It’s only one game.
That’s what fans and sports betting backers of the Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, and Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to tell themselves Monday morning.
Losing the first game of a seven-game series is not a death knell — even if, for all of the above teams but the Warriors, they dropped that playoff opener on their home court, and even if, in the cases of the Bucks and Grizzlies, they lost their best player to injury. All of these teams can fall behind 1-0 and come back to advance to the second round.
But the sportsbook prices reflect quite clearly how much their chances have slipped off a single game — and how much the odds for temporarily triumphant teams like the New York Knicks and L.A.’s Lakers and Clippers have shortened.
The Lakers and Knicks both came into the weekend as underdogs to win their opening series and now stand as favorites.
And amid all the madness, the Boston Celtics are now your favorites at every major sportsbook to win the NBA title, simply by taking care of business against an outmanned Atlanta Hawks squad that was always a longshot to even stretch them past five games.
Serious series odds shifts
At FanDuel Sportsbook, the Cavs were -215 and the Knicks +176 entering Game 1, but a narrow 101-97 victory for New York Saturday flipped it to Knicks -158, Cavaliers +134 ahead of Tuesday night’s Game 2 in Cleveland.
The Lakers-Grizzlies odds have moved even more dramatically off of one game. That’s because not only did the new Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and … checks notes … Austin Reaves?! … pull away late for a win in Memphis on Sunday, but Grizz guard Ja Morant reinjured his right hand in the fourth quarter and may not be available for Wednesday’s Game 2. Entering Game 1, FanDuel had series odds of Memphis -130, L.A. +108; after Game 1, it’s Lakers -250, Grizzlies +205.
The other injury of note came in Milwaukee, where Giannis Antetokounmpo exited in the second quarter of a stunning Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat with a lower back contusion and is considered day-to-day. Entering Game 1, the No. 1 seed Bucks were a massive -1200 favorite at FanDuel and Miami was a +750 longshot. After the Heat’s 130-117 victory? Milwaukee is just -230, Miami +190.
The Clippers and Sacramento Kings also pulled out Game 1 wins in series they came into as underdogs, and both are now shorter ‘dogs than was previously the case.
Sacramento’s victory over the Warriors in a Saturday night thriller only moved the odds needle marginally: FanDuel had GSW -260, Kings +215 before Game 1 and shifted to -156/+132 afterward.
The loaded Suns were lopsided -590 faves over the +440 Clippers heading into the weekend, but after Russell Westbrook showed signs of life and Kawhi Leonard scored 38 to shock Phoenix — still the favorite at all sportsbooks to win the Western Conference — the numbers moved all the way to Suns -190, Clips +160.
As for the three series in which the opening game went according to script, Boston moved from -1000 to -2500 to get past the Hawks, the Philadelphia 76ers improved from -800 to -1800 to oust the Brooklyn Nets, and the Denver Nuggets, the top seed out West, went from -500 to -900 to take care of business against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
C’s the day
The weekend results and injuries caused a few notable changes in the championship odds for the 16 playoff teams. Here’s a look at the title odds before and after Game 1 at FOX Bet for each squad:
The Bucks were favored, but thanks to the combination of an 0-1 hole against an experienced Heat team and health questions about Giannis, they’ve slipped to the second favorite. The Celtics now have the shortest number. (Some sportsbooks have the two teams priced the same, but nobody has Milwaukee shorter than Boston anymore.)
The Clippers, Kings, Heat, and especially Knicks saw their odds close significantly off of one win, while the Grizzlies were the notable backslider.
Should the Bucks fall to Miami, it would cause a major shakeup in the East (and allow the Celtics and Sixers to avoid each other in the second round).
But it’s the Western Conference that has gone the most topsy-turvy. There suddenly appears to be a path for the Lakers, who are a mere seventh seed but a major championship liability for some sportsbooks. They’re up 1-0 on a banged-up Memphis squad, and they and all other remaining teams in the West would breathe a sigh of relief if Phoenix and/or Golden State get bounced in the opening round.
Perhaps the weirdness out West most favors the No. 1 seed, the team that consistently stood atop the standings all season — the Nuggets. Denver is as high as +360 at FanDuel to win the conference, a great price for any bettor who doesn’t believe in the Lakers long term.
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