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January 21, 2018

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NBA Finals in Vegas: Sports books favor Thunder, bettors ignore Heat



Miami Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James celebrate after beating the Boston Celtics in game seven of the Eastern Conference finals to clinch their spot in the NBA championship series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Tuesday's Game One

  • Spread: — Miami +5 @ Oklahoma City
  • Moneyline: — Miami +195 @ Oklahoma City -230
  • Total: — o/u 195
  • Talking Points' Pick: — Thunder 95, Heat 90
  • Numbers from Cantor Gaming

NBA Finals Series Result Odds

  • Heat win in 4 — 20-to-1
  • Heat win in 5 — 6-to-1
  • Heat win in 6 — 7-to-1
  • Heat win in 7 — 7-to-1
  • Thunder win in 4 — 10-to-1
  • Thunder win in 5 — 6-to-1
  • Thunder win in 6 — 3-to-1
  • Thunder win in 7 — 5-to-2
  • Talking Points' Pick: — Heat in seven
  • Numbers from Cantor Gaming

The Miami Heat’s odds to win the NBA Finals have a lot in common with Facebook’s stock prices and O’Shea’s parking garage.

All three have tumbled and crashed to the ground within recent memory. The difference is that Miami’s fall in Las Vegas sports books may have been the most unforeseen.

Ever since LeBron James infamously announced his intentions to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami two years ago, sports books had listed the Heat at the top of their NBA future odds.

Before this year’s All-Star Break, when none of the NBA’s 30 teams were mathematically eliminated from a shot at the title, some shops in town listed the Heat at even money to bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy to South Beach. Now that the Heat are one of two teams remaining, they are underdogs at as high as +155 (risking $1 to win $1.55).

Las Vegas casinos favor the Oklahoma City Thunder at -175 (risking $1.75 to win $1) to win the 2012 NBA Finals, which start tonight at 6 on ABC.

That’s absurd given the way the Heat’s odds towered above any opposition all year, right? Maybe, but it’s easily explainable.

For starters, Oklahoma City has home-court advantage by virtue of notching one more win than Miami in the regular season. The Thunder is a perfect 8-0 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in the postseason, establishing the building as perhaps the toughest venue for a road team to win in the NBA.

But that’s only a shell of the story. Sports books around town accounted for the advantage when they opened Oklahoma City as a -140 favorite in the series over Miami, who originally came back at +120.

The line’s upward trend in the three days since is a result of public perception. Bettors are firing on the Thunder and ignoring the Heat.

Oklahoma City’s three-man nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden has shockingly attracted as much attention as Miami’s “Big Three.” Gamblers are blown away by the way the trio led the Thunder to win four straight against the Spurs, a team some were hailing as one of the best in NBA history as few as two weeks ago, to dig their way out of a 2-0 hole in the Western Conference Finals.

Reversely, bettors are turned off by the fact that it took the Heat seven games to beat the Boston Celtics and six to get past the Indiana Pacers. But that logic ignores Bosh’s absence in 10 of the 13 games.

With Bosh in the lineup this year, the Heat have gone 48-16. They are 10-10 without him.

Bosh played in both of Miami’s meetings against Oklahoma City — a 16-point loss on the road and a five-point win at home — this year.

Like so many countless underdogs knocked down before them, the Heat have a golden opportunity to get back to their spot on the top. Bettors just don’t see it happening.

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

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