NBA odds: A Bookmaker’s take on the NBA Finals; why it’s Boston’s time

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By Sam Panayotovich
FOX Sports Betting Analyst

When it comes to booking NBA championship future wagers, liabilities are not created equal behind the counters of Las Vegas sportsbooks.

Bookmakers take stands on or against specific teams, and the betting odds fluctuate accordingly based on how much action they’re writing.

A team like the Brooklyn Nets never built up much liability at most shops because of the superstar potential. Even though it never fully came to fruition, the combination of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden was always enough to attract public interest, so there was no need to deal the Nets at bloated odds.

Conventional wisdom would tell you the books would be in a bad position with the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics meeting in the 2022 NBA Finals, considering both teams opened the season with double-digit title odds.

That’s not the case at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.

Their bottom line will be positive no matter the outcome of the ensuing best-of-seven series. Why? Because their risk room was lowest in the market on Golden State from jump street, and they were quick to adjust Boston’s title odds before the C’s white-hot streak carried into March and April.

“We were in a really good position on the Celtics for the title, so we had a lot of room to work with,” SuperBook vice president of risk management Jeff Sherman told FOX Sports. “I was a little bit higher on the Warriors series price, and I’ve taken some sharp action on the Celtics +145. That’s definitely a buy price for the sharps.

“We win a little bit if the Warriors win the title and a good amount if the Celtics win it. From that perspective, there’s nothing concerning for us. We have the ability going through the series to shape things however we want based on our future positions.”

Sherman and I often compare notes, and he’s been warning me about this Celtics team since the dog days of January.

“If they ever get it together, they can be dangerous,” he told me when the middling Celtics were .500 through 50 games and fighting tooth and nail to stay relevant in a loaded Eastern Conference.

Then, all of a sudden, Boston flipped the switch.

The Celtics churned together nine straight wins in early February, and luckily, Sherman wasn’t asleep at the wheel. Sure, he booked some small bets at high odds, but he got way ahead of the curve by continuously shortening their future number to minimize liability.

“They started clicking and winning games by huge margins,” Sherman remembered. “We’re talking 30 and 40-point victories against teams like Miami and Brooklyn and Philly. As deep as the East was this year, those beatdowns were still flying under the radar to some extent.

“It was impossible not to notice how Boston played down the stretch.”

A lot of credit has to be directed at C’s head coach Ime Udoka. When Brad Stevens took a cushy front office job after Danny Ainge exited stage left, Udoka’s task was to morph a team from perennial underachievers to championship contenders.

So far, he has passed the test with flying colors.

“Udoka deserves a ton of credit,” Sherman said. “Boston had basically the same team last season and fell short. And while the Celtics struggled early this season, it took time for this group of guys to buy into Udoka’s system and be where they are today.

“The product on the floor results from Udoka rallying them together.”

All this mushy Celtics praise is making me squeamish — probably because I have the Warriors winning the title — so let’s turn the attention to a Golden State core with three NBA championships under their belts.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have excelled on this stage numerous times, and odds are good they won’t be intimidated by the pressure-packed NBA Finals buzzsaw.

“They’ve all been there before, but there’s a lot of youth on that side, too,” Sherman countered. “[Andrew] Wiggins hasn’t been in the spotlight, and Jordan Poole took a big step forward, but is he ready for the NBA Finals?

“Golden State will be relying on a lot of youth and experience for the first time in a very long time. If the supporting cast doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain, it could be a frustrating series for the Warriors.”

If it wasn’t already crystal clear, Sherman believes Boston will dispatch Golden State and win its 18th world championship in franchise history. That would push the Celtics one title ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers for the most in league history.

It’s a bold move betting against Curry & Co., but real recognize real.

“Ultimately, I think Boston’s defense will frustrate Golden State’s offensive ability,” Sherman predicted. “The Warriors haven’t seen a defense like this on their path to the Finals. The Celtics’ defense against the Warriors’ youth is the biggest key for me.”

Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.


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