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Warriors nearly perfect in title run

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

Steph Curry and Kevin Durant made quite a pair for the NBA champs.
© USA Today Sports Images

They couldn’t pull off perfection, but 16-1 was still utter domination for the most dynamic team in NBA history…your 2017 World Champion Golden State Warriors.

NBA: Golden State fights off relentless Cleveland to claim title

It’s a tribute to the greatness of both teams that no lead felt safe over the last three games of the 2017 NBA Finals. But historic power Golden State was just too good. 

Golden State (-9.5) 129, Cleveland 120

  • Two Point Pct: Cleveland 56%, Golden State 62%
  • Three Pointers: Cleveland 11/24, Golden State 14/38
  • Free Throws: Cleveland 15/23, Golden State 23/28
  • Kevin Durant: 39 points on only 20 shots from the field

If you guard the arc aggressively, they back door you to death with layups and alley-oop dunks. They’re going to make their free throws if you foul them. There just aren’t any workable options for opposing defenses. 

2017 Championship Finals

  • Golden State shot 54% on two-point shots
  • Golden State shot 39% on three-pointers, which equates to 58% on deuces
  • Golden State shot 82% on free throws

Cleveland was a worthy obstacle, but nothing near a roadblock. 

MVP Notes: Kevin Durant was an easy choice. He was the favorite coming in, and played like a man on a mission. An offensive leader on a team of threats. A defensive impact player even though that isn’t traditionally seen as his strength. Easy vote!

Pace Notes: “You can’t run with Golden State” already should have been a mantra across the league. Cleveland tried, preferring to lose in their own comfort zone rather than aim for winning ugly. Estimated possession counts ended at 100-106-100-96-99 for the series. 

Exciting basketball to watch. And obviously, very high scoring! Scoreboard sums ended at 204, 245, 231, 253, and 249, for an average of 236.4 and a median of 245. Four of five games went Over the market totals…continuing a theme all postseason of the market not fully capturing the essence of this new style of basketball. Sure there were prior eras that had fast paces. But NO era had fast pace as teams with multiple long range sharp shooters were launching 30-40 treys apiece. 

Tough ending for sportsbooks. The Game 5 line shifted from Golden State to -8.5, to -9, to -9.5 through the multi-day betting window. A final score of 129-120 means hardly anyone loses. Golden State money was in at -8.5 and -9. Most Cleveland money was in at something better than plus 8.5. Anyone who had a solid nine pushed and got their money back. Any bettor parlaying their team with the Over either won the parlay, or pushed the team side and had the parlay knocked down to a single bet on the Over…that won.

Congrats to the Warriors, and to those of you who earned a profit through the NBA and NHL postseasons.   

MLB: Kershaw back on the mound as Dodgers/Indians begin showcase series

The Major League schedule is largely bereft of marquee matchups midweek. The only battle of teams at .500 or better that we haven’t talked about already is the LA Dodgers/Cleveland Indians three-game set that begins Tuesday night. Great pitching matchup in that one!

LA Dodgers (39-25) at Cleveland (31-29) (early line: LAD -160, 8-Over -115)

  • Clayton Kershaw: 29.2% K’s, 4.1% walks, 1.2 HR/9, 2.82 xFIP
  • Trevor Bauer: 28.2% K’s, 9.3% walks, 1.6 HR/9, 3.41 xFIP

Kershaw is better than EVERYBODY from a “three true outcomes” perspective, so he rates the edge on the mound. But it’s not an overwhelming edge by any means. Both guys have electric stuff that can overwhelm hitters. Bauer allows walks and homers more often…but not by margins large enough to eliminate him from underdog consideration. That’s a high price for a road favorite.

And don’t forget about the potential Interleague influence. We’ve talked often about how the American League has dominated the National League this season (Boston’s win last night makes it a 71-42 lead for the AL in ’17, for a profit of 21.2 units by our count). Cleveland has missed out that with a woeful 1-7 mark in IL action (which means everyone in the AL besides Cleveland is 70-35!). But they will enjoy familiarity with the DH, and don’t figure to get dominated all season long in the crossover games. 

