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Pens up 2-0, NBA Finals up next

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

June 1, 2017 12:02 AM
Penguins forward Jake Guentzel (59) celebrates with defenseman Brian Dumoulin (8) after scoring a goal against the Nashville Predators during the third period.
© USA Today Sports Images

Pittsburgh has defied the smart money by jumping to a 2-0 series lead over Nashville in the Stanley Cup Final, just as the NBA Championship series matching Cleveland and Golden State is about to start…

NHL: Nashville “Catfished!” This wasn’t the Pittsburgh team they expected to meet!

What happened to the weary Pittsburgh Penguins team that was supposed to be exhausted by back-to-back seven-game thrillers? The Nashville Predators were ready for a date with them

Instead, the surprise Western champs were in for a surprise themselves. Pittsburgh has tightened its grip on the Stanley Cup it already held…with explosive hockey on home ice that included three goals in short order in the first period of Game 1, then a virtual replay in the third period of Game 2. 

Pittsburgh (-140) 4, Nashville 1

  • Shots: Nashville 38, Pittsburgh 27

The teams were tied at one entering the third period. Pittsburgh scored 10 seconds into the final stanza, then again at 3:13 and 3:28. Once again we saw Nashville dominate shot count while Pittsburgh dominated GOAL count. 

Shots by Period

  • First Period: Nashville 18, Pittsburgh 12
  • Second Period: Nashville 14, Pittsburgh 7
  • Third Period: Nashville 6, Pittsburgh 8

Through two games, Pittsburgh leads goals 9-4, while Nashville leads shots 64-39. That third period shot advantage for the Penguins was the first time they outshot the Predators in a period this series.

While it’s true that Pittsburgh has only held serve…underdog Nashville is now faced with having to win four of the last five games to pull off the series shocker. And the Predators must do that with a goalie who has lost his confidence…an attack that’s missing key scoring threats…and an opponent that already knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup.

Game 3 will be Saturday in Nashville. Look for the Predators to be the betting favorite, as pro bettors and the public love playing the “must-win” team in their home opener in front of a rabid crowd. 

NBA: Championship series preview

After a long wait, the 2017 NBA Finals finally begins Thursday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Golden State Warriors in Game 1.

  • Game 1 point spread: Golden State by 7, total of 226
  • Game 1 moneyline: Golden State -320, Cleveland 260
  • Series price: Golden State -250, Cleveland 210

Interesting challenge for handicappers. Golden State will likely be around -300 on the moneyline in its home games, and within arm’s reach of pick-em on the road. Initial estimates would suggest 4.5 wins for the Warriors, 2.5 wins for the Cavs over seven games at those win equivalents (.75 wins per home game, .50 wins per road game). Is that reflective of -250 for the series? Your call to make! Obviously the market is showing more support for Golden State in G1 than for the overall series as we approach the opening tip. 

By now, you’ve probably read many series previews…and heard a lot of discussion from various experts on VSiN and other networks. We’ll try to summarize the consensus assessment with an analytics review from the postseason to date. (Click here for more playoff stats from

Playoff Offensive Efficiency

  • Cleveland: 120.7 points per 100 possessions
  • Golden State: 115.8 points per 100 possessions

Both teams are very dynamic on this side of the floor. The Cavs are coming from the weaker conference, and were able to exploit opponents that had no workable options against their attack. The difference between scoring units probably isn’t as big as those numbers suggest. Both are historically great, as you know.

Playoff Defensive Efficiency

  • Cleveland: 104.5 points per 100 possessions
  • Golden State: 99.1 points per 100 possessions

It’s commonly accepted that Golden State has the superior defense. The fact that they could do that against the stronger conference is important. And Cleveland’s 104.5 was helped by both Boston and Toronto losing important scorers. It’s likely that Golden State’s edge is a bit bigger than that differential suggests. 


  • Cleveland: 97.7 possessions per 48 minutes
  • Golden State: 102.6 possessions per 48 minutes

The Warriors love to run (which tricks some observers into thinking they don’t play enough defense because their scores are so high). Cleveland is dangerous at any speed…but may prefer to slow things down just because a half-court game takes Golden State further out of its comfort zone than it does Cleveland. 

Playoff Rebounding

  • Cleveland: 52.2% of available rebounds
  • Golden State: 51.5% of available rebounds

Both teams are generally more concerned with getting back on defense when shots go up…which prevents them from ranking with the league’s elite in this stat. Cleveland was helped here by getting to face the truly horrible rebounders of the Celtics.  

Playoff Three-Pointers

  • Cleveland: 190 of 437 (.435, equivalent of 65% on two pointers)
  • Golden State: 145 of 373 (.389, equivalent of 58% on two-pointers)

This is why the Cavs put up such huge scoring numbers in the Eastern brackets. They have guys who can knock down open looks…and LeBron James gets his teammates open looks. Amazing that Golden State can be so good in this stat, but trail Cleveland by that much volume in a playoff sample size. 

Playoff Three-Point Defense

  • Cleveland: 131 of 371 (.353)
  • Golden State: 108 of 337 (.320)

There has been a lot of discussion over the years about how much impact defenses can have on three-pointers. It’s now believed that they can “deny” opportunities, but makes or misses are out of a defense’s control once the ball goes up. If Golden State’s superior defensive percentage reflects denying good looks (which means opponents are forcing up rushed or guarded bombs), then this could be the key factor that closes out Cleveland. Let’s watch defense around the arc very closely in Game 1. 

