NBA Finals, Game 2: Golden State Warriors @ Toronto Raptors
Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Golden State +1 1H @ Toronto -2
Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario
June 2, 2019, 5:00 PM
We had the Raptors to cover the NBA Finals opener Thursday, as 1) home teams in the playoffs backed by sharper players tend to beat the number, 2) favorites tend to cover the chalk in postseason game 1's and 3) when two rested teams meet in the playoffs, the team in their own building has demonstrated the edge historically. A tight schedule did not afford the time to post a long-form note detailing our thinking. We did though manage the following tweet ahead of the start of the action:
Consistent with the big picture trends we highlighted, Toronto indeed delivered a nine point win, easily besting the one(ish) point spread.
With Warriors' assassin Kevin Durant not expected back until mid-series, we are inclined to go back to the Canadian well again for game 2 on Sunday.
Justifying this inclination, we first reiterate that, except in the Conference Finals, sharp bettors have proven prescient forecasters of ATS outcomes for NBA playoff action.
In rounds 1, 2 and 4 of the NBA postseason, teams backed by a greater percentage of dollars wagered against the spread than their percentage share of the total number of ATS bets have been good for a 16% return on investment (ROI) since 2016 (when the BetLabsSports' database began tallying such stats).
This system is 41-24 ATS so far this post-season.
As of the time of this writing, Toronto has garnered the support of a lowly 32% of the near nine thousand ATS wagers monitored by The Action Network, while a slightly heavier 33% of dollars bet versus the line are down on the home team.
The current 1% differential between the Raptors' percent of dollars and percent of bets renders this signal only marginally supportive of Toronto's bid, however, the line movement for game 2 evident so far leads us to expect the disparity will persist.
The game 2 spread opened at Warriors -1, and public bettors were too willing to throw support behind the champs. Despite better than two of every three ATS bets landing on Golden State though, the line shifted by a massive three points, to Raptors -2. This adjustment hints that respected players came in heavy on Toronto, compelling bookies to move the mark. This overwhelming support for the home team fuels our belief that the general public's enthusiasm for the ever-popular Warriors is likely to be offset by additional sharp action on Toronto.
Despite our expectation though, it must be noted that, unlike other trends indicated herein, the sharp bettors signal is subject to reverse, and should be monitored right up to tip-off.
The public's affinity for the Warriors, per se, too hints that objective bettors might consider the Northerners to cover the full game betting line Sunday.
Since 2005, backing post-season favorites that have attracted no more than 40% of public bets has delivered a 19% ROI.
Importantly, the profitability of this trend has persisted through all rounds of the playoffs, and is 4-1 ATS this year.
And while teams in this spot are a terrible 4-8-1 ATS facing the mighty Warriors, Golden State's playoff success as the people's choice has materialized primarily in the first round. Dub Nation is a meager 3-3-1 ATS from the Conference Finals forward, when a great majority of bets back their cover effort.
Additionally we note that in the latter rounds of the NBA playoffs, teams off a win, laying chalk in their own building have been solid plays, generating a 7% ROI since 2005.
This set of criteria is 5-2 ATS this postseason.
More broadly, we have observed signs that postseason momentum persists over slightly longer horizons.
Squads playing at home after rattling off three to five consecutive wins have been strong plays, historically. Backing such teams has accrued a 12% long-term ROI, and is an exceptional 10-3 ATS so far this year.
With all of that said, those of us who can not resist our innermost desires to be a part of the herd might consider backing Golden State to cover the first half line.
Eastern Conference teams have exhibited a pretty consistent tendency to take their foot off the gas in the first half of the playoff game after a postseason win. Fading teams in this position has amassed a long-term ROI of 8%, and is 14-10-1 ATS this season.
Bottom line: All of the big picture betting trends we unearthed suggest it prudent to continue to back Toronto versus the full game number. The historically prescient sharp money contingent, the highly profitable contrarian strategy of backing unloved playoff favorites, the tendency for home favorites off a win to cover, and the track record of home teams on more enduring postseason streaks all steer us toward Toronto for game 2 of the NBA Finals. However, after having their six-game playoff win streak snapped Thursday, we see scope for the Warriors to throw some good punches early Sunday. As such, we also like Golden State to cover the first half line.