How Much Did the Cleveland Cavaliers' Game 1 Loss Affect Their NBA Championship Odds?
LeBron James isn't too concerned.
"I mean, I'm down 0-1 in the first round. I was down 3-1 in the Finals." pic.twitter.com/7EBwmi0H61
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 15, 2018
When you're one of the greatest players in NBA history, and you have something close to the most improbable NBA Finals victory of all time on your résumé (coming back from 3-1 down versus the Golden State Warriors in 2016 to win the title), you've earned the right to strut around with that kind of confidence and throw worry to the wind.
But we're in uncharted territory here. Before losing Game 1 to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, James, in his 13 years of playoff appearances, had never been down in a first-round series at any point period.
The Cavaliers are still favored in the series, according to our algorithm, but they've gone from having a commanding 71.49% chance of beating the Pacers to a much more vulnerable 53.00% heading into Game 2, with the most likely outcome (23.14%) a Cavs win in 7.
|(4) Cleveland Cavaliers||(5) Indiana Pacers|
|Win in 4||-||7.90%|
|Win in 5||11.54%||10.38%|
|Win in 6||18.32%||17.63%|
|Win in 7||23.14%
After three consecutive years in the Finals for the Cavs (and seven straight for LeBron), the chances of making a fourth straight appearance are suddenly dwindling.
In fact, Cleveland has dropped to merely the third-most likely team to come out of the Eastern Conference:
|Team||Win Conference Finals|
And, naturally, their title odds are slipping too.
After starting the playoffs with an 11.40% chance of winning the title (fourth-best in the league at the time), the Cavaliers have seen their title chances fall to 7.55% (fifth among all teams):
|Team||NBA Championship Odds|
|Golden State Warriors||16.64%|
Vegas still gives Cleveland the best championship odds of any team in the Eastern Conference (+750, according to Odds Sharks), but the Toronto Raptors (+750) have caught up and the Philadelphia 76ers (+1000) aren't far behind.
LeBron and the Cavaliers making the Finals and at least having a shot at winning it all has felt like a given these last few years. Now, after only one playoff game, our algorithms and Vegas are cooling on the three-time reigning Eastern Conference champions.
While James might not be concerned about the Cavaliers' chances going forward, math sure is.