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Inside the Paint - Sunday
Three seasons ago, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 4-3 in the 2009-10 NBA Finals. The championship was the second straight for the “Purple and Gold” and it was also their third consecutive trip to the finals for the club. In the 2007 season, Boston humbled Los Angles in six games of the finals.

Fast forward to the 2012-13 season and both teams are barely clinging on to that recent history. If you follow the Association daily, you obviously know these teams have no shot of winning this season or to be brutally honest, not in the near future either. Unless some serious changes are made!

It took them a couple months but the oddsmakers have finally noticed how listless these teams have performed. Despite losing in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals to Miami, Boston (20-23 straight up, 14-26 against the spread) is a 28/1 choice at Sportsbook.ag to win the finals this season.

Los Angeles (18-25 SU, 17-25 ATS) is listed at a 40/1 price and that number is still too low. It should probably be 100/1 but the oddsmakers don’t want to put at risk. However, they’re four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and it’s an uphill battle here on out.

On Sunday, the two most recognizable franchises in the NBA can make a statement with home victories against the two teams that squared off in last year’s finals, Miami (28-12 SU, 20-20 ATS) and Oklahoma City (34-10 SU, 26-16 ATS).

Let’s take a closer look at the two nationally televised matchups on ABC, which tip at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Miami at Boston: The Heat opened as a 3 ½-point road favorite and bettors could be hesitant to back the defending champions because their road record is 10-9 SU and 8-11 ATS. However, Miami is facing a Boston team that has dropped six straight games. Three of those setbacks occurred at TD Garden, where the team has gone 13-9 SU and 8-12 ATS this season. As an underdog this season, Boston is just 5-11 against the number.

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Miami beat Boston 120-107 at home in the season opener on Oct. 30 and it covered as a 6 ½-point favorite. This was a tight game down the stretch and a lot closer than the 13-point margin. Ray Allen sparked the Heat with 19 off the bench and the former Celtic will be making his first return to Boston on Sunday.

Including last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the ‘over’ is on a 6-2 run between these teams. Sunday’s ‘over/under’ is hovering around 188 points. The Heat offense has started to click, posting 100-plus points in their last two games albeit against the Raptors and Pistons.

However, Boston has only eclipsed the century mark once during its current six-game slide and that came in Friday’s 123-111 overtime loss at Atlanta. Also, the ‘under’ has cashed in seven of the last eight games played at TD Garden and the lone ‘over’ ticket snuck in during an overtime loss to Chicago (99-100) on Jan. 18.

Oklahoma City at L.A. Lakers: The Thunder opened as a 3 1/2-point road favorite and the number dropped to three, which could seem a little low. Just over two weeks ago, Oklahoma City blasted Los Angeles 116-101 as a six-point favorite from the Staples Center. The Lakers didn’t have All-Star center Dwight Howard in the lineup but is he worth three points? If you’ve seen this guy play, you’re aware that he’s lost a step defensively and his offensive game doesn’t fit, which explains the daily trade rumors out of Los Angeles.

When the Lakers did have Howard suited up against OKC on Dec. 7, he had 23 points and 18 rebounds. Guess what? The Thunder failed to cover the number (7 ½) but they still notched a 114-108 win at home and that’s with L.A. outscoring the Thunder 33-25 in the final 12 minutes. To be fair, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol didn’t play in that loss and they’re both expected in action on Sunday.

Including Kobe Bryant, all four played on Friday and they cruised past Utah 102-82 as a five-point home favorite. The victory snapped a four-game losing skid for the Lakers. The Jazz aren’t a bad team but they don’t have a talented point guard to attack the Lakers, which is their major weakness on defense. Oklahoma City has that type of player and his name is Russell Westbrook. The All-Star out of UCLA scored 33 in the first meeting at home and 27 two weeks ago in Los Angeles.

The Thunder will be playing the final game of their six-game road trip, which has seen the team go 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS in the first five contests. Including these outcomes, OKC has gone 15-7 SU and 12-8 ATS on the road this season.

The total is hovering around 207 points, which is down from the opener of 210. The Lakers have seen the ‘under’ go 13-9 at Staples Center and the Thunder are 13-9 to the ‘under’ on the road.

MVP Odds and Future Props

If you’re looking for a tightly contested wager, then you should turn your attention to this year’s Most Valuable Player award. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant is now the 5/6 (Bet $120 to win $100) favorite at Sportsbook.ag while Miami’s LeBron James is a 7/5 (Bet $100 to $140) choice. After those two All-Stars, the Clippers’ Chris Paul and the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony are next in line at 10/1 odds. In case you’re wondering, Kobe Bryant is listed at 25/1 (Bet $100 to win $2,500) and the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo has the same odds as well.

Another betting option at Sportsbook.ag that has value is the 2013 NBA Finals Possible Matchups prop. If you believe Oklahoma City and Miami will meet again, then take advantage of the 3/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $300). I personally don’t see anybody beating the Heat in the East and if you believe that statement, then perhaps check out these other options, which can create some nice hedge bets come the postseason.

Heat vs. Clippers (9/2)
Heat vs. Spurs (11/2)
Heat vs. Grizzlies (20/1)
Heat vs. Lakers (28/1)
Heat vs. Nuggets (32/1)
Heat vs. Warriors (65/1)

Chris David can be reached at cdavid@vegasinsider.com

  
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