What thought J.R.?

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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The Cavs' Tristan Thompson and the Warriors' Draymond Green get into it near the end of overtime.
© USA Today Sports Images

“What are you doing?!” was the shout heard round the world late in Game 1 of the NBA Finals when J.R. Smith ran out the clock on his own offense with the score tied. Cleveland blew its chance to steal the opener at Golden State. We’ll run the numbers and preview a busy sports weekend right now in VSiN City.

NBA Finals: Golden State almost shocked as huge favorite, survives series opener 

For a game that missed the point spread by more than a dozen at the end of regulation, there sure were a lot of unsurprising features to Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals…

*Golden State was lethargic defensively in the first quarter, dropping the period 30-29. VSiN’s Sam Panayotovich tabulated the postseason record…the Warriors are now 6-12 ATS (33%) in first quarters through the current playoffs.

*LeBron James had a huge night, finishing with 51 points.

*Golden State, the lords of the third quarter, got the money again with a 28-22 victory against a consensus point spread of -4.5. Sam says that makes Golden State 14-4 ATS (78%) in third quarters this postseason. (Thanks, Sam, for forwarding that data to VSiN City!) 

*Cleveland had another lousy night trying to make 3-pointers on the road. You’ll see in a moment the Cavs were 10 of 37 (27%) Thursday, after shooting 32 of 126 (25%) in four games in Boston.

*Kevin Durant repeatedly forced up guarded shots in a way that messed up Golden State’s offensive rhythm. Durant would finish 8 of 22 from the field, including 1 of 7 on three pointers. 

*Jordan Clarkson…well, do we even need to write out the rest of the sentence?

*Cleveland played another very slow playoff game, finishing with a pace factor of 90.5.

*Regulation scoring finished below the market price again…after six of Golden State’s seven games with Houston stayed Under, and five of Cleveland’s seven with Boston. The Finals opener would go Over in overtime. 

All that added up to this…

Golden State (-12.5) 124, Cleveland 114 (in overtime) 

2-point Pct: Cleveland 55%, Golden State 61%

3-pointers: Cleveland 10/37, Golden State 13/36

Free Throws: Cleveland 16/22, Golden State 19/20

Rebounds: Cleveland 53, Golden State 38

Turnovers: Cleveland 11, Golden State 7

Pace: 90.5 (pro-rated to 48 minutes) 

If you went to bed early, you missed Cleveland’s shot to steal. After rallying from behind, Cleveland was in position to win the game from the free throw line with 4.7 seconds. George Hill had two free throws with the Cavs down one. He made the first…missed the second. J.R. Smith grabbed the rebound, and dribbled back out toward midcourt (apparently thinking his team was ahead) rather than trying to score the game-winner. 

Heartbreak for Under bettors. Heartbreak for anyone betting Cleveland to win outright on the money line. Sadness for anyone taking a flyer on Cleveland to win the series. Joy for Over bettors. Relief for those laying huge prices to take GS to win the series. 

All in a game that was supposed to be a high-scoring laugher according to market prices. 

Cleveland has plenty of time to recover. Game 2 will be Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.  

A few betting notes we wanted to touch on before switching to other sports. With the recent Supreme Court ruling encouraging more network coverage of sports betting, it’s important to remember that you’ll come across some questionable theories and strategies in the transition to this brave new world. From recent days…

*We heard a pundit use the phrase “mortal lock” to describe Golden State’s likelihood of winning the series. While it’s true that a -900 or -1000 favorite is extremely likely to win (duh), there are no mortal locks in sports betting. 90% favorites lose 10% of the time. 95% favorites lose 5% of the time. The UCONN women were supposedly unbeatable until they were beaten. No way they were going to lose a tournament game the next time around…until they did. 

If Golden State was a mortal lock, the game wouldn’t have been offered to bet by sports books. Anyone using that phrase is trying to sell you something, or is trying to bluff expertise to impress you. Sharps don’t use the phrase. Sharps aren’t pundits. 

*There were some creative discussions about betting “exact outcome” props before the series began. They tended to involve variations of betting multiple Golden State options because that felt cheaper than laying a huge series price. 

Here were Warrior possibilities late in the day at the Westgate (before the series began)…

Golden State in four games: plus 175

Golden State in five games: plus 125

Golden State in six games: plus 550

Golden State in seven games: plus 700

If you think Golden State is going to “kill” Cleveland, your eyes are drawn to the 4-5 game options, or the 4-5-6 game options. Seems obvious at first glance that you should just bet those and you “win something” no matter what happens. 

