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Speed kills Cavs' strategy quickly

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

Steve Kerr was back on the bench for the Warriors in Game 2.

An ill-advised approach backfires on the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the Golden State Warriors continue to dominate the NBA Finals. 

NBA: Warriors score at will in 132-113 Game 2 victory over Cavaliers

For some reason, the Cleveland Cavaliers bucked conventional wisdom and tried to play even faster against the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Finals. Tactically, this had little chance of working because the Warriors love to run…because Cleveland doesn’t have the depth to avoid fatigue…and because Cleveland’s defense is already mediocre (at best) when it’s fresh!

Golden State (-9) 132, Cleveland 113

  • Two-Point Pct: Cleveland 52%, Golden State 61%
  • Three-Pointers: Cleveland 8/29, Golden State 18/43 
  • Rebounds: Cleveland 41, Golden State 53
  • Free Throws: Cleveland 15/19, Golden State 22/24

Too tired to play defense, too tired to rebound…too tired to avoid fouling…all against an opponent that might be the highest Power-Rated team in the history of NBA betting. 

Golden State ended the night 28 of 46 on two-point shots. That 18 of 43 mark on treys up above works out to 41.9%, which is the same as 63% on two-pointers. 

Maybe the most important number of the night was possession count. A garbage time fourth quarter helped the game “slow down” to just 106 possessions per team. After the first quarter, they were on pace for about 120. Even at halftime they were on pace for about 117. So Cleveland basically GUARANTEED that they wouldn’t have the legs to finish 48 minutes…while playing right into Golden State’s strength. 

Now, it’s not like the Warriors are horrible if you slow them down. They just beat you in a different way. But, at least half court basketball would give the Cavs a chance to get the very best from their starters on both sides of the floor. Maybe that would frustrate the Warriors for stretches. Maybe the Cavs could outshoot them from beyond the arc (which is a key reason they stormed through the Eastern brackets). Maybe the refs smile on LeBron James’ drives to the rim. 

Cleveland’s gambit proved brutal for Over bettors as well. After Game 1 stayed Under by 21 points, Game 2 flew Over by 24 points.

MVP Watch: Kevin Durant had another huge game. His presence loomed even larger than 33 points and 13 rebounds would suggest because he added five blocked shots. Steph Curry had a triple double for the Warriors, but some of his eight turnovers were particularly sloppy…and reminded viewers of his worst play from last year's series. Both are still positioned to win the MVP depending on who has the better two games in future victories. Durant is the clear front runner, but not yet a lock. Klay Thompson bounced back strong, but isn’t likely to win a series MVP after his poor Game 1 showing. 

Sweep watch: It’s 14 down and 2 to go for a historic 16-0 four-by-four sweep of the NBA Playoffs. It’s never been accomplished, and barely even imagined. Even a couple of weeks ago, many thought there was no way the Warriors would go unblemished against both the Spurs and Cavs. There’s still work to be done. As great as Golden State has looked, the first line up in Las Vegas for Game 3 (at Cleveland) was Golden State -2, as tweeted by Jeff Sherman of the Westgate (total of 225.5). That’s little more than a coin flip according to the market. The eventual Game 4 line will depend on how Game 3 plays out. 

(You VSiN regulars know that Gill Alexander of “A Numbers Game” has multiple bets on Golden State to run the table at prices in the range of 6/1 and 7/1. He has a few days to ponder if he wants to hedge any of that by taking Cleveland at a cheap moneyline Wednesday. Watch him outline the possible approaches this week!)

MLB: Have the Houston Astros become the Golden State Warriors of Major League Baseball? They just went 6-0 on the road, winning by a combined 60-24!

Critics used to link the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia 76ers as two franchises who forced their fan bases to watch miserable teams for multiple seasons chasing the pipe dream of an eventual championship. Suddenly, the Houston Astros look a lot more like the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors…a talent-rich, super-smart team that may dominate its sport for the foreseeable future. 

Sunday, Houston completed a road sweep of the Texas Rangers with a 7-2 victory. It was the Astros' 10th straight win. And it brought their season record to a stellar 41-16. 

In the betting marketplace, Houston is up 20 UNITS only 35% of their way through the season! They have an impressive 20-10 record at home. But, that pales in comparison to an almost unbelievable 21-6 record on the road. 

We talked recently about how Minute Maid had been a pitcher’s park in a way that can hide offensive talent. The Astros have only made that case stronger in recent road games. You already know they scored seven Sunday. Their six-game road swing through Minnesota and Texas yielded a scoring line of 16-7-17-7-6-7. The WORST the Astros scored was six runs. They totaled 60 runs in six games, for an easy-to-figure 10.0 average (median 7). (Four games are left on this road trip in Kansas City Monday-Thursday.)

Consistent quality, with explosive potential at any time. It’s a combination that can yield a great full-season record because it puts a team in position to win every game. (And, it sounds exactly like the Golden State Warriors in the Curry era, even before they added Durant.)

Will Houston stay on pace to finish with 117 wins? There won’t be any need to given their huge divisional lead. For now, sports bettors need to recognize that this is still an underpriced team. And, a big part of that is because the offense is much better than the market is giving it credit for. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that the Astros were priced at only -114, -101, -137, -115, -169, and -137 in games they were destined to win by a combined final score of 60-24. 

