It is almost as if Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra knew this was coming all along and have been preparing for this two-week journey against each other for many, many months. Before we dive into our betting preview for the NBA Finals, it is important to learn how we got to this point.
Lets flash back to November 29th, 2012…This was the first meeting of the season for the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, the game was played at the American Airlines Arena in Miami and the main focus of the matchup was supposed to be on a full strength Spurs team playing in the defending champions’ building.
What ended up being the focus was Gregg Popovich’s decision to sit his three best players, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, as well as a one of his pivotal rotation guys, Danny Green, against the best team in the NBA…on National TV nonetheless. The league got angry, the media scorned, the Spurs won the first quarter and Miami prevailed 105-100.
Fast forward to March 31st, when it was Miami’s turn to travel to San Antonio, where the storyline was clearly a 58-15 Heat team playing against a 55-18 Spurs team and Erik Spoelstra then made the decision to rest LeBron James (strained right hamstring) and Dwayne Wade (sprained right ankle). Again, people got upset, everyone whined about the fact we were stripped of the ability to watch what was supposed to be a fantastic basketball game late in the season and Chris Bosh hit a late 3 to win the game.
Whether it was injuries, playing back-to-back games or simple strategy by both coaches, sitting Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, James and Wade turned out to be very interesting and crucial decisions then — and even more so now with the Spurs and the Heat clashing for an NBA title starting Thursday night. The last time the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat played each other with all six of their “stars” active and playing was March 4th and 14th of 2011. The one time they played each other in the shortened season last year, Dwayne Wade and Manu Ginobili were both inactive as well.
To sit here and compare LeBron James‘ 2007 NBA Finals run with the Cleveland Cavaliers to this year’s Miami Heat run is a bit farfetched if you ask me. Parker, Ginobili and Duncan are the only three players from that NBA Champion team that are still on the roster and obviously on the other side, the only real comparison you can make is the evolution of James. After James got swept 4-0 in the ’07 Finals, here were three questions and answers that I thought were the most telling based on his upcoming Finals rematch with the Spurs:
Q: “Can you just talk about your feelings when you saw the Spurs celebrating on your court and how much of a motivation will that be to have that be your team?”
James: “I didn’t. I didn’t want to turn around at all and look at it, but I’ve seen other teams win the title before, me watching on TV, so I know what they were doing. But I didn’t turn around and look at it (smiling). I didn’t want to look at it.”
Q: “What’s the biggest thing that you’ll take away from The Finals that will help you in the future?”
James: “We have to be better. Me, as an individual, I have to be much better on and off the court, and that will carry our team to higher levels. I think it starts with me first and then it will trickle down to everybody else.”
Q: “I saw you entering the press room and exchanging some words with Tim Duncan. I was just wanting to know what you guys were talking about?”
James: “I was just basically congratulating him on a wonderful season, on his championship. He’s definitely a great player and he has a great supporting cast around him. I think it’s great. If I couldn’t do it, why not Tim Duncan? He’s definitely a very good player, and he definitely brings out the best in his teammates. I think I kind of want to do the same thing and try to do the same thing with my teammates, so we’re kind of the same player, me in the perimeter, him in the post.”
The reason I believe this upcoming NBA Finals matchup will be so special is because of the overwhelming mutual respect Duncan, Popovich and the Spurs have for LeBron and vice versa…win or lose, this is going to be a bit different than Red Sox-Yankees and Lakers-Celtics.
When it comes to the number three and the connection it has to this particular NBA Finals, it becomes real interesting to dissect the true numbers meaning. It all starts with what we called and still refer to as the “Big Three” in Miami; LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. I am not exactly sure when it started its decline, but at some point in the near past, we as NBA fans began making jokes about LeBron’s supporting cast in Miami, which then led to certain nicknames like the “Big Two and a Half.”
Before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when Bosh and Wade scored 30 points combined and shot 10-29 from the field, their numbers were so bad it made a mediocre performance like this look close to epic. For pundits across the league to give any sort of credit to Bosh and Wade for their play in Game 7 really means how poor both of them have played up to this point in the playoffs.
My key for the Miami Heat to win the NBA Finals is simple…it all has to do with number “3” (Wade’s number).
