NBA Finals Props: Betting Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 6/12/2012
The end of the NBA season is upon us as a highly-anticipated NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder tips off on Tuesday night in OKC. I’ve already previewed Game 1 here at Doc’s, so let’s take a look a few series props.
The most-wagered prop of any Finals is usually on which player wins the MVP award. And here’s really all you need to know about the Finals MVP: It will assuredly go to the main superstar on the winning team. The award was first given out in 1969 and the Lakers’ Jerry West took it home despite the fact Los Angeles lost to Boston in seven games. No other player has gotten it from a losing team.
And go down the list of winners and there isn’t a single role player or non-superstar. Maybe you could argue Boston’s JoJo White in 1976 is one. Also perhaps Seattle’s Dennis Johnson in 1979 and Detroit’s Chauncey Billups in 2004. But they were are all very good players and since 1980, the Finals MVP list is littered with names like Bird, Jordan, Shaq, Magic, Olajuwon, Duncan, Wade, Kobe and Dirk. The NBA Finals is clearly not the World Series, when someone like David Freese can emerge from relative obscurity and win the series MVP award as he did with St. Louis last fall.
With that said, Kevin Durant (1/1) and LeBron James (3/2) are the clear favorites this year on Bovada’s Finals MVP prop. It’s the first Finals for Durant but third for LeBron, and he hasn’t been at his best in the championship series.
James is averaging 9.9 fewer points per game in the NBA Finals than in all other rounds of the postseason in his career. He has averaged 19.5 points on 41.7 percent shooting in 10 career NBA Finals games, both career lows of any postseason round. His career high in the Finals is just 25 and he was held to eight points in Game 4 vs. Dallas a year ago. James is averaging 29.4 points per game in all other postseason rounds; his ‘over/under’ for this series at Bovada is 29.5 (over the -130 favorite).
Do you remember last year’s Finals loss to the Mavericks and how LeBron was being torched for coming up small in the fourth quarter? For his career, James averages just 5.7 fourth-quarter points in the Finals, by far his lowest fourth-quarter scoring average of any round in his postseason career.
Still, I think LeBron is now more motivated than ever at playing the best basketball of his career. Thus, I would recommend taking him to win Finals MVP as well as ‘yes’ at +200 on the prop on whether he records a triple-double in any game vs. the Thunder. LeBron doesn’t have one in these playoffs but came close twice (within two rebounds or two assists).
For Game 1, however, I would take Kevin Durant head-to-head in points scored vs. LeBron, with Durant at +1.5 (-115). Durant can concentrate more on purely scoring, while you know LeBron is going to get his share of rebounds and assists as well.
How about the exact series result? First off, don’t bother betting on a sweep either way. Since 1990, there have been just three sweeps in the Finals. The last, fittingly enough, was when LeBron’s Cavs were dumped out in four games by San Antonio in 2007 (5Dimes offers a bet at -911 that the Finals won’t end in four games). Five of the past seven Finals have gone at least six games.
Thus, I would jump on the over 5.5 games at Bovada at -220 as well as Heat winning in six games at 13/2. I would also grab the -175 line that the series is decided in Oklahoma City. Remember, the Finals switches to a 2-3-2 format, not the 2-2-1-1-1 for the first three rounds.
Will there be a flagrant foul in this series? The last time these two played, in early April in Miami, things did get very testy and the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook was called for a Flagrant-1 when taking down LeBron hard on a layup. And Kendrick Perkins and Dwyane Wade were each called for technicals on one play. Thus, I believe yes is easy money at -140. In addition, guys can lose control of their emotions if their season is about to end, as evidenced by the forearm shiver by the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum in last year’s playoff on Dallas guard J.J. Barea when his Lakers were about to be swept by the Mavericks. I don’t think a player gets suspended in this series (yes +600, ‘no’ -1000) as there is too much at stake and it would have to be very extreme for the NBA to taint the Finals with a potential key suspension.
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