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Caps upset Vegas in another thriller

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Braden Holtby's stick save with 2 minutes left preserved the victory for the Capitals.
© USA Today Sports Images

Catapult THAT! Caps bounce back Wednesday with a 3-2 victory in Vegas to even the Stanley Cup Final at one win apiece. Numbers and notes from a thrill ride of a series, plus our stat preview of the NBA Finals featuring Golden State and Cleveland that begin Thursday night. Sports bettors are always the champs in VSiN City!

NHL Stanley Cup Final: Washington survives frantic Golden Knights' shot onslaught 
Another great game. Washington largely controlled flow of play while building a 3-2 lead before it had to construct a fort in front of goalie Braden Holtby (who made one of the greatest championship round saves ever with two minutes to go).

Washington (plus 130) 3, Vegas 2 
Shots: Washington 26, Vegas 39
Power Plays: Washington 1/2, Vegas 1/5

Washington led shot count 11-10 after a period, which means Vegas won it the rest of the way 29-15. Though scoring fell from 10 goals in Monday’s opener down to 5 here, there wasn’t much of a decrease in effort and intensity. Plenty of near-misses in G2. Shot counts were actually higher here (65) than in Monday (62). 

Vegas does not stop attacking. Washington was much superior mid-game, particularly in a few 4-on-4 spots that felt more like 6-on-3 given the chances the Caps created. 

Tough luck for Over bettors, who saw a 3-2 game after two periods end with a goalless third. Both offenses probably felt they could have tallied at least one more.

Two days off now before the series resumes Saturday night in the nation’s capital. Washington will be a favorite on home ice. VSiN’s Dave Tuley tweeted after the game that Stations casinos were first up with a Game 3 line. Stations opened Washington -140, with the total still at 5.5. 

Washington’s road win gives the Caps home ice advantage at least temporarily. Vegas must win at least once on the road to lift the Cup. If we look at approximate odds to win remaining games based on likely money lines the rest of the way…

Game 3: Vegas 44%, Washington 56%
Game 4: Vegas 44%, Washington 56%
Game 5: Vegas 58%, Washington 42%
Game 6: Vegas 44%, Washington 56%
Game 7: Vegas 58%, Washington 42%

From one win apiece right now, that adds up to Washington 3.52 wins, Vegas 3.48 wins. So, when we say Washington evened up the series…we really mean Washington evened up the series! Virtual coin flip right now, after Vegas was -240 with a 1-0 series lead. 

Let’s see how sports books adjust the series price Thursday. Could get tricky with so much prior futures action to account for. We’ll preview Game 3 in our Friday report because VSiN City runs on weekdays. 

NBA Finals: Golden State is better than Cleveland at everything! Can LeBron James overcome that by himself?
The 2018 NBA Finals start Thursday night. Betting markets don’t expect the series to be competitive. Barring injuries, Golden State will likely be a double-digit favorite in every home game. The Warriors will also be priced to do better than split out on the road. 

Why is betting slanted so heavily toward the Warriors? While it’s true that Golden State is a “public” team with a decent “locals” following in Nevada…LeBron James has been known to draw some money himself! Golden State wasn’t -1200 to win in prior three championship meetings with Cleveland. Why so high now? 

Let’s start with a review of regular-season rankings in the key indictor stats we’ve been using to evaluate matchups throughout the postseason. 

Offensive Efficiency: Golden State #1, Cleveland #5
Defensive Efficiency: Golden State #8, Cleveland #29
Rebound Rate: Golden State #11, Cleveland #22

Made Treys Per Game: Golden State 11.3, Cleveland 12.0
3-Point Emphasis: Golden State #15, Cleveland #4

Golden State has the best offense in basketball. Cleveland ranked a very respectable #5 given early season sluggishness and roster turnover. The Cavs paced themselves all season at slower tempos. That caused misleadingly low scoreboard results for evaluating pure offense. On a per-possession basis, we have two quality scoring units.

