Upset? Gimme Raps, Not Thunder

The NBA conference finals odds are just silly right now. The favorites are favored by such huge numbers it suggests these two remaining series are mere formalities. 

That’s especially true for the Cleveland Cavaliers-Toronto Raptors series where the Cavs are favored by a ridiculous price of -1500 over the Raptors. The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, are favored at -450 over the OKC Thunder. 

It doesn’t shock me but I don’t agree with it. I think recency bias and appeal to public opinion are playing way too big a role in the odds and so far the public is playing right into it. 

“Thunder is getting more public action,” says Sportsbook’s Dave Mason. “We have a decent sized exposure on them versus the Warriors. Even though there are more bets on the Raptors than the Cavs, we have a small exposure on the Cleveland.

“There are almost four times more bets on the Thunder to beat the Warriors than the Raptors upsetting the Cavs.” 

The Thunder-Warriors series has been open for wagers longer... but still. If anyone is going to upset anyone in the NBA semifinals I feel it’s going to be the Raptors over the Cavaliers. And that favors bettors considering the Raptors are +800 to win the East and +3500 to win it all. 

Yeah, yeah. I know. The Raptors have looked like a warmed up dog turd on their way to the finals while the Cavs are blowing up social media with every game they play. I don't disagree. But the Cavs have been playing the basketball we always thought they should be playing for a mere eight games now and it was against awful competition in the Pistons and Hawks. 

Eight games. That’s it. And while they remained idle they went from -715 to -1500 to win the East in two games - which were played between the Heat and Raptors while the Cavs watched and waited. 

How does that make any sense when no new injuries occurred?

There is just way too much of an overreaction here from the public and I'd guess sports books are loving it.  

The Raptors went 2-1 against the Cavs this year and I think we’ll see a better team in the conference finals than we did in the first two rounds. Toronto choked under the weight of being the favorite in the first two rounds and we saw the club play some of its worst ball of the season. 

I expect a different story now that they are heavy underdogs and nobody is giving them a prayer to win this series. Sorry nerds, I can’t give you a statistic that accounts for that. It’s just a judgment based on the personality of this team this year. 

Mason told me the “Cavs to win in 4” and “Cavs to win in 6” games are the most popular game-number bets of the conference finals props at Sportsbook so the public clearly disagrees with me here. We’ll see. 

On the other side of the continent NBA fans and bettors have been overvaluing OKC for a long time. They are 43-47-3 against the spread this year despite being 63-30 straight up including playoffs. 

The flash and talent of both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook bolster daily fantasy lineups but together with the rest of OKC they aren’t enough to beat the onslaught of the Warriors as a team. 

I won’t get into stats. We know what the Warriors can do on offense. What few are talking about though is that the Warriors can play defense when they need to. They’ll play the style of game they have to in order to win and I’m not sure OKC can do that. 

If the Thunder win it’s going to be purely with offense and I think that’s realistic if the Warriors stay healthy. Steph Curry picked this team apart for 35.0 points per game in three meetings this season and when he’s playing like that I don’t think anyone can stop Golden State.