To what extent will the coronavirus pandemic, “bubble life” and a 141-day layoff impact the NBA playoffs? Every basketball bettor is asking that question. Those unknowns and uncertainties are why I believe long shots have a better chance to raise a championship banner than ever before in the league’s 73-year history.
The betting favorite prevails in the NBA postseason more than any other popular betting sport. That stems from a combination of a best-of-seven format, home-court advantage and a perception of home crowds swaying the officials. That all lends itself to a more predictable and truer outcome than the single-elimination formats of football and March Madness. Even other sports that feature a series are heavily influenced by extreme variance, such as an NHL goalie or MLB starting pitcher.
The Los Angeles Lakers are consensus championship favorites, with odds in the neighborhood of +275. The Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers have similar offerings — around 3-1 — to form a top tier of true contenders. Every other team has at least 12-1 odds, given champagne celebrations are typically reserved for the elite. Since seeding began in 1983, 31 of the 36 champions entered the playoffs as a 1-seed or 2-seed.
Over the past nine NBA postseasons, the top three seeds have advanced to the second