 combined points once).
Boston has stayed under in seven of 10 playoff games, and with both of these coaches, Erik Spoelstra and Ime Udoka, so defensive-minded we should not be surprised to see an under/under line in the 190s by the time this thing is finished playing out.
The most lucrative line out there is the exact series score, with the longest odds on Miami posting a 4-0 sweep at +2200. The price on the Celtics in a sweep is +700, so the oddsmakers firmly believe that despite where they finished during the regular season, Boston is the better team. We shall see.
Dallas vs. Golden State: From the looks of things going into this series, we are going to rejoice every other night at the night of two teams that actually can score points! The over/under on Game 1 of this series is 215.5, which seems extraordinarily low for a game involving the Warriors, the best outside shooting team remaining… maybe. Because the thing is this: When Doncic is drawing multiple defenders toward him, the Mavs have a half-dozen guys who can knock down 3s, and Jason Kidd has emphasized that shot more than any coach this side of… Steve Kerr.
The Mavs were 19-of-39 from deep in the closeout blowout win over the Suns, and their 3-point lines in the other six games were 16-of-39, 8-for-32, 9-for-25, 13-for-39, 17-for-41 and 16-for-39. So, yeah, we should expect them to take something in the 39 attempts range.
The Warriors are similar, and against Memphis they went (in descending order beginning with Game 6) 20-for-53, 14-for-39, 9-for-37, 17-for-32, 7-for-38 and 14-for-38. The 20 made 3s in the closeout win over the Grizzlies is the number we should focus on, because that happened at home and that happened after the Dubs were embarrassed in Memphis and decided to slip the on/off switch back on. The core of the Warriors team is extraordinarily experienced playing at this late stage of the postseason, and that should count for a lot against a Dallas team that is this deep in the playoffs for the first time since Dirk Nowitzki was playing.
But Phoenix was experienced, too, and what happened to them Sunday at home was beyond belief. But that is the type of thing that can happen when Doncic gets it going, and the No. 1 factor in this series is whether the superstar torch is going to be passed from Curry to Doncic. Everything else is secondary.
With that being said, Golden State can get prolific performances from a healthy Thompson and a motivated Draymond Green and the player who has stepped out of the shadows most for them this postseason, Jordan Poole.
For Dallas, that secondary player can come from Dorian Finney-Smith, Reggie Bullock, Maxi Kleber or Dinwiddie, and all are capable of getting super-hot from 3-point range, which again makes the over/under number for Game 1 curious. There were 10 Warriors games this season with an over/under lower than 215.5, and the under hit in nine of those, which should be viewed as a cautionary tale for those who believe the over is destined to hit. Then again, Dallas, had over/unders lower than 215.5 on 47 occasions, and the over hit in just 20 of those. So the team that dictates pace should dictate whether the over or the under hits, and that will be one of the first things to watch for when this series begins Wednesday night.
The season series went to the Mavs 3-1, with Doncic scoring 26, 25, 34 and 41, finishing one assist shy of a triple-double in the final meeting March 3 in Dallas. That edge is not reflected in the Game 1 line of Golden State -5, in large part because Klay Thompson played in only one of the games, the final one when Dallas rallied from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win.
That makes Thompson the leading candidate to be the f-factor, but as we saw with Boston’s Williams on Sunday, you can never be quite sure. That is why people are talking about Poole parties this postseason, and the reason why Dinwiddie is still playing and Devin Booker and Chris Paul are not is because Dinwiddie finally got going Sunday and dropped 30 to back up Doncic’s 35.
Doncic had only four assists Sunday, and his last triple-double was back on March 29, which should make his prop line for a triple-double longer than what it was in the last series, usually about +450. Green is Golden State’s main triple-double threat but has not had one since Dec. 20, which was his only one of the season. He has been on the board at about +1200 for triple-doubles throughout this postseason, and again, that line should be longer in this series, though it remains to be seen if the books will try to tempt gamblers with that one.
Because of the Mavs’ 3-1 season series victory, this series should be considered a tossup. But the experience factor is influencing both bettors and the books, and the longest series correct score line out there is Dallas in a 4-0 sweep, which is +2500. Dallas winning in 7 games is the same price as Golden State in a sweep, +700, and the reading here is that the Mavs are not being taken seriously enough. Pretty much the entire country of Slovenia agrees, but not many others do outside of central Texas. Again, we shall see. Looks like a very interesting, very divergent NBA final four.