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That 57 percent winning clip is enough to turn a profit over time, but pales in comparison to the Game 1 winning rate Eastern Conference underdogs have posted in that same span. Heading into Game 1 of the Eastern finals, with the Cleveland Cavaliers set as -10.5 favorites hosting the Toronto Raptors, underdogs are 13-8-1 ATS – covering 62 percent of the time since the 1993-94 season – in the opening contests of the East championship.
Last year, underdogs went 7-2 ATS in the NBA conference finals including a 3-1 ATS mark in the Eastern side of the bracket. The Cavaliers closed as 2.5-point underdogs at Atlanta in Game 1 of the 2015 Eastern Conference finals, and won outright 97-89. The underdog has covered for three straight years in Game 1 of the East finals and is 9-3 ATS in the series opener going back to 2003-04 (75 percent).
The Western Conference hasn’t been so one sided in favor of the dogs. Game 1 chalk is 11-11 ATS since 1993-94, with favorites going 4-2 ATS in Game 1 over the past six seasons. However, underdogs did go 4-1 ATS in the Western Conference finals overall last season, with the Golden State Warriors hosting the Houston Rockets. Golden State is a 7.5-point home fave hosting Oklahoma City for Game 1 of the conference championship series Monday.
Another historic knock going against the Cavs, and in favor of the Raptors, is the size of that Game 1 spread. Since the 1993-94 season, double-digit underdogs in the NBA conference finals are 5-1 ATS (83 percent). Sportsbooks opened Cleveland as a 10.5-point home favorite for Tuesday’s game, having ample rest after sweeping Atlanta in the second round. Toronto is coming off a grueling seven-game set versus Miami – its second full series after going seven games with the Indiana Pacers.
Total bettors may want to take note of that big spread as well, as those six games featuring a double-digit line have finished 1-5 Over/Under. Those games have seen an average of 180.8 combined points scored versus an average closing total of 196.6. Overall, conference finals games are 113-135-3 Over/Under in the past 22 seasons, including a 3-6 O/U count last year.
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