Richie Baccellieri: How Sharps are Betting Game 3 of NBA Finals
What are you going to believe? History, or your own eyes?
That's the issue at the heart of handicapping Wednesday night's Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals. We have two fairly obvious one-sided factors going head-to-head in a way that will challenge sharps and squares.
*To the naked eye, the Golden State Warriors are obviously a lot better than the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs just don't have any workable defensive options other than hoping the Warriors go cold from the field. Golden State just won by 22 and 19 points at home, without it feeling like they were playing very far over their heads. They're just that good! At low road pointspreads, Golden State is going to seem like a lock. And, they HAVE been a lock at low road pointspreads through the postseason.
*History makes it very clear, especially recent history, that the best time to fade a series favorite is in Game 3 when the series underdog is down 2-0. That doesn't always work. San Antonio couldn't cover the spread in this spot in the Western Finals. But...the "intangibles" very clearly favor the must-win host against the possibly complacent visitor. If Golden State is going to have a bad game in this series, it's NOW. Go back through earlier playoff rounds this year and last, and it's almost universal. This is the home team's best spot.
Knowing all of that was in play, oddsmakers posted Golden State -2 as the opener. Does that strike you as low? It struck most everyone as low! Golden State took a lot of early money from sharps and squares alike...pushing the line to Golden State -3. As I write this Tuesday morning Las Vegas time, we're starting to see -3.5 tested. The market hasn't yet found the number that will bring in Cleveland interest.
What will it take? I can tell you that many old-school sharps are biding their time to see what they can get with the home dog. Even if they regret taking Cleveland back in Game Two, they figure playing historical percentages are going to put them on the right side of the money more often than not.
Younger "quant-minded" sharps are getting gradings to Golden State by more than this. That's why you'll likely see the Game Four line jump up as high as -4.5 or -5 once the historical "Game Three home opener" scenario is no longer in play.
The public? Golden State is a "local" team in Nevada to begin with. We should expect game day money to come in pretty hard on the Warriors. Some squares will take LeBron...but the squares most inclined to do that just lost their first two bets of the series...and may not be in the mood to chase for a third time.
Ultimately, Nevada sportsbooks will likely be taking a position on Cleveland...and will be rooting hard for the Cavs to win it outright or lose a very close decision. It's going to be very hard to "split the money" because Cleveland's betting constituency is dwindling, while Warriors backers are flush with cash and ready to bet some more.
On the Over/Under, we've already seen the quants come back into the mix with Over bets. Oddsmakers corrected off the 245-point Game Two with a G3 opener of 225.5. That's up to 226.5 at some stores now. All the "last year's Finals were low scoring, so this year's will be too" sentiment has backed off after the G2 shootout. Many "matchup" handicappers do believe that Cleveland will have to slow down the pace to have a chance...which will bring sharp Under money in for sure if 227 is breached, and possibly even today at 226.5.
I want to give you an early heads up for Game Four. Whatever happens in Game Three...most of the market will be looking to hit the Warriors hard Friday in G4. If Golden State wins Wednesday, they'll be going for the sweep against an opponent that will probably have thrown in the towel. If Golden State loses...well, EVERYONE loves betting great teams right after a loss! Especially at low road prices. Be ready for that when the lines first go up. If you want the Warriors, you'll get best value at the opener.
I'll post my official Game Three selection for clients here at the website Wednesday. You can always purchase my game day selections in basketball and baseball with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155.
So much of sharp betting is about timing and price. You'll often hear that sharps don't bet teams, they bet prices. That's probably a little bit less true than normal here because Golden State is so good that the Wise Guys are aggressively looking to bet them at good prices. They were very pleased to lay just -250 on Golden State to win the series initially, which looks like an absolute steal now. They jumped on Golden State -2 in G3 harder than they'd jump on Cleveland +4 if it becomes available prior to tip Wednesday. If you want to think like a sharp and bet like a sharp, focus on timing your investments to maximize their impact.
Thanks for reading. Back with you again Thursday to talk about sharp betting in Game Four. See you then!
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