Golden State vs. Cleveland Could be Preview to NBA Finals

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Most sportsbooks are calling the matchup on Thursday night in the NBA between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, the most likely matchup for the NBA Finals this season

Most of the shops following the Derrick Rose injury this week, now consider Cleveland an even heavier favorite to win the Eastern Conference.

According to Bovada and sportsbook.com, the Cavaliers are currently -180 to make the NBA Finals and Chicago had been dropped to +1500. Out West, Golden State is +220 to take that conference title.

A Finals pairing between the Cavaliers and Warriors is currently paying +250. The pairings next highest include Cleveland/Oklahoma City at +650, Cleveland/Memphis at +800 and Atlanta/Golden State at +1000.

That makes the game on Thursday in Cleveland even that more of a big deal.

If bookmakers are correct in this matchup between Cleveland and Golden State does end up being a preview to the championship, this game would be the only reference point for the matchup.

The first head-to-head game between the two teams cannot be used as a comparison since star forward LeBron James did not play for Cleveland.

Golden State was victorious in that game 112-94. Golden State enjoyed an edge of 36-3 in points on the fast break and recorded 35 assists on 43 field goals.

The loss at the time was Cleveland’s fourth straight and the Cavs would eventually lose six straight. However, since James returned from two weeks on the sideline Cleveland is 17-2.

Nevertheless, Golden State is 21-5 over its past 26 games overall and has won 16 of 19 games against Eastern Conference opponents.

One the MVP front, Stephen Curry remains at -300, the overwhelming favorite. James is third at +500, with Houston’s James Harden sitting second at +350 and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in fourth at +1000.

With the consistency Curry has played with all season and the way his team had taken the West by storm and leading the NBA with the best record overall, it will be hard to un-seed him from the top.

Curry scored 51 points on February 4 and is averaging 28 points per game during the month. He scored 32 on Tuesday night after sitting out a game over the weekend with a sore ankle.

Kyrie Irving is a great defender for Cleveland, but Curry was not fazed the first time they met this season as he scored 23 points, had 10 assists and just one turnover.

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New NBA Championship Futures See Thunder Rise and Heat …

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Odds makers have released the latest futures for the NBA Championship. The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing so well the team has moved into third on the odds board, while teams such as the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns are rapidly going in the other direction.

Only a week ago, the Thunder was sitting in seventh place on the odds board, but has seen their odds shortened to 60 to 1, which is down from last week’s 12 to 1.

The odds makers are showing a great deal of respect to the Thunder, despite the team holding down only the eighth and final postseason spot in the NBA Western Conference. However, the Thunder has won 7 straight games including wins over the Grizzlies, Mavericks and Clippers last week and picked up three players on the trade deadline to add to their roster.

The futures odds shortened for the Thunder even despite the lingering concerns over the health of Kevin Durant who had what was described as a minor procedure to ease some discomfort on his right foot. The soreness has come from surgery Durant had on his foot in October. It is thought Durant will return prior to the end of the regular season.

Amongst the teams in a free fall of sorts this week on the boards is the Heat. After receiving Goran Dragic in a trade last week, the starting five for Miami looked strong. However, the next day, Chris Bosh was lost for the season with blood clots. Without the best player on the Heat, their odds of winning the NBA title fell to 300 to 1 from last week’s 100 to 1. The Phoenix Suns have lost five straight games and 8 of their past 10 to fall out of the eighth spot in the West and into 10th. The Suns also dropped to 300 to 1 from 100 to 1 last week.

NBA CHAMPIONSHIP FUTURES
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 3 to 1
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 4 to 1
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 6 to 1
ATLANTA HAWKS 7 to 1
SAN ANTONIO SPURS 8 to 1
CHICAGO BULLS 8 to 1
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 12 to 1
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS 12 to 1
TORONTO RAPTORS 20 to 1
HOUSTON ROCKETS 30 to 1

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The Casino Review sportsbook blog provides news and analysis on the online sports betting industry, helping experienced and recreational bettors get the most out of their online betting experience.

American Basketball Coaches Should Take Note of …

Spurs
Spurs

The Spurs' style of play had a strong international presence and that wasn't by chance.

I completely understand the dangers of the classic “ifs and buts” scenario but bear with me for a moment. The San Antonio Spurs were basically a few missed free throws in game six last year and a few missed free throws from game two this season from having both six titles and a sweep of the Miami.

Instead, the Spurs will have to settle for their fifth title in 15 years and while the argument over whether or not they are a “dynasty” can be had from all sides the bigger statement is in how this team won.

