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NBA Finals explained: your complete guide

When the NBA regular season is in the books: it's time to get in to the NBA playoffs. OnlineBetting.com is here to guide you with all the information you need: how the NBA Finals work, NBA Finals odds, NBA Finals predictions and more.

We asked NBA betting expert, James Tillman and the OnlineBetting.com team to talk you through some of the finer points of NBA Finals Bets.

After an 82-game marathon to determine which teams would qualify for the postseason in the eastern and western conferences, we are down to the final two teams who are looking to cement themselves as the next NBA champions.

Who was in the 2022 NBA Finals?

The year’s finalists were the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors. Boston was a mediocre team back in mid-January and that may be putting it nicely. A loss to the Portland Trail Blazers dropped Boston to 23-24. At that point Boston’s chances of making it to the postseason were a longshot, at best. However, the Celtics went on an improbable run by winning 28 of their final 35 regular-season games. Not only that, they finished with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics kicked off their postseason run with a sweep of a Brooklyn Nets squad led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. It was fitting that they avenged a 4-1 loss to the same team they faced in the first round of the playoffs in 2021.

The Celtics’ next opponent was the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks eliminated the Celtics when these teams faced each other in the 2019 NBA playoffs. Through the first six games, the home team lost four times. The Celtics broke through in Game 7 on their home court to advance to the conference finals for the third time in five seasons. Their reward was a showdown against the top-seeded Miami Heat. Once again, this series was one where the home teams didn’t play particularly well. Going into the do-or-die Game 7, the road team was dominant, posting a 4-2 record. And in Game 7, that trend continued. Boston jumped out to a 15-point lead and lead wire-to-wire. Miami did manage to trim a 13-point deficit down to two points in the closing seconds (98-96) and had a chance to win or send the game into overtime. However Jimmy Butler, who scored 35 points and played every second of this Game 7, came up short on his final jump shot and allowed Boston to escape with a 100-96 victory in a series where the home team lost five times. Boston’s run has been an impressive one but no player on their roster has ever played in an NBA Finals series. Only time will tell if their lack of experience will be a factor.

NBA Finals Prop Bets to watch Klay Thompson Golden State Warriors

© Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors are considered one of the modern-day dynasties of the NBA, and rightfully so. It was just seven years ago that the Warriors began a run in which they advanced to the NBA Finals in five consecutive years (2015 through 2019). To put this feat into its proper context, the only other team to pull off this feat was the vaunted Boston Celtics of the early 1960s who went to eight straight NBA Finals series from 1958 to 1966. The Warrior’s last trip to the Finals in 2019 was a painful one as they were eliminated by the Toronto Raptors in six games. It should be noted that both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were sidelined with injuries through that series - had that not been the case, the Warriors could have earned the league’s first three-peat in 17 years.

Life has been difficult since then for the team that ruled over the Western Conference for five consecutive seasons. In 2019-20, Golden State produced just 15 wins, their lowest win total since the 2011-12 campaign when they won 23 games. In fairness: Thompson missed that season and Stephen Curry played just five games due to a broken hand. In 2020-21, the Warriors did manage to qualify for the play-in tournament but bowed out to both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies. Fast forward to the present and the Warriors got off to a hot start, winning 18 of their first 20 games. They went on to finish with the third-best record in the Western Conference.

Golden State made quick of the Denver Nuggets in the opening round of the 2022 NBA playoffs, eliminating them in five games. In the semifinals, the Dubs were matched against the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. The Warriors took three of the first four games, appearing to be on their way to a gentleman’s sweep. Memphis was having none of that, and with their season on the line, the Grizzlies upended the Warriors by a 39-point margin in Game 5. The Warriors won the series in six games, but it could have gone differently in Ja Morant was not nursing an injury in the final three games.

The Warriors’ return to the conference finals pitted them against a Dallas Mavericks team that had not made it out of the first round since the team’s championship run back in 2011. Luka Doncic was a force to be reckoned with, but his brilliance wasn’t enough to keep the Warriors from moving on in five games, notching their sixth Finals appearance in eight seasons. While the Celtics have been one of the better defensive teams in the playoffs, their hands will be full trying to contain the best shooting backcourt duo in NBA history in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. And let’s not forget about Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole as well.

How To Watch The 2022 NBA Finals

The earlier rounds of the playoffs featured games on cable channels like ESPN, TNT, and NBAtv. For those of us without cable, this was a negative. Fortunately, the NBA Finals series will be aired on ABC, which is a local channel available in most areas. Since the Warriors have the home-court advantage, they will host Games 1-2, 5, and 7, while Boston will host Games 3, 4, and 6. You can see the schedule for each of the games below:

  • Game 1: Thursday, June 2 at 9 p.m. ET (ABC)

  • Game 2: Sunday, June 5 at 8 p.m. ET (ABC)

  • Game 3: Wednesday, June 8 at 9 p.m. ET (ABC)

  • Game 4: Friday, June 10 at 9 p.m. ET (ABC)

  • Game 5 (if necessary): Monday, June 13 at 9 p.m. ET (ABC)

  • Game 6 (if necessary): Thursday, June 16 at 9 p.m. ET (ABC)

  • Game 7 (if necessary): Sunday, June 19 at 8 p.m. ET (ABC)

How To Bet On the 2022 NBA Finals?

As everyone knows, sports betting is changing how sports are covered and how fans watch games as well. For those who are interested in betting on the NBA Finals, you can do so by finding a sportsbook that offers a number of markets on the series. Most sportsbooks will offer multiple ways to place a bet on a game, including which team has the best odds to win a game/series, NBA player prop bets, and over/under predictions for players and teams. Betting laws vary from state to state: you can find out more about betting in your state on our US online betting laws page.

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© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Who had best odds to win the NBA Championship?