Playoff Two-Point Defense

  • Cleveland: .497 allowed
  • Golden State: .460 allowed

It’s easier to drive and score on Cleveland than it is Golden State. This particular category has loomed large through playoff history. We’ll have to see if the evolution of the game has diminished its importance. You can see why the Warriors grade out so much better in defensive efficiency. 

Like you, we’re ready for this series to begin! Cleveland will need to continue making a high volume of treys to overcome home court disadvantage in the 2017 Finals. Golden State has the superior defense, and a Game 7 at home if needed. We’ll crunch the G1 boxscore stats for you Friday in VSiN City. 

MLB: Cubs Swept by Padres!!

After the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, it was widely assumed that they would show no mercy against the allegedly helpless San Diego Padres. The Padres are a glorified minor league team. Chicago was loaded with talent and angrily breathing fire!

  • Monday: Chicago (-215) lost to San Diego 5-2
  • Tuesday: Chicago (-140) lost to San Diego 6-2
  • Wednesday: Chicago (-215) lost to San Diego 2-1

This is why you don’t bet “emotion” in baseball…or Martingale your bets (doubling up to chase losses because you just can’t believe that a certain team is going to keep losing)…or bet a good team to avoid a sweep against a bad team because “there’s no way” there’s going to be a sweep.

That’s 0-6 on this road trip for the Cubs…but 0-8 their last eight road games, and 3-13 their last 16 road games. Were YOU one of the stubborn souls that asked a struggling road team to snap out of their funk on command?

You may recall that the Cubs played several recent home games when the wind was blowing out. Those high scoring outings have helped hide what’s been a slumping offense in normal (or unfriendly) scoring conditions. Since April 25 (more than a month ago), the Cubs are averaging just 2.71 runs-per-game on the road. It was just 1.5 runs-per-game on this trip to California! 

Season-to-date park factors show that Wrigley Field has increased scoring by 10% thus far, home runs by 16%. Keep that in mind as you evaluate the Cubs going forward. Don’t bet them until the bats start producing without any help from the weather. The Cubs currently rank near the bottom of the National League in both road battling average and road slugging percentage

Though Chicago is 25-27 in the standings, not at all out of the NL Central race, their backers are down almost 15 units because the betting lines are stacked so high against them. San Diego is 22-33 for the season, but only down five units because their wins are so profitable when they happen. 

MLB: Quick hitters

A few notes from the diamond…

  • While many think of the San Diego Padres as a minor-league team, the Philadelphia Phillies just went 6-22 in the month of May. The Phils were outscored 21-5 in a three-game debacle in Miami, by a Marlins team that entered the series with a record of 18-30.
  • We talked yesterday about the great road offense of the Houston Astros. Then they went out and scored 17 runs Wednesday in Minnesota. The combination of “Astros and Over” is 33-13-2 in their road games this season. It went 5-0-1 in this series up North, and is 12-1-1 Houston’s last seven road games.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays still haven’t lost a 5-inning decision in days. They carried a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth at Texas, but had to settle for a 3-3 push in what was eventually a 7-5 extra-inning victory.
  • The New York Mets played another “Over,” game, despite only scoring one run themselves in a 7-1 loss to Milwaukee. That brings the full season mark to 32-11-8 to the Over in Mets games. 

College Football: VSiN’s Pauly Howard and Joel Klatt of Fox Sports agree that the SEC is overrated

Amidst a busy week of college football betting news, Joel Klatt of Fox Sports visited “Follow the Money” with Mitch Moss and Pauly Howard Wednesday. If you missed that discussion, you can listen here on audio boom. Pauly and Joel agreed that the SEC has been significantly overrated by the media. To help flesh that out, here’s a quick look at last year’s postseason performance. The SEC went 6-7 against the spread, with the more highly regarded SEC West only managing a 2-5 mark vs. expectations, while the oft-maligned SEC East went 4-2. 

SEC Postseason Covers

  • South Carolina (plus 10.5) only lost to South Florida 46-39 in overtime
  • Georgia (plus 3) beat TCU 31-23
  • Tennessee (-9.5) beat Nebraska 38-24
  • LSU (plus 3) beat Louisville 29-9
  • Alabama (-13) beat Washington 24-7
  • Florida (-1.5) beat Iowa 30-3

SEC Postseason Non-Covers

  • Mississippi State (-14.5) only beat Miami of Ohio 17-16
  • Vanderbilt (plus 6) lost to North Carolina State 41-17
  • Texas A&M (-4) lost to Kansas State 33-28
  • Arkansas (plus 7.5) lost to Virginia Tech 35-24
  • Kentucky (plus 3) lost to Georgia Tech 33-18
  • Auburn (plus 2) lost to Oklahoma 35-19
  • Alabama (-6.5) lost to Clemson 35-31

The SEC did go 2-0 ATS vs. the Big 10, with Tennessee and Florida outscoring Nebraska and Iowa 68-27. But, the league could only manage a 1-4 ATS mark against the ACC (including Alabama’s loss to Clemson in the national title tilt), and 1-2 ATS mark against the Big 12.

Don’t forget that Regular Season Win Totals for the 2017 season from Chris Andrews are scheduled to go up at the South Point Friday at 6 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. Pacific…formally announced on “My Guys in the Desert” with Brent Musburger and Ron Flatter. 

That’s it for Thursday. Let’s go watch some basketball! If you have any comments or questions about VSiN programming or our newsletter, please drop us a note. It’s easy to receive VSiN City via morning email. Click here to subscribe to that service. If you haven’t followed us on twitter already, take care of that right now so you can get news and programming bulletins throughout the day. 

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