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Kevin Durant out for Warriors-Magic (rest)

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The Warriors have a superstar small forward in Kevin Durant and an elite backup in Andre Iguodala.

But Golden State will have neither in Orlando tonight.

Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area:

Kevin Durant (rest) and Andre Iguodala (illness) will not play at the Magic, the team announced.

The Warriors (43-18) are battling the Nuggets (42-18) for the top seed in the Western Conference and are also close to the Raptors (45-17) in the standings. Home-court advantage in a playoff series against those teams could be could be valuable.

But having its top players healthy and fresh is more important to Golden State.

And it’s not as if the Warriors are forfeiting. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins still make Golden State favored over the mediocre Magic.

It’ll just be more difficult for the Warriors with even thinner wing depth. They’ll lean more on Alfonzo McKinnie. Shaun Livingston could also play more, joining Curry and Thompson in three-guard lineups.

Warriors vs. Bucks or Raptors betting favorite to be NBA Finals matchup

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Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?

The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.

The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)

The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.

• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.

• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.

More evidence suggests disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy fixed games

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Disgraced referee Tim Donaghy and the NBA have always been aligned on one narrative: Donaghy didn’t fix games.

Provide inside information to gamblers? Yes. Bet on his own games? Yes.

But fix games? No.

That’s the story Donaghy had to tell to avoid more jail time and the story the NBA had to sell to preserve its integrity.

It just never held up to scrutiny. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop led the charge of publicly investigating Donaghy’s claims, and professional gambler (later Mavericks employee) Haralabos Voulgaris reviewed the calls. They concluded the system Donaghy admitted to – leveraging his knowledge of other referees’ biases toward against certain players and coaches – would have lost money. The money was made on his own games.

It just fits common sense. Donaghy was unethical enough to gamble on his own games but drew the line at altering calls to win his bets? C’mon.

Now comes perhaps the most definitive account of Donaghy’s misdeeds yet, including details on the gambling operation and statistical analysis of its outcomes.

Scott Eden of ESPN:

Donaghy favored the side that attracted more betting dollars in 23 of those 30 competitive games, or 77 percent of the time. In four games, he called the game neutrally, 50-50. The number of games in which Tim Donaghy favored the team that attracted fewer betting dollars? Three.

In other words, Donaghy’s track record of making calls that favored his bet was 23-3-4.

If one assumes there should be no correlation between wagers and the calls made by a referee, the odds of that disparity* might seem unlikely. And they are. When presented with that data, ESPN statisticians crunched the numbers and revealed: The odds that Tim Donaghy would have randomly made calls that produced that imbalance are 6,155-to-1.

“He can influence a game six points either way — that’s what he told me,” Tommy Martino said as we sat in the break room of his family’s hair salon, where he’s worked since he got out of prison in August 2009 after serving 10 months.

I highly recommend reading Eden’s piece in full. It is excellent.

I’m intrigued by the idea the NBA leaked the FBI’s investigation into Donaghy to undermine a search into whether more referees were corrupt. Donaghy claimed some were.

Donaghy lacks credibility. I don’t trust him on anything, including that.

But I could also see David Stern’s NBA wanting to stifle a deeper dive into the league’s officials before it got off the ground. That’d prevent wider problems just in case this was a rare time Donaghy was being truthful.

Again, Eden’s full article is worth reading.

Post trade deadline NBA title odds: Top four in East now even, Lakers fall

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When it comes to betting on who will win the NBA title, bookmakers wisely have the Warriors on very low odds and a big gap to everyone else.

But how did that change after the trade deadline?

After missing out on Anthony Davis, the odds of a Lakers’ title this season plummeted to 40/1. That it’s that low speaks to the power of LeBron James — and the fact bookmakers hedge against bets from the massive Lakers’ nation.

The arms race at the top of the Eastern Conference has bookmakers trying to figure it out like the rest of us — they now have Boston, Toronto, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia all tied at 10/1 odds. (Meaning if you bet $10 on Boston and it won, you’d win $100).

Of course, it’s still Golden State way, way out in front in the bookmakers’ minds. As it should be. Here are the championship odds for the top 10 teams after the trade deadline, via Westgate. (In parenthesis is where they were on Feb. 4, days before the deadline.)

1. Warriors -250 (-250)
2 (T). Celtics +1000 (+800)
2 (T). Raptors +1000 (+800)
2 (T). Bucks +1000 (+1200)
2 (T). 76ers +1000 (+1600)
6. Rockets +1200 (+1400)
7. Thunder +1600 (+1600)
8. Nuggets +3000 (+4000)
9 (T). Lakers +4000 (+1600)
9 (T). Jazz +4000 (+5000)

If you can pick which team is coming out of the East there’s a little value in a bet — that team will make the NBA Finals, and while massive underdogs it will at least get to take its swings at the Warriors. But this NBA season does feel a little like Secretariat at the Belmont.

NBA ramping up security, education as sports gambling grows around United States

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You don’t have to look any further than today’s headlines — four professional tennis players in Europe arrested for match-fixing — to understand the NBA’s concern.

With sports betting cleared by the Supreme Court and more and more states in the USA making legal, the concerns about the integrity of the game increase as well. The NBA wants a cut of that sports gambling money — they’ve been asking for one percent, although that is a long process — and say part of that money will go toward not letting gaming become a problem within the sport.

With the NBA in London — where sports betting is legal and big business — for the Knicks vs. Wizards on Thursday, NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum talked about it to ESPN.

The NBA is preparing to double down on policing its players, teams and staff amid the expansion of legalized sports gambling in the United States, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told ESPN…

That will mean extra resources to prevent the kind of in-house infractions that have plagued a number of sports, such as soccer, tennis and cricket…

“A lot of it has to do with education with respect to our players, with respect to our teams,” he said. “We’re spending a lot of time learning from the mistakes that were made and what we’re seeing in sports betting in places around the world.

“We’re trying to educate our fans. We’re educating our players and our teams. We’re taking a little bit of a cautious approach here. … But generally, we think it’s a good thing for sports betting to be regulated, to be legalized, so there is better information being captured.”

In the NBA, the concern isn’t as much the old-school “we’ll pay Player X $10,000 to throw the game” type of operations because the handful of players each game who could actually influence a game that way make so much money the gamblers couldn’t give them enough and make it pencil out (that’s more of a college concern where NCAA players are unpaid).

However, a player with a gambling addiction that gets into deep debt could be another matter.

The NBA will have to go forward with these initiatives, regardless of how much — if any — money they get from states as a cut of gambling revenue. While all the professional leagues want their piece of the pie, the casinos and online betting industry aren’t going to just give that money away. Also, the states are going to want their cut. There are a lot of hands out with this newfound revenue source.

It’s all about the money and it’s something to watch unfold in the next few years.