After two blowouts in Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals, the series moves to Cleveland for Game 3.  The Warriors are currently 3.5-point favorites despite home field advantage for the Cavaliers.  With a relatively small spread, many bettors may forego taking the Cavs on the spread and just go for the higher payout and take Cleveland on the moneyline (currently +145).  Using the Bet Labs database, I decided to take a look at results in similar scenarios.

There are over 1000 NBA games since 2005 that closed with a line between 3 and 4.  Here are the results of those games:

Spread# of GamesDog WinsDog Loses But CoversFavorite Covers
390441.8%6.2%52.0%
3.589940.5%11.3%48.2%
483038.9%10.2%50.9%

So more than 11% of games like tonight’s ended where the winner of the game didn’t determine the spread.  Which means nearly 90% of games still fell into the other category of just picking the winner was good enough to picking the spread winner.  So what’s the better way to bet tonight if you like the Cavs?  Here’s the results for both spread and moneyline bets for those small spreads.

Closing LineSpread ResultsSpread UnitsMoneyline ResultsMoneyline Units
3434-434-20.5378-256-17.8
3.5466-433+10.6364-515+45.4
4408-404-15.6323-507+1.3

The moneyline results have been better at each data point, but especially for games that close at 3.5 points.  This would appear to be an abberation as we wouldn’t expect those same results to continue going forward.  With that being said, we can clearly see that betting on the moneyline has been more profitable for this range of spreads.  The payoff of +145 for a Cavaliers upset is better than taking them +3.5 over the long run.  We’ll see if that holds true in Game 3 tonight.