2018 NBA Finals Preview

Although both teams took unconventional roads to get here, we ended up getting the NBA Finals we were expecting all along. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will lock horns for Association supremacy for an unprecedented fourth straight time after each overcame 3-2 deficits in their respective conference finals.

For the Warriors, it’s a chance to cement their place in NBA history as a legitimate dynasty (three titles in four years would look a lot better than two in four). Meanwhile, a Cleveland victory could move LeBron James past Michael Jordan in the minds of many when it comes to the ongoing debate of who is the greatest player in NBA history.

Golden State won both regular-season meetings this year, posting a seven-point win at home on Christmas Day and then beating the Cavs by 10 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Cleveland. But the Cavaliers blew up their roster with a series of trades just a few weeks later, and this will be a much different-looking Cleveland squad that takes the court when the Finals tip off Thursday in Oakland.

Let’s look at the betting odds for this series, then break down the matchup to see where the best betting value lies.

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 10 a.m eastern on May 30, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

2018 NBA Finals Odds
This series looks incredibly lopsided on paper, and the oddsmakers agree. BetOnline lists Golden State as a -960 favorite to win the best-of-seven Finals, which implies the Warriors have more than a 90% probability of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy for the third time in four years.

NBA Finals Series Odds
Cleveland Cavaliers: +710
Golden State Warriors: -960
On the other hand, there’s a ton of value on the Cavaliers, whose +710 potential takeback is the highest of any team LeBron James has taken to the finals. It doesn’t take Lloyd Christmas to realize that if you’ve got The King, you’ve got a chance, and LeBron already took down this Warriors dynasty a couple of years ago.

That said, asking James to do the same this year is a very tall order. He no longer has Kyrie Irving at his side, Kevin Love’s availability is cloudy (more on that later), and the rest of his supporting cast has been spotty at best.

Fortunately, there are many other ways to bet on the NBA Finals series without laying 10 to win 1 on the Warriors or taking the Cavs on a wing and a prayer. Here are some of the NBA Finals series props currently available at BetOnline:

Cavaliers Series Handicap
Cleveland +1 Games: +600
Cleveland +1.5 Games: +400
Cleveland +2 Games: +340
Cleveland +2.5 Games: +210
Cleveland +3 Games: +100
Warriors Series Handicap
Golden State -1 Games: -800
Golden State -1.5 Games: -550
Golden State -2 Games: -425
Golden State -2.5 Games: -250
Golden State -3 Games: -120
Series Game Total
Over 4.5 Games -220/Under 4.5 Games +180
Over 5 Games +125/Under 5 Games -145
Over 5.5 Games +170/Under 5.5 Games -210
Over 6 Games +400/Under 6 Games -500
Over 6.5 Games +550/Under 6.5 Games -700
Series Exact Outcome
Cleveland in 4 Games: +15000
Cleveland in 5 Games: +5000
Cleveland in 6 Games: +1400
Cleveland in 7 Games: +1600
Golden State in 4 Games: +175
Golden State in 5 Games: +150
Golden State in 6 Games: +500
Golden State in 7 Games: +700
When Will Series Finish
Game 4: +175
Game 5: +150
Game 6: +425
Game 7: +525
Where Will Series Finish
At Cleveland (Game 4 or 5): -130
At Golden State (Game 6 or 7): +110
NBA Finals Individual Game Odds
It’s also going to be difficult to find value on the Warriors in individual games, judging by the point spread for Game 1. Golden State is a 12.5-point favorite to crush the Cavaliers Thursday in Oakland, marking the largest point spread in an NBA Finals opener since Allen Iverson singlehandedly carried the undermanned Sixers to the 2001 Finals versus the powerful Lakers. (Philadelphia pulled off the outright upset in Game 1, by the way, before losing the next four games in the series.)

The best times to back Golden State in individual games should be in Cleveland, where the point spreads will be much lower to account for the Cavaliers’ home court advantage. With home floor worth approximately 3 points on the NBA point spread, that means we should see the Warriors favored by 6-7 points in games played in Ohio. Conversely, the Cavs will have their most betting value when playing in Golden State, where they might backdoor a point spread or two with a meaningless bucket in the final minute of a blowout.

