NBA Finals betting: After 2 Heat


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May 14, 2023

NBA Finals betting: After 2 Heat

You didn’t think the surprises would stop in the NBA Finals, did you? Just when

You didn't think the surprises would stop in the NBA Finals, did you?

Just when it looked like the Denver Nuggets should cruise to their first NBA championship, the Miami Heat stole Game 2 by outscoring Denver 36-25 in the final quarter. It was Denver's first home loss in the playoffs, and only the fifth time the entire season it tasted defeat at home with Nikola Jokić on the floor. Miami's 111-108 win flipped home-court advantage to South Beach, where the series will resume on Wednesday night. Despite the loss, the Nuggets are still 2.5-point road favorites at BetMGM for Game 3, and -275 to win the series.

My pick for Game 3 will be out on Wednesday, but let's take a look at how the series has shifted, and what it means from a betting perspective moving forward.

There were two major takeaways in Game 2 that helped the Heat win as +275 underdogs. They limited Jamal Murray and got white-hot from beyond the arc. If you believe there is value in betting Miami at +200 to win the series, then you better be confident that both those takeaways will continue.

It's clear Miami's defensive focus shifted to Murray, despite Erik Spoelstra's indignant post-game remarks. More importantly, it worked masterfully. Murray was held to 18 points after averaging 32.5 in the Western Conference finals, and Jokić was limited to only four assists. The Nuggets are now 0-3 in the postseason when Jokić scores 40+ points, so there is obviously some merit in the Heat's new defensive approach. Now, it's up to Nuggets coach Michael Malone to free up his star shooting guard.

The other takeaway is harder to predict moving forward. After shooting 33% in the series opener, Miami made a ridiculous 48.6% of their 3-point shots in Game 2. Maybe it's not so ridiculous, considering the Heat shot over 43% from deep against both Boston and Milwaukee. At this point, I am not sure who is crazier: Those who are betting Miami will continue to slap regression in the face, or those clutching their spreadsheets, screaming that the end is indeed coming.

As I stare at the series price, the one thing I feel best about is that Tyler Herro's potential return isn't going to be a major factor. Coming in cold from a hand injury probably won't move the needle in either direction. As someone who holds a position on Denver, I’m comfortable they will figure out a way to free up Murray, or get larger contributions from Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. However, I have to consider that we could be in for a longer series than I initially expected. Rather than bet on Denver at the current series price (-275), taking a look at the Nuggets to win the series in six or seven games makes more sense. You can currently bet Denver to win 4-3 (+225) or 4-2 (+325) at BetMGM.

I would take the same approach in betting the Heat. The probability that Miami runs the table is very low, so buckle up for six or seven games in any scenario where Miami wins. BetMGM is offering Miami to win in six games at +550 odds, and +700 for seven games. Even if you split your stake between both bets, you will yield more in return by wagering on both of those series results as long as it goes past five games.

Locks do not exist, particularly in awards markets, but Jokić is the closest thing to it assuming Denver wins. His odds at -250 are still short relative to the Nuggets' series price (-275), especially considering his 41-point performance in Game 2.

On the Miami side, there are bets to be made, but questions to be answered first. Can Bam Adebayo continue this pace for seven games? Based off how he looked at the end of the Boston series, I would be reluctant to play him at +500.

That leaves Jimmy Butler and a bunch of long shots. If Miami wins, it's because of sustained success from 3-point range, and Butler's defense on Jamal Murray. Since Miami's shooting is often the sum of many parts, that leaves Butler, the man who refused to touch the Eastern Conference championship trophy. Media narratives rule the awards market, and the voters will point to Butler's defense and leadership if the stat sheet isn't filled up. It's not sexy going with the players with the shortest odds, but +450 offers a much greater payout than the Heat's odds to win the series.

If you believe Miami's recent win is any indication of how the rest of the series might play out, carve out a small piece of the bankroll for this one. Jokić scored 53 against the Suns, and scored 40 or more three times in the playoffs. Ifs don't cash bets, but if Jamal Murray's last-second 3-ball had a little more oomph, Jokic would have had some more time to close in on 50. Erik Spoelstra's response to Ramona Shelburne leads me to believe Jokić's big scoring games are very likely to continue. At 40-1, I will take a shot on the Serbian superstar getting nine more points than he posted in Game 2.

Jamal Murray vs. Miami's 3-point shooting Bet the series result over the series price Where is the value in the NBA Finals MVP market? Nikola Jokic to score 50+ points in any game this series (+4000)