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Smart money hits board late (and correctly) in NHL, NBA

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

June 12, 2017 07:00 AM
Sidney Crosby hoists the Cup for the 3rd time in 12 years.
© USA Today Sports Images

Smart money surged late into the betting marketplace in Friday’s NBA shocker and in Sunday’s NHL finale. That smart money won OUTRIGHT on both the Cavs and the Penguins.

Sports Betting Industry: Wise Guys move late, win big

In sports pages, the big stories this past weekend were obviously the Cleveland Cavaliers' shocking blowout of the Golden State Warriors this past Friday night, and the Pittsburgh Penguins winning the Stanley Cup on the road Sunday night…the first road team to earn a victory in that series. (Along with the Belmont, which, we’ll get to in a moment!)

Here in VSiN City, we cover the sports betting marketplace. And the big news here is that respected smart money hit the board HARD on game day in both instances. Hard, against the flow of series form, and correct!

  • Last Friday, you heard throughout the day on VSiN that big bets were being made on the Cleveland Cavaliers against the spread (which would drop from a high of 6 down to 5 at tip-off) and on the moneyline. This despite the fact that Golden State had been pure money in three prior close-out attempts in this year’s playoffs. 
  • Sunday, Nashville had been as high as -150 in some spots during the day before being bet all the way down to a virtual pick-em moments before the puck dropped. In fact, VegasInsider shows the Wynn and CG Technology closing with Pittsburgh as a small favorite thanks to a very late move. This in a series where home teams had not only won, but covered the -1.5 puck line in every game. 

As you know, Cleveland would win straight up by 21 points back on Friday. Pittsburgh battled Nashville to a dead heat for 58 minutes, before scoring two late goals to end the series. 

You’ve heard our oddsmaking experts discuss the fact that smart money often hits the board once public action has reached its apex. Great examples of that in both of these high profile games. 

Since a championship was won Sunday night, let’s start on the ice…

NHL: Pittsburgh wins the Stanley Cup in Nashville

A hard-fought battle was still knotted at zero heading into the final two minutes of regulation. In games like this, one team or the other must recognize an instant opportunity and capitalize. Patric Hornqvist of Pittsburgh did just that by ricocheting a shot from behind the end line off Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne’s arm into the net for the go-ahead goal with 1:35 left. The Penguins would add an empty netter with 13 seconds remaining for the final margin. 

Pittsburgh (even) 2, Nashville 0

  • Shots: Pittsburgh 29, Nashville 27

Earlier in the series, the Penguins were letting Nashville control the flow of play out of the gate. They put a stop to that midway through, which helped them stay within reach of the Predators in Game 6 at what’s been a dangerous site for visitors. 

Shot Counts in Periods 1 and 2

  • Games 1-3: Nashville 97, Pittsburgh 67
  • Games 4-6: Pittsburgh 77, Nashville 77

We’ve talked about Pittsburgh’s scoring efficiency throughout the playoffs. Nashville had to out-skate and out-shoot them to have a chance. Once the Penguins leveled out shot count, they were in much more control of their destiny. 

We should also praise the Pittsburgh defense, which ended the series by throwing two shutouts (helped by a quick whistle on what should have been a first-period Nashville goal Sunday). 

Congrats to Penguins backers and fans, particularly true die-hard Chris Andrews of the South Point.

NBA: After Friday shocker, Game 5 of the NBA Finals is tonight in Oakland

The talk of a 16-0 playoff sweep is over. Sports bettors must now decide if the Cleveland Cavaliers can play their way back into the 2017 NBA Finals, or if Friday was just a harmonic convergence where friendly first quarter officiating aligned with lights out three-point shooting. 

Let’s review the key stats from Friday’s upset…

Cleveland (plus 5.5) 137, Golden State 116

  • Three-Point Shooting: Golden State 11/39, Cleveland 24/45
  • First Quarter Score: Golden State 33, Cleveland 49

Normally, in a 21-point victory, there are a lot of key stat categories to show. In this case, Golden State wasn’t outclassed in anything but three-point shooting. The Warriors won shooting inside the arc 58% to 52%, and made more free throws even though the Cavs shot a stunning 22 from the charity stripe in the first quarter. Rebounds and turnovers were a virtual wash. 

Cleveland was able to build an insurmountable early lead thanks to hot shooting and those trips to the line. Any time Golden State started to surmount…the Cavs would hit a few more treys. Cleveland was plus 39 points on bombs. Shooting 53% on treys is like shooting 80% on deuces. 

The current line for Game 5 is Golden State -8.5, with an Over/Under of 231. 