On defense, Golden State dropped down to #8 because of a lack of intensity. The Warriors paced themselves for the playoffs by backing off on defense rather than slowing tempo down. Cleveland was rightly blasted for horrible defense all season. We started each of their playoff previews by pointing out that they’d have to play much better defense than they had shown prior. 

Rebounding? Golden State was slightly above average, Cleveland below. Three-point data was interesting because it was CLEVELAND that had more makes per game during the regular season with a much higher emphasis than Golden State. While its true that the Warriors revolutionized basketball a few years ago by aggressively shooting treys…they’ve stood relatively pat in attempts while other teams have flown past them in emphasis. LeBron James loves to drive the ball than kick it out to a shooter. 

Plenty of reasons there for Golden State to be the favorite. But not necessarily a 12-point favorite in every home game. Let’s zoom in on “playoff-only” performances. We’re not going to use rankings here, because half of the 16 playoff teams only had one series. The efficiency numbers below represent points scored or allowed per 100 possessions, while “rebound rate” is the percentage of possible rebounds grabbed. 

Playoffs Only
Offensive Efficiency: Golden State 110.0, Cleveland 107.1
Defensive Efficiency: Golden State 99.7, Cleveland 105.9
Rebound Rate: Golden State 52.2, Cleveland 50.1

Similar in scale. Golden State is better at everything. Both teams are very efficient offensively. Both teams increased intensity on defense. Golden State is off-the-charts excellent on defense this postseason, as second best in the playoffs is Indiana at 103.0 (in just one series). Cleveland improved, but still lags the Warriors. Golden State has re-established its “defense and rebounding wins championships” bona fides, while also sporting an offense that can’t be stopped when focused.  

A couple of other “playoff-only” categories we need to look at…

Playoffs Only
Made Treys Per Game: Golden State 10.8, Cleveland 10.3
Playoff Pace: Golden State 99.9, Cleveland 93.9

Cleveland is no longer making more treys per game than Golden State, eliminating a possible avenue to sneak into the series. Anyone suggesting that the Cavs need to increase their pace to create cheap points that will help them compete doesn’t realize that YOU CAN’T RUN ON GOLDEN STATE! That just plays into the Warriors’ hands. Remember when New Orleans tried that in the second round? Fastest series of the postseason…and three of Golden State’s four wins came by margins of 22, 26, and 19 points. It’s possible to have temporarily positive stretches at pace vs. GS. You’re not going to get the best of them through a series at 100 or more possessions per game. 

Does everything we’ve read justify Golden State as a 12-point favorite at home? Can’t say that it does. Particularly with Andre Igoudala battling a sore knee. Sharps are waiting to see whether Kevin Love will be cleared from concussion protocol before taking any underdog flyers at Oracle. Our Game 1 recap Friday will focus on pace, Golden State’s tendency to become turnover prone when overconfident, and whether Cleveland can figure out how to make 3-pointers on the road. 

Be sure to watch VSiN programming all day Thursday for news on player availability and the latest from the betting markets. 

MLB Wednesday: Yankees take two of three from Astros behind 11K’s from Severino 
Once again, the New York Yankees were exorbitantly priced with Luis Severino on the mound. Once again, he pitched well before handing off to an elite bullpen in a victory for the Bronx Bombers. 

NY Yankees (-190) 5, Houston 3
Total Bases Plus Walks: Houston 12, New York 14
Starting Pitchers: Keuchel 5 IP, 4 ER, Severino 7 IP, 2 ER
Bullpen: Houston 3 IP, 1 ER, New York 2 IP, 1 ER

You won’t often see the defending World Series Champions priced as this big an underdog with a quality rotation starter on the mound. But the New York Yankees “with Severino” continue to set new standards. NYY is 11-1 in Severino’s starts. Granting that’s extreme (nobody should be a -1100 favorite in this sport), you’re typically going to get nine excellent innings when he’s making a start in front of an offense that consistently scores runs. 

