In addition to the storylines of LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors’ quest to complete their record-setting season with a championship, the 2016 NBA Finals should be interesting from a gambling perspective. The Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are accustomed to being favored in every game, but the two teams should take turns as underdogs in the upcoming series.
Cleveland is in a rather unfamiliar position entering Game 1. They are underdogs in the series, and are getting 6.0 points in their visit to Oracle Arena. The Cavs had been favored in all 14 of their playoff games.
According to betting site OddsShark, the Cavs have just a 3-10 record against the spread in their last 13 games when they are underdogs by at least 5.5 points. Such a statistic doesn't bode well for Tyronn Lue's squad, as they hope to overachieve in a game that may set the tone for the series. The Warriors are a far tougher test than the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors, with the Cavs thumping their Eastern Conference foes by double digits in nine of their 12 wins.
Golden State will likely be road underdogs when they visit Cleveland for Games 3 and 4, with the Cavs owning a 7-3 record against the spread in their last 10 home games. The Warriors have been favored in every postseason contest except for Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, having been blown out in their two previous games at Oklahoma City. The Warriors beat the Thunder by seven points as two-point underdogs.
The Warriors have a strong record at home in their last 12 games, winning 11 times and beating the spread 10 times in that span. However, they did have a hiccup in Game 1 of the conference finals as 7.5-point favorites, and Cleveland is looking to pull off a similar upset Thursday night.
If the conference finals are any indication of what to expect in the finals, the favorite should be able to cover the spread in victory.
Eastern Conference Finals
Game 1: Cleveland over Toronto, 115-84 (Cavaliers Cover, Under)
Game 2: Cleveland over Toronto, 108-89 (Cavaliers Cover, Under)
Game 3: Toronto over Cleveland, 99-84 (Raptors Cover, Under)
Game 4: Toronto over Cleveland, 105-99 (Raptors Cover, Under)
Game 5: Cleveland over Toronto, 116-78 (Cavaliers Cover, Under)
Game 6: Cleveland over Toronto, 113-87 (Cavaliers Cover, Over)
Western Conference Finals
Game 1: Oklahoma City over Golden State, 108-102 (Thunder Cover, Under)
Game 2: Golden State over Oklahoma City, 118-91 (Warriors Cover, Under)
Game 3: Oklahoma City over Golden State, 133-105 (Thunder Cover, Over)
Game 4: Oklahoma City over Golden State, 118-94 (Thunder Cover, Under)
Game 5: Golden State over Oklahoma City, 120-111 (Warriors Cover, Over)
Game 6: Golden State over Oklahoma City, 108-101 (Warriors Cover, Under)
Game 7: Golden State over Oklahoma City, 96-88 (Warriors Cover, Under)
The biggest difference between the two conference finals was the pace of the games. In the East, the Cavaliers held the Raptors below the century mark in all but one game, and the contests routinely finished below the projected total of close to 200 points. The Warriors and Thunder combined to score more than 200 points almost every night.
Golden State had the NBA’s best offense in the regular season, and while Cleveland ranked fourth, the Cavs became even more proficient at scoring when Lue replaced David Blatt as the team’s head coach. But Cleveland’s defense has been better than expected in the playoffs, something that could affect the over/under in upcoming series.
Cleveland is 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against Golden State, and they’ve failed to cover the spread in four of their last six road games. The Warriors are 13-6 against the spread in their last 19 games, and the total has gone under in five of Golden State’s last seven games.
The Warriors enter the finals as 1/2 favorites to win the title, while the Cavs have 17/10 betting odds.