The Cleveland Cavaliers played GREAT basketball for 45 minutes Wednesday in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Not enough! Now a 16-0 playoff sweep is just one game away for the amazing Golden State Warriors.
NBA: Golden State wins final 3:09 by an 11-0 count to take 3-0 Finals lead
If 16-0 is destined to go in the record books…11-0 is going to go right there with it. And everyone’s going to remember what that means for decades. That’s the night in early June of 2017 that the Golden State Warriors scored the last 11 points of the game to grab history from the jaws of defeat. From down 113-107 after LeBron James hit a three-pointer with 3:09 left…
Golden State (-4) 118, Cleveland 113
- Three Pointers: Golden State 16/33, Cleveland 12/44
- Rebounds: Golden State 44, Cleveland 37
- Last 3:09: Golden State 11, Cleveland 0
It’s tempting to say that Cleveland couldn’t possibly play any better than this. Kyrie Irving drew raves all night on his way to 38 points. LeBron James watched that, but scored 39 of his own…while also grabbing 11 rebounds and passing out nine assists. The Cavs shot 61% inside the arc, while holding Golden State to 48%. Cleveland only turned the ball over 12 times, while forcing 18 miscues from the erratic Warriors. This was the game they were supposed to win.
- 2:23 left: JR Smith misses a 3-pointer, Kevin Love misses a short shot just after
- 2:18: Steph Curry scores for Golden State
- 1:52: Kyrie Irving misses a driving layup, LeBron James misses a 12-footer just after
- 1:15: Kevin Durant scores for Golden State
- 0:52: Kyle Korver misses a 3-pointer
- 0:45: Kevin Durant makes history, with a replay that will never stop showing!
- 0:26: Kyrie Irving gets flustered, panics, and misses a 25-footer
- 0:12: Kevin Durant makes two free throws
- 0:10: LeBron James turnover
- 0:09: Steph Curry makes two free throws
In that short spurt…we went from Cleveland being in relative command of the game, to Golden State almost locking up the series. We went from Cleveland (plus 4) looking like money, and Under 227 having a very good chance to win….to Golden State and Over cashing again. And, we saw what will become Kevin Durant’s signature highlight with a three-pointer over “too tired to get there” LeBron James to grab the lead for good. You think you’ve seen Michael Jordan over Craig Ehlo a thousand times?
In the boxscore…three-pointers and rebounds were the difference makers. Golden State’s 16 of 33 on treys is the equivalent of 73% on two-pointers. The game was played at a brisk pace most of the way, but slowed down late to finish at about 100 possessions per team. You can easily make the case that Cleveland ran out of gas in those final moments. Though, they kept enough in the tank much longer than the sprinted first half would have suggested. Cleveland actually won the third quarter 33-22, which is usually Golden Stat’s time to shine.
MVP Watch: Kevin Durant is now a virtual lock, even if he has a generic Game 4. He’s played great on both sides of the floor…and buried the dagger. As great as Steph Curry has been, he might have to score 50 points while juggling on a unicycle to get enough votes to be competitive.
Sweep Watch: One game away from 16-0. Golden State will be near a -250 favorite to finish the job Friday night. Big difference from the plus 700 they were getting a couple of weeks ago. No sure things, though.
The Westgate tweeted out an early G4 line of Golden State -6, total of 228.5 soon after G3 had ended. Recent playoff history has shown a lot of “throw in the towel” non-efforts from demoralized dogs in G4. The market now automatically responds to that potential with a line lift from G3. On the total, the three games so far have averaged 226.7, with a median of 231. The early G4 number is in that window.
In the other ongoing league championship, the NHL Stanley Cup Final resumes Thursday night in Pittsburgh. Once again, the host is a medium-sized favorite in a series that’s respected home ice.
Thursday’s NHL money line (Series tied at 2-2)
Nashville at Pittsburgh (-150, total of 5.5--under -130); 8 p.m. ET on NBC
College Football: Bob Stoops steps down at Oklahoma
In a move that stunned the sports world, Bob Stoops announced his retirement as head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will take over for the 2017 season. Riley won the Broyles Award in 2015 as the top assistant coach in the country. (Be sure you check out the special segment of “A Numbers Game” where Brent Musburger called in from the road to discuss this major story live.)
Sports bettors had a love/hate relationship with Stoops. They loved betting on him in “run up the score” positions because he would do that in a way that covered a lot of point spreads (particularly in his early years). But, his sarcastic reputation as “Big Game Bob” would often bite him in the most important spots.
