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Celtics' comeback doesn't compute

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

celtics
Marcus Smart and Al Horford celebrate the Celtics' amazing comeback.
© USA Today Sports Images

A racetrack thriller and a basketball bombshell highlight Preakness Weekend.

Preakness: Sharp choice Cloud Computing stuns favorites
If you watched or heard VSiN programming last week, you noticed a lot of smart handicappers (and oddsmakers, including South Point Sportsbook Director Chris Andrews) singing the praises of Cloud Computing as a potential spoiler in the Preakness. A week ago Friday here in VSiN City, we posted Roxy Roxborough’s value estimates that showed only Cloud Computing standing out as a smart investment. 

Sharp eyes for a horse that went off at 13-1 and paid 28.80 to win.

Kentucky Derby champion Almost Dreaming and potent challenger Classic Empire did go at it match-race style out of the gate as expected Saturday. Always Dreaming would tire and fade badly after that initial challenge. Cloud Computing charged hard to pass Classic Empire for a tight victory in a time of 1:55:98. That was faster than the last two Preakness races (both run in very sloppy conditions), but still the fourth slowest winning time in the last 17 years according to horse-races.net

You can read an in-depth recap Ron Flatter posted from Pimlico soon after the race by clicking here. Ron’s look-ahead to the Belmont which includes additional Preakness perspective went online Sunday, and can be read here

NBA: What happened in Cleveland?!
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors were on a collision course for the NBA Finals…with the Warriors enjoying a 3-0 lead over San Antonio in the West…and the Cavs holding a comfortable 66-50 halftime lead Sunday night on the way to the same advantage over Boston.

Then, the under-manned, out-gunned, no-chance, huge underdog Celtics won the second half 61-42!

Boston (plus 17) 111, Cleveland 108

  • Three Pointers: Boston 18/40, Cleveland 16/39
  • Turnovers: Boston 9, Cleveland 15
  • Bench Scoring: Boston 32, Cleveland 9

So many factors in play here. Most obvious, Boston never gave up while Cleveland took its foot off the gas way too soon. We’ve seen that before with this Cavaliers team (remember the bigger regular season lead they blew to Atlanta?). Boston started making some treys. Cleveland would go just 2 of its last 17 from long range after hot early shooting. The thing to remember about that big bench edge for Boston was that one of its prior bench guys had to start in place of Isaiah Thomas (out for the postseason with a hip injury). 

Some similarities to Game 1 where Cleveland blew a huge lead amidst a 13-point win in a slow-paced affair. That one had about 92 possessions per team. This one settled at 90, after a 99-possession explosion in the 130-86 blowout in G2. Cleveland’s bench has been really bad at slow paces.

What seemed an automatic 3-0 series lead for the Cavs is now just 2-1. They’re still up a service break. But, they will definitely have to go back to Boston at least once more. Golden State is likely to wrap things up Monday evening.

Saturday night, the Warriors (-9) coasted past San Antonio 120-108 to take a 3-0 series lead. Kawhi Leonard missed that game, and was ruled out of Monday’s probable series ender. There’s not much reason to go through the key stats because nothing new was learned about team skill sets in a series that’s all but over. If you’re keeping track of pace counts, that was the fastest game of the series thus far at 104 estimated possessions per team.

Monday’s pointspread (Golden State leads series 3-0)

  • Golden State (-12, total of 216.5) at San Antonio; 9 p.m. on ESPN

NBA: Estimating NBA Finals pointspreads

Sunday on “My Guys in the Desert,” Jimmy Vaccaro discussed the potential Game One point spread in the likely Golden state/Cleveland matchup with Brent Musburger and Matt Youmans. Jimmy V. suggested Golden State by 5.5 at home was a logical starting place. Matt and Brent were thinking along the same lines. (Golden State is currently -250 on the series price, with Cleveland returning 210…Matt believes that’s too high, with the price potentially closing near two dollars).

If you assume that home court advantage is going to be worth 3 points in the NBA Finals, that would suggest a line near pick-em when the series moves to Cleveland. If you’re projecting something closer to 4 points for home court advantage, that would suggest Cleveland by around -2 or -2.5 at home. 

