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Game 6 Winners
There’s No “Easy Money” In Game 6
Anyone that tells you they’ve properly predicted the NBA Finals betting round this year probably should check to see if their pants are on fire (because they’re lying to you). This has been an absolutely wild ride that could very well come to a conclusion on Tuesday night if the Spurs manage to dethrone the reigning champs. It’s hard to count out Miami, however, especially since it hasn't lost two consecutive games in the playoffs.
They have, however, lost two games in a row this year. Miami lost on the road to the Wizards before returning home to get dismantled by the New York Knicks. They also lost road games against Milwaukee and Detroit in December, as well as a pair of away games against Indiana and Portland in January. After those back-to-back defeats, they went 43-5 to finish the regular season. I mean, you can say “It’s happened!!!” because it has, but it’s not really indicative of anything.
What I will point out is that Miami has flip flopped wins and losses since running in to Indiana. They’ve had the same habit against the betting line after failing to cover in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals as well. The reason is that Miami is an up-and-down team. They are built to push the tempo, and to put things mildly, they’re not healthy enough to do that at all times.
But when Miami is on they are really on. Their +18.0 scoring differential during wins in the playoffs is astounding. Even in games where San Antonio is playing their best defense, they can’t weather the Heat through four quarters. The issue here is that Miami has only really turned up the temperature in two games. What people betting against them will love is their -11.7 scoring differential in losses.
These numbers help explain the line. Miami has an average point differential of +6.3 through the playoffs, and with a home court advantage and all the motivation in the known universe, a -7.0 home line is justifiable. Gamblers often envision the betting line as a “point cushion” because it gives them a buffer in case of a loss, but in playoff basketball that safety net doesn’t exist. If anything, the idea of a point cushion is more of a football betting thing.
What doesn’t help matters is that San Antonio has lost four games in these playoffs by an average of -13.5 points. That has much to do with coaching as their opponents since Pop has a habit of pulling his best players on to the bench with plenty of time if they’re going to lose. The leading headache candidate for those wishing to back the Spurs is their +14.1 point differential during wins.
Just like Miami, when San Antonio is in a great shooting rhythm and have seized control of the game defensively, they are nearly unstoppable.
The numbers point to two basic facts: if Miami wins they’re going to cover, and if San Antonio wins they’re going to cover. I know that last point is obvious since Duncan’s crew are listed as underdogs but the buzz word in NBA Finals betting has been “blowout”. Whichever team wins does so emphatically.
That’s why I’m saying that “easy money” is a fairytale in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. You have to break this game down from a basketball standpoint and throw your excel sheets in the trash can. Betting this game using trends and numbers is sort of asinine, though statistics and game logs offer a general guideline.
The biggest issue for the Heat is their supporting cast, which has been the story this entire playoffs. LeBron and Wade chipped in 25 points during what was a pretty damn good effort in Game 5 despite what the scoreboard suggests. Ray Allen contributed a nifty 21 points as well, but the rest of the roster was absolutely lifeless. Mike Miller, who started again, notched a goose egg and nobody on the bench did anything worth speaking of.
Chris Bosh is pretty much the epitome of everything that goes wrong for the Heat. Now I don’t mean to pile on Bosh, because he’s a very capable offensive player. It’s hard to deny, however, that he has not been himself during the playoffs. Against the Noah-Boozer tandem, he had to fight for his life and he was often overmatched by the awesome frame and aggressiveness of Roy Hibbert.
The legendary Tim Duncan poses an impossible task for a guy like Bosh, which would be true of any player. Duncan tossed the Gasol-Randolph combination around like a matching pair of rag dolls during a sweep, beat the hell out of Dwight Howard and had little trouble with Andrew Bogut and David Lee. Bosh is his whipping boy in this series.
That’s caused Bosh to completely lose whatever basketball identity he’s supposed to have. He’s averaged 14.6 points and 8.8 rebounds through the last five games, but he finds those scores erratically. Bosh is never really truly able to settle in to a rhythm and impact the game defensively because Duncan tools him on the majority of possessions.
What’s happened to Bosh is indicative of the team as a whole. LeBron has had his four worst shooting performances in these playoffs against these Spurs. Wade is only truly effective when he’s bombing down the lane, and the Spurs seem content in letting him lob up jumpers because they know that’s not his strong suit. When Wade and LeBron are caving in defenses with their incredible athletic gifts, Miami cranks up the volume. But when that doesn’t happen, Miami fails to find a Plan B.
Miller, Allen and Chalmers are mitigated to a great degree by the fantastic perimeter defense of the Spurs. Unless LeBron and Wade unleash hell, there’s literally no offensive chemistry there for the Heat. They’re a run and gun team, and they don’t have a second gear. It’s all-go or no-go.
Game 5 had a lot of stories, including Manu’s breakout game and Danny Green’s continued shooting onslaught. What was more intriguing to me is that San Antonio beat Miami at small ball, which is the exact game plan the Heat are built around. Nobody’s supposed to beat them in a small-ball affair, but San Antonio did and they have all the confidence in the world heading in to Game 6. Manu, Parker and Green are terrifying the Heat on the perimeter and it shows. There’s no reason to believe that that trio wont’ be able to spread the floor again with Miami struggling to find defensive stops.
The other reason to bet on San Antonio in NBA Finals betting is experience. Their Big 3 and their coach have been in this position before. This assembly of players is undefeated in three trips to the Finals, and the Duncan-Popovich combo has taken home trophies in four. They know how to end a series.
I’m not sure Miami knows how to react with their backs against the wall. There is a mountain of pressure on them to come through in this game because they’re the most scrutinized team in the league, and if things don’t start going their way they’re going to fall apart. They’re not the same, cohesive unit that San Antonio is.
The Heat have responded to pressure before, like when they bounced back against Indiana in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals or answered Chicago’s haymakers in the semifinals. But they’ve never been backed in to a corner against a team this good.
I hate being the bearer of commonly-used phrasing, but “experience trumps talent” in this situation. What I know is that San Antonio is undefeated in the NBA Finals. Miami crumbled against Dallas two years ago, and they’re flaking against the Spurs in the same way. That kind of attitude response tells me more than the stats, trends and numbers can.
When the championship is on the line, the Spurs get the job done. They have the shooting, interior presence, defense and coaching to mangle an overwhelmed Heat team. LeBron could “do it all” but nobody has been better at stopping him than Kawhi Leonard. I’m not about to risk my NBA Finals betting money on the idea that the Heat will respond in Game 6, because they’ve never been pushed to the brink by a team this talented.
That’s why I’m backing the San Antonio Spurs in what I expect to be the last game of the NBA Finals betting round.

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