Severino struck out 11 Astros, while dropping his ERA to 2.31 and his WHIP to 0.97. Aroldis Chapman picked up save No. 12. New York moves to 35-17 on the season, 26-8 after a 9-9 start. 

Dallas Keuchel falls to 3-7 for the Astros, shocking for a pitcher with decent stats on a team that’s 35-22 for the season. 

New York travels to Baltimore to start a four-game series Thursday night. Houston heads back home to host Boston for four games. 

Milwaukee (pick-em) 3, St. Louis 2
Total Bases Plus Walks: St. Louis 14, Milwaukee 19
Starting Pitchers: Reyes 4 IP, 0 ER, Guerra 6 IP, 0 ER
Bullpen: St. Louis 4 IP, 3 ER, Milwaukee 3 IP, 1 ER

Milwaukee takes two of three in this very important home series. Six shutout innings from Junior Guerra knocked his ERA down to 2.65 for the season (WHIP of 1.12). The Brewers will keep winning if their arms (and bullpen) keep producing as they have so far. Jake Reyes of the Cardinals made his first start since late 2016 after returning from Tommy John surgery. He was pulled after 73 pitches with a slight drop in velocity in the fourth inning. Milwaukee lifted its lead up in the NL Central back up to 4.5 games with a 36-21 record thanks to Chicago’s loss later on the card. St. Louis is now 29-24, five games back. 

Pittsburgh (plus 110) 2, Chicago Cubs 1
Total Bases Plus Walks: Chicago 14, Pittsburgh 17
Starting Pitchers: Hendricks 5 IP, 2 ER, Musgrove 7 IP, 1 ER
Bullpen: Chicago 3 IP, 0 ER, Pittsburgh 2 IP, 0 ER

Here’s that Cubs loss. All scoring came in the first two innings. Solid outings from the starters, then both bullpens were perfect. Chicago drops to 29-23, 4.5 games behind Milwaukee. Pittsburgh salvages a win in the series to move to 29-26.

This weekend for NL Central contenders:
Milwaukee visits the Chicago White Sox for three games starting Friday
The Chicago Cubs start a four-game series at the NY Mets Thursday
Pittsburgh plays four in St. Louis starting Thursday

Golden Tee World Championships: First betting odds up at Gold Coast
David Purdum of ESPN today tweeted the first betting odds posted for the Golden Tee World Championships to be held at the Orleans June 8-10. If you’re not familiar, that’s a popular golf arcade game. Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs on Twitter) has been on VSiN talking about the event.

Sixty-four competitors will vie for the title. If early odds are any indication, it’s going to be very difficult to attract casual bettors to the windows. Here’s a look at everyone priced at 10/1 or below. Unless you’re an aficionado, you won’t know these names. Focus on the odds and equivalent win percentages.

Andy Haas 9/2 (18% to win)
Paul Luna 5/1 (17% to win)
Andy Fox 6/1 (14% to win)
Lance Harris 6/1 (14% to win)
Paul Tayloe 8/1 (11% to win)
Evan Gossett 8/1 (11% to win)
Mark Stenmark 8/1 (11% to win)
Joe Massara 9/1 (10% to win)
Sean Gervais 9/1 (10% to win)

You regular readers know that sports books build a universe larger than 100% to represent a house edge. Those nine competitors by themselves already add up to 116%. There are 64 competitors! Any competitor betting on themselves won’t be getting anywhere near true odds for how difficult the accomplishment is. 

A longshot might ultimately pay off at a price of 50/1 or 75/1. But that longshot’s true odds entering the event were much likely at least 100/1. Were 64 identically even competitors entered, each would have true odds of 63/1. Given that the nine names above have established superiority in past competitions, current longshots are even longer than priced.

A fun game to play…but not something the general public should be betting at early odds. 

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