Since the rise of AAU programs across the country, basketball in the United States has become less about ‘team play’ and more about showcasing individual talent. Both college programs and the National Basketball Association have been impacted by this trend. If you talk to people who were fans of the NBA in the 1980′s and 1990′s but no longer call themselves fans, they’ll tell you the style of play is one of the biggest factors.

NBA offenses have become nothing more than isolation plays and pick and roll situations. The Spurs effectively destroyed this notion in this year’s Finals and there is no question that the international presence on the roster influenced their ‘team play.’

Diaw

Frenchman Boris Diaw had a significant impact on the Spurs' title run this year.

Manu Ginobili is from Argentina. Boris Diaw and Tony Parker are from France. Paddy Mills is from Australia and Tiago Splitter is from Brazil. If you want to stretch things a bit, even Tim Duncan was born off the mainland in the US Virgin Islands. Duncan grew up thinking he would be a competitive swimmer rather than a basketball player.

It’s no mistake therefore that the style of play deployed by Spurs’ Coach Gregg Popovich was one with a tremendous international flavor. The game overseas relies less on individual talent and isolation-type plays and more on movement of the ball. The idea is really quite simple; movement of the ball forces the the opposition to actually ‘play defense’ rather than stand on one side of the court and watch four players go at it in a two-on-two game.

The idea also emphasizes looking for a ‘good’ shot and moving the ball to the point of where you find a ‘better’ shot. If the movie ‘Hoosiers’ comes to mind then that’s good because that’s the way basketball was supposed to be played offensively.

What Popovich and the Spurs have done is revolutionized scouting in the NBA and it’s hard to find fault with its’ success. They seek out talent on foreign shores and they mix that talent with solid, team-oriented American players to get the results they have had over the last 15 years. The roots of this idea go back to the 1980′s.

American basketball was the dominant force in international hoops play. Our collegiate players were better both athletically and skillfully through the decades of international play but then foreign countries caught up and in the late 1980′s our collegians were no longer good enough to bring home Olympic gold every four years.

That’s when the ‘Dream Team’ was born and since our pro players have been manning the Olympic team, we have not lost gold but with every passing Olympic Games, foreign teams get closer and closer and that’s because their athleticism is catching up with ours as many of their players now play in the NBA.

It’s my hope that high school and AAU teams have paid attention to this Spurs’ team because this is the wave of the future and if the American players don’t catch on it will be the 1980′s all over again.

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Weekend Ramblings: The Open Isn’t Over and Can …

Kaymer
Kaymer

Kaymer won the PGA Title in 2010 and he'll need that experience to close out the US Open today.

As is it’s usual custom, the US Open will conclude on Father’s Day. While the final round of the nation’s championship has brought us tremendous finishes over the years, this year’s version of the “World’s Toughest Golf Tournament” is shaping up to be anything but dramatic.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer stormed to monstrous lead shooting back-to-back 65′s on the par 70 Pinehurst #2 course. He entered the third round with an eight shot lead and essentially needed to just shoot par in order to head into today’s final round with a large enough cushion for him not to sweat the competition.

Kaymer ended up his third round with a two over par 72 but still has a five shot lead entering the final 18 holes today. In most situations, I’d say this tournament is over and we can hand Kaymer the trophy and $1.5 million dollars right now. That said, I just don’t have that feeling.

There are five players under par trailing Kaymer and of those I like to pressure him are Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson who are both at -2. Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton are both at -3 but I think the experience of Stenson and Snedeker will provide them with the best opportunities of catching Kaymer.

In yesterday’s third round, Kaymer entered with just one bogey in the tournament and left the third round with a total of six. That shows a bit of vulnerability, but Kaymer has history on his side. Only one player in US Open history has ever lost a five stroke lead and that was Mike Brady (no, not the one from the ‘Brady Bunch’) in 1919.

The pressure of winning a major tournament is immense but some would argue that doing so with such a big lead makes the pressure even more intense. I think Kaymer will hang on today but don’t be a bit surprised if at any point someone closes to within a shot or two.

James

The only way the Heat come back will be on the back of LeBron James.

LeBron’s Biggest Moment?

Fair or unfair, LeBron James has been and always will be compared to Michael Jordan. It’s the impossible ghost that James will never catch in my opinion at least in terms of championships. Even if James does get to the magical number of six, the argument will be that he needed Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to do so while Jordan had much less talent around him.

LeBron has already lost two times in the NBA Finals. His first was in Cleveland when he willed the Cavaliers to the Finals where they were swept by San Antonio. The other time was in the first year of the Big Three when they were beaten by the Dallas Mavericks. Jordan was of course six for six in his Finals’ appearances.

