NBA Western Conference Finals Will Be Loser for Sportsbooks

Posted on: September 17, 2020, 01:17h. 

Last updated on: September 18, 2020, 07:49h.

The Los Angeles Lakers are the overwhelming favorite to win the NBA championship now that the playoffs are down to the final four teams.

LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James (23) tries to stop Keita Bates-Diop of the Denver Nuggets. The teams will play Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Friday. (Image: Ashley Landis/USA TODAY Sports)

After the COVID-19 shutdown, the league returned to action in a bubble in Orlando, Fla. At the time, the Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Milwaukee Bucks had by far the shortest odds to win the championship. However, with the Bucks and Clippers getting stunned in the conference semifinals, the path is clear for the Lakers to win the championship for the first time since going back-to-back a decade ago.

According to DraftKings, the Lakers are -200 to win the NBA crown. The Miami Heat is +400, the Boston Celtics are +550, and the Denver Nuggets are +900.

With months’ worth of hype, the Lakers are the biggest liability for sportsbooks.

Game 1 of Western Conference

The West finals will begin on Friday with the Lakers vs. the Nuggets. Los Angeles is a 7-point favorite, with an over/under of 212 points for Game 1 at DraftKings. For the series, the Lakers are a commanding -625 and the Nuggets are +450.

We’re not in particularly good shape in this series, because whoever wins the West is a loser for us,” said Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, to

“We’re going to pay out on both sides,” Avello continued. “You could have got Denver at some pretty good odds at one time to win the West and win it all, and the Lakers have been hit all year. It’s a team that has been played in the future book both to win the West and to win it all.”

Of the eight potential series outcomes, the four with Los Angeles winning have the shortest odds: +200 to win 4-1, +350 to sweep or win 4-2, and +550 to win 4-3. For Denver, the odds are +1,000 for a 4-3 series win, +1,200 for 4-2, +2,500 for 4-1, and +10,000 for a sweep.

“I’d guess the Lakers are happy to have the Nuggets as the finalist. But they’re probably not happy with the way the Nuggets are coming into this series,” Avello said. “They’ve got a lot of confidence after coming back from two 3-1 (series deficits), which has never been done. There’s some parts to the Nuggets that are scary for the Lakers. This ought to be an entertaining series.”

The Lakers arrived in the bubble at +250 to win the championship. The Nuggets were a remote +2,500. However, the Nuggets have momentum on their side after rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to shock the Clippers.

For Game 1, the over/unders are 27.5 points for Lakers star LeBron James and 26.5 for sidekick Anthony Davis. For Denver, the over/unders are 24.5 points for Jamal Murray and 22.5 points for Nikola Jokic.

Game 2 of Eastern Conference

Boston entered the East finals as the series favorite, but the Heat stole Game 1 by a score of 117-114 in overtime. That made the Heat (-160) the favorite over the Celtics (+132).

Boston, however, is a 2.5-point favorite, with an over/under of 209 for Thursday’s Game 2 at DraftKings. Boston’s Jayson Tatum’s over/under is 26.5 points, with Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown each at 19.5. Miami’s Jimmy Butler’s over/under is 19.5 points.

The Celtics arrived in the bubble at +2,000 to win the championship. The Heat was even more of a long shot at +3,000. Miami, however, dominated the heavily favored Bucks 4-1 in the Eastern semifinals and is 9-1 in this year’s playoffs.

“This Miami team is similar to the Nuggets in that they have a lot of confidence,” Avello told “During the regular season, they were super at home. Now, everybody’s playing on a neutral site. But they just seem to think that that’s their home court.”