These days in the NBA can be a treacherous one for sports bettors, as some teams are better off losing with better potential Playoffs positioning or higher order in the NBA Draft.
Who, What, Why, Where, When
Seldom do teams in professional sports ever really want to lose, especially in serious world soccer leagues where Relegation can mean almost instant devastation to a club, its fan base and an entire city or town. But in the NBA, where the top four teams in each conference get the top four seeds and get home-court advantage in Round 1, with the seedings of the teams who finish from 5th through 8th depends on Regular Season records, some teams (specifically meaning coaches and coaching staffs of teams destined to make the playoffs) may see certain advantages from finishing at, or lower than their current spot(s) in the NBA standings. Reasons for this are to get and ‘draw’ a more favorable Round 1 opponent, create a theoretically easier Perceived Path through the NBA Playoffs or get one’s team into a better ‘half ‘ of their respective conference’s Playoffs Bracket, something we will look at here in context of the final Regular Season games scheduled for tonight (Tuesday) and Wednesday (April 15), for the two Eastern Conference postseason-destined teams we’re focusing on, using the standings after Monday’s completed games.
The way the current Eastern Conference bracket sits, the one definite spot it seems two teams in this conference—the now No. 3-seeded Chicago Bulls (49-32, +1600 to win Eastern Conference, down from +1800 at the start of this story, Boylesports) and the No. 4-seeded Toronto Raptors (48-32, +3300 to win Eastern Conference, Boylesports)—want to strive for is the No. 4 seed, as that spot will draw the concrete No. 5-seeded Milwaukee Bucks (41-40) in Round 1, still have home-court advantage, and, more importantly, will put that seeded team in the ‘half’ of the Eastern Conference bracket with the No. 1-seeded Atlanta Hawks (60-21) and not LeBron James the No. 2-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29, +275 to win NBA Championship, Betway). Because nobody in Their Right Mind needs to be Mozgov’d until they really have to, after all. The NBA Playoffs are all about Energy Rationing and Survival, and running into the Cavaliers before you (theoretically) really have to is just bad chess.
Bulls and Raptors Realities (Besides Gorging Tourists in Pamplona and Being Extinct)
Even though Chicago went a perfect 4-0 against the Raptors in the Regular Season, should both teams end with identical 50-32 records—meaning both win out from here on in—the Raptors would end up sliding into the No. 3 seed because of their winning of the Atlantic Division. So, the Bulls would need to finish (at least) a game ahead of the Raptors when all is said and done because of this aforementioned tiebreaker, so Toronto losing its last 2 games would serve the same function. But who wants to finish No. 3 this season, brother? Nobody if they’re wise or care about their general health and well-being as Basketballians.
The Raptors have games remaining both tonight (Tuesday), at the 38-42 Boston Celtics (NBA League Pass—Games 1 and 2, 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT; NBA Odds: Celtics -4, Ladbrokes, Total: 208½, BetVictor)—who are currently the No. 7 seed in the East—and on at Home at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in the Regular Season finale against the Charlotte Hornets (33-48, L5, 3-7 L10) on Wednesday night. If the (4-point underdog) Raptors beat the Celtics on Tuesday, they will then (at that point in Time) have an identical record (49-32) as Chicago, meaning it will then take a Bulls loss in their season finale in Chicago against the Hawks to guarantee that Toronto would at worst finish 49-33—the same as the Bulls after their theoretical loss to Atlanta—and therefore ‘win’ the Tiebreaker by virtue of that Atlantic Division crown. Confused? And, if Toronto loses on Tuesday in Beantown to fall to 48-33, the Bulls and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau will already be well aware of the fact of the two seeding potentials and will have to make a conscientious decision—as will Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey—on how he wants to play it. And then again, Thibodeau and Chicago could have already accidentally-intentionally lost to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night to make it a little easier on themselves, but the Bulls kept their I-65 neighbors, the Indiana Pacers (+20,000, 200/1 to win NBA Championship, William Hill) hopes alive, thrashing the Nets, 113-86 to earn the rights to keep their Man Cards. But what to do on Wednesday night, that’s the question.
Conclusions and A Little Spanish
There always seems to be something quirky like this coming down the homestretch in the NBA and avoiding the hottest team with the best player (LeBron James) and the lowest odds to win the NBA Championship as long as humanly possible just seems like the Wise Path. But maybe the red-hot No. 7-seeded Celtics (W4, 7-3 L10) can knock The King off his throne in Round 1 and shock the world and help everyone else in the Eastern Conference out. We’ll see what happens tonight (Tuesday) in Boston with the Raptors and Celtics, but when the Bulls host the Hawks on Wednesday (NBA League Pass—Game 1, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), they—like Toronto for the same exact reason—just might be in a position where they would be better off losing. And, after Monday’s humbling of Brooklyn (baby, baby), Bulls Head Coach Thibodeau said he plans on going with 9 men on his roster for the postseason, so, maybe he plays 3 and lets Benny the Bull run the point in the Regular Season finale, although that would greatly reduce the potential for Free Tacos for the rabid fans.
So, will it be wise for the Chicago Bulls to intentionally-unintentionally lose to the Hawks so that they can potentially face the Hawks somewhere down the line in a theoretical Eastern Conference Semifinal and not get LeBron James and the Cavaliers at that theoretical point? Yes. The answer is definitely yes.Yes, yes. And maybe the bigger problem here, under the glaring spotlight of Closing Night of the NBA Regular Season, will be that the Bulls didn’t already intentionally-unintentionally already lose a game earlier (Nets Monday, wink-wink, nod-nod) to have that No. 4 seed already locked in so they’d already know they wouldn’t (theoretically) have to deal with the rugged Cavaliers earlier on. But, the Raptors are in the same boat.
So, does winning matter you ask? Of course it does. Have you ever seen a happy Lottery loser? But sometimes, not winning (losing) serves the exact same purpose of what your previously thought winning would serve. Now whether or not Los Raptors y Señor Casey or Los Bulls y Señor Thibs decide to actually go out and lose on Tuesday (Toronto Raptor) and Wednesday (Raptors, Bulls) in their respective games as the NBA’s Regular Season rides off into the sunset remains to be seen. But from Chicago’s bullish Point Of View, a potential NBA Playoffs order of the Wizards—Hawks—Cavaliers seems just a little bit more doable and prudent than a potential Bucks—Cavaliers—Hawks route, as Chicago will have two potentially beatable opponents in Rounds 1 and 2 before meeting the now NBA odds betting favorite Cavaliers in a possible Eastern Conference Final in the No 4-seed finishing scenario. We will see. And even though I think the Cavaliers and that dynamite Starting Five could probably get the Bulls in a theoretical and potential 7-game series in either the Eastern Conference Semifinals or Finals, Chicago is feeling good about themselves now with star playmaker Derrick Rose back on the hardwood. And at 16/1 odds (Boylesports) to win the conference, Chicago is just too hard to resist for a moderate-sized Futures NBA picks before the postseason tips off. The Bulls are pretty good and relatively healthy now and definitely won’t be scared of the Hawks or the Cavaliers, should they eventually meet in the NBA Playoffs (begin Saturday, April 18).
NBA FUTURES PICK: Chicago Bulls to win Eastern Conference, 16/1 (Boylesports)