For basketball bettors, the storyline of the NBA playoffs has been one of streaks, and of streaks coming to sudden, ignominious endings.
At one point, teams favored on the betting line had put together a winning streak of 20 consecutive games (straight up, not against the point spread). That streak came crashing to a halt this week when two underdogs in two days won outright: The Celtics beat the Heat as a 2-point underdog in the fourth game of their series, and the Thunder beat the Spurs as a 5-point ’dog in Game 5 of their series.
In an even more impressive run, the Spurs had compiled a 20-game straight-up winning streak stretching back to the regular season. San Antonio was 16-3-1 against the point spread during the streak. The Spurs cooled off in a hurry, losing three consecutive games to the Thunder beginning last Thursday and failing to cover the point spread all three times.
It was an extraordinary reversal of fortune for San Antonio. After the Spurs won the first two games of their conference finals series against the Thunder, NBA fans, along with many bettors, were heaping plenty of praise on San Antonio. In fact, the Cal Neva sports book group posted a creative betting proposition on whether San Antonio would win its next six games in a row to capture the NBA championship.
Cal Neva, which has operations in Las Vegas and throughout the state, made the line 30-1 (risk $1 to net $30) the Spurs would win their next six games and 1-60 (risk $60 to net $1) they would lose at least once.
Chris Andrews, oddsmaker with Cal Neva, told me that not a single bettor opted to risk 60 to win 1 on the Spurs failing to win out—although that ticket would have ended up cashing, of course. Gamblers, no strangers to dark humor, have long referred to that kind of bet as a “bridge jumper.” Interpret the term as you will.
A handful of bettors took a stab at the 30-1 price on the Spurs running the table, Andrews said, but not for serious money.
I’m rooting against the Spurs, if only for the opportunity to back Oklahoma City’s James Harden in player propositions in the Finals. Harden was a model of efficiency in Game 5 Monday, compiling a plus/minus rating of +24, racking up 20 points on 11 shots.