Five Things To Watch For In The NBA Finals
Golden State’s Dominance In Third Quarters
The third quarter has been Golden State’s best frame all season, and that trend has continued into the postseason. The Warriors have outscored opponents by 130 points in the third quarter during these playoffs, and by just 20 points in the other three quarters combined. Steve Kerr is obviously making some effective adjustments during halftime, and Golden State has also had to play with some urgency in third quarters after sleepwalking its way through the opening half of several games in these playoffs.

With Cleveland shooting less than 35% from the field during third quarters of this postseason, it’s a great recipe for a Warriors live bet once the third quarter begins. However, Golden State’s dominance of the third frame is hardly a secret, especially after the Dubs outscored Houston by 35 points in the third quarter of the last two games in the Western final. With the oddsmakers likely to adjust for this trend, it could be hard to find betting value.

Injuries
Both teams come into this series with concerns about the health of important players. Cleveland had to play Game 7 of the Eastern final without five-time All-Star Kevin Love (concussion), while the Warriors were without Andre Iguodala (leg contusion) for the final four games of their series against Houston.

Iguodala can be a bit of a forgotten man on a Golden State roster that is loaded with so much talent but don’t forget that he was the NBA Finals MVP against Cleveland just four years ago. Although the Warriors can also choose to guard LeBron James with Draymond Green or even Kevin Durant, Iguodala would be their ideal choice to try to contain The King, and his return would be huge for a Golden State team that struggled without him in the Western final.

But while the Warriors can still win this series without a healthy Iguodala, the same can’t be said of the Cavaliers if Love isn’t a big contributor. Other than James, he’s the only Cleveland player who is averaging double-digit point totals in the playoffs, and his ability to score in the paint would allow the Cavs to exploit Golden State’s biggest weakness defensively.

Cleveland’s Three-Point Shooting
With how prolifically the Warriors can shoot the three-ball, opponents don’t stand a chance unless they can hit the 3 themselves. Cleveland’s ability (or inability) to stroke it from beyond the arc will go a long way towards determining if the Cavaliers can even keep things close in the NBA Finals.

Judging by the playoffs so far, things don’t look good for the Cavs. Although they were a strong three-point shooting team during the regular season (37.2%), they’ve hit just 33.9% of their treys in the first three rounds. And while it’s true that Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith can get hot at any time, they’re now facing a Golden State squad that has clamped down on opposing three-point shooters in the playoffs, allowing a league-low 31.9% from distance.

Who Will Stop Durant? Or Curry? Or Thompson?
In last year’s Finals, the Cavaliers simply didn’t have an answer defensively for Durant. KD went off for 35.2 points per game in Golden State’s 5-game victory, shooting a blistering 55.6% from the field on his way to MVP honors. And even if the Cavs put their best defensive player (LeBron) on Durant, it just opens the floor for Steph Curry and Klay Thompson instead.

The scary thing for the Cavs is that last year’s team was a lot better defensively than this season’s outfit. Cleveland was second-last in the NBA in defensive rating during the regular season, allowing a dreadful 109.9 points per game. The Cavaliers’ defense has been improved in the playoffs, but don’t forget that they’ve only had to face Indiana, the perennial playoff choke-artist Raptors, and the defensive-minded Celtics. It’s quite possible, and even likely, that Cleveland’s defense gets exposed in a big way in this series.

Does LeBron Have Anything Left In The Tank?
The King has been absolutely incredible in these playoffs, averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 8.8 assists through the first three rounds. But as dangerous as it is to ever question the abilities of LeBron, we also can’t ignore the possibility that he may finally hit the wall in this series.

Over the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron was on the floor for 94 of a possible 96 minutes. He’s averaged 41.3 minutes of court time per game in these playoffs (3.5 more than Durant and nearly six more than Curry), and that’s after leading the entire NBA in minutes played during the regular season.

