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You have to be Bullish on Warriors' chances now

By Newsletter staff
VSiN.com

leonard
Kawhi Leonard had 26 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes before re-injuring his ankle.
© USA Today Sports images

One No. 1 NBA seed wins in the West…now the other tries to reach the East finals…plus a busy weekend in the NHL playoffs…and a Preakness prelude as we’re Always Dreaming of the next big winner here in VSiN City.

NBA: Warriors rally from 25 down to survive Spurs
A glance at the final boxscore really doesn’t tell you the story of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. You know, if you watched, that…

  • San Antonio was crushing Golden State well into the third quarter
  • Kawhi Leonard was playing great (26 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes)
  • Leonard re-injured his sprained ankle and was unable to continue
  • Golden State was down 78-55 at the time, but won the rest of the game 58-33

San Antonio brought peak intensity out of the gate. Golden State was a relative no-show until catching fire after the Leonard injury. From the Spurs perspective, an unfortunate side effect of bringing peak intensity early was that they ran out of gas late when shorthanded. That allowed Golden State too many second-chance opportunities when the game was on the line. 

Golden State (-10) 113, San Antonio 111

  • Two-Point Pct: San Antonio 53%, Golden State 55%
  • Three Pointers: San Antonio 7/22, Golden State 11/30
  • Fast Break Points: San Antonio 12, Golden State 32

A misleadingly slow final pace of 96. We say that because a whopping 31 offensive rebounds for the two teams combined (14 for SA, 17 for GS) extended many possessions that could have ended sooner. A high turnover count (17 for the Spurs, 19 for the Warriors) helps paint the picture of pace more accurately. And, that 32-12 win in fast-break points for the Warriors tells you what happens when an opponent runs out of gas! Losing the multi-dimensional Leonard really inhibits San Antonio’s chances to contain Golden State’s many strengths. 

Game 2 will be Tuesday night, which doesn’t allow much recovery time for Leonard. But Game 3 won’t be until Saturday, which at least gives him a chance to approximate full speed when the series returns to Texas. 

Those betting “yes” at plus-700 at the South Point on the Warriors running the table in the playoffs are still alive. Those laying -1100 on “no” almost won their bet in the West finals opener. What remains is basically a 7-team parlay with Golden State linked to themselves game-by-game. You still might be able to get close to 700 (or better) with a rolling parlay from this point forward depending on whether or not Leonard can return to the series and contribute. 

Note: we received a question via email from a reader asking about hedging futures bets. We will discuss that in depth once the underdog San Antonio Spurs reach an elimination game in this series (the key starting point for hedging). Stay tuned. (And feel free to send us your sports betting questions.)

NBA: Do Warriors have the highest market “Power Rating” ever?
That’s become a topic of conversation in Las Vegas because Golden State settled at -10 vs. an excellent San Antonio Spurs team in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, and will likely be at least -7 or -8 (barring injuries) at home vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers should those teams meet in the championship round.

It’s clear that the 2016-17 Warriors are one of the greatest teams of all time (though Sunday’s slow start may be raising some questions about challenges still ahead). It’s tough comparing one era to the past. But, we can at least look at recorded point spreads to get a sense of how past champions were perceived by the marketplace. The pulldowns at covers.com for “past results” go back far enough to evaluate Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Let’s check those out for the championship rounds in their two three-peats.

1990-91 Chicago Bulls

  • Chicago was -6 and -6.5 in its first two home games vs. the LA Lakers
  • Chicago was plus-4 and plus-4.5 in its first two road games

We’re mostly going to focus on the first two games at each site in our evaluations because later lines can change based on “need,” injuries, or a perception that the losing team has kind of thrown in the towel. We can see here that Chicago was considered superior to the Lakers on a neutral court…but probably just by a point or so at the beginning of the Finals. If you assume Chicago -1 neutral, with a five point adjustment either way for home court (not uncommon in a playoff round that crosses time zones), then you get Chicago -6 at home and plus-4 on the road to match the actual range. Tough to be “the highest Power-Rated team of all time” if you’re only one point better than your opponent on a neutral court. You’d have to make the case that BOTH were among the top two of all-time. 

1991-92 Chicago Bulls

  • Chicago was -6.5 and -7 at home against Portland
  • Chicago was plus 2.5 and plus 3 in its first two road games

Similar situation here. Chicago was about 2 points better on a neutral court, with home court value grading out near 5 points again. If you’re only two points better than the ’92 Blazers, you probably don’t have the highest Power Rating of all time.

