Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to June 9 inclusive:
3-1 Series (+2.0 units)
This time, the Miami Heat did not wilt. They stood toe-to-toe with the San Antonio Spurs for four quarters, and by the time the dust had cleared, it was Miami prevailing 98-96 as a 4-point road dog. Our consensus report at the close of Sunday’s NBA lines had 58 percent of bettors taking the Heat and the points, pulling the spread down from as high as five points heading into the weekend.
The basketball betting market got it right this time. LeBron James was a pretty obvious candidate to enjoy a bounce-back performance after cramping up in Game 1, although I was a bit cynical about whether the Heat would get any respect from the Sunday betting crowd. They did, and James paid them off with 35 points and 10 rebounds, hitting 14 of his 22 shots. Balance has been restored to the universe. Now we can all go to the beach.
We move to Game 3 in Miami with the NBA Finals tied 1-1, and even before Game 2 was over, we had our first basketball odds rolling out, with the Heat favored by four points on a total of 198.5. That total hasn’t moved since the series opened, but now that we’re on our way to the Triple A, it’s Miami getting those requisite old-school four points for home-court advantage. The new school, however, says that advantage is closer to 3.25 points, and road teams have indeed gone 670-620-26 ATS (51.9 percent) this season.
I’m inclined to think the Heat will be even happier than usual to come home for Game 3. Although Sunday’s result could have gone in either direction, Miami played with poise throughout, shaking off the effects of the series opener and hitting 52.9 percent from the floor, including 42.1 percent from downtown. That efficiency allowed the Heat to overcome San Antonio’s 11-5 edge in offensive rebounds. The Spurs made it a bit easier by going just 12-of-20 from the free-throw line.
While there might be some hidden NBA betting value in the Spurs, given how unusually poor they shot free throws Sunday night, you can say the same thing for King James and the Heat. Game 2 would normally have seen LeBron play nearly every minute, but he was given an extra breather or two this time. James led all players at plus-11 when he was on the court. His opposite number, Kawhi Leonard, was a minus-6 and fouled out with just nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.
It wouldn’t be a Spurs game without us wondering about Tony Parker’s status. He took an elbow in the ribs from Mario Chalmers halfway through the fourth quarter (Chalmers was called for a Flagrant-1) and left the floor after missing both his free throws. But Parker did return to the game and didn’t seem too put off. He was the top-scoring Spur on the night with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting and seven assists.
As for Chalmers, he had a much better game than he did in the series opener, committing just one turnover and three fouls in 31 minutes while hitting two of his four shots. That pretty much addresses everything that went wrong for the Heat in Game 1. They could still use something more from the end of their bench; James Jones missed both his trey attempts while Shane Battier was a DNP-CD. But that’s not enough of a consideration to keep me from recommending the Heat on Tuesday (9:00 p.m. ET, ABC).
NBA Pick: Take the Heat –4 at 5Dimes