NBA Finals Odds & Series Preview: 6 Ways Our Staff Is Betting Warriors vs. Celtics
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images. Pictured: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics.
We’ve got one series left and a ton of ways to bet it.
The 2022 NBA Finals is a dream matchup: two teams with top-tier superstars who score at will, tons of depth and defensive versatility. The Golden State Warriors are experienced and just as scary during this run as they were in past iterations. They’ve got rest on their side and the home-court advantage.
The Boston Celtics are young and hungry; what they lack in championship experience, they make up for with grit. The Celtics needed to win back-to-back series in seven games to reach the Finals but they’ve proved their toughness throughout.
The possibilities in this series are endless and our NBA couldn’t wait to bet on how this Finals matchup would play out. They break down their thoughts and NBA Finals series bets below.
NBA Odds & Picks
Celtics vs. Warriors
Joe Dellera: The Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals and take on a Celtics team that has had an absolutely brutal road throughout the playoffs. After dismantling the Brooklyn Nets, they played consecutive seven-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat.
The Warriors obviously have the pedigree, but does that matter? To some degree, it does. The Warriors have a combined 123 games of NBA Finals experience. The Celtics? They have zero, zilch, nada.
I expect the bright lights, the national attention, and the media to impact the Celtics. While this is old hat to the Warriors, it’s a new scenario that may be overwhelming against the remnants of the Warriors Dynasty.
However, this is not the only reason for this handicap. Historically, teams haven’t performed well in the following round after a Game 7, going 32-51 (38.6%) straight up in the ensuing Game 1. Couple this with the fact that in Game 1s under Kerr, the Warriors are 21-2 SU in Game 1s and 9-2 ATS as single-digit home favorites in Game 1s.
The Warriors’ perpetual motion offense is not easy adjust to; add in the rest advantage and there’s an edge in Game 1.
As for the series, Boston is the only team in the NBA with a winning record (9-7) against the Warriors in the Kerr era. While regular season doesn’t matter much, the Celtics have a truly elite defense, and have responded and adjusted whenever they have lost a game during this postseason — they have not dropped consecutive games yet.
Once Boston has the chance to adjust, I think they can counter through their scheme, and with defensive contributions from both Derrick White and Marcus Smart against Stephen Curry, this could become a tough situation for Golden State’s offense.
Sure, in best-of-seven series, the team that wins game one at home win the series approximately 85% of the time. However, past outcomes do not necessarily impact future events and there are a variety of different factors that influence these results.
I think this series is incredibly even, and looking back since 1990, there have been only four Finals series with odds equal to or closer than this season’s (-160 / +140). Those series were 2014 Spurs vs. Heat, 2006 Mavericks vs. Heat, 1998 Jazz vs. Bulls, and 1995 Magic vs. Rockets. In those series, the Game 1 winner won the series just twice (1995 and 2014). Obviously it’s a small sample size, but it’s important to differentiate these series from others.
I’m very confident in the Game 1 outcome, and I do not think we will see a line better than +400 unless the Celtics go down 3-0 or 3-1, neither of which I think is likely.
If Boston drops Game 1, I’d project their series price moves from +130 to +185, if they lose Game 2, maybe we see a number touching +300, but it will not be higher considering the Celtics would be heading back for a home Game 3 in Boston.
Brandon Anderson: Joe and I are in lockstep. Game 1 is a bet against a tired team coming off back-to-back Game 7s, and a bet on a team that’s been nearly invincible at home early in the playoffs.
Rather than focusing on Game 1, I want to explain why I still think the Celtics win the series even despite going down 0-1, even with that rest and health disadvantage that doesn’t exactly go away after one game.
The unit I’ve trusted most this entire playoffs continues to be this Boston defense, a unit I believe will go down as a truly great modern defensive unit, one other teams will try to emulate. It’s hard to imagine a unit better suited to defend against this whirring Golden State perpetual motion machine.
Marcus Smart might be the single best one-on-one matchup for Stephen Curry. He’s mean and tough, and his physicality has given Curry issues in the past and will wear him down as the series progresses. When Boston switches, they’ve got long, talented wings to switch onto Curry.
And if the Warriors get past all that and get one of those cuts open to the rim, Robert Williams may be there to erase everything. Derrick White can absorb some of those Curry minutes off the bench too, and Al Horford and Grant Williams are outstanding switching big men who should match up well with Draymond Green’s magic.
It will take Boston some time to settle in defensively and find its best answers. We saw that in each of the last two series, and it’ll be even tougher against such a unique offense. But when the Celtics defense finds answers and really locks in, it can absolutely suffocate an opponent, taking all the oxygen out of the attack.
