You longtime students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping have heard me talk about THE MOTIVATION FACTOR for years. There’s been no greater evidence of its importance than in the first week of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Just remember to keep your mind open to ALL the causes of motivation.

Case in point…Golden State didn’t just beat the LA Clippers 132-105 in Thursday night’s third game of that Western Conference series. The Warriors…in their mind… beat the Clippers AND the refs. Golden State, particularly Kevin Durant, had such a big chip on their shoulder that they weren’t going to let down with a big lead this time. Defense returned. Offensive sharpness returned. And the Warriors glared at the refs the whole way to an easy cover that didn’t just beat the spread…it TRIPLED the spread!

The combination of PLAYMAKERS AND GAMEBREAKERS with THE MOTIVATION FACTOR can’t be stopped. If Golden State can maintain this level of focus (which is far from a sure thing against better opponents who can frustrate them), the Warriors will win another championship. Maybe opponents will ask the refs to stop making calls against the Warriors!

Some other examples from this week:

*Toronto was embarrassed at home by Orlando in its series opener. The Raptors bounced back with a 29-point victory in Game Two that felt even more one-sided than the final victory margin. This franchise may never figure out how to be motivated in a series opener. Their eyes are wide open now. 

*Philadelphia was embarrassed at home by Brooklyn in its series opener. Since then, victories of 145-123 and 131-115. The latter came with star big man Joel Embiid unable to play with knee soreness. Brooklyn started trash talking. That only helped the Sixers surge to a higher level of intensity.

*Houston got tired of hearing that they weren’t as good this year as they were last year. The Rockets sent a message to media pundits with victories of 122-90 and 118-98 to start the Utah series. That was supposed to be a competitive series! It still could be…but Utah needs to make about five adjustments to compete in any future road games (if it gets that far).

*Portland couldn’t believe all the experts were picking Oklahoma City to knock them out in the first round. The Blazers played well in the series opener, then fantastic in Game Two…completely rattling Russell Westbrook. Let’s see of OKC has a response at home.

Note how often THE MOTIVATION FACTOR isn’t just about a feud with an opponent. Players get mad about a lot of things. In this age of social media and wall-to-wall TV coverage, there’s a lot out there that can set them off. Any snub on any channel (or local press). Any bad call by a ref, particularly a series of bad calls. Maybe a heckler from the third row says the wrong thing at the wrong time.

All that said…how long can teams hold a grudge? When do they slack off after proving their point? That’s the key question this weekend in the series I just mentioned. Who’s going to relax at just the wrong time?

Don’t you think Utah is plenty motivated to show up after getting embarrassed twice? Are Orlando and Brooklyn just going to lie down and take their medicine. Those are young teams! Do kids ever want to take their medicine?

Will the Warriors go back to turning the ball over and half-performing on defense now that they’ve proven their point to officials?

Motivation is critical. It’s also fickle.

Your homework this weekend is to evaluate each team’s MOTIVATION FACTOR on a game-by-game basis using a scale from 1-10. Ten being peak motivation (breathing fire), then anything in the 1-4 range reflecting a team that might relax with a series lead, or throw in the towel if they’ve given up hope (which happens more than it should in first round NBA matchups).

Don’t base any selections strictly on your report card. Look for spots where it combines with other key factors (better talent, specific matchup advantages, home court advantage, etc…) to create the possibility for a big bet.

I think you’ll find this exercise helps you see your handicapping challenges more clearly. I believe you’ll continue to do this on your own through the rest of the playoffs. It really can be the difference-maker in terms of who covers a point spread. The classic zig-zag theory that’s been around for years is partly based on the reality that motivational edges can hop back and forth between a series.

If you’d like some help picking winners in basketball or baseball, KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling my office at 1-800-755-2255 during normal business hours. Be sure you check on offers that include the NBA Playoffs and Major League Baseball.

I wanted to let you know that our remaining spring and summer schedule will have us meeting every Friday at the usual time. One class get-together per week, along with homework that will help you stay focused every day. We’ll have a combination of basketball and baseball based on each week’s most important sports betting headlines. Deeper into the summer, we’ll also do some preliminary work for the 2019 college and NFL football seasons.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. Happy Easter! See you again next Friday.