How Sharps Will Likely Bet Weekend NBA

We've come to the annual spot in the NBA Playoff schedule where the league gives championship contenders extra time off to set up a blockbuster TV weekend. The Boston/Cleveland series resumes Saturday night in Ohio with the pre-series underdog Celtics leading 2-0. The Houston/Golden State series gets back on the floor Sunday night in California all tied at one apiece.

Lines for those matchups have already settled after initial betting. We may not see any dramatic changes until game day. Here's how I expect the sharps to bet those games this weekend.

BOSTON AT CLEVELAND (Saturday night):
An opener of Cleveland -5.5 has already been bet up to -6.5. That was a mix of "systems players" and the public hitting the Cavaliers in the must-win situation. Databases show a peak effort for the trailing team in a spot like this, though it's rare to have a pre-series favorite come out so poorly. It's telling that the line moved stopped at 6.5. I'd say everyone agrees that sharps would come in very hard at +7 given how well Boston has played this postseason. Many squares (public bettors) might as well because a great betting city like Boston does have a constituency.

The question now is whether sharps will take Boston at game day +6.5. We could see a tug-of-war between Cleveland -6 and Boston +6.5 if the Wise Guys do decide they want to get involved at +6.5 is the best they're going to see. Or, sharps could just wait until Game Four to back the Celtics. Boston has had some ugly road games…and this is the natural peak spot for Cleveland. I'm confident that Boston (+) will be a sharp bet in next Monday's Game Four.

For now, we're left with this:
*The public, and sharp systems players like Cleveland at -6 or better
*Sharps are hoping to get Boston +7, some will accept +6.5

On the total, the opener of 204.5 has been bet up to 205 or 205.5 even though the first two games went Under. We can assume that means much of the interest on the Cavs involves the team shooting and scoring much more impressively. Quants made the line 205, and won't get involved unless the public pushes this game to at least 206.

No move yet off an opener of Golden State -7. It's telling that the public didn't jump right in for the obvious bounce back of a league favorite. Even squares were impressed with how well Houston played in Game Two! I've talked to a few sharps who are less concerned about Houston now than they were after the series opener. The math guys in particular have always thought Houston had a real chance to win the West.

There weren't any sharps jumping in early on the favorite for position (because they thought the line was too low, or they wanted to come back over the top on the dog after a line move). That tells us that most would jump in on Houston at +7.5 or better. We'll have to see if the public bets over the weekend. That could happen because Golden State does have a following in Nevada, and locals have all weekend to think about the game.

Maybe we'll see a tug-of-war between Golden State -7 and Houston +7.5, or even between Golden State -6.5 and Houston +7. I can tell you that a variety of sharp approaches would have made this game more like Golden State -5 or -5.5 back before the series started…possibly as low as -4 or -4.5. Whether your talking new age algorithms, or old-style Power Ratings…Golden State wasn't seen as THAT much better than Houston before this series that the line should have been -7 at Oracle.

The opening total of 227 has been bet down to 226. Golden State did start playing Unders from Game Three on in the New Orleans series. And, if you're betting the Warriors to bounce back off a loss, that would mean playing better defense. So, instead of laying an inflated -7, bounce back bettors may have stepped in here with an Under.

What do sharps think about how the rest of these series will go? I'm not finding any Cavs believers amongst my contacts, even though there hasn't been a "service break" yet in this series. Cleveland can still win its home games, win once at Boston, and advance. That's how bad Cleveland has looked on defense so far. A heavy pre-series favorite has no more believers even though it hasn't lost a home game yet! Most sharps still think the Warriors (who did break serve and can now win at home) will go through. But, there's less skepticism about Houston than there was after the opener.