Boston should get to the line, and Golden State turns it over. That plus Boston’s difficult shot making with size should give the Celtics a solid floor offensively. Golden State’s offense feels much higher variance against this defense.
Boston will take away the mid-range and a lot of those easy looks at the rim, so the Warriors may devolve into a 3-point shooting team like during the season when 53% of their attempts against Boston came from behind the arc. But the Celtics led the league in 3-point percentage defense too.
It sounds crazy, but I’m just not sure I trust Golden State’s offense to find enough answers against this defense. I’ll like Boston more the longer this series goes, so as long as the Celtics can hang in there and take the early punch, I’ll back them to come back and win it late.
Anderson: The Finals MVP almost always just goes to the top scorer on the winning team. Just that description alone covers 12 of the last 14 winners — everyone but Iguodala in 2015 and Kawhi Leonard in 2014.
And what did those two have in common? They won MVP in large part because of their defensive roles against the opposing team’s superstar.
Enter Marcus Smart.
Smart is the Defensive Player of the Year, and he has designs to make life absolutely miserable for Stephen Curry. Smart is physical, tough, and strong, and he’s given Curry real issues in the past.
Curry has had some really tough shooting outings against Boston, and Smart is one of a precious few guards in the league who might have the ability to hang with, and maybe even partially shut down, Curry without much help.
Smart averages 15.5 PPG this postseason, but he has five 20-point games.
He can be a streaky scorer, and he has a knack for the big moment, always willing to take the big shot, for better and for worse. He’s posted big numbers in games against the Warriors: 18.2 points, 3.8 3s, and 6.5 assists per game over his last five outings against a team that will force him to hit his shots.
Smart could make the game-winning play at either end, and if he puts up something like 16/4/6 while also limiting Curry en route to a title, he could get the Kawhi 2014 MVP.
Smart is the X-factor, and he is not afraid of the moment. He’s a long shot to win, but there’s a real path. This is my favorite value bet on the entire board.
Matt Moore: The Celtics’ resilience in the face of defeat warrants respect. They were down 1-0 and 2-1 to both the Heat and Bucks and won both series. They have been incredible after losses and haven’t lost back-to-back games in the playoffs.
On the one hand, it says something that the Celtics have twice had to battle back from disadvantageous spots. Teams have historically lost the series down 1-0 and down 2-1 (and down 3-2 as they were vs. the Bucks).
There is an ongoing conversation about the Celtics that credits them for these perfomances: They did this improbable thing once, so certainly they’ll just do it again.
That’s bad logic.
However, battling uphill against the Warriors is important. Teams get more used to how the Warriors play as a series goes on; we saw it with the Nuggets and Mavericks who were caught off guard in Games 1 and 2. (Notably the Dubs had home court in those series as they do in this one.)
Golden State’s offense has cracks in it, compared to the 2015-19 run, even factoring Durant’s absence. Thompson can still have huge games, but he will also have lower lows. Poole is explosive, but will be targeted more defensively than he was in previous series.
I’m not of the mind that this is an all-time great Celtics team. The idea of it being as good defensively as the ’04 Detroit Pistons, ’05 San Antonio Spurs, or even the ’14 Indiana Pacers is wrong. But this isn’t a year where you need to be all-time great. You just need to be great enough, and they are.
The margin for the Warriors as teams have figured them out later in the series has been their talent advantage. Boston has enough talent to sustain that.
Moore: This is Occam’s razor if you think Boston wins the series. Jaylen Brown had a fantastic series against Miami and still couldn’t win the Larry Bird trophy.
Tatum is the head of the snake and will target the Warriors’ smaller defenders. He’s the guy who can best beat their switching defense with one-on-one play, and he’s become a great playmaker on top of it.
I think Horford is a great longshot (you can read more about that here), but I also think if Tatum doesn’t play at a Finals MVP level the path for the Celtics to win becomes perilously narrow.
Austin Wang: Fact: Stephen Curry is the best 3-point shooter in the history of the NBA. He averaged 4.5 made 3-pointers in the regular season, and is knocking down 3.8 3s per game in these playoffs, both league-highs.
Yet, FanDuel is currently offering him to have the highest average 3-pointers made in the NBA Finals at +105, an implied probability of 48.8%.
I understand he will have DPOY Marcus Smart hounding him at all times. Even when Smart is on the bench, Derrick White is a formidable defender who can disrupt him. However, I think the crafty Curry will still get his attempts and have the best opportunity to achieve this goal.
Many bettors will take him to be Finals MVP, but the odds are shorter and there is more risk if the Celtics win the series or if another player on the Warriors steps up.
I think he will average the highest made 3-pointers regardless of those scenarios. There is no need to overthink this. Back the best 3-point shooter in history at plus-odds.
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