The Golden State Warriors opened at –7 on the NBA odds board for Thursday’s opener with the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re still 7-point home faves as we go to press.
In a way, it’s fitting that the Golden State Warriors are still 7-point favorites at press time for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. They won the title two years ago, then the Cleveland Cavaliers won it last year, so we’re all even, right? Neither side has taken much of a lead on our consensus reports for Thursday’s opener (9:00 p.m. ET, ABC); there’s a slight lean toward the Cavs ATS in terms of the number of bets laid, but sources in Vegas report that the bigger bets have been landing on the Warriors. Homeostasis!
Well, kind of. There’s been more moneyline action on the Cavaliers at +275 on the NBA odds board, as nearly two-thirds of bettors surveyed like Cleveland to win straight-up at that price. Very interesting indeed. There’s virtually no difference between +275 on the moneyline and +7 ATS, according to Wizard of Odds, so why are more people drawn to betting the Cavs this way?
My purely speculative guess is that it’s public money, and the public is on the Cavaliers in this series. Recreational bettors might not see any value in Cleveland +7 for even money (minus the vig, of course), but they can imagine LeBron James and the Cavs winning SU in a purportedly close matchup. The James Gang did come back from down 3-1 last year, after all.
From a betting perspective, it’s too bad Cleveland isn’t favored in this series. Traditional handicapping rules of thumb say that public bettors overvalue favorites and make underdogs the preferred NBA pick, all other things being equal. But that’s not the case in this series. The public is following the most transcendent superstar, and that’s LeBron James; he’s the +200 favorite at Bovada to win another NBA Finals MVP award.
Why is Kevin Durant vilified? Isn't this how LeBron won his first chips? This is just how the league is now.— Rob Markman (@RobMarkman) May 29, 2017
Here’s the thing: Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are next on that list at +220. Durant was still in Oklahoma City when the Warriors opened last year’s Finals as 6-point home faves. Golden State is a better team with Durant on board, and while the Cavaliers have also improved somewhat with Kyle Korver on the wing, the difference isn’t quite as dramatic. Let’s stick with the Dubs in Game 1, see what happens Thursday night and how the market reacts, and take it from there.