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Heat looks for repeat

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NBA Midseason Report: Heat Remain Title Favorites, Lakers Suffer Biggest Drop

Entering Wednesday's NBA action, every team in the league has played at least half of its 82 regular-season schedule, with the Heat and Timberwolves tied for the fewest games right at 41. On the eve of the 2012-13 season, Miami was a 9/4 heavy favorite at Bovada to repeat as the NBA champion as well as 4/7 to win the Eastern Conference again.

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Not much has changed.

LeBron James and Co. are now 19/10 to win it all again and 1/2 to take the East. The book wasn't overly exposed on Miami back before the season. The Heat were taking a lot of action, but the short odds prevented a big loss.

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The book is in very good shape on the Los Angeles Lakers as things stand. The Lakers, who start likely four Hall of Famers in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, have been the big story so far this season and wouldn't make the playoffs as things currently stand. After acquiring Nash and Howard via trades this offseason, Los Angeles was the 11/4 second-favorite to win the NBA title and 13/10 favorite to win the West. Now the Lakers are 18/1 to win their first title in three seasons and 9/1 to win the West, tied for fourth in that conference.

The other Staples Center tenants, the Clippers, are posing a potential exposure problem for the book. The Clips were 25/1 to win the NBA title back in late October and 11/1 to win the West for the first time. Now they are 6/1 and 3/1, respectively.

The book is also exposed on the Chicago Bulls, who have been surprisingly good without the injured Derrick Rose - he's expected to return right after the All-Star break. Chicago was 18/1 to win the title and 15/2 to win the East; those numbers have moved to 15/1 and 13/2. Certainly the Bulls' odds will change further if Rose comes back at an immediate high level off his torn ACL.

*-MVP update: This was largely considered a two-man race before the season between LeBron (19/10 in October) and the Thunder's Kevin Durant (15/4), and they are the No. 1 and 2 MVP favorites at this point in the season - in what order could be argued. James, a three-time MVP, is somehow improving on last season. His field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds, assists and blocks averages are all up, and his scoring is only slightly down at 26.6 ppg.

Durant is poised to be the first player since Michael Jordan to win four-straight scoring titles, and his field-goal percentage, three-point shooting, free throws, rebounds, assists, steals and points (29.6, which would be his second-highest) averages are all up from last season when he finished runner-up to LeBron in the MVP voting.

The Lakers' Howard was 14/1 to win his first MVP, but he's not in the conversation any longer. Clippers point guard Chris Paul was 18/1 to open the season and was in the discussion, but his recent injury troubles have hurt his chances. The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony (25/1) might be the only player capable of beating out LeBron or Durant. Melo is averaging a career-high 29.4 points, just behind Durant for the NBA lead. The Knicks likely would have to beat out the Heat for the best record in the East for Anthony to have a shot.

*-Rookie of the Year update: The book is likely to take a beating on this prop. The Hornets' Anthony Davis was the 9/4 favorite before the season. The No. 1 overall pick has been solid when on the court, but he missed 11 games due to injury earlier this season and lost the ROY buzz to Portland's Damian Lillard.

Lillard was 5/1 before the season and the book was most exposed on him for ROY. Lillard, drafted No. 6 by the Blazers out of Weber State, is having one of the best seasons ever for a rookie point guard. He is averaging 18.1 points, 6.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 38.4 minutes. No other rookie averages 15 points, 5 assists or 32 minutes. Lillard was the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November and December and likely will be for January too. Barring a huge second half for Davis, Lillard should win the ROY award if he stays healthy.

Weekend Live Betting Games

As usual, the book will have live play-by-play betting on Thursday's NBA on TNT doubleheader, which this week opens with Grizzlies at Thunder and is followed by Mavericks at Warriors.

The first matchup couldn't feature two more different teams. Memphis plays it slow, pounds it down low to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and leads the NBA in scoring defense. The Thunder are up-tempo with Durant and Russell Westbrook, and lead the league in offense. The Grizz beat the Thunder at their own game on November 14, winning 107-97 in Oklahoma City.

On Friday, the book offers Heat at Pacers and Lakers at Timberwolves. Saturday is college basketball heavy at the book so no NBA Live games. Sunday, as a warm-up to the Super Bowl, the book will feature Clippers at Celtics.

There are two cross-sport Props involving Clippers and Super Bowl XLVII: Blake Griffin's combined points and rebounds total against the number of receiving yards for Ravens running back Ray Rice (both a pick'em); and Chris Paul's total points against the total completions for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (both pick'em).

Paul has a bruised knee and has missed four-straight games and seven of the past nine entering Wednesday so that Prop could be in jeopardy. Paul had physical therapy Tuesday instead of practicing and the team is hoping he can be back by Sunday. He is averaging 16.6 points this year, down 3.2 from last season.

The book also offers Super Bowl cross-sport Props on a few other NBA games Sunday, including on LeBron, Kobe and Howard.

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