NBA Finals: The Heat is Off

Spurs offer strong value against an opponent they're the equal of

NBA Finals Betting Preview

Series price: Heat -220/Spurs +190

Game 1 odds: Heat -5 to -5½; Total: 188½

Let me start with a question: What in God’s name are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be refreshing Floyd Mayweather’s Twitter page every 30 seconds, waiting to see whether “Money May” will wager the equivalent of the Conga’s GNP on Miami or San Antonio? All kidding aside, it’s a shame we all couldn’t have laid $5.9 million on the Heat in Game 7 on Monday night—like there was a chance in hell David Stern was going to allow an Indiana-San Antonio Finals, especially since it’s the last Finals the world’s most arrogant leader since Hitler is presiding over. Seriously, there were two stone-cold locks this week: the Heat cruising to that Game 7 victory, and Michael Douglas getting a tongue-lashing from his wife (no pun intended. OK, pun fully intended).

Anyway, let’s turn our attention to this series. In one corner you’ve got the defending champs, their bodies beaten only slightly less than their psyche after being taken to six games by the banged-up Bulls, then going the distance against inferior Indiana. Still, it’s worth nothing that the Heat still haven’t lost four times in the span of seven games since mid-January. It’s also worth noting that since Feb. 3, they’re 49-6. And it’s worth noting that the best player on the planet still resides in Miami.

As for the Spurs, there’s not much you don’t know: They have three perennial All-Stars who consistently play like three perennial All-Stars; they have a group of role players who are comfortable in those roles; and they have the most underappreciated coach in the history of professional team sports—all of which adds up to incredible team chemistry. Here’s what else San Antonio has: fresh legs. While the Heat were duking it out with Indiana, the Spurs were resting, having completed a sweep of Memphis on May 27. But there’s a chance those fresh legs will be as much a blessing as a momentum-killing curse (San Antonio rolls into the Finals on a six-game winning streak).

Now, if you’re looking at betting the series from a pure value standpoint, the easy call is to back Miami—had the Heat done what everyone expected and rolled past Chicago and Indiana, they’d be laying 3-to-1 odds in this series, easy. Because they know the betting public always reacts to what it saw most recently (i.e. Miami struggling and the Spurs sweeping), oddsmakers were able to adjust the number and not have to worry about taking on a lot of liability with Mayweather-size bets on San Antonio. That said, I don’t think the number was adjusted enough. I think there’s something very wrong with Dwyane Wade physically (I certainly don’t expect more than one monster game out of Wade, whose 21 points against Indiana in Game 7 were a playoff high). I think Chris Bosh, who came up soft against the physical Pacers, won’t have it any easier against the Spurs. I think Gregg Popovich can (and will) coach circles around Miami’s Erik Spoelstra. And I think young Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (who’s had a breakout postseason) will at least be able to make things slightly difficult for LeBron James.

As for the potential of the Spurs being rusty, I’ll just say this: They went 8-1 (6-3 against the spread) when playing on three or more days’ rest this season—in other words, a Game 1 money-line bet on San Antonio looks mighty tempting. So does a series wager when you’re getting a near two-to-one take-back with a team that’s every bit as good as its opponent.

Prediction: Spurs in 6.