Golden State won its first two home games by 22 and 19 points. Though, it should be noted that Cleveland’s offensive efficiency has improved game-by-game through the series. 

For totals players, the scoring sums of 204, 245, 231, and 253 average to 233, with 231 and 245 serving as the linear midpoints. If you’re keeping track of pace, Friday’s Game 4 did “slow down” to 96 possessions (after 100-106-100 to start). But, some of that was due to the Cavs running the clock in garbage time. They were very aggressive out of the gate, which was rewarded by constant whistles! (Felt like "Whistle-mania II" on the heels of the NCAA Championship game)

NBA: Golden State’s parallels with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls continue

Last week we talked about the obvious parallels between “Power Rating elites” the 2017 Golden State Warriors and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. Fitting that both teams jumped to 3-0 series leads, then lost Game 4 on the road by exactly 21 points

Let’s update the game-by-game pairings…

Game 1

  • Chicago (-10) beat Seattle 107-90
  • Golden State (-7) beat Cleveland 113-91

Game 2

  • Chicago (-10) beat Seattle 92-88
  • Golden State (-9) beat Cleveland 132-113

Game 3

  • Chicago (-4) won at Seattle 108-86
  • Golden State (-4) won at Cleveland 118-113

Game 4

  • Chicago (-5.5) lost at Seattle 107-86
  • Golden State (-6) lost at Cleveland 137-116

We will probably lose the perfect parallel in Game 5, simply because that was in Seattle back in the 2-3-2 era. Monday’s matchup is in Oakland in the relatively recent 2-2-1-1-1 sequence. Mid-nineties Chicago would lose their second straight game after getting shocked…before settling the ship on its home court in Game 6.

  • Game 5: Chicago (-5.5) lost at Seattle 89-78
  • Game 6: Chicago (-9.5) beat Seattle 87-75 

Obviously, we’re likely to see a much higher scoring game than those. The pace was very slow in that Bulls/Sonics series. In fact, that matchup was about as slow as you can get in the shot clock era and have it still feel like real basketball. Golden State/Cleveland has been a track meet. Check out these huge differences in pace counts from 21 years apart. 

Estimated possession counts per team by game

  • 1995-96 Bulls/Sonics: 84-85-86-85-81-81
  • 2016-17 Warriors/Cavs: 100-106-100-96

So when Chicago allowed 107 points to Seattle in Game 4, that was in a slow as molasses wrestling match that equates to a horrible 126.5 points over 100 possessions. Granting that Chicago did have some truly great defenders…part of their epic defensive reputation was due to the low scoring totals caused by very slow paces. 

A reminder that context is always important for handicapping sports events. Pace influences basketball totals. Ballparks influence baseball scoring. Strength of schedule influences won-lost records. It’s tough for bettors who don’t take those factors into account to consistently beat the sports betting marketplace. 

Belmont: Tapwrit writes his own history with dramatic victory

In an exciting, if slow-paced 2017 Belmont, second favorite Tapwrit caught Irish War Cry near the finish for the honor of donning the traditional blanket of white carnations in Saturday’s winner’s circle. 

Congrats to Ron Flatter (who nailed the trifecta led by Tapwrit), Gill Alexander, and Vinny Magliulo with their winning selections in the third jewel of the Triple Crown. 

Ron posted this comprehensive wrap-up here at the website Sunday. 

Final Payouts

  • Tapwrit paid $12.60 to win, $6.50 to place, and $5 to show
  • Irish War Cry paid $4.70 to place, $3.90 to show
  • Patch paid $6.50 to show

(And, congrats to Arlene Musburger for cashing that show ticket on Patch!)

MLB: NL blows big opportunity in Interleague, gets humiliated instead! 

The National League just blew a great chance to make a run at the American League in this year’s Interleague battles. 

  • Washington was hosting Texas, and a big favorite in every game of the series
  • San Francisco was hosting Minnesota, and was favored to win the series
  • San Diego was hosting Kansas City, where the lines would all be near pick-em

Instead of posting a winning record with those NINE home games, the senior circuit just reminded everyone they were still the much inferior league. 

  • Big favorite Washington got SWEPT
  • San Francisco had to rally from behind Sunday to avoid a sweep
  • San Diego won the series opener, but then lost its last two

The American League went 7-2, with several nice underdog payoffs. Texas (plus 160), and Minnesota (plus 120) won Friday. Texas (plus 150), Minnesota (plus 150), and Kansas City (-120) swept Saturday. Then Texas (plus 240), and Kansas City (even) closed out the weekend. 

