Wilfredo Lee / AP
Sunday, June 15, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Sunday's Game 5
- Spread: Miami plus-6 at San Antonio
- Moneyline: Miami (plus-210) at San Antonio (minus-250)
- Total: Over/under 195.5 points
- Talking Points pick: Heat plus-6 (1-3)
Based on the severely shifted sentiment of the series, the San Antonio Spurs should seemingly surrender double-digits to the Miami Heat on the betting line for tonight’s Game 5.
San Antonio has outscored Miami by an average of 10.5 points per game so far, and it’s difficult to find anyone not thinking blowout with the teams back in cowboy country.
After two straight wins in Miami, the Spurs are getting referred to as a zen-like league of extraordinary gentlemen, the caliber of which the NBA has hardly ever seen. The Heat are seen as a band of bums, the likes of which making it a wonder they ever won two straight championships.
The great thing about oddsmakers is their ability to silence out the noise. All the sports books care about is posting the correct number, and adjusting accordingly with the market.
In the case of Game 5, the number was nothing drastic. The Spurs are hung on betting boards around town as a 6-point favorite, only a half-point more than they were at the AT&T Center in Game 1.
A few books — including South Point and the LVH Superbook, the two most commonly referred to in this space — even opened the spread at 5.5 points but pushed it up with early San Antonio action.
That’s not to say the Heat’s situation isn’t dire. The chances of sports’ most notorious gambling man, Floyd Mayweather Jr., winding up the owner of an NBA franchise are about as strong as Miami winning the series.
The minus-1600 (risking $16 to win $1) series price implies a 93 percent chance the Spurs win their fifth title with Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan. The Heat are plus-900 (risking $1 to win $9) to miraculously capture a fourth in eight years.
And the damning statistics of falling into a 3-1 hole are now well circulated. The fact that no team in NBA Finals history has come back from an identical deficit and that Popovich is a perfect 10-0 lifetime with the lead are as much common knowledge as “The Decision.”
Digging deeper, things sound worse for LeBron James’ chances at joining NBA lore with a three-peat. Not only has Popovich never lost a series with a 3-1 lead, but his teams have sealed the victory and gotten the cover in Game 5 in eight of the 10 occasions.
Not only have 11 teams since 1990 built a 3-1 lead in the Finals, but seven of them have finished in the next game. Teams with a 3-1 lead going into Game 5 are 8-3 against the spread.
A few famous annihilations are among the set, including the Heat’s own 121-106 win as 3.5-point favorites over the Oklahoma City Thunder two years ago and the minus-3.5 Pistons’ 100-87 salvo of the Los Angeles Lakers a decade ago.
This Heat team seems to have more in common with those 2004 Lakers than their own similarly constructed 2012 squad. Like Los Angeles back then, Miami is run down after exhaustively chasing a legacy for the last several years.
Despite the convenient narrative, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh didn’t quit or show a lack of a heart in Game 5. It’s much more likely they’re drained after, along with LeBron James, playing five season’s worth of minutes more than San Antonio’s Big Three since 2011 per ESPN.com.
That’s not to mention the impending MVP of the series, Kawhi Leonard, being the freshest of all as a 22-year-old third-year player. The minutes add up as significantly as the Heat’s tendency to respond after a loss.
It would be shortsighted, even with the preceding evidence of a Spurs rout tonight, for anyone to ignore the Heat’s history for bouncing back a few days after heralding its importance. Miami’s 13-1 straight-up, 11-3 against the spread record in the game after a playoff loss the last two seasons remains exceptional.
Sports books know the importance of a sample size. That’s one reason for Game 5’s moderate spread.