With the NBA playoffs in full swing, I thought we would take a quick look back at what we have learned so far about this unique and (hopefully) once in-a-lifetime bubble set up.
First and foremost, from a health and safety perspective, the bubble has been an unqualified success. There have been no positive tests from inside the bubble. From all accounts, player complaints on the restrictive conditions have been minimal to non-existent.
From a watchability standpoint (a concern of mine going in), everyone has been more than pleasantly surprised. The artificial crowd noise has not felt awkward. The inclusion of virtual fans, which could have been fodder for ridicule, really does add to the overall environment. The stage lighting and team logos on the court add to the TV experience and, at times, make us forget just how weird the whole thing is. The social justice messaging and images have struck the perfect tone. Commissioner Adam Silver has once again proven that he is best commissioner in sports, following in the footsteps of his mentor, David Stern.
As far as the actual play between the lines, the cream has really risen to the top. Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, and Luka Doncic have all elevated their games to otherworldly status while LeBron has started to, well, be LeBron. The game has sped up, which favors the more skilled players, as they harken back to their days of dominating in AAU and pickup games at open gyms.
Without fans in the building, the focus can just be on basketball and nothing else. There are no half-court shots by fans to win a car, no long dance routines in between quarters, no hotdogging it with the celebrities in the front row. Players are just lacing ‘em up and going up and down the court in full flight. Nearly every game has been played at an over pace with the unders mostly hitting when one (or both) of the teams have a bad shooting game/half. That could change a bit as we get further into the playoffs and greater urgency attaches to more possessions per game.
Betting these playoffs presents its own never-before-seen challenges. With no change in venue, the spread and totals are generally the same every game – barring an injury to a key player or perhaps the 4th game in a series that is 3-0. That makes sense considering you have the same teams, playing each other every other day, on the same floor, around the same time. From a competition standpoint, just as the bubble seemed to be the great equalizer in the seeding round, I believe it works the other way in the playoffs, with the stronger teams more likely to dominate. For example, when Portland “stole” game one from the Lakers and then lost game two, under normal circumstances, the Blazers would be going home with a split, feeling great about themselves with two games set for their home crowd. In the bubble, at 1-1, games 3 and 4 are right there on that same neutral court, and the Lakers, as the superior team, destroyed the Blazers in both, effectively ending the series.
I cannot wait for the conference semifinals to begin. The Western Conference seems there for the taking, with the Lakers standing at the head of the pack. Houston, the Clippers, and even Utah (with Donovan Mitchell playing out of his mind) all feel like they can get to the Finals. In the East, we are looking at two fantastic semifinal series. Boston vs. Toronto (both are coming off sweeps) face off in what should be an intense and high level six or seven gamer. The Heat fresh off a sweep are ready and waiting for the #1 seed Milwaukee. I think plenty of pundits will have Miami to pull off the upset. The NBA keeps growing in popularity because it is played by the best athletes in the world and run by the smartest people in sports.
On to the weekly recap…
After several dominating weeks in a row, we effectively pushed this week, going 13-13 (+.4 units). We got a taste of just how challenging betting in the NBA bubble can be as we went 5-6 (-2.7 units). MLB went 5-6 as well (-1.6 units). Remember, the bankroll management guide calls for .75 unit plays on sides and 1 unit plays on totals. Bad beats accounted for two MLB losses, including an extra inning heartbreaker for the Rays against Toronto, and St. Louis scoring 3 in the bottom of the 9th to beat the favored Reds. Let’s hope those even out in our favor this week.
Golf was as dominant as ever. Individual matchups went 3-0, two of which were in the bank by Friday’s cut and the other (Palmer over Reavie) an 8-shot winner after Sunday’s round. The Playoffs continue at the BMW Championship this week with the Top 75 in the FedEx rankings set to go.
It feels great to say that the NFL is now just three weeks away. Given everything the country has been through in 2020, this season will be more important for the collective spirit than any before it. We have already released a NFL future and more will come along with player props for the season. As always, thank you for your support and let’s keep the momentum going.