There’s at least one high roller who believes the Cleveland Cavaliers can upset the heavily favored Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
A South Point sports book bettor placed a total of $50,000 to win $825,000 on the Cavaliers at odds of 18-1 and 15-1 on Friday to win the championship.
“We need Golden State,” South Point sports book director Chris Andrews said.
The Warriors are minus 1,100 series favorites over Cleveland (7-1) at the Westgate sports book to win their third title in four years over the Cavaliers.
Professional sports bettor Erin Rynning doesn’t expect that to be much of a problem.
“It’s a huge talent discrepancy between these two teams. What LeBron James has done with this Cleveland team is pretty amazing,” said Rynning (Sportsmemo.com, @ersports1). “If you looked at that Cleveland team out there in Game 7 against Boston without Kevin Love, take away LeBron and I don’t know if they had one legitimate starter. Maybe George Hill.
“Now they go against one of the most talented teams ever assembled. LeBron might be able to will Cleveland to one or two wins, but I can’t see three or four. Golden State has so many guys they can throw at LeBron.”
The Warriors are believed to be the heaviest NBA Finals favorite since 2001, when the Los Angeles Lakers were laying 20-1 against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Allen Iverson-led Sixers upset the Lakers as 12-point underdogs in Game 1 before losing the next four games.
Golden State is a consensus 12½-point home favorite over Cleveland in Thursday’s Game 1, and the total is 214½.
Cavaliers-Warriors (Over 214½), Game 1
Golden State has gone under in its past five games and nine of 10, and Cleveland is on a 5-2 under run. But Rynning expects the pace to pick up in the NBA Finals and recommends a play on over 214½ in the opener.
“The total is kind of interesting because the Eastern and Western Conference Finals series really bogged down with some defense and it was pretty slow-paced as well. I think you might see a bit of a turnaround,” he said. “I just think this first game will be a little more free and easy basketball. These two teams will put on a show in that regard.”
Rynning noted that in last year’s NBA Finals, the total for Game 1 was 225. The 2017 opener went under, but the next four matchups went over while averaging 244½ points.
“Now this total is all the way down to (214½),” he said. “Golden State is going to score with relative ease. It’s a matter if Cleveland will score.
“I think they’ll push the pace a little bit more because they’re going to have to come from behind. There might be some value over the total.”
Cavaliers (+7½) over Warriors, first half
Handicapper Doug Fitz is backing Cleveland in the first half of Game 1.
“Golden State seems to always sleepwalk at the beginning, then bury teams in the third quarter,” said Fitz (Systemplays.com).
Westgate sports book manager Randy Blum agrees that as good as the Warriors are, “they do have those moments where they look like they’re bored.”
That’s one reason Rynning is staying away from the side in Game 1.
“The trouble with Golden State is they’ve been so lethargic so often,” he said. “Even when they beat Houston by 40, they played a pretty poor second quarter. But they turn it on so much in the third quarter.
“And you have to respect LeBron James as a double-digit underdog. To me, the over is the only thing with any kind of value.”
Curry to win NBA Finals MVP (+150)
Kevin Durant is the minus 125 favorite to repeat as NBA Finals MVP, Stephen Curry is the plus 150 second choice and James is the 7-1 third choice. Blum said the Westgate took a substantial bet on Curry to earn MVP honors, and Rynning also expects him to win the award.
“I really see him getting off to a healthy start and being aggressive,” Rynning said. “Cleveland doesn’t have defense on the perimeter to handle him.”