Stoops was barely a winner in market terms the past six seasons when you account for vigorish. His ATS mark of 42-36 registers at 42-39.6 with the extra 10% charged to losing bets. That’s a bit under half a unit of profit per season. There were some horrific non-covers in each of those six campaigns.
OU ATS notes from the last six seasons
- 2016: 7-6 ATS (but missed the spread by 23 and 19 to UH and Ohio State)
- 2015: 9-4 ATS (missed spread by 23, 17, and 23.5 to Texas, TCU, and Clemson)
- 2014: 5-8 ATS (missed spread by 39.5, 24, and 40 to Baylor, Okie State, and Clemson)
- 2013: 8-5 ATS (missed spread by 29.5 vs. Texas, but did shock Alabama 45-31 at plus 17)
- 2012: 6-7 ATS (missed spread by 20.5, 27.5, and 25 to Kansas State, Notre Dame, Texas A&M)
- 2011: 7-6 ATS (missed spread by 32, 23.5, and 30.5, to Tech, Baylor, and Okie State)
Love/hate! Easy to get mad at a high profile coach that has so many horrible single game performances. Chris Andrews told Gill Alexander Wednesday he often had the Sooners overrated in his Regular Season Win counts.
But when OU was good…they could be very good. Always the conundrum for the betting marketplace.
Stoops is only 56. So there’s always a chance he will return to the sidelines. With a residence in Chicago, and roots in Youngstown Ohio, there are big name programs in those areas who may be looking for a new head coach in the relatively near future.
New OU coach Riley will be dealing with this September challenge this Fall…
- September 2: vs. UTEP (OU is favored by 48 at the South Point)
- September 9: at Ohio State (OU is a 7-point underdog)
- September 16: vs. Tulane
- September 23: at Baylor
Should be two easy home wins, but two challenging road tests.
NFL: Jets may become the Browns of 2017, making them tough to price!
The rebuilding Jets look to be signaling an all-out tank job with the recent releases of pricey veterans David Harris and Eric Decker. You can read more about that in this NY Daily news article from Wednesday.
If this is true…and it’s hard to believe otherwise unless the young athletes the Jets will be testing gel at lightning speed (behind what’s likely to be a lousy quarterback)…then the betting markets may have trouble pricing NYJ in 2017.
Last year the Cleveland Browns’ version of limbo did net that franchise the #1 pick in the draft. Cleveland only managed a 3-16-1 record against the spread counting four desultory preseason performances. Sportsbooks settled for positions against the public almost every week…and spent the Fall and Winter regretting it. Many professional wagerers also kept the lines from sinking because they perceived betting value on the ugly dog that just didn’t prove to be there.
NYJ’s Regular Season Win total has already sunk from 5.5 (Over -120) to 4.5 (Over -120). That could still be too high. The Jets were only 5-11 last year when they were trying!
The Week One line of Buffalo -6 at home over the Jets gives us an early look at where NYJ will sit on the NFL totem pole. Buffalo’s current Regular Season Win total is 6.5 (Over -125). The Jets grade out as only a field goal worse than the Bills on a neutral field if you pencil in the standard three points for home field advantage.
That’s not last year’s Browns. Buffalo hosted last year’s Browns on December 18 and were laying -10.5!
We’ll continue to monitor the Jets’ narrative through the summer, the preseason, and early regular season. Smart handicappers plan ahead. If tanking is going to become more prominent in professional sports, recognizing market weakness early should prove profitable.
From the New York Jets to some New York bets…
Belmont: Without Classic Empire, draw sets up potential match race in the middle
You surely know by now that favorite Classic Empire had to withdraw from the Belmont with a hoof abscess. That news broke very early Wednesday morning. The newsletter morning staff made sure you read about it in VSiN City!
A few hours later, the official draw created some interesting possibilities. Most notably, a looming match race in the middle with two of the three favorites lined up side by side. Here’s the lineup, with the three current favorites in bold.
1…Twisted Tom (18/1)
4…J Boys Echo (15/1)
5…Hollywood Handsome (40/1)
6…Lookin at Lee (9/2)
7…Irish War Cry (3/1)
8…Senior Investment (10/1)
Before the Preakness, we noted that the top two horses were side by side in the middle of the track. Here in the Belmont, the two middle gates will feature Lookin at Lee, who finished #2 in the Kentucky Derby and #4 in the Preakness, and current market favorite Irish War Cry.