1992-93 Chicago Bulls

  • Chicago was -8 and -8 at home against Phoenix
  • Chicago was plus 2 and plus 2.5 in its first two road games

Again, we see about five points for home court value. Chicago was about 3 points better on a neutral court than the Suns. You can say that this three-peat represents one of the greatest accomplishments of all time. Were the ’93 Bulls better than the ’17 Warriors? It’s going to be an easier comparison to make within the next three-peat after Michael Jordan’s baseball hiatus. 

1995-96 Chicago Bulls

  • Chicago was -10 and -10 at home against the Seattle Sonics
  • Chicago was -2 and -5 in its first two road games

This is the Bulls nominee most likely to peak in market Power Ratings, as you history buffs surely know. They went 72-10 during the regular season. In the Eastern Conference finals they swept a loaded Orlando Magic team that had gone 60-22 in the regular season (and starred Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway). Then they beat the Sonics in six, after Seattle had dominated the West with a 64-18 record (led by Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton). The market only gave four points for home court value in the first game in Seattle (an 8-point move suggests four points at each site). That shrunk afterward. So, Chicago was about SIX or SEVEN points better than this outstanding Seattle squad on a neutral floor. This is a very good candidate for highest Power Rating ever. 

1996-97 Chicago Bulls

  • Chicago was -8 and -6 at home against the Utah Jazz
  • Chicago was 3.5 and 2 in its first two road games

We’re back down to the Bulls being anywhere from 2-3-4 points better than their opponent on a neutral court. This, of course, was the Stockton and Malone juggernaut. The same two teams would meet again in the Finals a year later.

1997-98 Chicago Bulls

  • Chicago was -4.5 and -5 at home against Utah
  • Chicago was plus-3.5 and plus-2 in its first two road games

Tamer home-court differentials here…with Chicago’s home pricing not consistent with “highest Power Rating ever” status. Finishing off the second three-peat was surely one of the greatest sports accomplishments of all time. 

If the conversation is about “highest sustained Power Rating over several years,” Jordan’s Bulls don’t have to worry about many challengers at the moment. What they did was incredible in his era. If the question is, “do the ’17 Golden State Warriors have the highest market Power Rating in NBA history?” the debate will be with the ’95-96 Bulls who went 8-2 in the last two rounds against Orlando and Seattle…teams comparable in talent level and championship qualifications to the ’17 San Antonio Spurs (when healthy) and ’17 Cleveland Cavaliers. 

NBA: Boston hosts Washington Monday in Game 7 of the Eastern finals
We haven’t been with you since Washington forced this second-round series to a seventh game. Let’s run those numbers from this past Friday night.

Friday’s Game 6: Washington (-4.5) 92, Boston 91

  • Two-Point Pct: Boston 48%, Washington 52%
  • Rebounds: Boston 37, Washington 47

Boston held a very late lead, but allowed the game-winning shot in the final seconds to John Wall. We talked last week about how the Celtics start every game “a few points ahead” because they’re a virtual lock to make more three-pointers. Boston won that tally 11-5 Friday, meaning plus 18 points on the scoreboard. Let’s update our chart from last week. 

Washington’s wins:

  • Boston plus 6 points on treys, Washington plus 25 points on 1s and 2s
  • Boston plus 15 points on treys, Washington plus 34 points on 1s and 2s
  • Boston plus 18 points on treys, Washington plus 19 points on 1s and 2s

Boston’s wins:

  • Boston plus 27 points on treys, Washington plus 15 points on 1’s and 2’s.
  • Boston plus 9 points on treys, Boston plus 1 point on 1’s and 2’s in OT victory
  • Boston plus 27 points on treys, Washington plus 5 points on 1’s and 2’s

Washington really had to dominate scoring inside the arc to get those three victories. That overtime game that Boston won is worth reviewing. There has been so much “the home team has won every game” talk that it’s easy to forget Boston DIDN’T win Game 2 in regulation. That very easily could have been a Washington win, and it’s a crime that Washington didn’t cover. The home team isn’t a sure thing to dominate in this series, even though the host is 6-0 straight up to this point. 

