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October 20, 2014

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NBA Finals in Vegas: Heat victory tonight could mean big business to sports books

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

San Antonio Spurs’ Danny Green (4) prepares to shoot a foul shot against the Miami Heat during Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, June 16, 2013, in San Antonio.

Tonight marks the closest equivalent to Groundhog Day for local sports books.

If the Miami Heat win to extend the NBA Finals to a Game 7, brightness in the form of money gets one last hurrah.

Dim the lights around betting windows, though, if they lose. The areas will look as barren as a northeastern snowbird town for the next couple of months — until football season — if the San Antonio Spurs claim their fifth title of the Greg Popovich era Tuesday.

The betting volume on a one-off game for a championship is like an oceanfront property compared with every other NBA contest’s inner-city studio apartment.

It makes that big of a difference, which is why sports book directors lament the lack of Game 7s the NBA has provided. This season’s series would mark only the seventh occurrence in the past 35 years.

Everyone’s clamoring for the series to go the distance, which is part of the reason oddsmakers are forcing gamblers to pay a premium on it happening.

Miami is as high as a 7.5-point favorite in Game 6 at American Airlines Arena and minus-360 (risking $3.60 to win $1) to win straight-up on the moneyline, with San Antonio coming back at plus-290 (risking $1 to win $2.90).

It’s the most oddsmakers have favored the Heat by since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, when they defeated the Indiana Pacers 103-102, laying 8.5 points.

That may not sound right for a team that’s lost three of five games to their opponent in the past 10 days, but consider a couple more prevalent factors on the Heat’s side.

They’re now 12-0 against the spread coming off of a loss since January, covering by an average of 14 points per game in the situation. The zigzag theory — betting the team coming off a loss in the previous game — improved to 4-0 in the NBA Finals with San Antonio’s 114-104 win in Game 5.

A simple glance at one column of the box score from that game could give bettors a reason to back the Heat tonight. There’s no way San Antonio shoots 60 percent from the floor again, right? It’s an unsustainable rate, one would think.

But the Spurs haven’t bothered much with regression this series, Exhibit A being the play of Danny Green. The North Carolina graduate continued his torrid streak in Game 5, making 6 of 10 three-pointers to break the NBA Finals record for shots made beyond the arc and chipping in 24 points.

The Nevada Gaming Commission doesn’t allow wagers on who will win MVP awards, but offshore sports books opened Green at 80-to-1 to earn the honor, according to R.J. Bell of pregame.com. He’s now down to 5-to-1.

The only player lower is Miami’s LeBron James, who’s posted at minus-110 despite what most see as a disappointing performance through five games.

The Heat have also maintained their favorite status to win the series. At minus-130 to the Spurs’ plus-110, sports books give the Heat a 54 percent chance to win each of the last two games.

Las Vegas would prefer the Heat win without covering tonight to force an elimination game.

A Miami romp in Game 6 would likely cost casinos money. But it’s nothing they couldn’t recoup with the sheer action promised by one last game.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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