James now sits on the precipice of a third loss in the NBA Finals as his Heat trail the Spurs 3-1. There is as much talk about LeBron’s future right now if not more, than about the actual Finals themselves. While that isn’t fair to James he knows as well as anyone that is just how the system works these days.

If Miami is to get back in this series it will be on the back of LeBron James. Will he have to do it all? No, but he might as well. I think we are talking about games where James has to score 35 plus points, grab seven or more rebounds and dish out four or more assists. In my mind those are minimum-type numbers.

If James can bring the Heat back to win the title (teams down 3-1 in the Finals are 0-31) then his star will rise to Jordan-esque proportions. If he can’t, the same old comparisons will continue fair or not.

 

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Heat are 6-point road ‘dogs in First Elimination Game

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The 2013-14 NBA season could come to an end tonight when the San Antonio Spurs host the Miami Heat. The Spurs lead the best of seven NBA Finals 3-1 and could close out the series with a win tonight in Game 5.

A win would give the Spurs their fifth NBA title as a franchise and their first since 2007.

Miami finds themselves up against history. No team in the NBA has come back from a deficit of 3-1 in the NBA finals to win.

Miami is a road dog of 6 points in Games 5. The point total opened at 195, but has been bet up to 196 on Bovada and sportsbook.com.

The series odds on betonline and topbet now have San Antonio at -2000 and Miami at +1000.

San Antonio took control of the best of seven series with two blowout wins on the road in Games 3 and 4 winning 111-92 and 107-86 respectively.

The Spurs have used excellent ball movement on offense that has been helped by the Miami defense not showing up to play in either of the past two games.

The OVER has cashed in 2 of the 4 games, with the Spurs averaging 106 points per game and Miami only 93.

The Spurs are 12-4 SU as well as ATS over their past 16 games after beginning the postseason 3-3 straight up and 0-6 against the number.

Miami over its past six games is 2-4 SU as well as ATS. The Heat started its postseason 11-2 straight up and 9-4 against the spread.

Miami will use the age-old adage one game at a time for Sunday’s game, hoping to win and force a home game on Tuesday in Game 6.

Miami looks like it is running on an empty tank and the extra day of rest could help the club.

LeBron James could and likely will face criticism if the Heat loses the series. However, he has scored 27 points per game and has been asked to put the team on his shoulders again as the other two in the Big Three Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade have lacked consistency.

Prior to losing Game 2 to Miami, the Spurs were 8-0 SU as well as ATS at home in the postseason.

Boris Diaw has been a key for San Antonio in this series. The move by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to start Diaw in Game 3 has changed the entire series. Diaw is a great passer on the inside.

The Heat has never been a ‘dog by 6 points this entire season.

Miami is looking for answers to their best player rotation and changes in their starting lineup and substitutes are likely in Game 5.

This game could be slowed down by the Heat with physical play coming into play, as Miami will look to rattle the Spurs and upset them, as they have not been successful in playing them straight up.

I like the Spurs to win their fifth title tonight.

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Spurs Look to Close Out the Heat Tomorrow Night in Texas

LeBron and Wade
LeBron and Wade

Could tonight be the end of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade or will they force a game six back home?

I can’t recall the last series I’ve been so wrong about. I’m pretty sure that every one of the first four games of the NBA Finals I’ve had completely wrong. Therefore, you should probably do the exact opposite of what I’m about to suggest for tomorrow night.

Miami at San Antonio (-6), Spurs lead series 3-1 – Of all the games I’ve been the most wrong about game four takes the cake. There was no way I saw the Miami Heat, who had lost game three on their home-court, losing again. Remember this was a team that just didn’t lose back-to-back games and especially in the playoffs.

The entered game four with the third-longest streak of not losing back-to-back playoff games in league history. They trailed only the Jordan-Era Bulls and the dynastic Celtics of the 1960′s.

We can throw those stats and numbers out the window now because LeBron James and company are now hanging on for dear life. Watching San Antonio dismantle the Miami defense the other night was a thing of beauty. It’s what basketball was supposed to be when Dr.James Naismith invented it. Passing and moving the ball among all five players on the court was like art work being performed by the Spurs.

In an era of “let the best player go one-on-one off a screen,” San Antonio displayed everything that was good about offensive basketball. So impressive was the Spurs’ game four win that every player on the team scored. Knowing that bench scoring had been issue, Miami actually scored 30 points in that department. Still, San Antonio was better scoring 41 off of the pine.

