The NBA Finals get underway on Wednesday night, and the Lakers take on a somewhat unexpected opponent in the Heat. There are plenty of storylines here with LeBron James taking on his former team, where he won his first two championships. We also have a team with no player drafted higher than 13th overall, playing ultimate team basketball, taking on a team with three No. 1 overall picks, and arguably the two biggest superstars in the NBA.
But let’s put all the narratives to rest. Here’s what jumps out to me in Game 1 (and for the series) on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have closed out all three of their series in five games, and the only time the Heat have gone past a Game 5 was the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics. But I think we all expect this to be a competitive series. As remarkable as the Heat have been, I’m not at all considering them winning 4-1 or in a sweep and, even with all the talent, it’s tough to imagine the Lakers doing it, either. The Heat are 7-3 straight up as underdogs this postseason, so grinding a couple of games out shouldn’t be an issue, even if you like the Lakers in the series. I also think Miami should have some early success, which we’ll touch on later.
LeBron has told us straight up that he prefers to ease into a series, and his play proves it. He knows he can takeover later in a series if need be, and defers to his teammates early, especially on this playoff run where Anthony Davis generally has the biggest mismatch on the floor. LeBron posted 16 assists in Game 1 against Portland, and then just seven in Game 1 versus Houston, but bounced back with 12 dimes in the first game of the Western Conference Finals against Denver. It’s worth noting that Game 1 of the Houston series was Rajon Rondo’s first game back since March. Part of LeBron’s deferring process in that game was just letting Rondo handle the ball more and get his feel back. LeBron has gone over this prop in eight playoff games so far, and dished out 12 dimes in his last regular season matchup with Miami.
I mentioned the Heat should have some early success, and the numbers on both sides point to this. The Heat have been fantastic with making adjustments, catching teams off guard in every series so far — a good example is the zone they threw at Boston, which the Celtics couldn’t figure out till Game 3. The Heat are 3-0 straight up in Game 1’s this postseason, winning two as underdogs. They’ve gone 3-0 ATS in those Game 1’s, as well, covering by an average of 9.7 points. Meanwhile, the Lakers are 1-2 straight up and ATS in Game 1’s this postseason. They failed to cover by an average of 17.5 points in the Game 1’s against Portland and Houston, and while they bested Denver in that Game 1, it was a nearly impossible spot for the Nuggets, coming off their second-straight 3-1 series comeback. Then there’s LeBron’s track record in Game 1 of the NBA Finals — 1-8 straight up (won in 2011 vs. DAL) and 2-7 ATS. LeBron can afford to ease into this series. The Heat can’t, and should be more prepared. I’ll take the points.
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