Are we going to have a blowout in the NBA Finals? Most bettors think so.
A very high percentage of bets were coming in on the Lakers following the LA’s 116-98 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 1. The fact that Heat stars Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic sustained serious injuries (both are doubtful for Friday night’s Game 2) only increased the wagering love for the Lakers.
The Game 2 spread opened at 7.5, moved to 9.5 Friday morning, and was at 10 an hour-and-a-half before tip.
“The manner of the victory [in Game 1] for the Lakers and the injuries the Heat have sustained means it is one-way traffic for the Lakers,” said John Sheeran, FanDuel’s director of risk and trading. “There is a perception amongst the public that the Lakers will put this to bed quickly.”
Nothing but Laker love
FanDuel Sportsbook was receiving 95% of the money and 84% of the spread bets on the Lakers, and 81% of the Over/Under money on the Over (217). At William Hill sportsbook, 80% of the money and 65% of the tickets were on the Lakers for the spread line. Seventy-five percent of the wagers and 64% of the dollars were on the Over.
Game 1’s points total of 214 meant that the Under hit for the first time in 10 days in an NBA playoff game. There had been a streak of six consecutive Overs hitting, which came after the Under was hitting nearly 90% of the time during the second round of the playoffs and early in the conference finals.
On the Finals MVP futures market, LeBron James moved from -155 to -200 at DraftKings Sportsbook, which had nobody on the Heat lower than +2000 (Jimmy Butler).
At William Hill, the odds of a Lakers sweep were just +110, while the odds of the Heat winning the series 4-1 were +8000. FanDuel had the odds of a 4-1 Heat win at +10000 and Butler for Finals MVP at +2000.
Heat living by ‘next man up’ mentality
The daunting task ahead of the Heat given the two major injuries was the main topic of conversation Thursday in the NBA bubble.
“At this point, it’s all hands on deck,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday. “And it’s not like the guys that were potentially sliding into the rotation haven’t played before; these guys have confidence and have played big roles for us all year long. Our depth has been one of our biggest strengths. It’s not just coach-speak. We’ve utilized our depth all year long.
“The other benefit of all of this is, we’ve been in this bubble with an extra training camp, and everybody’s gotten great work in, regardless of whether they’ve gotten big-time minutes in these playoff series. We’ll just have to see [Friday night] who’s available and make the adjustments accordingly.”
That said, Adebayo and Dragic are two of the Heat’s three best players, and their production is not easily replaced. Kendrick Nunn, who started a majority of the regular season at point guard for the Heat, will likely replace Dragic in the starting five. Spoelstra could choose to start Kelly Olynyk at center in place of Adebayo, but Olynyk has played sparingly all season after nearly being traded last summer. Still, he offered an intriguing wagering opportunity. He was +75000 to be Finals MVP at DraftKings Friday morning. Nunn was +50000.
“It’s going to take an extreme amount of relentless effort and smart basketball and just making winning plays,” said Nunn, who made the Heat roster as an undrafted rookie.
Are bettors overreacting to one game?
Just getting one win now seems rather difficult for the Heat, but overreactions to NBA Finals Game 1 results have been commonplace throughout the years. In the 2015 Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers were already without Kevin Love and then lost Kyrie Irving to a Game 1 injury. But the Cavs won Game 2 against Golden State, and then Game 3 – before eventually bowing out in six games.
“I can’t correlate that to what today is all about,” said LeBron, who was the driving force for the Cavs in making the 2015 Finals a legitimate series. “For us as a ball club and for us as the Lakers, our mindset is Game 1 is over and Game 2 we’ve got to be better than we were in Game 1. And when we approach that with that mindset and be as desperate as the opponent, then we give ourselves a good chance to win.”
PointsBet took Game 2 off the board during the afternoon Thursday while awaiting the injury news, then posted dozens of different prop bets. One pro-Lakers wager that was a bit intriguing was LeBron James and Anthony Davis combining to score 80 or more points, which was +800.
Johnny Avello of DraftKings was surprised to hear of the percentage of Lakers bets at other books, saying his shop was still seeing a fair mixture of Heat bets and Lakers bets. About two thirds of the Over/Under bets there were on the Over.
Patrick Eichner of PointsBet said more than 85% of spread bets were coming in on the Lakers and 95% of the money was on Los Angeles.
“I don’t think [Wednesday night’s] performance was inspiring anyone to believe that the Heat would cover a 9.5 point spread,” Eichner said.