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Betting Every Series of the NBA Playoffs


I don’t have a gambling problem. But I could if I really wanted one. I’ve had days where I bet on sports all day and night, and when all of the American action was over I’d start wagering over/under’s on Korean Basketball League games at two or three in the morning. By the time I made it into bed, I felt physically sick from the self-inflicted emotional roller coaster I put myself on. That kind of constant gambling is not a sustainable high.

Anyway, I don’t have a gambling problem. But I do pay attention to the odds. In my last piece I mentioned how I thought the NBA Playoffs would play out, notably that the overwhelming favorite (Golden State Warriors) is inevitably going to win it all. I’m controversial, you see. In the East I said that I liked the #4-seeded Boston Celtics, which was before news broke that G/F Marcus Smart is probably going to miss the first two rounds with a torn oblique.

Anyway, below are the eight matchups, and who I think will advance to the conference semifinals. Odds are courtesy of Bovada:

Western Conference

[1] Golden State Warriors (-20000) over [8] Los Angeles Clippers (+3000) in 4 games

This one doesn’t take a lot of thinking about. Best team in the league against a Clippers squad that overachieved and traded their best player in the middle of the season. Warriors will smoke them as quickly as possible to rest up for their second round rendezvous with the Rockets.

[2] Denver Nuggets (-230) over [7] San Antonio Spurs (+190) in 6 games

The Spurs don’t have the talent to beat Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and the depth of the Nuggets, but I could see them peeling off a couple wins. For some reason Vegas only has the #2 seed at -230 against San Antonio, so they are basically begging you to throw them in a parlay. While that ought to give me some pause, I’m rolling with the younger talent to defeat the veteran experience.

[6] Oklahoma City Thunder (-135) over [3] Portland Trail Blazers (+115) in games

This is really the make-or-break series as far as sports books are concerned in the first round. Here, the lower-seeded team is actually favored to win, which partly has to do with some Portland injuries and, I imagine, that Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook and Paul George — two prominent faces of the game. I have a feeling everyone is going to be backing the Thunder here, and if that’s the case then you can consider me Joe Public.

[4] Houston Rockets (-350) over [5] Utah Jazz (+275) in 7 games

I don’t pay a lot of mind to either of these teams, but the general impressions I get are that the Jazz play solid team basketball, and that the Rockets don’t really give a fuck until they absolutely have to. James Harden is the guy here. I could see this series going back and forth all the way, and then bang bang: Harden scores 31 first half points in Game 7 — on some absurd 11-14 from the field, or some shit — and the Rockets coast to a comfortable 14-point victory.

Eastern Conference

[1] Milwaukee Bucks (-6500) over [8] Detroit Pistons (+1325) in 4 games

I can’t tell you anything about the Pistons because I really don’t care about them. The Bucks are the number one seed in the East and are going to win this series in four games, and that’s it.

[2] Toronto Raptors (-1200) over [7] Orlando Magic (+700) in games

Again I’m not even going to mess around and pretend like I care about the Magic. Yeah they are going to be pretty rad once they get a point guard, because guys like Aaron Gordon and Jonathon Isaac and Mo Bamba make for a nice up-and-coming-franchise starter kit, but what are we talking about? The Raptors have the best player (Kawhi Leonard), and they are better. Four games.

[3] Philadelphia 76ers (-700) over [6] Brooklyn Nets (+450) in 5 games

I do sense a little Houston Rockets-style I Don’t Give A Fuck-ness when it comes to the 76ers. This is based on nothing beyond my own biases, and the idea that massive personalities like Joel Embid and Jimmy Butler can sometimes check out and save the fight for another day. I like this Philadelphia team, but I could see them giving away an obligatory Game 3 in Brooklyn.

[4] Boston Celtics (-470) over [5] Indiana Pacers (+335) in games

The separation between the top four and bottom four teams in the East is staggering. In some ways it wouldn’t completely shock me if every series ended in a sweep. We’ll see if Boston can prove me right about sandbagging the Eastern Conference all year, but I think I’ll know one way or another depending on how easily they dismantle the shorthanded Pacers.

My Bet

These prices pretty much all suck. The only real values, in either conference, are on the Nuggets (at -230) and Thunder (-135), and even at that you are laying some decent juice. But I guess this is the price you pay betting on the favorites, and for some weird reason I don’t think a single (betting) underdog will win in the first round.

Last year I bet on every series from the second round on, and won every parlay I put in. This year I’m going to take a crack at starting from the first round. So we’ll see how it goes:

  1. Warriors (-20000)
  2. Nuggets (-230)
  3. Thunder (-135)
  4. Rockets (-350)
  5. Bucks (-6500)
  6. Raptors (-1200)
  7. 76ers (-700)
  8. Celtics (-470)

The eight-team parlay pays out a pretty hefty +392, meaning every $100 bet earns you $392. If you take out the two smallest favorites, the Thunder (-135) and Nuggets (-230), respectively, the parlay pays a pedestrian -103, meaning every $103 bet earns you $100. I still have a day or so before the playoffs get underway, in which time I will crack down and try to convince myself that the much riskier eight-team parlay is better than the much safer six-teamer.

Or maybe I’ll just make both bets and see what happens.

It’s not my style to neglect every underdog, but the NBA is very top-heavy and I’m going to roll with those on top. I see the first round as something of a formality, just a bridge to get America to the matchups — like Celtics/Bucks, 76ers/Raptors, and Warriors/Rockets — it really wants to see.