The team with the best odds to win the NBA Finals series was the Golden State Warriors (-160). They had more experience of playing on the big stage and the Boston Celtics came in at a disadvantage having played two 7-game series back to back in the conference semifinal and conference finals. That isn’t to say, however, that an upset is impossible…

Who Has the best NBA Playoff Predictions?

OnlineBetting.com has a team of international basketball experts who have given their NBA Finals Predictions and picked out some NBA Finals Prop Bets you should be tracking.

The NBA playoffs are renowned as one of the most exciting and intriguing events in the entirety of sports. During the playoffs, the best players come into their own, while the legacy of teams is decided over this postseason tournament. At its conclusion, one side walks away with the NBA Championship and has their name etched in history.

NBA Playoff odds

There are plenty of betting markets available to take advantage of during the NBA Playoffs. Here’s a quick guide that will help you get your picks ready, all the way from the early play-in games to the point where you’ll be placing bets on your NBA Finals Predictions.

How many teams play in the NBA Playoffs?

The playoffs are decided between 16 teams, eight from both NBA conferences (East and West). Each franchise is ranked by their winning percentage, with the top six teams from both conferences automatically qualifying for the playoffs. Meanwhile, those ranked from seventh to tenth take part in a play-in tournament to determine who will take the remaining places.

The Play-in tournament

The play-in tournament was introduced across both conferences in 2021 as a way to determine the final four teams that would enter the playoffs. It sees the side ranked seventh during the regular season take on the side ranked eighth, then the side ranked ninth, take on the team with the tenth best win percentage in the conference. The winner of seventh vs eighth progresses to the playoffs. The loser of that game plays the winner of ninth vs tenth to decide the final playoff place for that conference.

The Play-in games are single games, rather than the best-of-seven format that the actual playoffs employ.

Playoff seeding

Predictably, the top six teams in a conference are seeded based on their winning percentage during the regular season. The team with the best record is seeded 1 and so on. When there is a tie, the team with the better head-to-head record receives the higher seeding.

On the rare occasion that this is also a tie, then divisional champions receive the higher seed. If neither side holds this accolade, then seeding is decided by their win-loss record against other sides in the conference.

The seventh and eight seeds are decided by the play-in tournament. The number one seed plays the number eight seed, while number two plays number seven and so forth.

How NBA playoffs work

The playoff tournament works on a best-of-seven basis, with each round determined by the side that is first to win four games in each series.

The second round of the playoffs is known as the conference semi-finals, while the winners of that game progress to the conference final. The two conference champions then take part in the NBA Finals.

The NBA Finals Format are the same as the other rounds, with the winner being the first side to defeat the other team in the final four times.

The winner are crowned NBA Champions.

If you are betting on the Futures market picking the team you think will become NBA Champions, then you should consider how other teams of that seeding have done.

Thus far, 48 number one seeds have won The Championship, while 16 number two seeds have lifted the NBA Championship trophy. Seven teams that entered the postseason as number three seeds have become champions, while just one team that was number 4 seed and another that was number 6 seed have won the entire tournament.

So far, no teams that were five, seven or eight seed have become NBA Champions.

Home/Away NBA playoffs format

The side with the better regular-season record receives advantage here, with the playoff series taking a 2-2-1-1-1 home/away format.

Having four home games and three away can be a great benefit to a side, especially as they can go 2-0 up before ever having to play an away game.

The side that has the superior regular season record can progress by winning all of their home games and losing all of their away ones. When making NBA playoffs predictions, this is a factor often considered by the experts.

How long do the playoffs last?

The playoffs last for approximately two months from mid-April to mid-June.

History of the Playoffs and NBA Finals

It has often been said that the best way to predict the future is by looking at the past, so let’s look at some interesting statistics from previous NBA Playoff seasons…

Lowest seed to be NBA champions

Houston Rockets hold the record of being the lowest-seeded team to conquer the playoffs and win the NBA Championship. This happened during the 1994/95 season, where they held a 47-35 regular season record and entered postseason as the number six seed side.

Put simply, they were a different team in the post-season, defeating the Utah Jazz in five games, then overcoming the Phoenix Suns in an epic Conference Semi-Final.

In the Conference Finals, they overcame the great David Robinson and his San Antonio Spurs before facing a young Shaquille O’Neal and his Orlando Magic team in the NBA Finals. They swept Shaq and the Magic 4-0, winning the NBA Championship for the second consecutive year.

Which player has won the most NBA Playoff games?

LeBron James has the most career wins in the playoffs, being victorious in 174 out of the 266 games he has played in the postseason. James won’t get the chance to add to that number this season, as his LA Lakers didn’t do enough to reach the playoffs.

Lakers and Celtics domination

Of the 74 Championships already played, the Lakers and Boston Celtics have won more than half of them, with 17 apiece. This is also the most common of all the NBA Finals matchups, with the two franchises playing against each other 12 times in the NBA decider.

Of course, Los Angeles will not be in the playoffs this season so Boston could move ahead of them in the overall winners standings.

The Conference divide

The Eastern Conference leads the Western Conference with the NBA Finals victor coming from there 39 times (39/34). The now defunct Central Division had one victorious side.

Betting and the NBA playoffs

When it comes to the NBA Playoffs, you can bet on Futures markets such as which team you think will win each conference or which side you think will become NBA Champions. There is an abundance of markets here including ‘Finals MVP’, ‘To Reach NBA Finals’, etc.

You can also bet on the individual match-ups, the over/under , put together parlays and predict the amount of games it will take for one team to get past another in a round. Overall, the opportunities are endless, so get your NBA playoff predictions ready.

James Tillman

James Tillman

NBA handicapper and sports writer

James is a freelance sports writer who specialises in the NBA - his work has been published across multiple sites including OddsUSA and FanSided.  Full bio here.

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