The NBA Finals culminate a two-month long playoff season after an 82-game regular season. Unlike in most other major American sports leagues, the National Basketball Association typically holds form with fewer surprises.
Much like during the regular season, bookies use a point-spread system to predict the winner of each contest and the margin of victory. Bookmakers also establish an over/under for how many points will be scored by both teams combined and whether or not the number will be higher (over) or lower (under).
For example, if Golden State is favored over Cleveland by 12 points and it’s expected to be a high scoring game, Golden State’s odds would look like this: GS -12.0, 9/4. Cleveland’s odds would look like this: CLE +12.0, 9/4. To cover the spread, Golden State would need to win by more than 12 points. To beat the spread, Cleveland would need to win the game or lose by less than 12 points.
Punters can also wager outright wins, both on individual games and the series as a whole.
Bookmakers also offer the opportunity to bet on who will be leading after each quarter, at halftime and through three quarters with the opportunity to do in-play betting as well. Punters will also have a host of prop bet options.
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|Los Angeles Lakers||7/2|
|Los Angeles Clippers||4/1|
|Golden State Warriors||6/1|
|New Orleans Pelicans||70/1|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||80/1|
|San Antonio Spurs||250/1|
|New York Knicks||500/1|
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There are lots of prop bet options during the NBA Finals, both for the series and individual games. Gamblers can also wager on who will win the Most Valuable Player award.
For example, some of the team prop bets for the 2018 NBA Finals included will there be a game-winning shot at the buzzer, an ejection or a suspension? What will be the highest margin of victory? Will there be an overtime game? Will the series go four, five, six or seven games?
There are typically prop bets on most major players’ scoring, assists and/or rebounds, as well as head-to-head proposition between opposing players.
Among the interesting individual prop bets in the 2018 NBA Finals included will LeBron James average a triple-double (10 or more points, 10 or more rebounds and 10 or more assists) and Kevin Durant’s three-point field-goal percentage.
When betting the length of the series, keep in mind that four-game sweeps are atypical – occurring in just nine in the first 72 NBA Finals – while the most common series length has been six games (26 of 72). Five and seven-game series happen with roughly the same frequency, each about 25 percent of the time.
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The rise of so-called "superteams" in the NBA (squads with three or more stars) has led to fairly predictable results in the NBA Finals. From 2013-2019, in every season but two a No. 1 seed or betting favorite has won the NBA title.
The only seasons in which a No. 1 seed didn’t win during that span were 2017-18 and 2018-19. In the 17-18, the Warriors battled injuries during the regular season and finished as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. They were still -1/10 to beat the Cavaliers, which they did.
In 18-19, the Toronto Raptors stunned the Warriors in six games to win their first ever NBA Championship. They were both the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed and a 5/2 underdog heading into the Finals.
The only other underdog to win the title since 2013 is Cleveland (11/8) in the 2015-2016 season. That Cavaliers team also was the only squad to ever win an NBA Finals after trailing 3 games to 1.
Through the 2017-18 season, only seven third seeds, one-fourth seed and one-sixth seed have won the title. No five, seven or eight seeds have ever done so.
While anything can happen in the NBA Playoffs, historical trends seem to hold a strong precedence in determining outcomes, something to keep in mind when betting the NBA Playoffs.
The most glaring example of this is the fact that no team that's lost the first three games of a series has ever come back to win that series.
This feat has been accomplished in other sports leagues, but never in the NBA which leads to many non-elimination games garnering "must-win" distinctions. Only three teams in NBA history have even come back to force Game 7 and that's only happened once (in 1951) in the NBA Finals.
There have been, however, 11 teams that have come back from 3-1 deficits in NBA history and four of those teams won the NBA Championship. The most recent accomplishment of this feat came in 2016 when the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors marking the first time a team had ever blown a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
While this event is fresh on many NBA fans' minds, it's important to remember that such comebacks are extremely rare and in many instances not worth betting on.
Seeding has also played an incredibly relevant role in determining and predicting eventual NBA champions as No. 1 seeds have won 52 titles which amounts to 74.3 percent of all championships won since 1947.
Only 10 second seeds have ever won NBA Titles, the last one to do so being the 2012 Miami Heat. Only seven third seeds, one four seed and one six seed have accomplished the feat, while no five, seven or eight seeds have ever done so.
The NBA Finals culminate a two-month long playoff season after an 82-game regular season and are a favorite among top betting markets the world over.
The overwhelming majority of NBA champions – more than 70 percent – have been No. 1 seeds, meaning they had the best record in their respective conference. Long shots rarely appear in NBA Finals, let alone win them. Still, the best-of-7 series does provide tremendous betting opportunities.
The NBA is split into two 15-team conferences, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference, with 29 teams located in the United States and one in Canada. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs and are seeded 1 through 8, creating a bracket. Teams advance along that bracket and are not reseeded. Therefore in the conference semifinals, the winner of the 1-8 matchup meets the 4-5 winner, and the 2-7 winner meets the 3-6 winner.
Beginning with the 2015-16 season, the NBA began seeding its playoff teams by overall records within each conference rather than by rewarding division winners. Previously, the division winners received the top three seeds, even if a non-division winner had a better record than one of the division winners.
All rounds are best-of-7 series, with the team with the better record hosting Games 1, 2, 5 and 7. In the NBA Finals, the conference champion with the better record gets home-court advantage.
You can bet on the outright winner of the NBA season early on in the campaign by looking at the "ante post" or futures section on a betting site.