NBA Finals Betting Odds, Picks and Predictions: Heat vs. Lakers Game 1 (Wednesday, Sept. 30)
Getty Images. Pictured: Jimmy Butler and LeBron James
- Many people expected the Lakers to be here. But few believed that the Miami Heat would be LA's foil in this year's NBA Finals.
- The Lakers opened as heavy favorites in the series and in Game 1, but Brandon Anderson cautions not to easily dismiss Miami as an apt rival.
- Anderson previews the 2020 NBA Finals and breaks down series and Game 1 odds for Heat vs. Lakers.
Heat vs. Lakers Game 1 Betting Odds
|Heat Odds||+4.5 [BET NOW]|
|Lakers Odds||-4.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-191/+160 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||217.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||8:00 p.m. ET|
We made it. We outlasted a four-month layoff, survived an everlasting Orlando bubble, and whittled the field from 22 teams to two: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.
This was not the Finals that anyone but Jimmy Butler expected, but it should be a good one nonetheless. Throw out that Miami 5-seed you’re holding onto. These were quite simply the best teams in their respective conferences during this season’s NBA Playoffs. They’re 24-7 combined, neither seriously threatened in any series. The Lakers never trailed a series after Game 2. The Heat have yet to trail at all.
The history and narratives write themselves. The last time the Lakers made the playoffs, they watched as LeBron James and the Heat won their first championship together. But that relationship ended on less than amicable terms, and now James’ Lakers will face Pat Riley and Heat culture with everything on the line — maybe even a little revenge.
The Heat may not have the most talent on the court, but they’re going to out-effort, out-hustle, and out-Heat their opponent, exhausting their foe with a wave of defensive energy and the ever-present threat of a barrage of 3s. Miami can be the lesser team for 42 minutes but flip the game in those other six minutes with a tsunami of forced turnovers and red-hot shooting.
The Heat are exhausting to play against. They wear their opponent down physically and mentally over the course of the game and series. We saw it from both the Bucks and the Celtics — moments where Miami seemed to break their opponent’s will. Can they break LeBron’s will, too?
Jimmy Butler is the emotional team leader. Though his scoring has been a bit inconsistent, he routinely shows up in the biggest Miami moments. Bam Adebayo has been the team’s best player with his transformational defense plus efficient scoring and passing. Those two will match up with James and Anthony Davis. Miami’s duo is smaller, younger, and less talented, but they have a knack for maximizing their abilities and cutting that perceived deficit.
Miami has the more intriguing supporting cast. Wily veteran Goran Dragic has led the team in scoring this postseason, and rookie Tyler Herro was a huge spark plug against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. Both guards can score at all three levels and pressure the weakest point of the Lakers defense. Duncan Robinson is the marksman. He’ll need to get up enough 3s to offset being hunted on defense. Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala are the veteran wings tasked with eating minutes against James and hitting open 3s.
The Heat do not have the best or second-best player in this matchup. If they win the series, it will be because they had the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth best players that night — and because they played as a team, worked hard on D, and hit enough 3s to outlast LA.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers remain a two-man effort with a choose-your-own-adventure third-best player on any given night.
You already know what you’re getting from James. He always saves his best for the Finals, and he’ll ramp up his minutes with the finish line in sight. Like most LeBron-led teams, the Lakers struggle mightily without their leader on the court. Meanwhile, the Heat have the bench to make a run and flip the game in those brief minutes when James needs a breather. James is averaging a career low 35.0 minutes per game, buoyed by lighter games as the Lakers cruised. Will there be eight LeBron-less minutes? Only four?
Davis has been every bit as good as James. He leads the team in scoring with elite efficiency and provides outstanding defense on the perimeter and at the rim. Those two will put up 55 points and 20 rebounds. We know that much. The question for the Lakers is what else they’ll get from the supporting cast.
Playoff Rondo has been the most consistent third banana, though he cooled some during the Western Conference Finals series against Denver. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has at least two 3s in seven of his last eight games and is shooting 46% over that stretch. Danny Green brings a wealth of Finals experience and a knack for the big moment. Alex Caruso is a feisty defender who complements the team well. These guys have been dealer’s choice, but one of them usually shows up.
The more important role players this series may be Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, and LA’s centers. Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee were minimized during the first two series, but Howard was huge against Denver. LA will likely start with big center minutes and hope for a rebounding edge, but that duo will struggle to match up with Miami’s shooters. If the Lakers can’t keep their centers on the court, they’ll need Kuzma or Morris to space the offense and provide a timely scoring spark without getting lost in defensive rotations.
The Lakers don’t need all of those guys to be good. They might only need one guard to step up and one big man to stand tall next to LeBron and Brow. Watch early in the series to see how the Lakers’ 3-through-12 guys are playing. They’ll dictate the outcome of each game, for better and for worse.
Series Betting Analysis
Whether or not these were the two best teams in the regular season, they’re unequivocally the two best teams in the bubble. Both have seen their stars make plays in the biggest moments, each team finds a new role-player star every night, and neither has been pushed to the brink yet. That will change soon.
The Heat defense has stepped up in the bubble, but the offense has led the way for Miami. The Lakers’ story is nearly the opposite: LA has been one of the league’s best defenses all season, and its offense has really come together over the last 10 games.
The Lakers have a significant edge in experience on this stage and come in as heavy series favorites at -375. The Heat are +280 at DraftKings, which translates to a 26% implied probability to win the title. You can bet the Heat at -187 to win at least two games or +138 to win at least three.
LA will always be overvalued, much like any LeBron team. If you agree with Matt Moore that Miami can push LA, then there’s real opportunity with the Heat. There’s not much series value on the Lakers unless they fall behind. In fact, that’s perhaps my favorite series bet: LA +250 to trail at some point during the series but rally to win the Finals.
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Game 1 Betting Analysis & Pick
The Lakers have lost Game 1 twice this playoffs, and James’ teams are notorious for starting slow while they feel out the opponent. LA is more well-rested, but there’s real urgency for the Heat. You do not want to have to play from behind and win four games out of five-or-six — not against James.
The Heat come in confident, in sync, and full of belief. They’re the best defense the Lakers have faced in weeks and play with a higher level of energy and grit than LA is used to. The Lakers may take a minute to adjust. The Heat will want to punch the Lakers in the mouth and make an early statement.
The media may call the Heat underdogs, but Miami comes in expecting to win. Look for them to play like it until proven otherwise. I expect Game 1 to be close all the way, and Miami has consistently provided the fourth-quarter knockout punch.
I’m not playing the total, but I do lean to the under given both teams’ defensive aptitude and preference to play slower. I’ll be watching the live line too, unafraid to jump on Miami if they fall behind early. The Heat bench will make a run, and Miami is 5-2 this postseason in games where it trails by double digits.
Right now, Miami is where the value lies in this series — and we’re going for the Game 1 win, not just a cover. The Lakers starters should be better, and the Heat have been slow-starters, so don’t be afraid to sprinkle a small wager on LA’s first quarter line. Miami’s +163 moneyline doesn’t offer a ton of value yet, so watch for a better number around the end of the first quarter and strike.
If you think the Heat can win this whole thing, you can play the double: Miami to win Game 1 and go on to win the Finals, listed as high as +600 at some books. That’s a great angle with the edge Miami will bring early in this series.
The early value play is on Miami. Find the right Heat angle, and trust what we’ve seen the last two months.
The Heat really are that good, and they’re ready for a fight.