So much for the best-laid plans. New Jersey online sports bettors had long penciled in the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA playoffs.

That will only happen now if they go to the same game, as spectators.

The Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks clash in the most unlikely Eastern Conference finals starting Wednesday. They shocked the Nets and Sixers respectively, taking two highly-favored entities out of the playoff picture with Game 7 road victories.

NJ sports betting customers hardly expected to see this series matchup at DraftKings:

Milwaukee is -480 (and the +100 favorite to win the title). 

Atlanta comes in at+350 (and +1100 to win the championship).

FanDuel Sportsbook offers up these series score scenarios after three games:

  • Milwaukee 2-1, +110
  • Atlanta +2-1, + 320
  • Milwaukee 3-0, +225
  • Atlanta 3-0, +1800

Or the length of series prediction:

  • 4 games, +420
  • 5 games, +190
  • 6 games, +240
  • 7 games, +250

Expect individual game props on Trae Young of the Hawks, Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Bucks, and others.

They will be enticing.  They just won’t be the Sixers or Nets.

Elimination of 76ers and Nets means new Cinderella stories

It’s probably numbing for New Jersey bettors to see that the Bucks became the early-week NBA title favorite at William Hill at +105, followed by the Phoenix Suns at +150. The Los Angeles Clippers are next at +800, while the Hawks are the biggest longshots at +1100.

With so much expected of the Nets and 76ers, no wonder the Suns, who opened the season at +5000 and the Hawks, at +15000 (150-1) are big stories now

The Bucks’ highest title odds at any point were +1600 on June 10, when they were trailing 2-0 to the Nets in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Clippers were at +1700 back in late May, and were at +1600 on June 12, down 2-0 to the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals.

The other two teams possessed much longer odds at certain points of the season.

The Suns were at +5000 (50-1) when their NBA title futures were released on Oct. 12, as well as in February.  Meanwhile, the Hawks were displayed at +50000 (500-1) from Feb. 28 to Mar. 20.

There are some large bets at both William Hill and DraftKings Sportsbook on the Hawks to win everything, prompting liability to ride above $1 million. But none came from New Jersey.

These are the stories New Jersey bettors were certain they would not discover when the NBA Playoffs began. 

But that’s why they play the games.

The sad irony of Philadelphia 76ers

By winning the Eastern Conference regular-season crown, the Sixers supposedly did themselves a favor. As the No. 1 seed, they positioned themselves to avoid the Nets and Bucks in round two.

So according to the hypothetical blueprint, they would cruise past the Hawks and hope the Nets and Bucks had a long, drawn-out series.

They got the drawn-out series from the Bucks and Nets. But it didn’t matter. They didn’t win their own series, even dropping three games at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Sixers and Nets bettors are now dealing with the aftershock.

How unlikely was it for the Nets and Sixers to both lose Game 7 at home?

In Game 7 NBA matchups, higher-seeded teams were 109-31, a clip of nearly 78%. And two home favorites lost on consecutive nights.

The big money was on the Nets and Sixers. But the smart money was ultimately wagered on the contrarian angle.

NBA betting winners and losers from the weekend

Clearly, backing the underdogs is paying off for NJ online bettors.

The Nets had 74% of the DraftKings wagers at -2 and 71% on the moneyline at -114. Those who had the guts to take the Bucks on the road, in the finale of a series in which every home team had won, prevailed.

DraftKings betting reflected a “jump ball” between the smaller and larger bettors in the Sixers-Hawks finale.

The Hawks obtained 59% of the spread bets at +6.5

But the Sixers garnered 57% of the revenue, meaning that the big money lined up behind Philly.

PointsBet NJ reported a similar phenomenon. A full 66% of the bets landed on the Hawks +7 but 62% of the money was on the Sixers. 

The public prevailed, the sharps lost.

As for the series, anyone who took the Hawks at +500 at DraftKings, where they drifted to midway through the Sixers series, obtained a huge score.

NJ online sportsbooks are winners, too

 Nobody danced in the aisles more than executives at DraftKings, William Hill, BetMGM, FanDuel, etc. This is their all-time slam-dunk success story because their major, multi-million-dollar liabilities were eliminated.

The Los Angeles Lakers bowed to the Phoenix Suns in Round 1.

The Nets had been the perennial championship favorite most of the year. They took enormous money after spending $115 million to obtain the league’s best three players in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden.

The Sixers did not approach this betting level, but they did win the Eastern Conference regular-season championship and their post-season odds had ticked downward once the Nets looked vulnerable because of injuries in the Bucks series.

Yes, DraftKings has a $1 million liability on the Hawks to win everything, based on one $50,000 wager, at +2000, but that’s better than having the Sixers in contention.

Losers: 76ers, Nets come up short

Rarely has “a game of inches” meant more than in the Nets loss Saturday.

The Nets nearly stole the series with one second left in regulation.  When they trailed 109-107, Durant hit a miraculous buzzer-beater that was called a three-point shot on television.

And it looked that way. But replay confirmed that Duran’s feet touched the three-point line where he launched the shot, and it was ruled a two-pointer, thus overtime.

How the Nets only scored two points in overtime is another story in their 115-111 loss.

Durant played the game he was brought in for, delivering 48 points and big bucket upon big bucket. At least the Nets bowed in a great game.

Meanwhile, the Sixers just bowed.

After blowing whopping leads of 18 and 26 points in consecutive setbacks to the Hawks, the Sixers had previously choked. In losing to 103-96 Sunday, they simply looked not good enough.

Certainly not mentally tough enough.

At critical junctures in Game 5 and 7, they committed fouls on 3-point attempts, resulting in three free throws. When it happened Sunday, turning a one-point deficit into a four-point, two-possession game in the final minute, it signaled the end.  Joel Embiid then lost the ball, and it was over.

The Sixers were atrocious in crunch time in the fifth and seventh games. Shot selection was bad, as their big men needed to play closer to the basket to get to the free-throw line.

Highs and lows of prop game

Props can keep you on the edge of your seat.

A weekend offer from William Hill on the Nets and Sixers games certainly did.

Combined with a $50 wager, it awarded a $100 free bet if any member of the covering team had a player with any total – points, rebounds, or assists – landing on seven.

Some New Jersey bettors wished William Hill had a bad-beat committee after Saturday.

Brook Lopez of the Bucks had 17 points and the Bucks were about to win by two points over the Nets. With three-tenths of one-second remaining, not even a full second, just a fraction, an inbounds pass came in, Lopez was fouled and it was considered intentional. 

This produced a technical foul, bringing Lopez to the line, where he hit two of three free throws. Goodbye $100 freebie.

And that was the second part of the Bad Beat. Durant’s terrific game-tying two-pointer came with one foot on the three-point line. If he’s a couple of inches back, the Nets win the game and series by one point and the Bucks, at +2, would have come through on this promotion.

So close.

One night later, however, the Hawks produced on that prop. 

Many astute New Jersey online bettors played this promotion both nights and ultimately prospered.

Dreamstime Photo

 

About

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.