Los Angeles Lakers Become Huge Favorites in NBA Conference Finals

Posted on: September 20, 2020, 05:25h. 

Last updated on: September 20, 2020, 07:38h.

Before Game 1 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals, a bettor at BetMGM placed a $110,000 bet on the Denver Nuggets at +7 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Also at BetMGM, a bettor put $100,000 on the Lakers to cover that seven-point spread, as well as another $100,000 to beat the 210-point total.

Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James
LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers dunked on the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the NBA’s Western Conference finals. (Image: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Those bets perfectly demonstrated the pre-series thinking about these teams. Led by LeBron James, the Lakers had been on the short list of NBA championship contenders all year, and played to that standard for most of the season. On the other hand, the Nuggets rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to shock the Los Angeles Clippers. So, the Denver bet was on momentum. The Lakers bet was on perceived superiority.

The Lakers – and that second bettor – won the game emphatically, 126-114.

Lakers Are Enormous Favorites

While it’s only one game, the outcome let the air out of Denver’s balloon.

I think the public sentiment for the Nuggets is due to just watching them perform well, a recency bias,” said Glenn Herzog, the senior sportsbook risk manager at Circa Sports, to Casino.org on Saturday.

“That was coupled with the Lakers’ supposed Game 1 deficiencies in the previous two series. A good team like the Lakers will know their weaknesses and will have the ability to address it, so the line move and result does not surprise me.”

The Lakers opened the series at -525 to knock off the Nuggets (+415) and get to the NBA Finals. Now, Los Angeles is an overwhelming favorite heading into Sunday night’s Game 2.

The series price is based on the game line, so when one goes up, you can assume the series price should follow,” Herzog continued. “After Game 1, we have the series price at -1800/+1100 and haven’t moved it since it opened Friday. The current line for Game 2 is -7.5 for the Lakers, and hasn’t budged, as well.

“Considering the Lakers just beat the Nuggets considerably, anyone who wants to bet the Nuggets will probably just wait until it drifts up to 8 before hitting it. That will be a good test of the interest in that team for the series. Will the number blow through 8, or will there be resistance?”

As of Saturday morning, the line was still -7.5 for Game 2 of a series in which sportsbooks are going to lose either way.

Interesting in the East

The Boston Celtics opened the Eastern Conference finals as the favorite over the Miami Heat. Instead, Miami won the first two games to take command of the series. Critically, Boston won Saturday’s Game 3.

What struck Herzog was the nightly spreads. In Game 1, Boston opened at -1.5 and moved to -2.5 before losing in overtime. In Game 2, Boston opened at -2 and moved to -3, but lost again. For Game 3, Boston was -3.5. So, while the hole grew deeper, the spreads grew larger.

Even though they are losing each game, the game line continues to rise,” Herzog said before the game. “It’s so weird, because usually the power ratings are affected by the results, and this seems to be disregarded. The fact that the number blew through 3 is quite telling. The Celtics also held big leads in both games, so maybe this is where the young players and coach figure out how to close a high-pressure playoff game against a savvy, well-coached team.”

This time, the Celtics didn’t blow their big lead, as they got right back into the series with a 117-106 victory.

At FanDuel, with Boston leading by 12 at halftime, a bettor placed a $70,000 bet on Miami to cover at +9.5. The payout would have been $140,000. Miami got as close as 5 with 55.9 seconds remaining. But Boston scored eight of the final 10 points. Marcus Smart made two free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining to push the margin from nine points to 11.

Game 4 is Wednesday. The Celtics are 2.5-point favorites at Circa.

In the championship race, the Lakers are heavy favorites at -350. They’re followed by the Heat at +375, Celtics at +1,100, and Nuggets at +2,000.