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NBA Finals picks and predictions – Week of 9/28

September 29, 2020


Game 3 Thought

The Heat look to be without Adebayo and Dragic once again. We were able to book a win with the friendly line on the Lakers for Game 2, but that has jumped to the appropriate double digits for Game 3. Butler appears to be at full strength after the ankle scare and it is simply too many points to comfortably lay with no real possibility of shifting to the underdog Heat without their top players. Sitting out Game 3 and reassessing for Game 4.

Wednesday Review and Friday Betting Play

Betting Play: Lakers -7.5

Put simply, 2020 went full 2020 on the Heat on Wednesday. If we had to identify the Heat’s three most important players, they would unanimously be Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic. The Heat had three players injured in the Game 1 loss, and that list is identical to the one above. Butler rolled an ankle that forced him to leave the game. He did return but was obviously hobbled. Goran Dragic tore his plantar fascia, and finally Adebayo strained his neck or shoulder. The latter two are highly doubtful to be available for Game 2. Needless to say, with a mitigated or unavailable trio of stars Game 1 did not go to plan, and both the Heat and our play booked losses on Wednesday.

The loss brings us to 10-10 on the playoffs and 84-67 on the season.

Game 2 tips off at 9PM EST tonight. The line opened at Lakers -7.5 and 216, and while most books still have the line as off, the ones that do not are still showing a line of 7.5 and 216.

I was ready for new information that would force us to back off of Miami, and well, we got it and got it in flashing neon lights. At least for Game 2, I’m not sure they could move the line enough to account for a Heat team that will be without Dragic and Adebayo. When comparing the 7.5 line of tonight to the 4.5 line of Game 1, it is one I can’t wrap my head around and now seems not nearly wide enough. Assuming Butler is at or near 100%, which is a massive and probably incorrect assumption, it feels flat out wrong to say the presence of Dragic and Adebayo only shifts a line three points. In my analysis of the series I was very clear in the thought that Dragic and Adebayo would be the key for the Heat if they were to pull off the upset, and I want no part of that team while those two are absent. We are going the other way on Friday, and laying the points with the Lakers. Game 2 should be a true blow out and we will reassess with new health information for Game 3.

Betting Play: Heat +4.5

The culmination of the weirdest season in NBA history is upon us. We have one more series to crown a champ before a packed offseason that should last about six weeks and cover all normal offseason activity. Of course we will have plenty to offer in offseason content, ranging from predictions and bets for the draft to predictions and bets for the upcoming season, but let’s get the matter at hand. The NBA Finals.

We have one team that was expected by many to be in this series in the Lakers, pitted against a team that few believed in to make it this far, the Heat. The Lakers are set as -375 series favorites, which is a fully expected line. If you’ve followed this column throughout the playoffs, you might have guessed that I view this line as too wide, and you’d be correct. Let’s take a moment to break down what we should expect in this series.

The Lakers plan will be to get their work done in the paint, and create points on the offensive glass as well. The pressure will fall on the Heat to force the Lakers into jump shooting, with Anthony Davis being a particular player of importance. The Heat can offer something that no other team the Lakers have faced to this point can, and that is a player like Bam Adebayo to match up with Davis. The previous series matchups saw Davis able to exploit less athletic individual match ups and essentially score at will. Adebayo will be a totally different headache for Davis. Secondary defender Jae Crowder is arguably the second worst matchup Davis will have seen in these playoffs as well. Expect Davis’s scoring to drop from the nearly 30 per game he’s enjoyed thus far.

We know what both Lebron James and Jimmy Butler bring to the table, and we likely don’t need to spend too much time on either of these stars. It should be noted Andre Iguodala will spend some time guarding James and he brings defensive ability and playoff familiarity in the matchup. James will be relentlessly looking to get himself switched onto Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro, and that will be a battle of team wills to watch.

On the Heat side, it may sound cliche, but I believe it may come down to one player’s ability to keep his playoff performance rolling, and that player is Goran Dragic. Dragic has seen a resurgence in these playoffs and his penetration will be necessary to creating open shots for the Heat. The Lakers are generally very good with switches and close outs, so penetration to collapse the defense will be key. I don’t want to make it sound like it all falls on Dragic, as it will be paramount for the likes of Robinson, Herro and Crowder to hit shots created, but the ease of the offensive scoring likely hinges on Dragic.

If you’re hell bent on placing a series bet, the value lies with the underdog Heat at +280. I admittedly will not be placing a series bet, but nearly three to one return on the league’s best playoff team thus far is nothing to scoff at.

I will instead be attacking the series game by game, and in the same fashion I did with the Heat in the Boston series. Those plays went 4-2 and we will get added points taken cushion with the Heat in this series than we did against the Celtics.

The Game 1 matchup tips off at 9PM tonight and the line is as follows:

Opening Line: Lakers -5.5 and 218

Current Line: Lakers -4.5 and 217.5

We enter these Finals with a betting record of 10-9 on the playoffs and an 84-66 mark on the season. My personal goal is to get the mark to 20 games over .500 on the season in these Finals. At the moment, that translates to +11.4 units on the season when accounting for vig, and a $100 bettor would have $1,140 profit on the year, let’s close this out strong and get close to or at that +15 unit mark.

I must admit, I am a tick hesitant with the Heat now that the public has seemingly caught on and brought money in on them. Even still, like the series itself, I expect a close and competitive Game 1 and in games coming down to the final handful of possessions, Jimmy Butler and company is who I want going to work for my bets. While I expect the leans to be to the Heat for the majority of the series, this is not like the Boston series and we could go in opposite directions given new information. That’s neither here nor there as we certainly want the Heat and the points in Game 1, and that is our play.

TJ Calkins
TJ Calkins was raised in a gambling loving household. He knew how to handicap horse races and follow line movements well before his tenth birthday. While sports betting remained a passion into adulthood, poker and Daily Fantasy Sports also became passions and remain as such today.