NBA: Betting NBA Finals â€" Opinions vary

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NBA: Betting NBA Finals â€" Opinions vary


The NBA Finals will start on Thursday in Boston and not unexpectedly, StatFox Steve and StatFox Doug see this series very differently. Los Angeles is a -200 favorite at to win the series. Here’s a look at how the guys think it might play out.

In a unique version of the StatFox Scuffle, we thought we would throw questions at them about the Finals and let them share their feelings. Always insightful and never dull, here is what our guys had to say about crowning an NBA champion.

Were you surprised to see the Lakers at -200 favorites for the series?

StatFox Steve: I was very surprised to see Los Angeles as a favorite at all. I think oddsmakers are putting way more stock into what has happened in the postseason than the entire body of work for 2007-08. Let’s not forget, Boston won 66 games in the regular season and was the cream of the crop in the NBA from start to finish.

StatFox Doug: I wasn’t surprised the Lakers were favored to win the Finals, what did surprise me was the first couple of sportsbooks I looked at had Kobe and company at -160, which meant they were wagered heavily. Some might be shocked to see the Lakers favored at all, with regular season record and owning home court advantage, but Los Angeles played in tougher conference and has been by appearance, the best team in the playoffs.

Matchups are extremely important during the playoffs, who has the edge in the backcourt?

SF Doug: Obvious edge here to the Lakers, just having Kobe Bryant. Ray Allen will try to guard Bryant; however it will be fruitless task. Allen responsibility will be to stay within single digits of Bryant on offense, negating his considerable edge. Allen has shot better in recent games and will be fully rested, providing him energy. The other matchup might be more a mismatch. Rajon Rondo is a 50-50 or 60-40 guy. For every brilliant play he makes, he’ll do something equally dumb or on his better games be more proficient 60 percent of the time. Derek Fisher has seen every type of player in his career and will play a few mental games with Rondo.

SF Steve: I think anytime you have a player like Kobe Bryant on the court for a team, that team is going to have the advantage in terms of discussing particular matchups. Unless Cassell is able to step up his play and be a bigger factor in this series, the Lakers are going to have a large talent, execution, and experience edge in this area. Bryant & Derek Fisher boast a wealth of playoff experience, while for Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, this is a first Finals trip.

What about the frontcourt?

SF Steve: Los Angeles has a decent frontcourt with Gasol and Odom being very versatile big men, but Garnett and Pierce make up an elite forward-center combo. I think the ability to produce most of their points in this area gives the Celtics a sizeable edge in this area. Plus, Garnett is one of the league’s best defensive players. Gasol is thought of as soft on that end of the court. He is going to have to be very tough physically in the series to contain K.G.

SF Doug: This could be the swing aspect of the series. If Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and almost more importantly, Kendrick Perkins play their best, they will place a great deal of pressure on the Lakers frontline. The L.A. frontcourt has players like Paul Gasol and Lamar Odom who are not always mentally in the game. If things start getting rough underneath how will they respond? Overall, this category has to favor Boston, but difficult to determine by what measure.

What team has more weapons coming off the bench?

SF Doug: This is a decided edge for the Lakers. Sasha Vujacic can be instant offense off the bench and bring energy. At 6’7, the Celtics have nobody to guard him off screens and he has competent understanding of the Triangle-offense. Jordan Farmar can be tenacious defender and Luke Walton seemingly can provide whatever coach Phil Jackson needs. This style of play in this series would seem to favor Walton’s talents. Boston counters with Eddie House and Sam Cassell, hard time seeing either making significant contributions. If the C’s are to negate the Lakers advantage off the pine, it will have to come from Leon Powe, P.J. Brown or James Posey. Expect Lakers to have double digit edge in most games off the bench.

