Handicapping dead heat for top seed in NBA East

February 25, 2019 10:10 PM

With the stretch run of the NBA season upon us, bettors are focusing on the fascinating battle to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Four virtual co-favorites are given roughly equal chances on the futures board. It’s anybody’s game among Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Boston. Two of those will be squaring off Tuesday in a high-profile national telecast when the Celtics visit the Raptors (TNT, 8:05 p.m. ET).

Let’s take a quick look at the “market story” for “the big four.”

  • Milwaukee is currently on pace to be the #1 seed. The composite wisdom of oddsmakers and sharp betting influences has largely missed the boat on the Bucks, who have been covering near a 60% clip all season. Milwaukee will soon pass its projected “Regular Season Win” total of 48.5. Giannis Antetokounmpo is getting well-deserved consideration for league MVP, carrying this spirited group well past expectations on his broad shoulders. 
  • Toronto has been a surprising money-burner all season. Sunday’s lethargic home loss to Orlando dropped the Raptors to 26-35 ATS. That’s just 43% vs. the number, and is 26 and 38.5 in real money terms because of the 10% vigorish charged to loss bets. If Kawhi Leonard and key teammates are healthy in the postseason, the Raptors are still championship material. Be careful investing until then. Toronto must close 12-9 straight up to match it’s win expectation of 56.
  • Philadelphia currently trails Indiana in the race for the #3 seed, but neither the market nor media pundits are giving the Pacers much of a chance to matter in a few months. The Sixers appear to have turned “the Process” into perennial playoff appearances with their talented young roster. But, this team is also down units for investors this season, stumbling around 47% thus far. Philly needs to close at a 70% straight up clip to threaten its projected win total of 53.5. Good, but not as good as expected. 
  • Boston, after a stunning Saturday night loss at lowly Chicago, must now finish 22-0 to match its projected win total of 59! The market did adjust quickly to less-than-expected form though, with the Celtics sitting at 31-29 ATS for the season. While better than 50%, it’s below break-even because the vig turns 29 losses into 31.9 for bettors. Quite a story developing with questionable chemistry under Kyrie Irving’s leadership. Boston is in danger of settling for a #5 seed, which means missing out on home court advantage in the first round. 

An interesting mix of quality and question marks for bettors. Is Milwaukee ready to thrive when opponents finally bring peak intensity every game? Can Leonard help Toronto overcome its spotty playoff history? Is Philadelphia’s personnel puzzle about to fit together at just the right time? And, is there finally a mess that Brad Stevens can’t think his way out of?!

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