Posted on 12 Jun 2012 at 16:25 PM by Match of the Day
After last year's lockout, NBA officials must be delighted with this year's finals pairing, which looks well poised to engage supporters and to get people back talking about the good things in basketball, rather than listening to millionaires arguing about money. Granted some people have still got a lot to learn, such as Shane Battier. The Miami player made the comment that "I anticipate record ratings, which is great, so maybe we can get some of the escrow check back from the owners."
It would be easy to read a comment like that in advance of a finals series and come to an instant conclusion - that we should bet on the Thunder - purely because it suggests that a starting player has his mind on things other than winning a championship. However there is no doubt that there are players on both sides who are thinking the same thing, though they probably have the sense not to say anything, so we'll leave that aside when considering our wagering approach.
Despite their status as novices at this level, the betting lines for the Series favour the Thunder. 8/13 is the best price available about a series win for the Western conference champions, while you can have 6/4 from either Bet365 or BetVictor about Miami taking the honours. Oklahoma City have home court advantage and that's always worth something, but having watched Miami dig deep and produce a comeback from 3-2 behind in their series against the Celtics, it seems that LeBron might be taking a step up to a new level. No longer is he just a generator of huge numbers during the season, he's turning into a clutch playoff star as well, finally putting to bed the idea that he wasn't able to deliver when needed most.
However while much of the pre-series talk has focused on the battle between LeBron and Kevin Durant at the small forward position, we know that both of thse guys are likely to deliver solid displays, and in essence, to cancel each other out. The main betting firms are offering wagers on individual players totals and they're essentially pitching these two men at 30 points each, so there is nothing between the two sides in that regard. Much more consequential will be the performances of the two X-factor players, Chris Bosh of the Heat and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder.
Westbrook is something of a mercurial talent and he is occasionally capable of things that would be beyond even a player of Durant's capabilities - but all too often he defers to his more consistent colleague and is happy to accept a lesser role. Tonight, and for the rest of the series, he'll have to square up against Dwayne Wade and to produce a big defensive performance, not to mention keep Wade occupied in transition and to test him out aerobically.
However much more important, and our key indicator from a betting in running perspective, is Chris Bosh. Questions over his fitness to play have not been fully answered yet, but it is beyond doubt that the Heat are a stronger team with Bosh on the court. The Heat were 42-15 in the regular season when Bosh played, but 4-5 when he didn't. They were 6-1 in the playoffs when he played at least 20 minutes, and just 6-5 the rest of the time. LeBron and D-Wade are very similar players, as we know: Both are attacking playmakers who excel off of switches on screen-and-roll. With Bosh on the floor, the Heat have more flexibility and are a threat to extend the floor and create driving lanes. If we see Bosh involved, fit and sharp in the early stages, then the Heat are good enough to stay within the spread, or possibly even to quell the Thunder and get out to an early lead in this series.