Epicharis is out on an island with relative longshots, fitting for this Japanese entry.
Ron Flatter provided horse-by-horse analysis in a discussion with Gill Alexander today on “A Numbers Game.” If you missed that comprehensive preview, please click here and scroll to the final segment. (Ron’s choice: Tapwrit) If you missed Ron’s post-draw article posted here at the website, you can read it here.
Later, Ron talked more Belmont with Maggie Wolfendale from NYRA. Click here to see that. The interview aired about three quarters of the way into the first hour of “My Guys in the Desert.”
Additional reading for race bettors…
Wednesday’s breakdown from Bleacher Report
A complete Wednesday recap from the Associated Press and ABC
Post-draw analysis from Brisnet
Don’t forget that legendary horse racing handicapper Andy Serling of NYRA will join Brent Musburger and Ron Flatter Thursday at 6:15 ET (3:15 Vegas time) on “My Guys in the Desert.”
MLB: Kershaw outduels Strasburg in battle of pitching thoroughbreds as Dodgers avoid sweep
Wednesday’s expected pitcher’s duel between Steven Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw saw the two aces combine for 199 pitches, while allowing just 6 hits and two earned runs. Those two earned runs were both solo home runs. The Dodgers added an unearned run off Strasburg to eke out a 2-1 victory.
Clear Unders on the five-inning prop (1-0 against a total of 3.5 with Under vig), and the full game (2-1 against a total of 6.5). The Nats earn a nice comeback for "first half" bettors at plus 150 by winning those first five innings 1-0. The Dodgers survive the full game at -170.
Both offenses cooled off against quality this week. Washington’s oft-criticized bullpen actually threw seven scoreless innings in the series, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 12/1.
Does a three-game series in June prove much of anything in terms of the playoffs? Obviously not. But, it’s worth remembering that Washington won the series on the road, and the Nats have a better record vs. opponents who are at .500 or better this season. Even with this loss, Washington is 8-5 (.615), while the Dodgers are 14-14 (.500).
Washington has the best offense in the National League by a wide margin, and a short rotation in the playoffs will allow Strasburg and Max Scherzer to monopolize innings. If the bullpen woes are a thing of the past…the Nats are the team to beat until Chicago finds better form.
At the very least, a test passed for the Nats this series. No shame in losing to Kershaw!
MLB: Cubs and Rockies begin four-game series Thursday at Wrigley Field
Another potential playoff series begins just as one ends. Colorado will visit the Chicago Cubs for four games beginning Thursday. Casual fans will see this as the defending World Champions against an opponent that hasn’t mattered for years. Check this out.
2017 records vs. opponents at .500 or better
Colorado has earned first place in the NL West with quality play against a tough schedule. They’ve played fewer games against opponents below .500 than any other NL contender. They’ve played one more game on the road than at home heading into this series. Maybe they’re playing a bit over their heads (maybe not!). Not any obvious skeletons in the closet yet in terms of being a pretender.
Both play in home stadiums that can pollute perceptions of offense, particularly in seasons where the wind is blowing out often at Wrigley. Let’s look at “road only” offense:
2017 Road Only Offense
- Colorado: 4.8 runs per game, .322 on-base percentage, .411 slugging
- Chicago: 4.2 runs per game, .314 on-base percentage, .368 slugging
If you scrub out home field pollution…Colorado’s clearly doing a much better job on offense. It’s a collection that can exploit a friendly wind this week if it’s blowing out. It’s an offense that can get more guys on base if it isn’t.
Thursday’s pitching matchup
- Tyler Chatwood: 20.3% K’s, 11.8% walks, 1.2 HR/9, 3.91 xFIP
- Jon Lester: 23.8% K’s, 8.7% walks, 1.0 HR/9, 3.70 xFIP
There was no overnight line…suggesting a possible pitching change or uncertainty about the lineup. If it is Chatwood vs. Lester…Lester is better at the “three true outcomes” so far this season…but fielding independent pitching as expressed by xFIP doesn’t show anything dramatic.
Based on the market differences between these teams so far (Colorado is plus 17 units, the Cubs -12), we can assume the Cubs will be overpriced. Everyone still wants to bet the Cubs! Can the Rockies break through and get some “message” wins this weekend?
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See you Friday with final notes on the Belmont and a Game 5 summary from the Stanley Cup Final.