A four-day break between the Eastern finals and Thursday’s opener may help him catch his breath, but he’s still 33 years old and Game 1 of the NBA Finals will be his 101st game of the season. Factor in how much weight he has to carry for the Cavaliers every night and fatigue could finally take its toll.

Understanding Online Casino Bonuses

When you start looking at all of the different options online casinos offer, you are bound to get overrun with all of the different bonus offers. Every online casino seems to have at least two or three different bonuses and when you consider how many thousands of casinos there are in existence, it can quickly become an overwhelming barrage of information. Just in case you don’t already know, there are also different types of bonuses. Almost all of them fall into one of four bonus categories. Keep reading to learn more about each of the four bonus categories, why you always have to read the small print and when you may be better off not taking a bonus.

Types of Online Casino Bonuses
The four main types of online casino bonuses include cashable, non-cashable, no deposit and free spins. Each of these four types is explained in detail below. You may on a very rare occasion run across a bonus that does not fall into one of these categories. If you do, make sure to read the entire conditions and terms before accepting it. You can learn more about terms, conditions and small print in the section following the bonus types.

#1Cashable Casino Bonuses
Cashable casino bonuses are those that you can cash out once you meet all of the requirements. These are usually the best type of bonus for players, but more and more online casinos are switching to the non-cashable type. An example of a cashable bonus is if you receive 100% up to $200 on your deposit. If you make a deposit of $200 you will receive another $200, making your total beginning bankroll $400. After you meet all of the requirements you can take out any money that you have left. So if you have $300 left you can cash out the entire $300.

#2Non cashable Bonuses
Non-cashable bonuses are also called play only bonuses. The way they work is you receive a bonus amount and can play with it until you lose it or you get ready to cash out. When you cash out the casino deducts the bonus amount from your balance before processing your pay out. For example, you deposit $1,000 and get a $2,000 non-cashable bonus.

After meeting the play through requirements you have $2,100 left in your account. When you request a cash out the casino will deduct the $2,000 bonus amount from your balance, leaving $100 for you to withdraw. Understand that unless you read the fine print there is usually no way to tell if a bonus is cashable or non-cashable. They usually look the same with the common look of a certain percentage bonus up to a certain dollar amount. 100% up to $500 or 200% up to $1,000 are just two of the many possible combinations.

#3No Deposit Bonuses
No deposit bonuses are free chips or bankrolls given to players to get them to try an online casino. I have seen them as small as $5 and as large as $100. You don’t usually have to do anything to claim one of these bonuses except sign up for an account. They usually have a play through requirement and a cash out limit, but if you want to try a few games for real money without risking any of your own cash, a no deposit bonus is a great way to start.

#4Free Spins Promotions
Free spins promotions can be offered by themselves or in combination with any of the other bonus types. Technically a free spins bonus can be offered on games other than slot machines, but they are almost always for slots play and are often specific to a certain slot machine. Land based casinos run promotions involving a free hand of blackjack or spin of the roulette wheel, and things like that from time to time. The same type of promotion can be offered by an online casino, so I am lumping these types of promotions in with the free spins section as they are basically the same thing.

An example of a free spins promotion would be 25 free spins on slot machine “XYZ” where each spin is taken at a value of $2. This means that you can only play on the slot machine with the name “XYZ” and you receive 25 free spins and each spin is for $2. You may be restricted to only cashing out a certain amount of a free spins promotion and/or you may need to reach certain play through requirements after you take your free spins. Learn more about play through requirements in the next section.

Why You Always Have to Read the Small Print
You have already seen a few of the terms and restrictions that can be attached to a casino bonus in the descriptions listed above, but there are many more possibilities. Online casinos are in business to make money. They know that in order to make money they have to get players to deposit real money.

In order to get as many players to make real money deposits as possible they offer bonuses to get you to sign up and bonuses to get you to deposit again and again after they get you the first time. However, they are not in the business of letting you keep any of these bonuses if they can help it. So they design their casino bonus terms and conditions to give them the best chance to not only get their bonuses back but to get all of your deposit also. And they want to keep you just happy enough that you will make another deposit after losing your first one.

