Game 7 had everything: giant television ratings, record ticket prices and, in Las Vegas, historic betting handle.
"Not only was Game 7 the most heavily bet NBA game that I can remember in my 29 years, but Game 6 was the second-most," said Bill Sattler, director of specialty games for Caesars.
William Hill's Nevada sportsbook described the handle as "massive." It took three times more bets and three times the handle on Game 7 than it did on its most heavily bet game during the regular season (Golden State at Oklahoma City, Feb. 27). Game 7 was responsible for 28 percent of all the money bet -- spread, total and money-line -- on the NBA Finals at William Hill.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook said the betting handle on Game 7 also was a record for its shop. And, three hours before tipoff, more than a million dollars had already been bet on Game 7 at MGM's sportsbooks.
It wasn't just the volume that got the books' attention, but the size of the bets was also larger than normal. Six-figure bets -- normally scarce for the NBA Finals -- were reported by multiple books. MGM assistant manager Jeff Stoneback said the book took several six-figure bets, some on each team. He characterized the biggest bet as "large six figures" on the Cavs +5.
"We've had more six-figure bets in two days on this game than sometimes we get in the first week or 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl," Stoneback told ESPN in a phone interview Sunday afternoon.
Two seats to Game 7 sold for $49,500 each on Stubhub, a non-suite record in the site's 16-year history. It was also the most-watched NBA game since Game 6 of the 1998 Finals between the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls, according to ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell.
While the handle was off the charts, the result -- Cleveland coming back from a 3-1 series deficit and winning Game 7 as a 4.5-point underdog -- wasn't ideal for some sportsbooks. The Westgate reported a small loss. Things were worse for Caesars.
"When they tipped off, we knew that, if the Cavs won, we were going to get spanked pretty bad," Sattler, a Northeast Ohio native, said. He estimated the loss at roughly "4 percent" of the amount wagered.
Down 3-1 after a Game 4 home loss, the Cavs could be found as high as 14-1 underdogs to win the series. MGM said it took close to 100 bets on Cleveland when it was down 3-1, with an average size bet around $250. Caesars also found plenty of support for the Cavaliers, despite them facing a deficit no team had ever overcome in the NBA Finals.
"They bet with confidence, like they knew LeBron [James] could do it," Sattler said.