Shane Lambert previews the Eastern Conference finals series between Cleveland Cavaliers & Toronto Raptors and he sees this as a great chance for Cleveland to sweep.
The Toronto Raptors have shaken the proverbial monkey off of their backs in the 2016 NBA playoffs. The franchise entered the post-season with just one playoff series victory that dated all the way back to the Vince Carter days. However, with two game-seven wins over the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat, Toronto are into the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. That will do wonders for NBA basketball popularity in Canada, especially since no Canadian team made the hockey playoffs this season. However, the Raptors have capped their potential and have little chance to advance to the NBA Finals in my opinion.
Looking at opening odds for the Toronto/Cleveland series, the Raptors are coming in at +650 (13/2). Those odds might seem to corroborate what I'm saying about their chances except for the fact that I think Toronto should be priced even longer.
Toronto's two best players are Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, two players that would each be role players if they were on the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team that has Lebron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving. Furthermore, Cleveland have home-court advantage in the series and their team is laden with players that were a part of last year's run to the NBA Finals. Making matters much worse for Toronto is the fact that they were extended to game-seven situations in each of their two early-round series. The Raptors have played the maximum 14 games for this point in the playoffs while Cleveland, having swept through each round, have played the minimum 8 games. That might bring up the old rest-versus-rust debate so, noting recent minor/significant injuries to key Toronto players and none to Cleveland's, I'm decisively pro-rest. In fact, the only thing that I think Toronto has going for itself is a better coach in Dwane Casey.
For betting odds, not all sportsbooks have opened up lines yet but the ones that have are keeping Cleveland untouchably short. You can get 1/9 with Sportingbet, odds that aren't going to make you rich. However, bets on Raptors aren't going to make you rich either as they just are so incredibly unlikely to cash in.
SkyBet put the Cavs at 2/1 to sweep the series, but I could see Toronto winning one game in this series almost just as easily as them getting swept. Odds of 8/5 are available with the same firm for the Cavs to win 4-1. Covering both scenarios looks very safe, but the losing bet between the two will cut in the winning bet's profits significantly. However, I would go for the sweep at 2 to 1 with a smaller bet for the Cavs to win 4-1 as insurance.
Overall I think Cavs backers are still stuck with the championship ante-post. They are 9/4 with SkyBet to win everything this season, second favourites behind Golden State at 4/7 with William Hill. The Warriors have a tougher conference series in my view and that could improve Cleveland's outlook if the Warriors pick up injuries or are extended long in the series. With OKC's upset of San Antonio, there's even a chance the Thunder might prevail in the west and that would make Cleveland favs.
1.5 points win bet on Cleveland to sweep at 2/1 with SkyBet
Smaller insurance bet at 8/5 for a 4-1 series win