Miami had done a decent job of battling San Antonio in the paint as well but that stat was blown up too. The Spurs dominated 46-30 in the key and while playing solid defense at the other end as well.

Ginobili

Manu Ginobili has been a lightning rod for the Spurs despite not scoring a lot of points.

If you need any further demonstration of the ‘team aspect’ of the Spurs than look no further than Manu Ginobili. The Argentinian scored just seven points but he had a whopping +27 for the game which illustrates the energy and intensity he and his teammates brought to the floor.

Short of LeBron James going off for a 40-point night tomorrow, I just don’t see how this team survives the balanced Spurs in game five. Dwyane Wade has been accused of looking tired and perhaps he is, but I think it has more to do with his nagging knees. Chris Bosh has disappeared for the most part and the role players like Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers have been neutralized.

It would be incredibly easy to blame some of the on-court issues of the Heat on the off-court topics that are being discussed but I guarantee the players wouldn’t use that excuse. Still, it must be difficult knowing the media is more interested in where LeBron will play in the fall and whether Carmelo Anthony is joining the Big Three in Miami.

I really, really want to take Miami to win this because if they do I believe this goes to a game seven where anything can happen but I can’t.The Spurs have been too good and too balanced at both ends and there has only been one close game in this series and that was Miami’s two-point win in game two. Take the Spurs to cover tomorrow night and I like the OVER. The O/U is at 196 by the way.

Keep an eye on… Miami is 4-16 straight up in its last 20 games when playing on the road against San Antonio… The total has gone UNDER in four of San Antonio’s last six games at home… Miami is 6-13-1 against the spread in its last 20 games when playing on the road against San Antonio… San Antonio is 9-1 straight up in its last 10 games at home.

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Must-Win for the Heat in Game Four?

Leonard
Leonard

Kawhi Leonard was a beast in game three but can he follow that up in game four?

If you follow trends, then all you need to know is that in the era of the ‘big three’ in Miami, they have won 13 straight games following a loss.  Last year in this same situation, the Heat followed a blowout loss to San Antonio with a big win of their own. Therefore, I really don’t need to go any further here do I?

Of course I do especially after I was dead wrong about game three. While I thought Kawhi Leonard was due for a big game I still thought the Heat would be happy to be home and would get the win. Such is life in the betting community.

On to game four…

San Antonio at Miami (-5), Spurs lead 2-1 – Sometimes there are few answers to seemingly easy questions. That must have been how Heat coach Erik Spoelstra must have felt during the first half of game three. While watching the Spurs shot 76%, Spoelstra knew his team had to play better defense but it wasn’t that bad.

Bosh

I expect Chris Bosh to bounce back and have big game tonight.

The Spurs were just flat-out draining everything whether the Heat were playing solid defense on them or not. A closer look at game three though reveals some things were just not happening for the Heat that should have been. Chris Bosh was a non-factor while Mario Chalmers continues to struggle with his shooting and overall game.

As poorly as Miami played, they had the Spurs ‘ lead cut to seven in the fourth quarter and a victory would have been one of the great all-time comebacks in NBA Finals’ history. The Heat have to hang their hat on that because there’s no way they’ll play that poorly tonight.

We must give credit where it is due and that means crediting Gregg Popovich and the adjustments he made. It certainly helps when Kawhi Leonard is aggressive at both ends of the floor and hits for a career high in points. His defense on LeBron James may have been just as important though as he gave James little space with which to operate.

Popovich also started Boris Diaw in place of Tiago Splitter and that move paid big dividends as the Spurs’ were much more successful on the offensive end of the court with Diaw in the game. How Spoelstra counters this will be one of the keys for tonight.

It would be very easy for me to just settle on trends that clearly favor Miami. Twice the Heat and the ‘big three’ have faced 2-1 deficits and in both cases they went on to win the series. I’m not just going to rely on trends though because there is no way LeBron is going to follow up a very pedestrian game with another one.

I expect James to go for at least 30 points tonight but I also expect five or more assists and several of those will go to Chris Bosh who has to be more of a factor and he will be. This isn’t to say the Spurs can’t win this game because they most certainly can but this really is a must-win for Miami. If they go down 3-1, they would be facing a situation where they’d have to win three straight including two in San Antonio.

I like Miami to cover tonight and I also like the OVER which currently sits at 197.

Keep an eye on… San Antonio is 3-7 against the spread in its last 10 games on the road… Miami is 4-1 straight up in its last 5 games when playing at home against San Antonio… San Antonio is 4-1 straight up in its last five games… The total has gone UNDER in 17 of Miami’s last 23 games when playing at home against San Antonio.

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