Turning up the Heat

As the NBA playoffs tip off, there’s only one team worthy of your investment

LeBron James is the best player on the planet, but the Spurs still offer value for the series.

LeBron James is the best player on the planet, but the Spurs still offer value for the series.

Odds to win the 2012-13 NBA championship
(courtesy of LVH)

Heat 4-7

Thunder 7-2

Spurs 8-1

Clippers 15-1

Nuggets 15-1

Knicks 15-1

Grizzlies 25-1

Bulls 30-1

Pacers 30-1

Nets 50-1

Celtics 60-1

Rockets 60-1

Warriors 60-1

Hawks 200-1

Jazz 200-1

Lakers 200-1

Bucks 300-1

When it comes to things you probably should never bet against, the list goes like this (in order): sex (because sex always wins); Father Time (ain’t that right, Kobe Bryant?); Meryl Streep on Oscars night; Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan’s sobriety (for God’s sake, never parlay the two); and the 2012-13 Miami Heat winning back-to-back NBA championships.

In case you’ve been asleep for the last seven months—hey, maybe as his last act as commissioner, David Stern can turn the NBA into a yearlong sport—the Heat have followed up their 2012 title with a pretty decent encore. They entered their 82nd game of this season with a league-best 65-16 record (five games better than any other team); they’ve followed up their 24-game winning streak (the second-longest in NBA history) with a 9-2 run (meaning they’re 33-2 since February 3); they’ve been a consistent moneymaker despite laying inflated odds, going 23-12 against the spread in their last 35 contests; and, as you would imagine, they’re dominating on both ends of the court, ranking fifth in both offense (scoring 103 points per game) and defense (allowing 95 ppg)—despite owning a negative rebounding differential.

In other words, the NBA’s second season, which tips off April 20, figures to produce as much suspense as Reagan vs. Mondale in ’84. (Look it up, kids.) Then again, Reagan never had to worry about getting derailed by a sprained ankle or separated shoulder. What if LeBron James or Dwyane Wade goes down? Or what if Miami pulls a 2007 New England Patriots and simply gags at the finish line?

Sure, heading into the postseason, the Heat deserve to be an overwhelming favorite to win it all (and at 4-to-7 odds—meaning you have to lay $7 to win $4—they certainly are). But is it that inconceivable that Miami could lose four times in a seven-game series? After all, the Heat did go through a 4-6 lull from late December to mid-January, including losses to Detroit, Milwaukee, Portland and Utah.

Among the 15 other playoff teams, there has to be one that offers some kind of betting value, right? … Right? I posed such a question to several sports-betting experts. The consensus answer: Wrong.

Rick Herron, TheLinemakers.com: “There isn’t any value because no one is beating the Heat. You might be able to take a flier with the Nuggets to win the Western Conference at 7-to-1, because they’re so good at home. But overall, I still see a repeat of last year with the Heat beating the Thunder.”

Jay Kornegay, LVH SuperBook race and sportsbook director: “The NBA, which is very top-heavy, is not a place to find value. Since there is a lack of parity, I would suggest the Heat have value at this time. If you want a reach, the Spurs at 8-to-1 could get healthy beginning in the second round, and have the horses to give Miami a run for the title.”

Micah Roberts, TheLinemakers.com and former Station Casinos sportsbook director: “There is rarely value in futures, and especially this season—unless someone unseats the Heat, which is doubtful. If you’re looking for the best value, take the team you like and bet them to win each series, rolling over the [winnings] each time.”

Ted Sevransky, Covers.com and SportsMemo.com: “Nobody is going to beat the Heat (assuming they stay healthy) in a seven-game series. The Thunder, Spurs or maybe even the Clippers could win a couple of games against the Heat in the Finals. But you’d get a better return on investment simply by betting those same teams to win each series that they’re in.”

Jimmy Vacarro, William Hill public relations director and former oddsmaker: “The Heat are playing much better than last year, the Spurs are tailing off and Oklahoma City still doesn’t have all the pieces together to challenge them. … No other team offers value.”

Kenny White, TheLinemakers.com and former oddsmaker: “It’s not the NHL, where goalies can carry a team, or baseball, where a pitcher can get hot and change the complexion of a series. In the NBA, it’s five players, and the better team usually wins in a seven-game series. I don’t know if there is any value in the playoffs, because the Heat are just so much better than everyone else.”

So if you’re keeping score, that’s six betting gurus, all independently endorsing the chalk. And somewhere in South Beach, LeBron’s knee ligaments just screamed, “Noooooo!”