Tuesday, June 5
LAS VEGAS – I hate to give any further ammunition to the conspiracy theorists out there, but here we are with the NBA Finals that everyone (the league, the TV networks, most of the fans, and yes, even the bookmakers) want to see with the marquee matchup of the Miami Heat vs. the San Antonio Spurs.
Or at least I should say the matchup that everyone wanted to see after Russell Westbrook’s knee injury in the first round doomed the chances of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I mean, did anyone think we’d be seeing the Grizzlies vs. the Pacers?
The Pacers at least made a run of it, taking the Heat the full seven games before Miami routed them 99-76 on Monday night. As the game was drawing to a close, offshore books posted the Heat as anywhere from a -260 series favorite over the Spurs up to -300. That was immediately seen as too high here in Vegas. For starters, as soon as the Spurs completed their sweep of the Grizzlies last Monday -- 10 games before the Finals will commence on Thursday night -- the William Hill books here in Nevada posted the Heat as a -270 favorite with the Spurs offered at +230 (note: William Hill also posted the Spurs -250/Pacers +210 in case that ended up being the matchup) and those numbers got bet down as the Heat continued to have trouble disposing of the Pacers. With the Heat looking more vulnerable, it was also expected that the series price would be shorter.
The LVH SuperBook went with the Heat -220/Spurs +190 and the offshores have been moving in that direction ever since and as of Wednesday morning most were at that same level. Some books here in Vegas – likely anticipating more late support for the favored Heat – are a little higher such as the Boyd/Coast casinos and Golden Nugget at -230, Treasure Island at -240, and the Stratosphere at -250.
If you take away the vig from the most common series price of -220/+190, the midpoint price on the series would be -205/+205, which equates to the Heat having a 67.2% chance of winning the NBA title with the Spurs at 32.8%.
There has been less variance in the point spread for Thursday’s Game 1: the Heat are a rock-solid 5.5-point favorite. I mean, I saw just one offshore book at 5 and another at 6, but everyone else hung it at 5.5 and has stuck with it. The money line on Game 1 has seen more differences of opinion with the Heat mostly around -240 and -250, though it’s as high as -270 at Station Casinos, the chain of locals books here in town which tend to be a little higher on favorites. With the consensus money line at -250/+210, that makes the no-vig line at -230/+230 or the Heat being given a 69.7% chance of taking Game 1 with the Spurs at just 30.3%.
The over/under for Game 1 is 188.5 and you’ll see less change in that when the series moves to San Antonio, though William Hill has advance lines for the first three games of the series and made the over/under 190 in Game 3. William Hill’s line for Game 2 is Heat –5 (an obvious reaction to the longtime “zig-zag theory” in the NBA where bettors bet the loser against the spread in the next contest; note: don’t be surprised if the Heat easily cover the 5.5 in Game 1 and yet the line for Game 2 drops). The line for Game 3 has the Spurs favored by 3 on their home court.
As stated earlier, the books here couldn’t be happier with the matchup as there are plenty of bettors that love to back both teams (and plenty of Miami haters, too). In addition, proposition wagering should be robust with so many big-name players. Take these LVH SuperBook props for example:
LeBron James over/under 42.5 points+rebounds+assists
Dwayne Wade over/under 16.5 points
Chris Bosh over/under 20.5 points+rebounds
Tony Parker over/under 32.5 points+rebounds+assists
Tim Duncan over/under 18.5 points
Manu Ginobili over/under 11.5 points
The spread of Miami -5.5 and the over under of 188.5 breaks down nicely into over/under team totals of the Heat at 97 and San Antonio at 91.5. Other props include 16 points as the largest lead of Game 1 and if breaking down bets into first half or the first quarter doesn’t get resolved fast enough for your liking, the LVH has props on which team will get to 10 points first, as well as the 15- and 25-point marks.
There should be something for everyone. Good luck.
Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website, ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 45, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas.