LAS VEGAS – If “defense wins championships,” the world must also be flat and photographs steal your soul. That popular sports cliché is about as truthful as a dating profile, especially with oddsmakers setting a record-high betting total for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Sportsbooks opened the Game 1 Over/Under at 225.5 points, with both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors possessing a surplus of offensive weaponry, according to Vegas-based sister site Covers.com. That Over/Under number is the largest total in the Covers database (1990-91-2017) and easily eclipses the previous high of 214 points, which was set for Game 3 of the 1995 NBA Finals between the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets.
The Cavaliers are averaging 116.8 points per game this postseason while the Warriors are putting up 118.3 ppg, and the two conference champs have combined for an 18-7 Over/Under count in the playoffs. That’s a 72 percent winning clip if you blindly bet the Over in each of their postseason games.
Looking back at the biggest totals in NBA Finals history, there have been just 21 championship series games with a number of 200 or more points since 1991. Those contests finished 8-12-1 Over/Under, staying below the total 60 percent of the time. There have been four finals games with totals of 211 or more points in that span, and those have split 2-2 O/U. Those previous 21 NBA Finals games, with totals of 200 or more points, saw an average of 200.9 points scored.
With this being the third installment of the Cleveland-Golden State finals saga, basketball bettors do have some history to weigh these totals trend against. In 2015, the Cavs and Dubs combined for a 2-3-1 O/U record in the NBA Finals (194.16 ppg vs. 196.7 ave total), and last year they finished 2-4-1 O/U in the finals (200.28 ppg vs. 207.93 ave total).
Overall, the NBA Finals is a breeding ground for low-scoring basketball. Going back to the 1990-91 season, NBA Finals games have a 54-80-5 Over/Under record (59.7 percent Unders) with an average combined score of 187.18 points versus an average closing total of 189.81. And since 2000, the NBA Finals has pumped out a 36-48-5 O/U count (57 percent Unders).
Focusing specifically on Game 1 of the NBA Finals over the past 25 years, the Under has been a profitable 9-15-1 O/U since 1991 with an average combined score of 185.56 points versus an average closing total of 191.56. That Game 1 trend is 3-9-1 O/U since the 2004 finals.
And, breaking it down by spread, there have been 24 NBA Finals games with favorites of seven or more points the last 25 postseasons. Those contests finished 9-14-1 Over/Under – a 61 percent winning clip for the Under.
Golden State opened as a 7-point home favorite versus Cleveland for Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night.
Editor’s Note: This story was written by Jason Logan for Covers.com, a sister site also owned by Tribune.