How Bettors Profited From Nets-Celtics Opening Series Odds

For about two hours late Tuesday night at Caesars Sportsbook, the seventh-seeded Brooklyn Nets were favored to defeat the second-seeded Boston Celtics in their first-round playoff series.

Caesars installed the Nets as -135 favorites to win the series, shortly after Brooklyn defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA play-in tournament. The Celtics opened to +115 underdogs but those prices wouldn’t last long.

Punters at other sportsbooks were baffled by Caesars’ early numbers and instead made the Celtics the favorites. Boston opened up to -150 SuperBook favorites at Westgate Las Vegas, with the Nets +130 underdogs. Savvy bettors sniffed out the opportunity.

It’s often a cliché in the betting community, but for about two hours on Tuesday, from 9:45 p.m. ET until about midnight, there was indeed some free money up for grabs. At Caesars, bets poured in on the plus-money Celtics, while at SuperBook and other stores that had opened with Boston as a favorite, bettors beat the plus-money Nets. If you bet $1,000 on the Celtics at +115 at Caesars and $1,000 on the Nets at +130 at SuperBook, for example, you have locked in a minimum profit of $150. [Editor’s note: ESPN has a partnership with Caesars Sportsbook.]

By midnight, the odds at Caesars had shifted significantly to Boston. On Wednesday morning, after the initial wave of action on the Celtics died down, the bookmaker reported that 98% of the money that had been wagered on the series was on Boston. In contrast, at SuperBook, 95% of the money that had been wagered on the series was on the Nets.

The market settled with the Celtics as consensus -145 favorites. Boston is a 4-point favorite against the Nets in Game 1 on Sunday.

According to Craig Mucklow, vice president of trading for Caesars Sportsbook, the decision to open the Nets as a favorite was caused by a disagreement within the odds-making team.

“We dipped our toes in the water with the belief that the Game 1 line would not be a representative line for the rest of the series and made the Brooklyn Nets a small favorite,” Mucklow wrote in an email to ESPN. “The money came naturally for Boston and lowered our chances accordingly.”

Mucklow added that early bets on Boston came from “players we respect, nothing significant in terms of height, just very savvy judges we moved for.”

Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk management who oversees NBA odds for the SuperBook, said he opened the Celtics as -150 favorites in the series based in part on the spread of Boston Game 1 points -4 and the implied probability that line represented. Sherman cited the series price and Game 1 point spread over the Toronto Raptors-Philadelphia 76ers as an example of how he calculated his early numbers. The 76ers, who are 4.5-point favorites over Toronto in Game 1, opened with about -175 favorites to win the series.

“It’s just one-way traffic [on Brooklyn]due to differences in the market,” Sherman said of the early action on the Nets-Celtics series.

NBA playoff prices

[via Caesars Sportsbook; as of Thursday]

Brooklyn Nets (+125) vs. Boston Celtics (-145)
Minnesota Timberwolves (+310) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (-400)
Denver Nuggets (+200) vs. Golden State Warriors (-240)
Utah Jazz (-320) vs. Dallas Mavericks (+250)
Toronto Raptors (+160) vs Philadelphia 76ers (-190)
Chicago Bulls (+700) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (-1,100)

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