2020 NBA Playoffs: Rule of Thumb, Lean on Dogs in Conference Finals Openers
Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Denver Nuggets +7 -103 @ Los Angeles Lakers
Our computer simulation framework says stick with the theme of backing underdogs to beat the number in the first game of the NBA Conference Finals. Accordingly, we are getting down on the Nuggets +7.
While the number of spread bets is roughly evenly split for this contest (51% Nuggets, 49% Lakers), at 57%, the Lakers have the edge in dollars wagered, suggesting the bigger, presumably better informed, bets are backing LeBron James and Anthony Davis and crew. The sharper action on the favorites probably explains why the line has inched up from the opening level at +6.5.
Despite being misaligned with the heavies on this one, we are comfortable kicking off the NBA Western Conference Finals with our play on the Denver Nuggets, off their most improbable elimination of the LA Clippers. To be clear, beating the Clippers is impressive, given that the LA is the more talented and better coached team (on paper, anyway), and that Kawhi has forged a reputation for willing his teams to the mountaintop. But this accomplishment is not the rationale for our supporting Denver; we were not swayed by the emotionality and drama that attended the upset.
Our approach is more pragmatic. We formulate views based on the messages from our sim routines, validated by historical context. In this case, supporting the indication from our computers, we note that since 2005, NBA Conference Finals game 1 underdogs have been good for a 61% ATS win rate and 20% return on investment.
Further, when the Conference Finals game 1 favorite is the #1 seed, the team taking points is 14-7 (67% ATS, 30% ROI).