Is There Value on the Cavs in Game 3 of the NBA Finals?

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Photo Credit: By Erik Drost [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Betting on a huge favorite is both boring and not worth your time unless you have a huge bankroll. So last week I pondered the best way to wager on the NBA Finals. If you followed my recommendations, you are sitting on tickets that have the Warriors in five games at 5/2, and/or the Warriors in four at 7/1. While both bets look good right now, now is the time to hedge (which you should do at one of our top-reviewed sports betting sites; shameless plug).

At the start of the Finals, Golden State was 4/11 to win the series, which equates to a 73-percent probability. After winning two lopsided games at home, the Warriors are 1/12, which is equal to just over 92-percent. On the flip side, you can get 31/4 on a Cavs comeback. If you want a piece of Cleveland to win it all, I have some ocean-front real estate to sell you in northern Idaho.

Kidding aside, the Cavs are the correct side to back at this point, at least in the short term. Sure, they were blown out twice, but let’s think back 12 months. Last year, Cleveland lost the opener (104-89) and Game 2 (110-77) on the road before rallying to win the series. That isn’t much different than what’s happened this season: a 113-91 loss in Game 1 and a 132-113 loss in Game 2.

Nobody is suggesting the Cavs are going to get off the deck and stage an improbable comeback, but they stand a solid chance in a must-win Game 3. If you have the Dubs at 7/1 to sweep, there is an opportunity to hedge here. Interestingly, even though Cleveland is at home and desperate to avoid an 0-3 hole, all the money seems to be on Golden State.

The Warriors opened as five-point favorites in Game 1 this year, and were an eight-point favorite in Game 2. Obviously, they covered both. However, those numbers don’t explain how the Cavs are three-point home dogs in Game 3. Yes, the Warriors have been the much better team, but a lot is different in Game 3: venue, urgency, etc. Last year, Cleveland won the Game 3, 120-90. If the Cavs are going to win, it has to be now, and not only can you get three points, if you are hedging, the 13/10 odds are tempting.

Aside from the game-theory aspect of this (bet the team that is down in the public eye and provides value), there are tangible reasons to think the Warriors will regress. Golden State has dominated the first two games in large part thanks to their two best players: Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Both Steph and KD were much better at home than on the road this year.

Curry shot almost 50-percent from the floor and 47-percent from three at home during the regular season, but only 44-percent overall and 36-percent from deep on the road. Durant’s production dropped from 56-percent to 51-percent from the floor, and from 43-percent to 32-percent from three. History suggests Golden State’s stars will take a step back as the series shifts to Ohio. It also suggests Cleveland will improve.

LeBron James has been spectacular in the Finals, but the same cannot be said for several of his teammates. James can expect more from his supporting cast in Cleveland. JR Smith averaged 10.1 points a game at home during the regular season on 39-percent shooting, and 42-percent from three. On the road, he tallied 7.1 PPG, 30-percent from the field, and just 28-percent from three. More importantly, Kyrie Irving hit half of his shot attempts at home. He is 18/45 in the series thus far.

Again, I believed this would be a lopsided series, and nothing we have seen thus far has indicated anything otherwise. However, because of the way the first two games played out, the Cavs now offer a little value. Whether you want to hedge, or just play an angle, the last good chance to do so will be in Game 3. There are solid reasons to consider backing Cleveland in a game they have to have.