clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are historic NBA Finals betting underdogs

New, comments

A 12-point ‘dog in Game 1. A +750 bet to win it all. Vegas doesn’t like LeBron James’ chances.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James is back in a familiar spot after rallying his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals and making his eighth-straight appearance in the game’s biggest series. What’s unfamiliar — for James, his team and the betting public in general — is how much of an underdog Cleveland will be against the Golden State Warriors.

The Cavaliers opened as a 12-point underdog for Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, putting James’ squad on the ugly end of one of the largest point spreads to ever kick off the league’s championship series.

It may seem strange that James is a double-digit underdog after willing his team back from a 2-3 deficit to upend the Celtics and set up the NBA’s fourth-straight Warriors-Cavaliers Finals, but there’s logic behind it. Before its Game 7 triumph, Cleveland had a string of terrible performances in the road in the Eastern Conference finals. Boston started that series with a 3-0 record at TD Ameritrade Garden, winning those games by an average of 17 points each.

On Thursday, James will have to make another road trip — this time to face a Warriors team that finished the regular season with three more wins than the Celtics did and who defeated the Cavs twice in two games against Cleveland in 2017-18.

That’s led to a huge disparity in terms of series winner, too. Sportsbooks will have to pay off some mighty long odds should James find a way to win four games and hoist the Larry O’Brien championship trophy this summer.

For reference, those odds mean a $100 bet on the Cavaliers would net you $750 if they won the title. In order to make money off the Warriors, you’d have to plunk down $1,200 just to win $100. That price is nearly double what bettors got back from the biggest NBA Finals upset of the millennium, when the Pistons were a +400 ‘dog to beat a Lakers team with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton. Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, and Chauncey Billups came together as a team to send bettors home back in 2004.

For the Cavaliers to do the same, they’ll have to get an even bigger effort from James and his supporting cast.