The Los Angeles Lakers are in the playoffs and the sportsbooks couldn't be happier. Now, all they need is for L.A. to fizzle out and lose in the first round.
Many books, both in Nevada and online, opened betting on the Lakers’ playoff chances back in January when the team was mired in a nasty six-game losing skid. Oddsmakers posted the prop, “Will the Lakers make the playoffs?” with both “Yes” and “No” priced at -110. However, doubters quickly bet up “No” as high as -250.
Los Angeles overcame those odds Wednesday night, not only making the postseason cut but earning the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference with a thrilling 99-95 overtime victory against the Houston Rockets. That result brought in a nice pre-playoff payday for sportsbooks on one of the most popular prop bets they can recall.
“We did well with the Lakers playoff prop. It was the most handle on a single prop I can remember ever generating,” says Jeff Sherman, assistant manager at the LVH Superbook in Las Vegas, told Covers. “With them coming from behind to get in, the public had mostly supported the “No” since we put it up in mid January.”
While books were cheering for L.A. to make the playoffs, the mood will be much different for its first-round series with the San Antonio Spurs. Ever since adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard last summer, the Lakers have been a very popular NBA title bet.
Their up-and-down season moved their futures odds from +225 to +4,000 and as high as +20,000 following Kobe Bryant’s season-ending Achilles injury last week. But the Los Angeles faithful have continued to wager on their team and sportsbooks run the risk of getting burned badly if L.A. can make a run to the NBA Finals.
“We don't need them to win the Western Conference or the NBA title,” says Sherman. “As a lifelong Lakers fan, and knowing their teams pretty well, I'm not too worried about the book's position. For this team to make the NBA Finals sans Kobe would be a near-miraculous feat.”
Los Angeles, which is +6,000 to win the NBA Championship, opened as an 8.5-point road underdog for Game 1 in San Antonio Sunday. Early money moved that spread as high as +10 before settling at +9.5.