If you keep this information in mind, you will see why it is so important to always read the fine print. Here are some of the things to watch out for.

The first thing to find out after determining the type of bonus you are receiving (listed above) is how many times you have to wager the bonus and deposit to clear it.
This is usually called a play through requirement. These requirements range from 20 to 40 times generally and are listed as 20x or 20X for a 20 times requirement, 30x or 30X for a 30 times play through, etc.

Here is an example of how a play-through requirement works.

Imagine you make a deposit of $500 and receive a 100% match of $500 with a play through of 30X you will have to make bets totaling at least $30,000 to clear the bonus. The way to figure this is add the deposit and bonus together and then multiply that total times the play through requirement. $500 + $500 = $1,000. $1,000 times 30 = $30,000. You don’t have to make any particular size wagers, but the total of your wagers must reach this amount. For example, if you play slots at $2 per spin you will need to play 15,000 spins. If you play a game at $10 a spin or hand you will have to play 3,000 spins or hands.

This table shows how small differences in bonus requirements makes a big difference in the value of the bonus. In this example, the bonus amount is $20 on a $40 deposit:

Play-through Multiplier Cost to Clear Bonus
20x Bonus $400
20x Bonus plus Deposit $1,200
25x Bonus $500
25x Bonus plus Deposit $1,500
30x Bonus $600
30x Bonus plus Deposit $,1800
35x Bonus $700
35x Bonus plus Deposit $2,100
40x Bonus $800
40x Bonus plus Deposit $2,400
The thing that stands out the most is the vast difference between a multiplier based on the bonus amount and one based on the amount of the bonus plus deposit. Playthrough requirements based on bonus plus deposit are way more common these days.

Some bonus promotions include a maximum amount you can cash out.
Free chip and free spin bonuses are usually where you will find these, but always check for one of these provisions no matter what type of bonus you’re accepting. For example, you may only be able to cash out 10 times the free chip value. So a free chip of $7 can only lead to a maximum cash out of $70.

Restricted games are a big issue for any player who enjoys playing anything except slot machines. Almost all casino bonuses let you play slots to clear. But most of them either don’t allow you to play table games like blackjack and roulette or only count a small percentage of your play at these games against your bonus clearing requirements.

There are quite a few online casinos that will forfeit your entire bonus if you play games on their restricted list. A common restriction is only counting 10% or 20% (or some other low percentage) of each wager made at blackjack, roulette or video poker (or any other number of games) toward clearing your bonus.

If we continue with the example above requiring you to wager $30,000 to clear your bonus and assume blackjack only counts 10% toward clearing, you would have to wager $300,000 while playing only blackjack to clear your bonus. Even at $25 a hand you would have to play 12,000 hands.

There are specific bonuses for table games available at many online casinos, but just because a casino has a bonus for table games does not mean it has favorable clearing conditions.
The restrictions are usually just as bad, if not worse, on these special game specific bonus offers.

The bottom line is if you don’t take the time to read and make sure you understand all of the bonus terms and conditions, as well as exactly what kind of bonus you are receiving and how to clear it, you shouldn’t play. There is no excuse for getting surprised by any bonus terms. Many players falsely assume that all bonuses are cashable until they sign up for a non-cashable one, meet all the play through requirements and then try to cash out. They are usually angry and disappointed, but it is their responsibility to find out what they are signing up for in the first place.

Should You Always Accept a Bonus?
While it may seem strange to consider not accepting a bonus from an online casino, there are a few situations where you may want to pass. As you learned above, the small print, or terms and conditions, can be quite restrictive on what you can do with your winnings and when you can do it. Here are a few specific examples where you might be better off not accepting a bonus.

If you are depositing for the sole purpose of playing for a progressive jackpot and the bonus terms limit the total amount you can cash out, you may want to decline the bonus.

Here’s why:

While most bonuses only require you to play through a certain number multiple of the bonus and deposit, some of them also restrict the total amount you can cash out. Some do have rules carving out big progressive slots, allowing you to cash them out as they are often controlled by the software provider and not the individual casino, but many do not. For example, if you are playing a version of jacks or better video poker that has a progressive jackpot it is probably not covered by a carve-out provision. I admit this situation is rare, but it is a possibility.