Great challenge for handicappers. Do you take the superior pitcher at an inflated price while swimming against the Interleague tide? Or, do you back the disappointing home underdog that’s frustrated many bettors already this season?

Other quick baseball notes….

Things just keep getting worse and worse for the Baltimore Orioles’ pitching staff. After a horrible weekend in New York, they came back Monday night and allowed 10 more runs to the Chicago White Sox. The O’s have allowed 40 runs in the last three games!

Last week we talked about the great Houston offense. Baltimore’s staff is making everyone look like Houston. Over their last nine games, the Orioles have allowed 5-7-5-6-6-8-16-14-10 runs. 

The starting rotation has nobody who can scare opponents. Here are season-to-date xFIP numbers (fielding independent pitching, which uses a scale very similar to ERA) for pitchers who have made at least one start for the O’s in 2017…

  • Wade Miley 4.25
  • Ubaldo Jiminez 4.53
  • Dylan Bundy 4.93
  • Alec Asher 4.96
  • Kevin Gausman 5.37
  • Chris Tillman 5.79

Monday’s loss dropped the O’s to 9-21 their last 30 games. 

The Chicago Cubs offense is back on the road, and back in hibernation. The measly one run they scored against the New York Mets in a 6-1 loss extends their road scoring woes. In their last 11 away from Wrigley, the Cubs have a scoring line of 0-3-3-0-0-0-4-2-2-1-1. That’s 16 total runs, with more than half of the games registering at zero or one. Now nine straight road losses for the Cubs.

Washington’s bullpen inconsistency is back in the spotlight again. Things looked to have calmed down a bit when the Washington Nationals ran off a 13-4 stretch, keyed by an outstanding West Coast swing (sweeping SF, taking 2 of 3 in Oakland, and 2 of 3 against the LA Dodgers).

But the last three days...

  • Saturday: Washington led Texas 3-1 through 8 innings, but lost 6-3
  • Sunday: Washington was tied with Texas 1-1 through 7 innings, but lost 5-1
  • Monday: Washington led Atlanta 9-7 through 7 innings, but lost 11-10

Now, you can’t blame all of this current team regression on the bullpen. The offense largely disappeared during the Texas series…and then Steven Strasburg allowed six runs in 5 innings to a mediocre opponent Monday. But Saturday and Monday were blatant blown saves. And, bettors would have gone 1-1-1 with “first five inning” bets rather than 0-3 at huge prices in those particular outings. 

NFL: Offseason preparation for pro football bettors

We’re going to start a series of segments today that will help you get in the right mindset for handicapping the 2017 NFL season. From a market perspective, we’ll briefly review Regular Season Win totals for each pro team, as well as their Futures odds to win their conference and the Super Bowl. Then we’ll post some key indicator stats that will help you get a clean read entering the new campaign.

Trying to do all 32 franchises at once would turn into a novel! So, we’re going to break things down by division. This will be “NFC Week,” starting today with the NFC East and continuing with the other divisions through Friday. Next week we’ll move to the AFC. 

We strongly encourage you to print out these team capsules so you’ll have them handy through the summer. You can write updates directly on those printouts if there are changes in prices or important personnel developments.

Teams are posted in order of their market win total estimate. We’ll emphasize the passing game on offense, because so much of modern ball movement involves a mix of short “virtual hand offs” that register in the stats as passes…and then downfield throws that stretch out the defense. On defense, we’ll isolate the ability to make “impact” plays, because that’s too often overlooked by casual handicappers.  

Dallas Cowboys

2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 9.5 (Over -120)

Odds to win NFC: 5/2

Odds to win Super Bowl: 5/1

2016 Record: 13-3 

Yards-per-Play: 6.0 on offense, 5.5 allowed

Third Down Conversions: 42% on offense, 39% allowed

Passing: 7.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 25 TD’s, 6 interceptions thrown

Pass defense: 6.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 25 TD’s allowed, 9 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 20 takeaways, 36 sacks

Even though Dallas wasn’t really as good as that 13-3 record would suggest in terms of point-of-attack dominance…the Cowboys were clearly playoff caliber. You see positive differentials across the board above. And we’re not emphasizing rushing in these capsules…which was also a dominant strength. To the degree there’s a weakness…the defense was just “okay” with 5.5 yards allowed per play and only 20 takeaways. The stingiest defenses are down around 5.0 ypp allowed. Great rookie season for Dak Prescott…playing under control while learning the pro game.  

