We have mentioned it here before: We think the NBA has been fixed since at least 1995. It’s always about getting maximum TV revenue from advertisers when it comes to the postseason, too, in terms of fan interest, size of a team’s urban market (including international viewers), and extending series longer than perhaps they would naturally go. As the NBA playoffs are now down to their version of the Final Four, it’s time to look at the question again: math or money?

Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, and Miami are the surviving teams. First, the math:

  • The Celtics (78-percent chance) and the Nuggets (70) are strong favorites to reach the Finals;
  • Boston (53-percent chance) is the clear favorite of the four to win the NBA title right now, too;
  • The Lakers (10-percent chance) and the Heat (9) are the least likely to win the championship trophy.

Remember, last year, the Celtics were the clear math favorite to win the title, too, but they underperformed leading up to the Finals and probably ran out of gas against the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. This season, Boston has played the most postseason games so far among the above teams (13), while Denver and Miami have played the fewest (11). Los Angeles is right in the middle. We might drop the Celtics a little in the math, to be more even with Denver, then.

Now, what about the money?

  • The size order of the TV markets is Los Angeles (No. 2), Boston (9th), Denver (16th), and Miami (18th);
  • Obviously, the league probably doesn’t want a Denver-Miami Finals while Boston-L.A. is ideal;
  • For the conference finals, expect the Western matchup to go a longer distance than the Eastern one.

Teams from small markets like Milwaukee (38th) and San Antonio (31st) won NBA titles recently, because of their international rosters featuring stars from other nations that brought in a lot of viewers from various continents. The “worst” NBA champion of recent note that doesn’t meet a top TV market ranking or an international roster exception was … drumroll, please … Cleveland at 19th overall, because love him or hate him, everyone wanted to see The King play.

Thus, we can count out the Nuggets and the Heat. Our educated-guess money is on a Boston-L.A. Finals matchup, because it involves Top 10 television markets, a traditional hoops rivalry we haven’t seen in the Finals since 2010, and … drumroll, please … LeBron James. Look for Boston to beat Miami in five games, perhaps, and Los Angeles to beat Denver in six games—followed by a seven-game Finals, of course. Everyone’s gotta get paid, after all, no matter which team wins.