Betting trends for the NBA's conference finals
It may not have gone exactly according to plan, but the top-two teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences will do battle for spots in the NBA Finals.
Here are three betting trends to keep an eye on as the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder look to take the next step in their quest to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy:
Over the previous four years, only one conference final series has trended to the Under; Boston and Orlando went 2-4 O/U in the 2010 Eastern Conference final thanks in large part to the Celtics' stifling defense. The other seven series in that span are a combined 26-14 O/U, including a 14-7 mark in the four Western Conference championship series. Three of the four remaining teams trended Over during the regular season; only the Pacers (35-44-3) favored the Under.
Long Series? No Problem
The Miami Heat have found themselves having to go the distance in back-to-back conference finals, but that didn't affect their ability to perform in the Finals. The Heat rolled to Game 7 victories in their previous two East finals by an average of 18 points, then went on to win the championship both times. It helped that Miami wasn't tested in either of its first two rounds the past two seasons; it needed 11 games to reach the conference final in 2012 and just nine games last season.
Fast Start = Slight Edge
Winning the first quarter is by no means a guarantee of a victory in the conference finals, but it certainly helps. Teams that outscore opponents in the opening 12 minutes are 25-19-2 in the conference championships, and have posted winning overall records in all four conference final series spanning the previous two years. Outliers punctuated the two seasons before that; teams seizing the lead after the first quarter went just 2-8 in 2011 after posting an absurd 9-2-1 mark in 2010.