The NBA is a league known for its limited number of season
outcomes. A new year begins and there are usually four, maybe five teams
with a realistic shot of winning the title.
We’re learning in the LeBron James-Steph Curry era, the number of teams is now only two: The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
The Cavs and Warriors are a combined 19-0 straight up and 12-6-1 against the spread this postseason. Golden State is beating its playoff opponents by an average margin of 17 points per game – the largest point differential through 10 postseason games. Cleveland is 12-0 SU and 9-2-1 ATS in its last 12 playoff contests.
The Warriors’ 36-point win in Game 2 against the Spurs was just the seventh 30-point or larger win in a conference final game since 2007. Cleveland’s point differential was only 14 in Game 1 against the Celtics but that contest was over by halftime.
We looked at all instances over the last 10 years of conference final games decided by 25 or more points and checked to see what happened in the next game of the series. We excluded those blowouts that closed out a series because we’re only interested in seeing how humiliated teams responded in the following game.
The losing team came back to win ATS and SU in six out of the last 10 instances – more specifically Western Conference teams who lost by 25 or more are 6-2 SU and ATS in the next conference finals game since 2007. That trend gives reason for a second look at San Antonio Saturday. But diving deeper into the numbers, basketball bettors have never seen two teams as dominant as Cleveland and Golden State.
Heading into the postseason, it was understood the Dubs and Cavs probably wouldn’t be challenged in the first two rounds, however, the conference finals is normally a time when the competition tends to even out. But after seeing Cleveland wallop Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, there’s an assumption two evenly-matched teams won’t face-off until the finals.
There are still games to bet before that happens and oddsmakers are racking their brains trying to figure out how to set a line that balances the flood of public money coming in on the Cavaliers and Warriors and the sharp action waiting to chomp on a bloated number.
To give you some perspective: the 13.5-point spread in Game 2 of Warriors-Spurs is the largest spread in a conference final game since the 1991 season (as far back as our database goes back). There have only been 12 double-digit spreads in conference final games in the last 26 years and the LeBron Cavaliers and the Steph Warriors account for seven of those 12 instances.
Unless LBJ gets hurt in Game 2 against the Boston Celtics, we’re likely to see another double digit spread when the Cavaliers host the Celtics in Games 3 and 4.
Game 2 of the Cavaliers and the Celtics tips off Friday at 8:30 pm ET with the visiting Cavs giving 5.5 points (O/U 219.5). The Warriors and Spurs resume their series on Saturday with the hosting Spurs getting six points and the total sitting at 212.5.