The Golden State Warriors hold a 3-0 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers and can finish their sweep with a victory tonight. Based on the early trends, it appears as though bettors believe Golden State will take down their second championship in the past three seasons.
Following a comeback victory on Wednesday night, the Warriors opened as 5.5-point road favorites for Game 4 at the market-setting Bookmaker.eu. Golden State (closed -3) received 60% of spread tickets in Game 3, but public betting has been slightly more one-sided in tonight’s showdown. At the time of publication, the Warriors were receiving 64% of spread tickets at our seven contributing offshore sportsbooks.
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The majority of spread tickets have taken the chalk, but the percentage of money splits have been even more drastic with 74% of all spread dollars taking Golden State. With the market steadily pounding the Warriors since the line opened late on Wednesday night, oddsmakers have been forced to adjust their number several times before settling on Golden State -6. Interestingly, the line briefly reached Golden State -7 but there was immediately buyback on the Cavs.
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While Bookmaker is holding steady at Golden State -6, tonight’s game demonstrates the importance of having access to multiple sportsbooks and always shopping for the best line. Pinnacle, another market-setting sportsbook, is currently offering Golden State -5.5 while several offshore sportsbooks (including Bovada, Heritage, and SIA) are offering Golden State -6.5. There’s not much sharp action on tonight’s game, and public money has inflated the line at the more “square” sportsbooks.
“Not a ton of sharp interest yet, and not sure we’ll see much,” stated Cooley, a spokesman for Bookmaker. “We’ve taken a little bit on the under and even less on the Warriors. No surprise, majority of public on Golden State and over.”
It’s easy to understand why bettors are avoiding Cleveland, especially given the performance of teams in this situation. Since 2005, teams trailing the series 3-0 have gone 17-36 straight up and 21-29-3 against the spread in Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs. That said, the increased volume improves the value of betting against the public in these marquee matchups. My research found that teams receiving less than 50% of spread tickets have gone 41-29 ATS and teams receiving less than 40% of spread tickets have gone 12-5 ATS during the NBA Finals.
Another interesting storyline will involve the playing time for LeBron James. In Game 3 the Cavs were +7 in 46 minutes with James on the court and -12 in the two minutes he sat out. If the Cavs have any chance at clawing their way back into this series, James needs to stay on the court.
Bookmaker opened tonight’s total at 228.5, which marked the highest total of any NBA Finals matchup in our database. In fact, we had never tracked a closing total higher than 211 prior to this season. Despite that lofty total, bettors continue to pound the over. That’s hardly surprising considering the majority of bets have been placed on the over in every playoff game this year.
The over has gone 46-30 during the 2017 NBA Playoffs, but bettors may want to consider taking the under in tonight’s game. Since 2005, the under has gone 39-32 during the NBA Finals including a 23-13 record when the total drops by at least a half-point. That’s good news considering the line movement on tonight’s total.
Although the majority of bets have been placed on the over, tonight’s total has dropped from 228.5 to 228 at Bookmaker and 228 to 227 at Pinnacle (if you’re able to shop for the best line, Bovada still lists tonight’s total at 229). The line movement at Pinnacle is particularly interesting since it coincided with the announcement of the Game 4 officials at 9 AM eastern.
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Marc Davis and John Goble are two of the most profitable under refs in our database, which could explain the reverse line movement that occurred this morning. Defensive intensity is typically amplified in these elimination games, and there could be value on tonight’s under.
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