The Sacramento Kings finished the 2022-23 regular season as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, yet the Golden State Warriors started out as a -275 favorite to win the series. After two huge wins in Sacramento, the Kings are now up 2-0 heading to San Francisco, and according to FanDuel, the Kings-Warriors odds have flipped, and the Kings are now a -174 favorite to advance to the second round of the 2023 NBA playoffs.
The last time the Kings were in the playoffs was in 2006, and the Warriors are the defending NBA champions, having won their fourth title in eight years at the end of last season. That’s why the Warriors started as favorites.
However, after two games, the Kings have taken a commanding 2-0 lead, and the odds have flipped. Here are the three specific reasons this odds change has happened.
3. Draymond Green suspension
In addition to being the series favorite coming into the 2023 NBA playoffs, the Warriors had better odds to win the first two games as well. They were -1.5-point favorites in the first game, and after dropping that one, the Warriors were -2.5-point favorites to even the series in Game 2.
The Kings won both those games, and at the end of Game 2, Warriors star Draymond Green stomped on the chest of the Kings’ Domantas Sabonis. Green was ejected for a flagrant-2 in that game, and now he is suspended for Game 3.
For this all-important third game, the Warriors are home, where they’ve been much better this season. The team was an impressive 33-8 in their own building this season, while they were a putrid 11-30 on the road. That’s why the Warriors are again favored in Game 3, this time by -6 points.
Despite everyone thinking the Warriors will take this one to get back in the series, Green’s suspension changes things.
Everyone still remembers Green hitting LeBron James below the belt in the 2016 NBA Finals and earning a suspension that ultimately cost the Warriors the title.
If this Draymond Green suspension also costs the Warriors the next game, the Kings will take a commanding lead, and the odds for Sacramento to advance in the NBA playoffs will jump even higher.
2. The Kings have been the better team
The second reason the Kings-Warriors series odds have flipped is the eye test.
The Warriors were 3-1 this season against the Kings, winning two of the first three games early in the season and coming up on top of the final game between the two squads in Game 81 of the regular season.
In the first two playoff games, though, the Kings have obviously been the better team. Sacramento led the league this year in points per game with 120.7. However, they also gave up the fifth-most points per game at 118.1.
Game 1 saw the run-and-gun shootout that everyone expected, with the Kings pulling out a 126-123 victory. In Game 2, though, the home team showed some NBA playoffs defensive chops as well, holding the Warriors to just 106 points, which is 12.9 points below their regular season average.
The Kings have two more games at home to the Warriors' three, and even if the Kings only continue to look like the better team in Sacramento, that would give them the series win. If the Kings can steal a game on the Warriors' home floor, the series will be all but over, which is another reason the odds flipped.
1. It’s about numbers, not narrative
Oddsmakers take everything into account when setting a line before a playoff series. In the case of Kings-Warriors, the people setting the series odds knew that the public sees the Warriors as a dynasty, while the Kings are a perennial bottom-feeder. That means more wagers were going to come in on the Warriors' side, despite the regular season records.
As a series goes on, though, narratives hold less value, and numbers start to tell the tale, both for the sportsbooks and the public. There is no denying the scores of these games and the historical numbers play a role, too.
Of the 442 NBA playoffs series over the years, a team has only come back from an 0-2 deficit 32 times (7.2%), per Land of Basketball. The last time this happened was in the 2022 Western Conference Semifinals when the Dallas Mavericks came back from 0-2 against the Phoenix Suns.
If the Kings can steal one of the next two games in San Francisco, the numbers get even worse.
Teams down 3-1 have won 13 of 258 NBA playoffs series (4.8%) and when down 3-0, that drops to zero out of 147 examples.
With only one win in the next two games needed to almost ensure a series win, it’s no surprise the Kings are now favored to move to Round 2.