SF Steve: So much of what Boston does comes from its starting five and in particular the “Big Three”. Los Angeles has a number of more qualified role players from which to get contributions from. I guess I’d have to give the bench edge to the Lakers, although with the number of minutes the Celtics starters play, I don’t think this will have a big role in the series. The Finals games are spread out fairly evenly allowing for ample rest. Let’s face it; both teams are fatigued at this point in the year due to playing 100+ games.

How big a part will coaching have in the Finals?

SF Steve: The teams know each other by now after playing so many games, so only the little adjustments that the coaches make can be a difference. Phil Jackson’s experience plus the fact that he boasts a player that takes the game into his own hands in Bryant gives him the edge.

SF Doug: There is a reason why only six coaches have won the last 21 NBA titles. They have the best teams and know how to push the right buttons of professional basketball players. The skill or lack of is more noticeable in the postseason for head coaches, as the subtlety of adjustments is on display from game to game. If you’ve listening to the coaches in the huddles, Phil Jackson devises plays and is essentially, coaching. Boston’s Doc Rivers, on the other hand is more a cheerleader and life coach, asking his players to keep pushing, giving effort. Rivers does have a staff that is very solid at X’s and O’s, yet on the game’s biggest stage, Jackson is head and shoulders above Rivers.

Steve, seeing you like Boston, what will your Exact Games wager be?

You know, I like the fact that Boston was able to come up with two wins in Detroit in the East Finals. It put to rest any thoughts that the Celtics couldn’t win on the road in the playoffs after being the league’s best road team in the regular season. This confidence is what makes the difference in the series to me. I don’t expect the Celtics to sweep the games at home, and I don’t expect them to lose all the games on the road. Therefore, I’ll be looking at just over 4-1 odds in a Game 7 in Boston, going with the home folks.

I think Boston has incredible value as a series underdog here. The Celtics have been the team to beat from wire-to-wire and 66 wins in the regular season is all the evidence you need to support that. They were 25-5 against the supposedly better Western Conference this year, including 2-0 against Los Angeles. In fact, the two wins in the regular season came by 13 & 19 points. I also think you need to consider the fact that Boston has been a much better team defensively this season than the Lakers. The fact that Los Angeles yields over 101 PPG & 44.4% FG shooting is clearly a concern. In their run to the Finals, they beat a Denver team whose defense is an afterthought, a Utah team that saves its best effort for the offensive end, and a tired San Antonio club. Meanwhile, the Celtics escaped Atlanta then played through two rugged series’ against strong defensive minded clubs. L.A.’s defense will be a walk in the park after that. All of that, plus home court advantage has me backing Boston.

Doug, you’re backing the Lakers, what is wager on the same bet?

I’m taking Los Angeles in six at 15-4 odds to be crowned champions for a 10th time since moving to SoCal. Many will bring up the Celtics beat the Lakers twice during the regular season and by double digits to boot. For those with short memories, Cleveland beat San Antonio twice last season and how did those finals conclude? One aspect to remember is star power. What player can take over a game in the fourth quarter to lead his team to victory? Has Kevin Garnett shown that quality often in the playoffs? What about Paul Pierce? Than you have the best player in the NBA, Kobe Bryant. His name is now frequently mentioned with Michael Jordan, for mental toughness and clutch performances. With three rings already, he can even the score with Shaq, don’t think that’s not important. Take a look at all the teams that have won the NBA championship since 1980 and each had the best coach, with the best player, with one exception (Detroit- 2004) in 37 years. Los Angeles celebrates.

Who are you picking for series MVP?

SF Steve: Garnett. K.G. is going to be a load in the middle for the Lakers to contain. He is equally effective on both ends of the court as well and is probably the league best long term veteran player who has yet to sniff the finals. He is heady and experienced enough to take advantage of this opportunity. Though he might not be Boston’s leading scorer for the series, I think he will be its most important player and I’ll take him at 5-2 odds.

SF Doug: Actually at 1-2, it’s impossible to bet on Kobe, but there is little doubt in my mind he is the man and walks off with daily double of season and series MVP.

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