How to Bet the NBA Finals

Warriors Jordan Poole in 2022 NBA Playoffs
Jordan Poole #3 of the Golden State Warriors during the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Harry How/Getty Images/AFP

The NBA Finals are set, with the Golden State Warriors facing the Boston Celtics for the 2021-22 title. The Warriors are making their sixth appearance in the last eight seasons, while the Celtics are headed to the Finals for the 22nd time, second-most in NBA history. Boston will look to move past the Lakers with its 18th NBA title. The two are currently tied for most in league history.   

Opportunities to bet the NBA are dwindling this season. Here’s a look at what to know to bet on the NBA Finals.  

No Top Seeds Trends

The Warriors were the three-seed in the Western Conference, while the Celtics were second in the Eastern Conference. It’s the second straight year and third time in the last five seasons that neither top seed advanced to the Finals. It’s happened just five times since 2008.  

While top seeds have gone 7-1 in the series against lower-seeded teams in the Finals over that span, things are much more evenly matched when the top dog has been sent home.  

Since the turn of the millennium, there have been eight Finals without a one-seed. The team with the better record in those Finals has gone just 3-5. The team with the better seed (which doesn’t necessarily mean a better record, since the two conferences seed separately) has gone 2-4. Teams with the same seed met twice.  

Depending on which of those trends you trust more, that’s good news for the Warriors, who have the worse seed (3 compared to Boston’s 2), or the Celtics, who have the worse regular-season record.  

NBA Finals Overall trends 

Since the year 2000, the team with the better seed in the Finals has had a slight advantage, going 11-7 against worse-seeded teams. The worse-seeded team has won two of the last three Finals, but that snapped a streak of six straight championship series wins by the better-seeded team.  

The team with the better record, and home-court advantage, has done better, going 16-6 in the Finals since 2000 (technically, the Lakers didn’t have home court in the 2000 bubble but won with the better record). Last year, Milwaukee upset Phoenix, the first time the team with the worst record has won since Cleveland beat Golden State in 2016. Oklahoma City, in 2012, is the only other team in the last 10 years to lose in the Finals despite having home court.  

The Warriors are looking to avoid being the first team to lose with home court in the Finals twice in a seven-year span since the Philadelphia 76ers, who did it in 1977 (to Portland) and 1982 (to the Lakers).   

Conference Advantage 

The Western Conference dominated the NBA Finals at the start of the millennium, winning nine of the first 12 Finals in the 2000s. That edge has dissipated in the last decade, however. Western teams are 5-5 in the last 10 Finals, 3-3 in the last six, and 2-2 in the last four.  

Nothing Short, Nothing Long 

If recent history is any guide, expect the Finals to end in five or six games. There has been one sweep in the Finals in the last 14 years and just three since 2000. There has been one Finals that went seven games in the last eight years and just four this millennium. Meanwhile, the last three Finals have gone six games. Since 2000, nine Finals series have gone six games and six have ended in five.