LeBron cannot beat the Spurs by himself and I believe Dwayne Wade’s play during the NBA Finals will be the x-factor in the series. Not only is Wade’s jersey number 3, but the Heat are in their 3rd straight NBA Finals in their 3rd year together in Miami; and if Wade cannot come through like he did in Game 7 on Monday, LeBron will need to be twice as good as he has been (or his jersey number, 6) for the Heat to win the franchise’s 3rd championship. Lastly, if the Heat end up winning the NBA Championship this year, LeBron James would become the 3rd player in the history of the NBA to win back-to-back MVPs and NBA titles, joining Michael Jordan and Bill Russell.
The Miami Heat are currently a 5 1/2 point favorite in Game One of the NBA Finals, the line opened up around 4 1/2 around the 3rd quarter of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals and has gone up a point since then. Offshore sports book 5Dimes currently lists the Miami Heat, who have home-court advantage in the Finals, as a -230 (+190) favorite to win the championship. I have seen the series price for the Miami Heat as high as -300 and as low around -220, but I expect many Vegas and Offshore sports books to continue to adjust odds right up until tip-off of Game One Thursday night.
One of the most interesting proposition bets I have seen on a few different Offshores has to do with the Heat winning back-to-back-to-back NBA titles. The bet that is currently being offered is labeled as “Will the Miami Heat win the ’12-’13 and the ’13-’14 NBA Championships.” The current odds for this bet is +310 for “Yes” and -430 for “No,” but the most interesting aspect of this proposition wager is the movement of the line in the past week or two. At +245 for “Yes” and -335 for “No,” the odds of the Heat winning three titles in a row have decreased, while they have advanced farther in the playoffs. Obviously it is very difficult to predict what the Heat will do in the offseason in terms of the rumor of attempting to move Chris Bosh or if they will find a way to add a bench player or two, but it all starts with trying to take care of the Spurs in the next two weeks.
If you are looking at taking the popular proposition bet for “exact games won in the NBA Finals,” here are your odds:
|Heat Win 4-0||7.45/1|
|Heat Win 4-1||4.2/1|
|Heat Win 4-2||4/1|
|Heat Win 4-3||3.5/1|
|Spurs Win 4-0||19.5/1|
|Spurs Win 4-1||12/1|
|Spurs Win 4-2||6/1|
|Spurs Win 4-3||7.45/1|
The odds-on-favorite for exact games based on price would be the Heat to win the NBA Championship in 7 games at the moment, but to me some of the odds for the Spurs are very high considering the fact they have the middle 3 games of the series at home. If you go back a decade and look at each NBA Finals, the team who had home-court advantage is 6-4 in the NBA Finals (30-27 in games), which obviously gives a slight advantage to the Miami Heat in this series.
Here are a list of NBA Finals proposition bets from the Offshore sportsbook Bovada:
-LeBron James Series PPG: O/U 27.5 (-115/-115)
-Will LeBron James Record A Triple-Double in the NBA Finals? Yes (+200)/No (-260)
-Dwayne Wade Series PPG: O/U 17 (-115/-115)
-Chris Bosh Series PPG: O/U 15 (-110/-120)…..This wager is more based on match ups than statistics (rare for me), but with Duncan, Splitter, Blair, Diaw and sometimes Leonard, the Spurs have a lot of “size” for Bosh to deal with, even if he does play most of his time away from the rim these days.
-Tony Parker Series PPG: O/U 21.5 (-115/-115)
-Tim Duncan Series PPG: O/U 18 (-120/-110)…..Duncan’s PPG total for 4 previous NBA Finals (27.4, 24.1, 20.5, 18.25).
-Who Will Average More PPG in the NBA Finals:
A. Kawhi Leonard (+190)
B. Manu Ginobili (+210)
C. Danny Green (+250)
D. Tiago Splitter (+300)
-Will Any Player Be Suspended in the NBA Finals? Yes (+600)/No (-1000)
-Will There Be A Flagrant Foul in the NBA Finals? Yes (-180)/No (+150)…..There have been 3 Flagrant Fouls in the NBA Finals in the past 6 seasons: Derek Fisher Game 5 ’12 (OKC), Jordan Farmar Game 6 ’08 (LAL) & Drew Gooden Game 1 ’07 (CLE)…..I will say this though, Chris Anderson (Birdman), scares me when it comes to this wager.
-Will Any Game Go To Overtime in the NBA Finals? Yes (+250)/No (-325)
-Will There Be A Game-Winning Buzzer Beater in the NBA Finals (if ball can be inbounded after shot, NOT a buzzer beater)? Yes (+700)/No (-1400)
*Some of the wagers I like based on the above proposition bets are listed in bold, the rest of my wagers for all sports (including the NBA Finals) are listed on my website on @Betropolitan.