Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, May 5, 2017 at 7:05 PM
It's been a long, long time since oddsmakers had to even think about NBA series all over the map scoring in the 220's on a nightly basis. Maybe a series here or there involving a fast break team. And, even if you go back to that past era when less defense was played, the high point totals weren't keyed by the fickle-ness of three-point shooting. How can oddsmakers balance the market around such an inconsistent stat?
Houston might score 125 one night with the help of 20 treys, but struggle to get past 100 the next time out when they make only six. Same shooters…but you just never know with three-pointers.
Right now it's very clear that basketball is evolving into "spread" offenses that use talented guards (or LeBron James in the role of a talented guard) to charge at the basket. The end result is:
*An easy hoop if the defense gets out of his way
*A trip to the free throw line if the defense fouls him
*An open look on a three-point attempt for a teammate if a double-team causes the driver to dish out of danger
That's been the heart of what Houston's been doing all season. That's what Cleveland does whenever they're in "playoff mode" because James is so unstoppable when he's healthy and fresh. Boston and Washington are emphasizing that approach because they have superstar guards in the form of Isaiah Thomas and John Wall.
Golden State and San Antonio don't do it quite the same way. They use a more court-wide ball movement approach to get great looks outside the arc or right near the bucket. It's the same general principle though. Spread the defense, dare them to cover everything, take a shot from where they can't cover.
Game Ones of the second round:
234 points in Washington/Boston (going Over by 18 points)
221 points in Toronto/Cleveland (going over by 10 points)
225 points in Houston/San Antonio (going over by 10 points)
200 points in Utah/Golden State (staying Under by 6 points)
Utah is a slow, defensive-minded team that isn't up to speed in terms of having a modern offense. So, they played the only Under in the first set of games.
Note that Golden State made it to 230 in three of four games against faster-paced Portland in the first round. All three of those games went Over.
Oddsmakers continue to lift the totals in hopes of finding an equilibrium. I do expect a backlash at some point.
*The totals will adjust higher
*Pace will slow down as we get deeper into each series
*Defense will tighten as the games become more important
*Referees will send fewer shooters to the line because they allow more contact late in a series
The goal for handicappers and sports bettors like me and you is to get ahead of that curve. How do we determine what the "right" number is in advance of the possible calming? How do stay ahead of what's happening on the floor and in the market rather than chasing the wrong way?
I can tell you that many sharps are having trouble with this, particularly the old-school types who cut their teeth in the Jordan years or just after. This type of basketball doesn't look anything like that type of basketball. That's why Charles Barkley is so frustrated talking about it on TNT. That's why Shaq keeps wondering why offenses don't pound the ball in more. The sport is evolving before our eyes. The analytics types have a better shot of getting to winning information first. Though, even they have been caught a bit flat-footed because three-point volume has soared so much this season. It's not like the quants were expecting a bunch of openers in the 220's in this round.
I urge you to keep an eye on the boxscores every night as you evaluate your Las Vegas bets and your results. Don't ask any team to shoot 50% or higher two games in a row. Don't assume any trey-heavy team is going to just stay cold for a few games in a row. The new zig-zag may be about three-point shooting as opposed to effort and intensity. Pay attention to the categories that matter most.
Free throw attempts earned
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This may be the most exciting summer ever in Las Vegas sports betting history. Local sportsbooks are getting very competitive about posting lines first. The Week One lines for the NFL went up recently. One company posted early lines at low limits for all regular season NFL games through Week 16 already. And, just the other day the first NFL Regular Season Win bets became available in town. All that with the Triple Crown horse races plus basketball and baseball.
Don't take the summer off. Your friend behind the line wants you to think like a sharp and bet like a sharp all year round. Thanks for reading. See you next week.