Nobody flinched when Michael Jordan’s Bulls or Magic Johnson’s Lakers were big favorites to win individual playoff games or sweep through playoff series. As good as LeBron James has been, his Heat team last year was a slight underdog against the Spurs in the NBA Finals. When you have to lay a lot of points to bet on a dynasty, nobody flinches. So what is it about this year’s Golden State Warriors?
They led the NBA in wins, and Steph Curry was named MVP, but a roster that has never been to the Western Conference finals is not only the favorite to beat Houston, but an overwhelming choice to win decisively.
Much like they were during home playoff games against New Orleans and Memphis, the Warriors are double-digit favorites over the Rockets in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series. Golden State is more than an 1/8 favorite to win the series, and you get nearly 3/2 by betting on the field, not the Warriors, to capture the NBA Title. When Memphis evened their series with the Warriors at one game apiece in the Western quarterfinals, sportsbooks made Golden State winning the series in five games, the favorite over any other result. After Memphis won Game 3 to take a two-games-to-one lead, the Warriors were still 1/2 favorites to win the series.
What sportsbooks like so much about Golden State is the fact they are not one-dimensional. During the regular season the Warriors tallied 110 points a game, three more than any other team in the NBA. At the same time, opponents shot just 42.8-percent against the Warriors, the top defense in the league. While allowing offensive rebounds has been an issue for the Warriors in the playoffs, during the regular season they were 12th in the league in rebound margin. One weakness was Golden State’s turnover margin, among the worst in the association, but that is negated by the second best assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA, and top five rankings in steals and blocked shots.
The Warriors beat the Rockets all four times they met during the regular season, though Dwight Howard missed two of the contests because of injuries. Golden State’s wins over Houston came by scores of 98-87, 105-93, 131-106, and 126-113.
Thus far in the playoffs, the Warriors have averaged 105.4 points a game in wins, and 89.5 points in losses. The Rockets have netted 116.6 points a game in victories and 101 in setbacks. The spread for Game 1 in Oakland is Golden State by ten with an over/under of 219.
It is hard to see how the Rockets are going to win the series, but laying 1/8 to support Golden State is not a good investment: what if Curry gets injured? Therefore, if we take for granted that the Warriors are going to be in the finals, how do they match-up with Cleveland or Atlanta?
Golden State split two battles with both finalists in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs are a 2/1 favorite to win their series over Atlanta yet you can get 3/1 on Cleveland winning the title. Better yet, if you like the Hawks to come out of the East, they are 9/1 to hang a banner. Furthermore, if you dismiss Houston entirely, picking the exact result of the finals, Cleveland over Golden State for example is nearly 4/1, and Atlanta knocking off the Warriors is more than 12/1.
The ship has sailed on betting the Warriors. They are very big favorites, and perhaps deserve to be. However, the projected series line on Golden State vs. Cleveland is about 2/1, and the Warriors and Hawks is roughly 4/1. If you have a strong feeling about who comes out of the East, betting on them now to give Golden State a run for their money can more than double your winnings and certainly provides a lot of betting value.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)