In order to appreciate the significance of the Miami Heat’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, a little history lesson is in order involving Allen Iverson.
The Philadelphia 76ers were 12-point underdogs when they went into Staples Center in 2001 for Game 1 against Kobe, Shaq and the Lakers, and the public expected a sweep. But the public – at the time – did not have a proper appreciation for how great of a player Iverson truly was.
“I hope nobody bet their life, because they’d be dead by now,” Iverson said after scoring 48 points in a 107-101 overtime victory for Philadelphia.
That story is relevant today because everyone who wagered on the Lakers in Game 3 lost, and everyone who publicly predicted a sweep for Los Angeles was having to eat crow for breakfast Monday morning. Jimmy Butler’s triple-double of 40 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds cut Miami’s deficit to 2-1, but the Lakers were installed as 7.5 point favorites for Game 4 as the oddsmakers signaled once again that they believe the Lakers are the vastly superior team.
“If Miami gets both of their injured guys back, then they are a contender,” said Johnny Avello of DraftKings Sportsbook, referencing the neck strain that has sidelined Bam Adebayo and the plantar fascia injury that will likely keep Goran Dragic sidelined until at least Game 5. “If they only get one of the two, then I think the Lakers are too tough.”
Most bettors not worried about Lakers’ hiccup
The series price on the Heat has dropped from +3000 to +900, giving those who bet the Heat when they were down 0-2 a glimmer of hope for a big payoff.
In the NBA Finals MVP futures market, the money was still coming in heavily on LeBron and Davis, with Butler the only member of the Heat anywhere near them at +1000 (DraftKings). Adebayo was +10000 at DK, +15000 at FanDuel and was not even on the board at PointsBet, which had Butler at +750, Tyler Herro at +10000 and Kelly Olynyk at +50000.
Tuesday night’s Game 4 will change people’s already made-up minds only if Miami wins again, of course. Otherwise, what happened Sunday night will be viewed as an aberration. Sort of like Iverson’s 48-point outburst was in 2001 as the Lakers won the next four games to take the series, 4-1.
A Miami win makes it a best-of-three series that will not resume until Friday night, kicking off the weekend for everyone in a meaningful way. A Lakers win on Tuesday makes the series 3-1, and it would stand to reason that the closeout will come Friday night or Sunday night.
Lakers in 5 is -150 at PointsBet, which has Miami in 6 at +3000. So clearly, the Lakers are still overwhelming favorites in the eyes of the oddsmakers. We shall see whether Butler and company can change those minds with another win.
But they will have to make their attempt Tuesday night without Dragic, who looked and sounded moribund Monday afternoon discussing his foot injury. He said the chances of him playing Tuesday were low.
“That injury happened [five] days ago, and we’ll see how it responds in the near future,” Dragic said. “I want to be out there with my team, that is what I have been working for during my 12 years in the NBA.”
Adebayo sounded more hopeful, but it seems certain that the Heat will need another super special night from Butler in order to make this a 2-2 series.
Prior to the injury updates, FanDuel was seeing 73% of the bets and 67% of the handle on the Heat moneyline. Spokesman Kevin Hennessy said bettors were generally waiting until the last minute to make their wagers.
“We’re definitely seeing more support for the Heat after what happened Sunday night,” Hennessy said.
A look back at Game 3 wagering
The wager that paid off nicely in Game 3 was Miami on the moneyline at +360, but not a ton of people took that bet with the Lakers seemingly in control.
DraftKings said 70% of wagers were on the Lakers on the moneyline. FanDuel had a similar number with 71% of wagers on the Lakers on the moneyline.
FanDuel also had the Over/Under at 219.5 (others were at 220), and when 91% of the money came in on the Over and the final total missed by a half-point, FanDuel profited.