Matt was anticipating an Over/Under in the 220’s. That’s consistent with the math we’ve been seeing so far.

  • Golden State’s average playoff sum: 218.2 points on a pace of 100 
  • Cleveland’s average playoff sum: 219.2 points on a pace of 95 

Scoring teams going head-to-head tend to push each other to higher totals. If Golden State lifts Cleveland’s pace…then 220’s is the right ballpark. 

Stores will likely start posting bettable numbers soon given the seeming inevitability of the matchup. We’ll keep you posted. 

If you’re wondering about our estimated “market” Power Ratings, based on those lines we would have a three-point difference between teams. If you think GS and Cleveland have risen WAY above the field, you might read that as Golden State 93, Cleveland 90. If you think part of the reason for their recent dominance has been key injuries to opponents, it would be more like Golden State 92, Cleveland 89. Those numbers become relative trivia once they’re the only two teams left! Clearly the class of the field, though Cleveland may be reminding us of vulnerabilities that had temporarily slipped off the radar.

NBA: How do sharps hedge their futures bets?
We promised to talk about hedging against future bets once San Antonio reached their elimination game. That’s already happened! It’s win or go home for the Spurs Monday night in Alamo City. 

This was a topic discussed on VSiN programming and in the newsletter back during March Madness. If you bet a longshot to win the championship at a nice payoff…what’s the best way to position yourself to “lock in” a profit when that team is in danger of being eliminated? 

We’ve talked to a few professional wagerers about this issue on background. The consensus is as follows:

  • Sharps generally DON’T hedge their positions. If the initial bet was “plus-EV,” which means having a positive expected value, then you’re losing money by hedging. Any additional bet you make probably isn’t plus-EV unless the market has made an error. You don’t win long term by including minus-EV bets in your portfolio. Let’s say you had a college basketball underdog at 35-1 and they’ve reached the Sweet 16. Even if you think they probably won’t win, they’ll still probably win more than 1 out of 36 times. You’re still “plus-EV” so you don’t hedge.
  • Sharps aren’t worried about “locking in a profit.” They’re focused on maximizing value. In their view, hedging discussions focus too much on making a loss less painful. Sharps accept that they’re going to lose some bets. Cost of doing business. They’re content having made a smart percentage bet rather than worrying about avoiding the pain of a loss.
  • Sharps WILL place new bets if new information has emerged that has turned that original futures bet into a negative. Let’s say that college basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16, but lost their two stars to major injuries late in the Round of 32. Now, 35-1 isn’t very favorable because the true odds have become a lot worse. If they can find a plus-EV way to hedge by taking the opponent, sharps will do so. That can be tough though because the injuries aren’t exactly a secret. If no “plus-EV” options are out there, they swallow the loss.

Generally speaking, it’s the more casual bettors in the public sphere that are most concerned about locking in a profit by hedging. Risking $100 to win $3,500 still feels like it’s going to be a $100 loss if you figure the longshot is most likely to lose before getting a chance to cut down the nets. As you confront an elimination game, you can make a moneyline bet on the opponent that would erase the potential loss. Let’s say the opponent is -200 on the moneyline. That bettor with the 35-1 ticket on his original $100 futures bet can risk $200 to win $100 on the opponent. That sets up a risk of $0 to win $3,300 should the longshot run the table. You’ve erased something from your potential payoff…but now you can’t lose anything.

If you want to lock in a profit, you can bet more than the $200. Let’s double it to $400 to win $200. Now you’re either going to make $100 if your team is immediately eliminated, or make $3,100 if you go all the way. Of course, if your longshot happens to win that Sweet 16 game and you want to keep hedging, you have to bet a little higher in the Elite 8 to lock in a profit. You’ll hear industry insiders call this “selling stock.” It’s really up to YOU how to evaluate your comfort level with these kinds of bets. Plot out what the outcomes look like with different bet-sizes, and match them to your comfort level.

Hope that helps. Always feel free to send your sports betting questions to VSiN City!