The line in Monday’s Game 7 is Boston -5, with an Over/Under of 209.5. That’s a big drop from earlier totals, because Game 7s historically show a significant decrease in scoring (reasons include a slower pace, the tendency for tentative offenses to run the shot clock out on themselves, and the likelihood that referees will call fewer fouls because they don’t want to determine the series with free throws). Friday’s Game 6 was basically played like a Game 7.

  • Game 6 total: 183 points (after 234, 228, 215, 223, and 224)
  • Game 6 pace: 91 possessions (after 93, 97, 96, 99, and 98)

Recap coming tomorrow in VSiN City.

NHL: Predators/Ducks split a pair, Senators will try to double down on Penguins
Three playoff games to talk about since we were last together…

Friday: Nashville (-105) beat Anaheim 3-2 in overtime to take a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals. A dominating shot count of 46-29 tells you the game wasn’t as close as the final score makes it sound. Nashville outshot Anaheim 32-17 in the first two periods, and then 7-2 when it was time to win in overtime. Home ice flips to Nashville, the team clearly playing the best hockey through the Western brackets. 

Saturday: Ottawa (plus-170) shocked Pittsburgh 2-1 in overtime to take a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals. Another big shot count edge for the visitor. Ottawa won that category 35-28 (including 17-9 in the third period and overtime). Pittsburgh seemed to be playing with a bit of a hangover off the seven-game semi-final survival of Washington. 

Sunday: Anaheim (-140) bounced back to beat Nashville 5-3 to even the series. A late betting surge drove the South Point line to -140 before the start. Many other stores had only lifted to -130 as bettors across the marketplace backed what seemed like a “must-win” team. Nashville jumped ahead 2-0 in the first period. Anaheim would cut it to 2-1 before intermission, but the visitors owned shot count 10-5. The Ducks would rally strong after that, winning the second period 3-1, and adding in a late empty-netter to account for the final margin. Game 3 will be Tuesday in Nashville. The Predators still hold home-ice advantage, but must hold serve to maintain it. 

Monday’s moneyline (Ottawa leads the series 1-0)

  • Ottawa at Pittsburgh (-200, total of 5--Over -145); 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

Preakness: “Devastating” career-ending injury knocks third favorite Royal Mo out of field

Sad to begin our Preakness week coverage with the news that Royal Mo suffered a career-ending sesamoid fracture Sunday morning during a workout at Pimlico. Royal Mo was third-favorite entering the week at 9/1, behind only Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming at 10/11 and Classic Empire at 7/2. 

Complete details on the injury and Royal Mo’s favorable long term health prognosis are available in this article from the Daily Racing Form (hat tip to Ron Flatter’s twitter account…be sure you follow all the VSiN hosts for breaking news). 

That reduces the field to 11 horses, well below the crowded 20-horse field that ran in the Derby. The Preakness is shaping up as a much less complicated race to handicap, as outlined by Ron in his VSiN article this past weekend

  • A smaller field helps reduce randomness
  • Many of the new horses are longshots not given much of a chance to win
  • There’s a clear distinction between groups of “front-end pace” horses and closers

We can now add that an early forecast for great conditions reduces the chance for weather or course related surprises. 

We’ll update odds throughout the week. Before the injury to Royal Mo, they looked like this:

  • Always Dreaming 10/11
  • Classic Empire 7/2
  • Lookin at Lee 10/1
  • Gunnevera 12/1
  • Cloud Computing 12/1
  • Conquest Mo Money 14/1
  • Hence 14/1
  • Multiplier 15/1
  • Lancaster Bomber 22/1
  • Senior Investment 25/1
  • Term of Art 30/1

Royal Mo’s injury will help add to the “match race” theme that had already developed between Always Dreaming and Classic Empire, though there are certainly respected danger horses looming at 15/1 or better. You’ll recall that Andy Serling of NYRA was fond of Hence prior to the Kentucky Derby. Gunnevera got some sharp support in that race. Lookin at Lee cashed! Last Friday we mentioned that oddsmaking legend and horse racing aficionado “Roxy” Roxborough had a value grading on Cloud Computing in the Preakness. 

Be sure to look for insightful interviews every day with horse racing experts on VSiN programing. 

That wraps up Monday. If you have any questions or comments about the newsletter or VSiN programming, please drop us a note. If you haven’t yet subscribed to VSiN City, you can take care of that by clicking here. Be sure you follow us on twitter to get breaking news and on-the-fly guest notices. 

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