That’s not what happens!

If you bet $100 on Golden State to win in four games, AND you also bet $100 on Golden State to win in five games…you’re immediately laying -200 that none of the other options will happen. Golden State could win in six or seven, and you lose both bets. Cleveland pulls off a series shocker and you lose both bets. Even if you win, you don’t win that much because the loss erases much of your profits. Golden State winning in four only nets you $75 (you win $175 on one bet, but lose $100 on the other). Golden State winning in five only nets you $25. 

What about betting THREE options, so you can include that plus 550 in six games in the mix? Again, sounds great until you think it through. You’re going to lose at least two bets, and might lose all three. Let’s say you bet $100 each on the series ending in four, five, or six games. While it’s true that you’re getting plus odds on each individual bet…you actually lose $25 in a Golden State sweep, and lose $75 in a five-game series. Exactly six pays off…but only at plus 350 because you made those other bets!

When confronting propositions you don’t usually bet, be sure you think through the math to guarantee that you’ve really found value.  

First line up late Thursday night for Game 2 was Golden State -12.5 with a total of 215.5.

MLB: Astros and Braves score important series opening wins Thursday night

A couple of games to recap, before we run some pitching numbers for three important weekend showdowns. 

Houston (-200) 4, Boston 2

Total Bases Plus Walks: Boston 12, Houston 16

Starting Pitchers: Pomeranz 5 IP, 4 ER, McCullers 6 IP, 2 ER

Bullpen: Boston 3 IP, 0 ER, Houston 3 IP, 0 ER

Houston’s late in a run of “potential playoff preview” matchups. Big win to open a four-game set with the Red Sox. Totals move to 8-19-1 to the Under at Minute Maid this season. 

Atlanta (-120) 4, Washington 2

Total Bases Plus Walks: Washington 9, Atlanta 17

Starting Pitchers: Roark 6.2 IP, 4 ER, Newcomb 7 IP, 2 ER

Bullpen: Washington 1.1 IP, 0 ER, Atlanta 2 IP, 0 ER

These teams are now neck and neck for first place in the NL East after a hot run for Washington lately. Philadelphia is right on their shoulders after beating Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers Thursday night at Chavez Ravine. Braves temporarily take a half-game lead with this impressive series starter. You can see in both of tonight’s recaps that the scoreboard was in the neighborhood of what you’d expect from the offensive bases in those games. 

MLB: Crunching some pitching numbers for three marquee series

Let’s flesh out the rest of the weekend for the two series that have already started. We’ll throw in the Dodgers at the Rockies because Colorado is currently in first place in the NL West, but may expect LAD to make a run to the top if it can ever get healthy. 

Washington at Atlanta

Records: Washington 32-23, Atlanta 33-23

Ballpark: so far the seventh best hitter’s park in 2018, increasing run production by 16%. Last season, it was neutral, reducing offense by 2%.

Washington’s probable pitchers

Friday: Steven Strasburg…6.5 IP/Start, 1.06 WHIP, 3.12 xFIP 

Saturday: Gio Gonzalez…5.8 IP/Start, 1.29 WHIP, 3.85 xFIP

Sunday: Jeremy Hellickson…5.4 IP/Start, 0.93 WHIP, 3.33 xFIP 

Atlanta’s probable pitchers

Friday: Mike Foltynewicz…5.5 IP/Start, 1.28 WHIP, 3.80 xFIP 

Saturday: Brandon McCarthy…5.2 IP/Start, 1.59 WHIP, 3.81 xFIP

Sunday: Anibal Sanchez…5.0 IP/Start, 1.33 WHIP, 4.44 xFIP 

Washington has the more impressive arm in every start. That will give the Nats a good chance to jump back ahead in the divisional race. Though, McCarthy’s “fielding independent” pitching number is slightly better than that of Gonzalez because of some fluky things that are due to regress. Great chance for the Braves to prove themselves in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. 

Los Angeles Dodgers at Colorado

Records: Los Angeles 26-30, Colorado 30-26

Ballpark: Historically the best hitters park in the Majors. #2 so far in 2018, increasing run production by 40% thus far. (Only Cleveland is currently higher at an astonishing 51% that’s due to regress). Last year, Colorado’s home park increased offense 33%.