Counting the underdog prices, that 7-2 record registers as 10.2 wins and 2 losses in money terms. Which brings us to a very one-sided full season edge for the AL even though the NL has played a lot more home games. 

2017 Interleague Play

  • American League leads 70-48 (plus 20.2 units)
  • American League at home: 34-18 (plus 11.3 units)
  • American League on the road: 36-30 (plus 8.9 units)

As Gill Alexander has discussed often on “A Numbers Game” this season, the AL is most dangerous at home because they get to use a DH while NL teams don’t always have an automatic DH on their rosters (though, it also helps the AL that they’re the superior league and enjoying home field advantage in those spots). Notice that the AL has hosted only 52 IL games so far, while the NL has hosted 66. 

Things could get really nasty for the NL through the rest of 2017. As nasty as these selected records from the AL’s dozen consecutive years of dominance...

2006: American League 154, National League 98

2008: American League 149, National League 103

2012: American League 142, National League 110

2015: American League 167, National League 133

2016: American League 165, National League 135

The AL was at least 30 games over .500 in those seasons. In 2017, they’re 22 games over .500 with 182 more to play. Most importantly for bettors, the market hasn't yet adjusted to the AL’s superiority. 

MLB: Market also not adjusting to Cubs’ long World Championship hangover

Last week we previewed a four-game “tester” series between the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs. The Rockies could show they were for real with some road wins against one of the market favorites to win the NL. Chicago could show they were finally capable of beating winning teams this season.

Colorado passed its test! Another big red “F” for the Cubs.

  • Thursday: Colorado (plus 170) beat the Cubs 4-1
  • Friday: Colorado (plus 130) beat the Cubs 5-3
  • Saturday: Colorado (plus 125) beat the Cubs 9-1
  • Sunday: Chicago (-225) avoided a sweep with a 7-5 win

Yes, in the salvage spot, a huge favorite eked out a two-run win just before both teams caught flights for Monday night road games. Colorado won the weekend scoreboard 23-12 even though they were market underdogs in all four games

2017 Market Results to date

  • Colorado plus 20.5 betting units
  • Chicago –15.5 betting units

The Cubs still have plenty of time to find playoff form, particularly in a disappointing division where it may not even take playoff form to make the playoffs. As we close in on the 40% mark of the 2017 season, Colorado’s the better team. 

MLB: Yanks, Angels battle jet lag, each other Monday night

Speaking of catching flights for Monday night games. The New York Yankees had to wrap up the Orioles series at home in the Bronx, then fly cross-country to play in Anaheim without a day off! The Los Angeles Angels will be flying in as well, but from Houston.

Let’s take a quick look at this matchup…the only MLB game on the Monday card matching teams at .500 or better. 

2017 Road Only Offense

  • NY Yankees: 5.1 runs per game, .336 on-base percentage, .428 slugging
  • LA Angels: 3.7 runs per game, .307 on-base percentage, .350 slugging

We talked last week about how focusing on “road only” offensive statistics can help clear out ballpark illusions. Because the Yankees play in what’s been a home run paradise this season, it’s important to do that here. We can see that the Yankees have a great offense even if you don’t count their games in the Bronx. That slugging differential should be magnified by the continuing absence of Mike Trout for the Halos. And, with him for a lot of those road games, the Angels still rank dead last out of 15 teams in AL road slugging percentage. The Yanks rank third. 

Now looking at the classic “three true outcomes” for Monday’s scheduled pitchers…

NY Yankees (37-23) at LA Angels (30-30)

  • Masahiro Tanaka: 19.7% K’s, 6.1% walks, 2.3 HR/9, 4.21 xFIP
  • Alex Meyer: 26.1% K’s, 15.3% walks, 0.8 HR/9, 4.44 xFIP

Meyer’s only made seven starts this season. So he doesn’t have as big a sample size as many other rotation hurlers. You can see that he has hard-to-control stuff. Hitters have trouble making contact…but he has trouble avoiding walks. Tanaka’s issues with the long ball need to be rectified or he may not be in the rotation much longer. Impatient New Yorkers don’t want to hear about xFIP!

We greatly appreciate all of you that have subscribed to VSiN City. If you haven’t yet, remember that it’s FREE…and that you also receive a PDF version of the daily odds sheets from the South Point in that morning email. Our Twitter content continues to expand, now including several audio and video clips each day. You can follow us by clicking here. If you have any questions or comments about this newsletter or our daily programming, please drop us a note

Hope you had a great weekend. Back with you Tuesday to crunch the numbers from Monday night’s NBA showdown.

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