When it came to surprises in the NBA bubble, there were plenty of them. These included the Phoenix Suns, who won all eight seeding games and still missed the playoffs, and the Denver Nuggets, who came back from 3-1 deficits to win back-to-back series in thrilling fashion. But the “surprise” still standing is the Miami Heat, who are ready to complete the job in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, who were expected by many to be here in the first place.
Game 1 is slated for Wednesday at 9 PM ET, and BetAnySports customers will have an opportunity to get better odds with reduced juice and can make real-time wagers through Sports Betting Prime.
The Heat have never trailed in any series, with a 12-3 record in the post-season. This is a great ensemble, and there have been several people standing out. One of them is Bam Adebayo, who, unbelievably, led Miami in points, rebounds, assists and steals in the series against Boston, which the Heat won 4-2. And Miami has outscored its opponents by 8.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, as opposed to a minus-3.9 with him on the bench. So he’s important.
And the Lakers have to deal with him. How will they do that? Well, they may deal with it by going “big” with their lineup. And they can do just that, with somebody like Dwight Howard, a former Defensive Player of the Year who was second in the league in offensive rebounding percentage. If he and Anthony Davis are in the lineup at the same time, the Heat may have to put another big man in the game, and they chose to leave the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard on the bench against Boston.
Or, Miami may choose to stick with something “smaller,” which would entail Adebayo guarding Anthony Davis and hoping that Howard doesn’t get more involved in the offense. Howard made 15 of 19 from the field in the five-game series against Denver.
We’ll talk about some of the other factors in a moment.
In the NBA Finals betting odds that have been posted at BetAnySports, the Lakers are the favorites:
Los Angeles Lakers -4.5
Miami Heat +4.5
Over 217.5 points -110
Under 217.5 points -110
And in the series, the Lakers are priced at -350, with the Heat at +290.
We could go on and on, talking about this series, but we know that the Heat are aggressive and flexible on both ends of the floor, which allows them to hit threes at a decent clip (second best in the league, although they were just 32.3% vs. the Celtics), and defend the inside to the point where they were best against two-point shots (49.8% allowed).
When these teams played head-to-head, the Lakers were able to make the Heat go “cold” from the outside, as Miami hit just 17% and 30% in the two meetings. AND Los Angeles made 59% of its two-point shots against Miami. While we are on the subject of “flexibility,” it may be what the Lakers have along those lines that is the operative factor. Davis is a demon in the middle with his defense and shot-blocking, but he prefers to play at power forward. Howard can do those “role playing” things the Lakers need, like defense and rebounding, and if he produces offense, that’s a bonus.
And while Miami certainly has multiple people who could guard LeBron James from the size standpoint, including Jimmy Butler, a perennial All-Defensive team member, we wonder if they can do that well. James can fulfill any function the Lakers want him to – which means he can be the big scorer, achieve double figures in rebounding and share the ball (he led the league in assists). Plus, he can play the one-on-one game in isolation. That’s a lot to have to stop.
Both of these teams can bring difference-makers off the bench. Which ones get used the most is another question. The presence of Rajon Rondo is critical, because he has accepted his role, and provides a top-notch point guard to lead the second unit. And he defends as well. The Heat has great contributors like Goran Dragic who have been sensational in these playoffs. But the Lakers have demonstrated that they can control the boards against this opponent (+27 margin in the two meetings!) and that can trigger a fast break that produced the second-most points in the NBA.
We understand that LeBron’s teams have sometimes gotten off to a slow start in a series. That is Miami’s best shot. We’ll take the favorite.
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