Despite a 22-point loss in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the betting public in Las Vegas still has plenty of faith in the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers.
Golden State beat the Cavaliers 113-91 Thursday, putting an early stamp on the series and becoming even more significant favorites to win their second title in three years.
The Warriors are 9-point favorites Sunday in Game 2 (8 p.m., ABC) and -700 favorites to win the best-of-seven series against the defending champion Cavaliers. Bettors aren’t swayed.
Since Game 1, 94 percent of bets to win the series at William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook have been on Cleveland. MGM’s sportsbook has taken six times more bets on the Cavs than it has on the Warriors since Game 1, with an average ticket of $200 on Cleveland.
It’s not unusual for public bettors to shy away from laying a big price on a favorite and gravitate to an underdog paying back 5-to-1, especially an underdog featuring LeBron James. After all, James and the Cavs did cause the Warriors to blow a 3-1 lead in last year’s Finals.
With Cleveland facing that infamous deficit last year, the Cavaliers were listed as high as 14-1 underdogs to win the title. Bettors didn’t back off Cleveland then and definitely haven’t been deterred by the Game 1 loss this year.
“Yesterday, we had a guy come in and place a couple six-figure [money-line] bets on the Cavs [to win Game 2],” Jeff Stoneback, assistant manager of MGM race and sports, told ESPN on Sunday morning. “We’ve been unable to get any money on the Warriors.”
Stoneback expects that to change, though, noting that the bulk of the action will be placed in the hours leading up to the 8 p.m. ET tipoff.
“Within a couple hours before tipoff (of Game 1), we took two or three six-figure bets on Golden State,” Stoneback said.
Those weren’t the only big bets on the Warriors. Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy posted a picture on social media of a $200,000 betting slip on the Warriors to win the series that he placed before Game 1 at the sportsbook at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. McCoy placed the bet at -320 odds and would net a $62,500 profit if the Warriors prevail. (The NFL permits players to bet on other team sports).
Citing company policy, Bill Sattler, director of specialty games for Caesars Entertainment, which operates the sportsbook at Planet Hollywood, did not confirm that McCoy placed the bet, but did say that $200,000 was the largest bet placed on NBA Finals at his shop.
“Even with that bet, we’re sitting in a pretty good spot on the series at this point,” Sattler said.
Four hours before Sunday night’s tipoff, 73 percent of the money bet on the point spread for Game 2 at William Hill was on the Warriors.