The bad news for sports purists is that this will likely encourage other multi-season tank jobs! Here’s a look at Houston’s records going back to 2011…

  • 2011: 56-106
  • 2012: 55-107
  • 2013: 51-111
  • 2014: 70-92
  • 2015: 86-76 (Wildcard)
  • 2016: 84-78
  • 2017: 41-16 (dominant so far)

Oh…the beleaguered 76ers were 28-54 straight up last season, but 49-33 against the spread. Many market influences can be stubborn about recognizing improvements in performance, wherever it’s happening on the scale. 

NHL: Stanley Cup Final resumes Monday in Music City

In Nashville, they like their music loud and their hockey louder! You saw that Saturday night when the Predators exploded for a 5-1 blowout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Saturday: Nashville (-140) 5, Pittsburgh 1

  • Shots: Pittsburgh 28, Nashville 33

Pittsburgh won the first period 1-0, putting quite a scare into the hometown crowd…and all the bettors who had jumped all over the Predators in their must-win home opener. Once the hosts broke through…the goal onslaught didn’t slow down.

That’s the third straight win in shot count for Nashville, though they still trail the series 2-1. An interesting dynamic is in play with shot totals through three games. Take a look. 

Shot Counts by Period

  • First Periods: Nashville 41, Pittsburgh 26
  • Second Periods: Nashville 39, Pittsburgh 20
  • Third Periods: Pittsburgh 21, Nashville 17

Nashville has really gone for the jugular in the first two periods. That didn’t show up on the scoreboard, though until the second period of Game 3. Pittsburgh has done well as a counter-puncher. And, having that third period edge could prove a nice ace-in-the-hole for the Penguins if this series goes deep. 

Pittsburgh hopes to bounce back Monday to put themselves in position to wrap it up in five. Nashville can guarantee it goes at least six by holding service. The market is giving the Preds a lot of respect at home.

Monday’s moneyline (Pittsburgh leads series 2-1)

  • Pittsburgh at Nashville (-150, total of 5.5--under -130); 8 p.m. ET on NBC

Note that we’re back to the peacock network, NBC, for this one, rather than NBC Sports Network. We’re seeing a HUGE market differential for home ice in this series. Pittsburgh was -160 and -140 at home. Now Nashville is looking at near -150 twice as hosts. The Penguins were pre-series favorites…but there’s a clear recognition in the market for how hard it is for visitors to win in Nashville. 

Belmont: Saturday’s betting challenge won’t include either the Kentucky Derby or Preakness winners

While it’s true that Saturday’s Belmont will be lacking true star power, with Kentucky Derby champ Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing not in the draw, it should still be a fun race to bet with a few horses drawing interest with less than a week to go.

We begin “Belmont Week” with a look at Roxy Roxborough’s 100-point line. You’ll recall that the legendary oddsmaker was the first ever guest on “A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander. He tweeted out his 100-point line in advance of the Kentucky Derby, and then the Preakness. As he said in his tweet before the Kentucky Derby, if he saw a higher price, he would bet it. The only qualifier by that standard in the Preakness was relative long shot Cloud Computing. You remember how that turned out! 

Here are the numbers from Roxy’s tweet on June 3 for the Belmont…

  • Classic Empire 5/2
  • Irish War Cry 5/1
  • Lookin at Lee 6/1
  • Epicharis 10/1
  • Senior Investment 12/1
  • Tapwrit 12/1
  • Gormley 18/1
  • Meantime 20/1
  • Multiplier 25/1
  • J Boys Echo 25/1
  • Twisted Tom 30/1
  • Patch 40/1

Keep those in mind as we monitor settled betting odds through the week. The field isn’t even locked in yet, so we’ll save that for a later report. The draw will be held Wednesday morning. A maximum of 16 spots are available. Look for about a dozen to spring from the gates at Belmont Park next Saturday.  

For additional Belmont reading, please check out this article focused on Japanese entry Epicharis written by Ron Flatter here at VSiN. Ron will have a lot more coverage through the week as we close out the 2017 Triple Crown experience. We’ll also have special appearances by Andy Serling of NYRA. 

It’s going to be a great week leading up to the third jewel of the Triple Crown.

Actually, an intense schedule of sports blockbusters could continue beyond the Belmont. Highlights in the coming days:

  • Tuesday: The Boston Red Sox make their first visit to Yankee Stadium of 2017, the start of a 3-game series for the top two teams in the AL East standings.
  • Wednesday: Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Golden State at Cleveland.
  • Wednesday: a dream pitching matchup of Steven Strasburg vs. Clayton Kershaw (!) when the Washington Nationals visit the LA Dodgers to close out their three-game series.
  • Thursday: Game 5 of the NHL Finals, Nashville at Pittsburgh.
  • Friday: Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Golden State at Cleveland.
  • Saturday: The Belmont Stakes!
  • Sunday: Game 6 (if necessary) of the NHL Finals, Pittsburgh at Nashville.
  • Monday: Game 5 (if necessary) of the NBA Finals, Cleveland at Golden State.

New feature in VSiN City: Sheets from South Point, in digital format

Starting today, we are going to post the daily betting sheets from the South Point sports book. You can find them here. 

Don’t forget that we’re happy to answer sports betting or other market related questions for you here in the newsletter. You can drop us a line with questions or comments. If you’re not yet receiving VSiN City in your morning email, you can sign up for that free service here. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter for news and programming bulletins.

Hope you had a great weekend. Busy days ahead with championships at stake in the NBA and NHL…a storied horse race…and many developing stories in Major League Baseball. We’ll keep riding hard for the winner’s circle right here in VSiN City! 

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