Richie Baccellieri: How Sharps are Betting Game 5 of NBA Finals

So much for the sweep!

A very interesting set of circumstances arose late in the day Friday. Sharp money started hitting the board hard on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the hours right before tip off of Game Four of the NBA Finals. That included a lot of very big bets on the Cavs to win the game outright.

Then, it the first quarter of the game against the Golden State Warriors, the Cavs were sent to the free throw line an amazing 22 times! That would be about normal for a full game, not a first quarter. That helped launch the Cavaliers to a huge lead that they would never relinquish...and ultimately forced a fifth game in what is still a one-sided series.

Was something fishy going on? Notice I said "interesting" at the top of this article. Conspiracy theorists have certainly had their say about how much money was a stake in terms of TV ratings and the like if the Finals ended in a quick sweep. But, let's remember...

*The Cavs came out very aggressively, and earned free throw trips
*The Cavs only made 14 of those 22 first quarter FT's anyway
*The Cavs were shooting lights out from 3-point land, the hardest thing to control

Cleveland would have won the first quarter if they hadn't made any free throws (49-33 becomes 35-33 with zero FT's). Yes, the league didn't assign an elite officiating crew to the game. But, they spread around assignments every year. Cleveland ended the game 24 of 45 on three-pointers, which included some tough guarded shots. If any entity was going to "fix" a game, they wouldn't do so by telling the winners they needed to go out and make that many treys.

Did the Cavs have some help they might not have needed? Maybe, maybe not. Were sharps tipped off late in the day? It's just as logical to assume that money sources that knew Cleveland well figured the team wasn't going to go down without a fight...and that LeBron would figure out a way to get at least one win on his home court. Remember, Cleveland outplayed Golden State in Game Three, only to fall apart at the end. Friday's win wasn't a Cinderella shocking a superpower. It was one superpower refusing to throw in the towel against another. And, sharps usually bet late in the process anyway in hopes that square money will have moved the line higher to offer more value.

That brings us to Monday Night's fifth game. Here's how sharps have been betting so far...

The first lines up offshore and in Las Vegas were Golden State -8.5 back on its home court. That's not far out of line with what we saw in the first two games...which was Warriors by 7.5 and 9 points. First money in was on the Warriors -8.5...enough to push the line to Warriors -9.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a tug-of-war between Golden State -8.5 and Cleveland +9. Were public money to take the game to Golden State -9.5...we'd definitely see a lot of sharp money hit the underdog hard.

Why would the sharps like the Cavs in what would seem like a letdown spot?

*The Cavs have shown improvement every game in the series
*The Cavs took awhile to get going last year, and closed hard
*The Warriors are starting to look nervous again
*If you assume GS -7.5 in the series opener was the "right" line, there's value in taking the extra air that's been pumped into these later game numbers.

I'm not going to suggest that "all" sharps are looking to bet the Cavs here. Some were part of that early move off -8.5 to -9. Situational Wise Guys will assume that the Cavs will fall way back to earth after that 24 of 45 performance on three-pointers. Others who are more conspiracy minded will assume there's no way any evil influences come into play two games in a row. That being said...sharps who like GS got in at -8.5...and aren't going to lay any more than -9. Remember that sharps who loved Golden State entering the series at -250 basically have them at pick-em Monday to win that bet.

On the total, an opener of 231 (highest so far in the series) has either stood pat or nudged up to 231.5. Cleveland said it isn't going to stop running...so the market is up four points from where it was in the Cleveland games (that ended up landing on 231 and 253). Old school historian types have topped talking about how low scoring last year's series was!

I'll post my formal selection Monday morning. We did win with the Cavs Friday night. Who will I be on this time? You can always purchase my top plays here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about summer packages that include all the baseball and then August preseason football, call the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Thanks for reading. If the Cavs spring another upset, I'll be back well in advance of Thursday's Game Six to talk about sharp betting action. If Golden State wins the trophy Monday Night, I'll pop in here and there through June to talk baseball with you. Good luck!

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