LA Dodgers’ probable pitchers

Friday: Alex Wood…5.7 IP/Start, 1.04 WHIP, 3.19 xFIP 

Saturday: Walker Beuhler…5.9 IP/Start, 0.90 WHIP, 2.53 xFIP

Sunday: Dennis Santana makes his debut as a rookie (replaces Maeda) 

Colorado’s probable pitchers

Friday: Tyler Anderson…5.0 IP/Start, 1.36 WHIP, 4.49 xFIP 

Saturday: German Marquez…5.2 IP/Start, 1.44 WHIP, 4.24 xFIP

Sunday: Chad Bettis…6.0 IP/Start, 1.24 WHIP, 4.49 xFIP 

Colorado pitchers can’t possibly accumulate good-looking stats because of the altitude of their home park. Can they do enough to keep their team in position to win the game? How would you like to be a rookie who has to debut at this site?! Colorado’s offense is horrible this season once you make adjustments for the impact of the park. That’s why it’s hard to see them holding onto the lead in the NL West. The Dodgers begin this series four games out. 

Boston at Houston 

Records: Boston 39-18, Houston 36-22

Ballpark: an extreme pitcher’s park in recent seasons, currently third best pitchers’ park in 2018, reducing offense by 18%. Last year it was the #1 pitchers park, reducing offense 17%.

Boston’s probable pitchers

Friday: Chris Sale…6.3 IP/Start, 0.96 WHIP, 2.83 xFIP 

Saturday: David Price…5.7 IP/Start, 1.27 WHIP, 4.36 xFIP

Sunday: Rick Porcello…6.2 IP/Start, 1.14 WHIP, 3.61 xFIP 

Houston’s probable pitchers

Friday: Gerrit Cole…6.8 IP/Start, 0.83 WHIP, 2.51 xFIP 

Saturday: Justin Verlander…6.8 IP/Start, 0.71 WHIP, 3.49 xFIP

Sunday: Charlie Morton…6.2 IP/Start, 1.02 WHIP, 2.76 xFIP 

Some marquee pitching matchups, with Sale vs. Cole representing one of the best possible matchups in the sport right now. A challenge for hitters to make contact on these arms at this site. Though, "fielding independent" stats are suggesting Verlander's due to turn mortal soon. Note that Sunday night’s game will be televised by ESPN. 

NHL Stanley Cup Finals: Electricity resumes Saturday with Game 3 in Washington

Two days of rest should help both the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals maintain the high energy levels they showed in the first two games in the desert. Though, it’s going to be a lot more humid!

Fifteen goals and 127 shots so far. A quick recap of the early split…

Vegas Golden Knights at Washington (series tied 1-1)

Game 1: Vegas (-155) 6, Washington 4 (Shots: Vegas 34-28)

Game 2: Washington (plus 130) 3, Vegas 2 (Shots: Vegas 39-26)

Game 3: Washington -130, total of 5.5 (Under -115)

Official start time is 8 p.m. ET Saturday on the NBC Sports Network (5 p.m. Las Vegas time). Washington’s pregame arena producers have had plenty of time to come up with something that will delay the start several minutes.

Something we haven’t had a chance to mention yet…but wanted to get down on paper for you. Washington’s goal scoring has been impressive and consistent throughout the postseason. The Caps have yet to be shut out. Only one time were they held to one goal (though they also had a 2-1 win in overtime). Let’s run the numbers in game order round by round. 

Versus Columbus: 3-4-3-4-4-6

Versus Pittsburgh: 2-4-4-1-6-2

Versus Tampa Bay: 4-6-2-2-2-3-4

Versus Vegas: 4-3

Two or more in 20 of 21 games. Three or more in 15 of 21 games. Keep that in mind if you’re ever thinking about a “Las Vegas and Under” combination in this series. Washington has goal scorers and isn’t afraid to attack. That can leave them vulnerable on the backside. Ideal scenario for TV viewers who are hoping for exciting hockey. 

For bettors? Shot counts and game flow currently suggest six might be a better median than 5.5 for per-game goals moving forward. Be sure you watch VSiN Friday and Saturday for the latest market development in a series that has captured the hearts and minds of the city of Las Vegas like nothing before. 

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Have a great weekend!

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