Intriguing Plots in Conference Finals Are Just Getting Started

Doug Upstone

Thursday, May 17, 2018 5:30 PM UTC

Thursday, May. 17, 2018 5:30 PM UTC

The NBA is taking a scheduled break so the playoffs can last even longer than necessary. This allows time to examine where we are and look toward the rest of the conference finals.

Houston salvaged their playoff run with a Game 2 blowout of Golden State, while Cleveland has their back against the proverbial wall, down 0-2 in their series with Boston. The series betting odds have changed dramatically in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. Part of this is how each series has played out and venue changes going into Game 3.

Eastern Conference Analysis

How the series started and the current numbers at BetOnline:

Opening: Cleveland -250, Boston +230
Current: Boston -220, Cleveland +190

The Celtics have not had a problem guarding, holding Cleveland to 83 and 94 points in the first two games. What Boston has brilliantly done is contain the Cavaliers' three-point shooting and really flustered them on defense. The Cavs on the season averaged a dozen made 3's per contest and thus far they have 14. Granted, that will change when they get back on their home court, and for as outstanding as the Celtics have played, they are 1-4 SU and ATS in the postseason.

In thinking reflectively, in many ways Boston is the worst playoff matchup for Cleveland. Brad Stevens' guys have been far more consistent in permitting 100.2 points a contest. With the Cavaliers really not a solid defensive team, the Celtics' ball movement and relentless style have made Cleveland look old and tired at times. And nothing was more clear then Terry Rozier catching a pass on the right side of the court by himself behind the arc and draining a three-pointer in the fourth quarter of Game 2, with not one Cavs player even making an effort to get a hand up.

Can Cleveland win the next two games at home and turn this into a series? Yes. Would I take the Cavaliers today for my NBA picks at +190 to win the series? Definitely not.

Western Conference Analysis

How the series started and the current numbers at BetOnline:

Opening: Golden State -195, Houston +175
Current: Golden State -285, Houston +240

After losing by 22 at Houston in Game 2, it's easy to lose sight that Golden State actually accomplished mostly what they wanted in earning a road split. With three of most likely next four contests in Oakland, the Warriors' odds have risen.

Though these are highly paid professionals, the fact is they are humans. In the first two battles of the West Finals, focus and desire have been the two elements which mattered most in victories.

Golden State was locked for Game 1 and took control in the second half. Other than James Harden, the Rockets were not cohesive and lacked aggression. On Wednesday night, the Warriors were lackadaisical, committing five turnovers in the first six minutes, while the Rockets looked like they each had two cans of Nos right before tip-off and were super amped.

As opposed to Game 3, I'm looking at Game 4 as key to this series. If either team has a 3-1 lead after four confrontations, the series is over. If the series is tied at 2, Houston would have homecourt edge, but the Warriors have the experience margin.

Point/Counterpoint between Doug Upstone and Swinging Johnson -- opposing views of each conference finals series -- resumes Friday with previews of Celtics-Cavaliers Game 3.

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