New York Giants

2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 8.5 (Over -125)

Odds to win NFC: 9/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 18/1

2016 Record: 11-5 

Yards-per-Play: 5.2 on offense, 5.1 allowed

Third Down Conversions: 36% on offense, 35% allowed

Passing: 6.7 yards-per-pass attempt, 26 TD’s, 16 interceptions thrown

Pass defense: 6.8 yards-per-pass attempt, 15 TD’s allowed, 17 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 25 takeaways, 35 sacks

Another misleading record. The Giants had the stats of a .500 caliber team while posting those 11 victories. The defense was truly terrific. You can understand why we called Dallas just “okay” when you see that across the board excellence from the G-Men’s stop unit. Let’s say it this way. The Giants had the defense of a legitimate Super Bowl threat, but an offense that was disappointingly overmatched much of the season. 

Philadelphia Eagles

2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 8 (Over -125)

Odds to win NFC: 15/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 30/1

2016 Record: 7-9 

Yards-per-Play: 5.0 on offense, 5.6 allowed

Third Down Conversions: 38% on offense, 40% allowed

Passing: 6.2 yards-per-pass attempt, 16 TD’s, 14 interceptions thrown

Pass defense: 7.3 yards-per-pass attempt, 25 TD’s allowed, 16 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 26 takeaways, 34 sacks

The point of emphasis here is the disappointing offense. Carson Wentz played much worse than his early hype would have had you believe. The mainstream media latched on to some early successes, then was focused on other things around the league as the Eagles’ offense ground to a halt down the stretch. It’s true that Wentz was a rookie…and that rookies often show a leap from Year 1 to Year 2. Just be aware that he’s leaping from a relatively poor season that saw limited passing volume and few TD passes relative to the league. 

Washington Redskins

2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 7.5 (Over -120)

Odds to win NFC: 25/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 50/1

2016 Record: 8-7-1 

Yards-per-Play: 6.4 on offense, 5.8 allowed

Third Down Conversions: 45% on offense, 47% allowed

Passing: 8.2 yards-per-pass attempt, 25 TD’s, 12 interceptions thrown

Pass defense: 7.4 yards-per-pass attempt, 22 TD’s allowed, 13 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 21 takeaways, 38 sacks

Kirk Cousins got his share of the blame for Washington not making the playoffs. But he also got the defense’s share of the blame…and the coaching staff’s share of the blame…and you can probably throw in management as well. Yes, Cousins had some badly timed miscues that hurt the team’s prospects. Having a defense that allowed 5.8 yards-per-play and 47% on third down conversions hurt them a lot more. Washington had a playoff caliber offense, but the defense just didn’t measure up to the rest of the league in too many key areas. 

The market basically has everyone in the NFC East making it to .500 this coming season. That doesn’t seem likely given the skeletons in those closets. Any of the three behind Dallas could fix what ailed them in 2016 and make a step forward. But NOT fixing what ailed them could lead to a collapse down to 5-11 caliber or worse. Are all four going to be playoff contenders? Oddsmakers shade against Over bettors. Can you find the smartest Under?

Tomorrow brings the NFC North. That’s it for Tuesday here in VSiN City. Thanks for reading all the way through the NHL and NBA Playoffs. We hope you’ll stick with us all through the summer for daily baseball betting notes and in-depth preparation for college and pro football.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, click here to sign up for free weekday morning email delivery. Don’t forget that subscribers also get those free line sheets from the South Point! Follow us on twitter for programming bulletins and sports news all through the day. If you have any comments or questions about VSiN or VSiN City, please drop us a note.

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