A more common reason to pass on an offered bonus is when the bonus is only for specific games, like slot machines, and you only play table games. Some online casinos offer special table games bonuses, but many just have general bonuses which may or may not let you play table games.

Believe it or not, there are online casino games that can be played at an advantage against the house. They are not common, but they are not so rare that smart and dedicated players can’t discover them and try to exploit them at times.

One of these situations has been touched on above. When you find video poker variations with attached progressive jackpots, the jackpot can reach a level where with correct play you can actually play with an overall advantage against the house. Large progressive slot machines can work the same way, but it is often much harder to find out exactly what their base payback percentage is and the exact odds of hitting the progressive so they can make it more difficult to figure out when to start playing.

When you find advantage play opportunities like these, you want to carefully consider any bonuses you may be offered. Make sure you aren’t going to have difficulty cashing out your winnings and that they aren’t capped like I mentioned above. You also need to consider that online casinos do not plan to lose money and if they figure out that you are just playing when you have an advantage they may deny your play.

While this doesn’t seem fair, they do have the right to not let you play. You may be asking how accepting a bonus plays into this. If you accept a bonus they may decide to stop your play faster than if you don’t. I realize this may seem like splitting hairs, but if you are an advantage player you will understand that even the smallest additional edge is important.

The Overwatch League Betting Tips Stage 4 Week 2 Day 3, 4

Week 2 of Stage 4 of the Overwatch League is underway and there are six matches to be played: 3 today and 3 tomorrow. As usual, these matches offer some excellent Overwatch betting opportunities. But before I start analyzing them, let’s let’s see the current standings table.

Standings Table
1st place: Los Angeles Gladiators (4 W – 0 L)
2nd place: Philadelphia Fusion (3 W – 0 L)
3rd place: Los Angeles Valiant (3 W – 0 L)
4th place: New York Excelsior (2 W – 0 L)
5th place: Houston Outlaws (2 W – 1 L)
6th place: Dallas Fuel (2 W – 1 L)
7th place: San Francisco Shock (1 W – 2 L)
8th place: London Spitfire (1 W – 2 L)
9th place: Seoul Dynasty (0 W – 2 L)
10th place: Boston Uprising (0 W – 3 L)
11th place: Shanghai Dragons (0 W – 3 L)
12th place: Florida Mayhem (0 W – 4 L)
Overwatch Betting Predictions
Los Angeles Valiant (3 W – 0 L) vs. Boston Uprising (0 W – 3 L)
Match date: May 25th

Los Angeles Valiant is at the top of its game right now, coming after a top 3 finish in Stage 3 (7 W – 3 L) and 3 consecutive victories in Stage 4. Valiant won against Seoul Dynasty, Florida Mayhem and Shanghai Dragons in its first 3 Stage 4 matches and is looking to take down Boston Uprising as well. Given the huge form difference between themselves and Uprising, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Boston Uprising had an almost perfect Stage 3, winning against every opponent until the Grand Final of the Title Matches, which it lost to New York Excelsior. Apart from this disappointment, Uprising had a very dominant run in Stage 3 and for a while it seemed that its great form would be successfully maintained until the end of the Overwatch League. But it wasn’t to be. The team’s head coach left after the end of Stage 3 and joined San Francisco Shock. This loss was immediately followed by 3 losses in a row for Boston Uprising, who was defeated by Dallas Fuel, Houston Outlaws and Philadelphia Fusion in the first 3 matches of Stage 4. These disappointing results clearly proved that Uprising is a now a shadow of its former self and should be expected to perform poorly throughout the rest of Stage 4, especially against high caliber opponents such as Los Angeles Valiant.

Based on these two teams’ recent form, LA Valiant is the clear favorite in this match. The only indicator that says otherwise is the head to head record, which is quite surprising: 3 – 0 in Uprising’s favor. I don’t think that will matter though, given that Boston Uprising lost even against Dallas Fuel in this stage.