One half of the 2017 NBA Finals has officially been set, as the Golden State Warriors made their way into the league’s title series for the third straight season behind a game four win over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Dubs made quick work of the Spurs, sweeping them 4-0 in the Western Conference Finals, while capping an impressive 12-0 run through the Western Conference side of the playoffs.
Stephen Curry and co. now await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals, which was mildly clouded – if only for a brief moment – by the Boston Celtics staging the unlikeliest of upsets in game three at Quicken Loans Arena.
With the Warriors already in the NBA’s finale and set to be well rested by the time their main competition arrives, they remain just as they have all year long – in the driver’s seat to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy when all is said and done.
Updated 2017 NBA Finals Odds
Most oddsmakers continue to hand the Dubs the best NBA Finals odds, with top NBA betting site Bovada giving them -260 odds to win it all. With just three teams left in the running to be ton, let’s see how they stack up against each other:
Golden State Warriors (-260)
Cleveland Cavaliers (+190)
Boston Celtics (+15000)
It really does seem like we’re staring down a third straight showdown between the Warriors and Cavaliers this year and there’s not much that can stop it. Boston pulled off a miracle upset despite being 17-point underdogs in their last game and looking back at history, that makes for the biggest playoff upset we’ve ever seen in an individual game.
This was an upset for the ages, too, considering the Cavs were at home and had already built a commanding 2-0 lead on the heels of a nasty 44-point blowout win at TD Garden. The Celtics were not just wounded – but also shorthanded – as they were left to turn to Marcus Smart (who popped off for 27 points) with star point guard Isaiah Thomas succumbing to a season-ending hip injury.
Are the Celtics a Viable Bet?
Obviously it’s easy to look at just the Cavs and Warriors here, but we should pay the Celtics some mind. There’s actually a few reasons to give Boston a chance, as they do still have home court advantage as the #1 seed out of the Eastern Conference, should they find a way to keep this series alive beyond the next two games.
If the Celtics pulled off another magical upset in game four, suddenly even the biggest naysayers of Boston would have to agree, at 2-2, we have ourselves an actual series. What Boston is doing isn’t really sustainable, as making up for the loss of 29 points per game and what Thomas could do as a creator is hard to wrap your mind around.
Then again, Thomas never looked like an asset in this series. Thomas has always been a poor defender, while his size was giving him serious problems even on the offensive end in the first two games of this series. He couldn’t take on Kyrie Irving on his own and his lack of size and defensive ability made him a bad switch defender, regardless of who he’d end up covering.
Insert Smart, who has way more size, is a tenacious defender and was a high level scorer in college, and Boston actually does experience a positive shift in this matchup. Suddenly Smart is on the floor as a defender for the entire game, his scoring, shooting and creating can be on display and we also get to let Avery Bradley loose more as a scorer and distributor.
This could open the door to the Celtics completely tossing this series off course if everything breaks just right, but that’s asking a lot. Already down in a 2-1 hole with game four at Cleveland, the Celtics very likely provided too little, too late.
They are still extremely fun bets given these odds, however. With +15000 NBA Finals odds, a mere $10 bet would return $1,500 if Boston somehow pulled off endless miracles and ended the year as champs. Money could be better spent in a lot of ways, but if you feel like tossing a flier bet down, it’s certainly one that offers plenty of upside.
NBA Finals Pick
Our tone hasn’t changed one bit all year. Golden State went out and got Kevin Durant to beat the Cavs and Vegas has responded by favoring them to do so. It’s never easy to repeat as champion in any sport and the Cavs needed an insane three-game run to come back from a 3-1 hole and so so.
There is plenty of logic surrounding Golden State securing their second title in three years. They defend at an insanely high level (3rd most efficient defense during the regular season), they can score with anyone (#1 in offensive efficiency) and they literally didn’t sustain a single loss en route to this year’s Finals.
You can look at their impressive run from another perspective, too. They really didn’t face any heavy-hitters on their way to the league’s title series. Portland was a middling team to begin with and they dispatched them easily with Jusuf Nurkic appearing in just one game due to a broken leg. The Clippers got derailed by a Blake Griffin injury in round one, which set up a much more palatable matchup against a Jazz team in round two that had won their first playoff series in years.
The Western Conference Finals were supposed to provide drama and maybe even a big upset, but the Spurs fizzled after an intense game one, largely thanks to a Kawhi Leonard ankle injury.
Looking back at this run, it’s really not all that impressive at all. The Dubs still beat solid playoff teams and didn’t lose a single game, but there is a strong argument that once they take one (we’re assuming) the Cavs, they might not be completely ready for the best team from the other conference.
It’s not like Cleveland has been insanely battled tested, either. The Pacers provided zero defensive resistance in round one, Toronto was a shell of who they were a year ago and Boston is down their best player. The Cavs even lost a game and at this point it’s anyone’s guess how long it will take them to meet the Dubs in the Finals.
What we do know is the last time these two teams met with everything on the line, the Cavs stepped up and won Cleveland its first title in league history. It’s also worth pointing out that LeBron James has repeated as NBA champion before and Cleveland’s once atrocious defense has morphed into a very cohesive unit over the course of the playoffs.
The Cavs have clicked where they once clonked, the offense is as good as ever and LeBron James got his one atrocious stinker out of the way in a series that will ultimately be meaningless and in Cleveland rearview mirror by this time next week. More importantly, Vegas and for some reason just about anyone else not located in Ohio continues to doubt this team.
Labeling the Cavs as underdogs at any point this year was always disrespectful and honestly a little lazy. It’s weird that we ever got there and it’s even weirder that anyone ever bought that the Cavs were doing anything less than coasting during a boring regular season. This team came alive during the playoffs and once they get to the Finals they’ll be up to the task to defend what they proved to be rightfully theirs a year ago.
Most importantly, the Cavs hold the value. That value has dipped in recent weeks with it growing ever clearer that they will be in the NBA Finals against the Dubs, but they still hold playable +190 odds. That doesn’t offer the insane upside the Celtics do, but we’re looking at one of two teams winning this thing and the one with more upside won last year. The smart money stays there.
Pick: Cavaliers (+190)
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