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Game 1 Winners
Spurs Need To Shake Rust First
Betting on the NBA Finals is going to require a grind because there’s no way to measure San Antonio heading in to Game 1 considering how much time they’ve had off between games. They’re a considerably older team, so the rest was probably welcome but it’s very hard to predict how good they’re going to be given the circumstances. It doesn’t help that Miami is coming off an amazing Game 7 performance against Indiana that happened just three days prior.
None of those concerns have scared the public because, honestly, it’s the only intangible that leans against San Antonio. Over two-thirds of the public currently sides with Duncan, Parker and Manu. I guess that’s what happens when you’re 8-2 SU and 6-4 ATS in your last 10 games.
It’s also what happens when you’re a terrifying matchup nightmare for the Heat, who have plenty to worry about on their end. The Spurs dominate the paint, and weren’t shy against Randolph and Gasol in the semifinals. Duncan averaged 18.7 points per game and 9.0 boards playing against perhaps the best post tandem in the league, and was unfazed. Rejuvenated and revitalized, Duncan has the distinct possibility to do the very same against Miami’s frontcourt set of Haslem, Bosh and Birdman.
The real tipping point for the Spurs in NBA Finals betting, however, is Tony Parker who is ready to feast on Mario Chalmers. Parker obliterated Conley and the Grizzlies for 24.5 points per game and 9.5 dishes and is playing as well as ever. Conley and Curry are amongst the better point guards in the league. In fact, Parker was the 9th best PER player in the league this year and Chalmers ranked 49th amongst point guards. This is a matchup that San Antonio can not only win – they can expose it routinely to keep games close.
Game 1 – San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
Thursday, June 6 --- American Airlines Arena --- (ESPN, 9:05 p.m. ET)
NBA Finals Betting Line: Miami -5.0 (188.5)
The one thing that was missing from Indiana’s repertoire was consistent three point shooting. Miami is unstoppable when their slash-and-kick offense is hitting open snipers from range. The problem here is that San Antonio is just as deadly and employs a very similar offense. There are over a handful of shooters on the Spurs that can make them pay for defensive lapses.
As for Miami, I’m still not sure what to totally make of them. Matchups aside, they still have plenty of concerns since they’re obviously built on just two pillars. One of those is the mighty LeBron James who will be vindictive in vanquishing the same team that swept him out of his first finals appearance. You can expect a routine 28-35 points from LeBron, and maybe more.
That all depends on how well Kawhi Leonard performs defensively. He’s a great defender and a fantastic utility player who will have a lot of roles on both ends of the floor. Leonard is the one to watch for San Antonio, because if he’s not able to slow down LeBron than there’s nobody else on the roster who can take his place. We just saw Lance Stevenson man up against LeBron, but we’ve also seen The Guy We Witness overwhelm cerebral, long defenders like Tayshaun Prince.
The other pillar is Dwyane Wade who is an ideal running mate for LeBron, but is also slowed by a bothersome knee bruise that stopped him from becoming a permanent factor against Indiana,. He answered the bell in Game 7 and played like his old self. If Wade is actually recovered from his knee injury, I have no idea how San Antonio keeps up. But if Wade isn’t all there, the door for the Spurs is wide open.
The foil to Wade is none other than Manu. Ginobili’s statistical output has been shallow compared to the depths he usually provides because Popovich has been nursing his hamstring back to health. Manu never needed to be a big impact player in these playoffs because the rest of his team (mostly Parker) were unstoppable. He played in just 25.8 minutes per game over his last 5 outings, and averaged 9.0 points.
Nobody will benefit from the long layoff more than Manu, who tweaked a bothersome hamstring midway through the season. And really, anyone who has seen him play at his highest level know what he’s capable of. He has a career average of 15.8 points per game in the post season, and had game highs of 27 and 25 points the last time he played in the Finals against Cleveland. Granted, that was six years ago, but Manu’s habit of breaking out on the big stage can’t be ignored.
So there you have it. The two biggest unknowns in this series are Kawhi’s defense against the best player in the world and whether Wade or Ginobili are healthy enough to outperform the other.
As much as I love San Antonio in this series, I still have to back the Heat in Game 1. Popovich knows that his team is coming off a long hibernation in these playoffs, and the Heat can very well take the head of steam they gained in Game 7 against Indiana and roll that momentum through Game 1 of the NBA Finals betting round. Nobody will waive the white flag sooner than Popovich so if this game gets away from the Spurs, he’ll bench his best players.
The safe bet here, despite public convention, is to actually back the Heat. We have no idea how San Antonio will react to having ten days off, and we know what Miami does when they have the momentum. I don’t think the Heat win out this series, but they’ll definitely get out of Game 1 with a victory to kick off the NBA Finals betting party.
NBA Finals Betting Pick Game 1 – Miami -5.5 (UNDER)

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