NHL: Nashville, Pittsburgh take 3-2 series leads in Conference Finals
Pre-series favorites Nashville and Pittsburgh won Saturday and Sunday respectively to earn 3-2 series advantages over Anaheim and Ottawa as the chase for Lord Stanley’s cup continues.

Saturday: Nashville won 3-1, helped by a late empty-netter. Nice bounce-back for the banged-up Predators after losing Game 4 at home in overtime last Thursday. Anaheim did win shot count 33-29 though. Nashville’s recent injuries have inhibited their ability to control the flow of action.

  • First 3 games: Nashville outshot Anaheim 119-76
  • Last 2 games: Anaheim outshot Nashville 70-63

This gives the Ducks hope that they can rally from behind to take the last two games.

Sunday: Pittsburgh routed Ottawa 7-0. After the Penguins jumped to a 4-0 first period lead, the rest of the afternoon was mostly running out the clock. No reason for the Senators to waste any energy when a comeback that large was impossible. Pittsburgh won shot count 36-25 while sitting on that big lead. Game Six will be Tuesday north of the border. 

Monday’s moneyline (Nashville leads series 3-2)

  • Anaheim at Nashville (-145, total of 5--over -120); 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

MLB: Get OVER it pitching purists!
To get you in the right mindset for Gill Alexander’s big “baseball derivatives” show Monday on “A Numbers Game” (4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. here in Las Vegas), we wanted to present a couple of Over/Under trends you may not have been aware of.

  • Scoring has really ignited in recent days. Though Sunday was a relatively quiet 8-7-1 to the Over, Saturday’s 10-3 tally to the Over has helped drive a 71-35-3 splurge over the past eight days. You had likely heard (or read) that scoring was up this season. Warming weather has helped drive a scoring spike that caught the market flat-footed.
  • The market has been slow to react to National League scoring all season. In “NL Only” games thus far in 2017 (excluding all American League and Interleague games), overs are 147-109-10. That’s about 27 games over break even after accounting for vigorish.

 

  • National League only: 147-109-10 to the Over
  • American League only: 126-126-14
  • Interleague: 39-33-1 to the Over

If you’re interested in learning about five-inning props, 1.5-run props, and other baseball derivatives, be sure you join Gill and producer Michael Lambourne Monday!

Sports Betting: What know-it-alls don’t know, or the illusion of competence
Last week, Aeon…a digital magazine of ideas, philosophy, and culture (according to its Wikipedia page) printed an article with that headline that applies to the dangerous traps confronting sports bettors. 

The phenomenon described is called the “Dunning-Kruger” effect, and suggests that many people overrate their own abilities to accomplish tasks. Furthermore, it suggests that the less experienced a person is in a particular field, the more they overrate their abilities. 

If you’ve been a sports bettor for any length of time, you’ve no doubt experienced this either with yourself, or others that you know. Maybe you thought winning money was going to be a piece of cake at first because you were an avid sports fan. You didn’t realize that the markets are well-informed themselves…and that the 11/10 vigorish is a tough hill to climb. The more you bet, the more you understood the challenges of the market. 

Ironically for many bettors, their confidence level decreases as they improve. They start off with delusions of grandeur…and gradually form a more realistic expectation as they plug leaks in their approach and learn to be more selective. If you hear someone expressing extreme confidence about one of their sports bets, they’re either new to betting, trying to impress you, or trying to sell you something. If you’re talking to a professional wagerer, you’ll tend to hear much less confidence about any particular game because sharps understand the grind of percentages over the long haul. 

We strongly encourage you to read that article. Think about how it might apply to your personal wagering strategies moving forward. Are you too confident? Are you placing too many bets? Or, have you found the sweet spot that allows you to respect the market while grinding out an edge? The more you learn about the challenges facing you, the more successful you’ll be. 

We hope you had a great weekend. Back with you tomorrow with summaries of Monday’s action, an update on MLB-Interleague play, and more news and notes from the sports betting industry. 

If you have any questions or comments about VSiN programming or newsletter content, please drop us a note. You can subscribe to receive VSiN City every weekday in your inbox by clicking here. A great way to keep up-to-the-minute on programming bulletins and sports news is to follow us on twitter. See you Tuesday!

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