On any other day, Stephen Curry’s seven 3-pointers would have been the only story. Sideshow aside, Curry shot life back into the Golden State Warriors, and that’s what mattered most to underdog bettors.
The Warriors were aiming to get even in a first-round playoff series. The Los Angeles Clippers are tied up in a full-blown media circus.
Curry scored 33 points Sunday, when Golden State took no mercy on the Clippers in a 118-97 win in Game 4. The Warriors led by 20 in the first quarter. It never was much of a game, and the sideshow overshadowed it from the start.
“I think any good handicapper had Golden State,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of William Hill sports books. “We got beat on the game.”
The Zig-Zag Theory dictated a wager on the Warriors, who were off a loss and on their home court. Golden State opened as a 2½-point underdog, and the line closed 1½. In the NBA playoffs right now, it pays to be a ’dog bettor.
If bettors were on the fence with the Warriors, Bogdanovich said they were probably pushed “over the fence” by the distractions surrounding the Clippers, who obviously lost their focus and forgot to defend Curry.
The playoffs have been highly entertaining, for all of the right reasons until Clippers owner Donald Sterling got involved. After Deadspin.com and TMZ reported racist comments allegedly made by Sterling in a recorded phone call, the media machine went to work.
LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan reacted with outrage. President Obama commented in disgust during an overseas trip. Al Sharpton planned a rally.
Just like that, the George Clooney-Steve Wynn feud was old news.
This L.A. story is ugly, and it became much more than a sports story. The Clippers players, who met to plot a silent protest, seemed to overlook the game.
“It had to be somewhat of a distraction,” Bogdanovich said. “But if you’re a professional player and you’re distracted by that, you don’t have much. You’re playing for the guys in the locker room. There were a lot of factors to bet Golden State besides the Sterling garbage.”
Still, the Sterling controversy was an intangible factor every handicapper had to consider, and it was unlikely to be an asset for the Clippers. Bruce Marshall of The Gold Sheet said he was wagering on the Warriors in Game 4 regardless of the sideshow.
“I have a hard time thinking this will be a positive for the Clippers,” Marshall said. “The players evidently spent a lot of time thinking about something symbolic to do. They were expected to do something with the way the media plays this up.
“It’s going to be impossible for the Clippers to hide from it. Nowadays, it’s harder to get away from it. With all of the social media on top of the regular media, it’s overwhelming. When it crosses over from sports into the mainstream media and the political shows, then it’s game over.”
The Clippers were minus-900 favorites in the series before Sunday’s game. With the circus tied and headed back to Los Angeles, the price on the Clippers will drop to around minus-300, according to LVH sports book manager Ed Salmons.
“I don’t know how this will play out,” Marshall said. “Whatever happens with this, how the Clippers play, most of the media is going to attach this to them. This could be an excuse for the Clippers. It’s a series they should not lose, but if they blow it, they have their excuse now.”
The Clippers are 6½-point favorites in Game 5 on Tuesday, when the leadership of coach Doc Rivers and point guard Chris Paul will be put to another test. Expect the Clippers to rally and follow the Zig-Zag Theory, but also realize the home court could be a disadvantage.
The NBA is investigating, and until Sterling is suspended or removed in some other way, the Clippers will have to deal with chaos.
“This guy is going to be forced out, I think,” Marshall said. “This is no secret. Sterling’s a first-class jerk, and he’s been a jerk forever. This thing is impeachable.”
The controversy has temporarily overshadowed the games, and the playoffs have been phenomenal. The two No. 1 seeds, Indiana in the East and San Antonio in the West, are in serious danger of being impeached. The Memphis-Oklahoma City and Houston-Portland series are thrillers.
“I’m not a big NBA fan, but you can’t deny we’ve had some dandy games,” Bogdanovich said. “Getting out of the West alive, good luck with that. All eight teams are really good.”
Underdogs are 22-7-1 against the spread, including 13-2 in the West. All things considered, no ’dog had a sweeter shot than Curry on Sunday.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.