NBA Finals: Sympathy for the Devil

Jason Lake

Sunday, June 8, 2014 3:28 PM UTC

Sunday, Jun. 8, 2014 3:28 PM UTC

There’s a limit to how much anti-LeBron sentiment the NBA betting market will bear. The Miami Heat are starting to claw back some of their underdog status for Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to June 8 inclusive:

112-97-3 ATS

26-23-1 Totals

3-1 Series (+2.0 units)

It’s not too often we get to call a defending champion underrated. But here we are with the Miami Heat taking a 10-6 ATS playoff record into Game 2 of the NBA Finals. How did they become such an undervalued basketball betting commodity? Was it the way they coasted through the regular season at 54-28 (36-43-2 ATS), a dozen fewer wins than last year? Or does it have more to do with all those LeBron James haterz out there?

Maybe a little of both. But there’s only so much hot air you can pump into the market (or arena) before the sharps burst your bubble. After opening as 4-point road dogs on Sunday’s NBA odds board and moving to +5, the Heat are finally getting some respect, moving back down to +4.5 Saturday morning with a healthy 55 percent consensus. Will the basketball lines move even further by tip-off (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC)? This is a weekend game, so we might instead see a renewed anti-Heat push as the betting public floods in – maybe even as you read this.


LeBron + Easy Target
James sat down for an interview Friday with Michael Wilbon, and acknowledged that he’s “the easiest target that we have in sports.” Maybe he saw the latest LeBroning hashtag craze, with people shooting video of themselves pretending they’ve cramped up and need help off the court. Funny stuff. Last time out, “LeBroning” meant to flop after contact. Which, perhaps ironically, is what Spurs center Tiago Splitter clearly did to James in Game 1. A slap on the wrist from NBA commissioner Adam Silver is expected.

To his credit, Splitter also had a nice block at the rim against James, which went largely unmentioned – unlike James’ block on Splitter in Game 2 of the 2013 Finals. The Spurs have often had to split up their frontcourt duo of Splitter and Tim Duncan for matchup purposes, and Splitter’s minutes dried up like a puddle last year against the Heat – he played just four minutes in Game 7. But on Thursday, he dropped 14 points on Miami, working the pick-and-roll to perfection and hitting five of his six shots. Splitter will get another start on Sunday.

Heat vs. Spurs Game 2 to Replicate Game 1? Find Out Here!

The Cramps: Live
Just to fan the HVAC flames a little more, Jason Terry went on ESPN Dallas radio Saturday, and while he wouldn’t say definitively that the broken air conditioning during Game 1 was a conspiracy, Terry reminisced about how difficult the Spurs made it on the visiting Dallas Mavericks during his eight seasons there. “I can remember very well one time where it was cold showers, there were about a thousand flies in the locker room,” Terry said. “This year, there was a snake in the locker room. So, they’re going to pull out all the stops to get into your head.”

Here’s another revelation: According to a tweet from Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, Spurs guard Danny Green said that his team had cooling fans in their locker room at halftime, while the Heat did not. Commissioner Silver then said he was not aware of that. Perhaps we’ll see some regression to the mean when it comes to the ventilation for Game 2. In the meantime, after everyone took Friday off to recover and watch game film, James was given some extra rest on Saturday, putting in a limited practice and receiving treatment. Is a classic “bounce-back” game in the cards? If there’s ever been a moment to ride the NBA betting zigzag, this should be it.

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