- The Houston Rockets had an incredible season, capped by earning the best record in NBA. But that doesn't mean they're the betting favorite to win the NBA Finals.
Earning the top seed in the Western Conference over the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors (58-24) has its advantages for the Houston Rockets (65-17) this year.
Not only would the Rockets have a home-court edge if they met the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, but they also are gigantic -2200 favorites (bet $2,200 to win $100) versus the eighth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves (47-35) on the NBA series betting prices at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in the first round.
The Timberwolves are +1375 underdogs (bet $100 to win $1,375) on the series prices, the biggest number on the board. They clinched the eighth and final spot in the West on Wednesday with a 112-106 win over the Denver Nuggets. Houston finished seven games ahead of Golden State atop the conference and won seven of eight regular-season meetings with Minnesota straight up, according to the OddsShark NBA Database, but went just 4-4 against the spread.
The Warriors are listed as -1250 favorites against the seventh-seeded San Antonio Spurs (47-35), who are +850 underdogs and won a tiebreaker with the Timberwolves. Despite finishing as the second seed, Golden State remains the +135 favorite on the odds to win the NBA championship.
The Warriors opened the regular season at +100 while the Rockets were +700 before closing the gap to +160 as the second choice to win it all.
The third and fourth choices to win the NBA title are from the East, the defending conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) and top-seeded Toronto Raptors (59-23). The fourth-seeded Cavaliers are +650 to take home their second league championship in three years, with the Raptors right behind them at +850 after posting the most wins in franchise history.
Cleveland star LeBron James has participated in the NBA Finals each of the previous seven seasons, the only one to accomplish that feat who has not played for the Boston Celtics. Of course, Boston won eight straight NBA titles between 1959 and 1966, a record that still stands and may never be broken.
The second-seeded Celtics (55-27) dropped to +7000 to win this year's NBA title from an opener of +2000 with point guard Kyrie Irving out following knee surgery. In the first round, they are just -135 favorites against the seventh-seeded Milwaukee Bucks (44-38), who are +115 underdogs.
The Bucks are an intriguing long shot at +10000 to win it all while the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers (52-30) are also a good sleeper at +1500 on the heels of a 16-game winning streak, especially considering they would face the Milwaukee-Boston winner in a favorable second-round matchup if they advance.