NBA Picks: Are Game 3 Opening Lines Correct & How Sharp is Early Money?

Jason Lake

Monday, June 8, 2015 6:34 PM UTC

Monday, Jun. 8, 2015 6:34 PM UTC

The Cleveland Cavaliers opened as 1-point home favorites on the NBA odds board for Game 3 of the NBA Finals. That was a little too pricey for early-bird bettors.

Jason’s record as of June 8: 81-84-5 ATS, 21-23 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-4 Series (plus-2.0 units)

We've all had one of those days. You try to get anything done, no matter how big or how small, and it blows up in your face. Stephen Curry had one of those days on Sunday. Curry shot 5-for-23 in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, and his Golden State Warriors ended up losing 95-93 in overtime to the Cleveland Cavaliers (+7.5 away). The league's reigning MVP also committed six turnovers. These things happen.

Shortly afterward, the Cavaliers opened as 1-point home favorites for Tuesday's Game 3 (9:00 p.m. ET, ABC). Seems reasonable enough. But it didn't take long for the basketball odds to shift back toward Golden State. Our early consensus reports show roughly 60 percent support for the Warriors, pushing them to –1 as we go to press.


Golden State Steamer
It's not an insignificant line move. Every half-point counts when you're making your NBA picks, but let's not worry too much about the books in this case – there's a lot more action still to fall on this game, and the line will no doubt face continued pressure as we get closer to tip-off.

We expect plenty of that action to fall on Cleveland's side. For casual fans who want LeBron James and the Cavs to succeed, their unlikely victory in Game 2 will inspire more bets for Game 3. These bettors won't be thinking much about the circumstances behind Sunday's win, like how Curry shot 1-for-9 on uncontested shots, or how James needed 35 attempts to get his 39 points.

The Hero's Journey
We'll talk more about those performances later when we're making our basketball picks for Game 3. For now, let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture. These are the NBA Finals – as big as professional basketball gets. And with King James back in Cleveland trying to will his team to a title, the numbers have gone through the roof. Game 2 of this year's Finals posted a 12.9 overnight rating, up 26 percent from last year's Game 2. That 12.9 was while Game of Thrones and the Tony Awards were on elsewhere.

We could joke that the boringly-efficient San Antonio Spurs are ratings poison compared to the run-and-gun Warriors, but we suspect the extra 26 percent is made up mostly of viewers who came to see LeBron earn his “redemption” and cement his “legacy” by leading the Cavs to their first title. This has been not just the overarching narrative of the NBA Finals, but of the entire 2014-15 NBA season. Hollywood couldn't have written a better script.


King of Sawft Style
This is why we love betting on the NBA Finals so much here at the home office. The more casual fans who come into the marketplace and plunk their spare change on the Cavaliers, even if it's just a few dollars here and there, the more valuable the Warriors become as a contrary bet. In theory, we could ignore everything else about this series and just fade the public. The NBA betting odds market is that soft.

In theory. In practice, of course we want to look at as many aspects of Game 3 as we can, within the limits of our time and our understanding. But our best launching point for approaching this game, and the rest of the NBA Finals, is from the “sharp/square” betting dynamic in the marketplace. The fact that the early money is on the Warriors just reinforces this dynamic. We keep saying it because it's usually true: Early money is sharp money. Let's see if Cleveland ends up being the favorite again by tip-off.

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