NBA Finals Betting Trends: Does Extra Day Off Benefit Miami Heat or Los Angeles Lakers?
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat during Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
The NBA Finals schedule has been a mental and physical grind for the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. In the Orlando Bubble, the two teams traded cross-country trips for games every other day, except for Friday’s NBA Finals game.
Between Game 4 and Game 5, both teams got a rare but much-needed extra rest day. It’s seemingly obvious that the extra day will be good for the Heat’s injured players, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic.
Adebayo gutted out Game 4 and is dealing with a shoulder and neck injury, while Dragic (listed as doubtful) hasn’t played since injuring his plantar fascia in Game 1. But what impact will the extra rest have on the healthy players for each team, especially the key players for each squad?
If you watched LeBron James’ postgame interview after Game 2, he looked extremely gassed after the win:
He played 39 minutes in that game and the two games that followed. Jimmy Butler has played at least 43 minutes in his past three games and Anthony Davis has hit the 40-minute threshold twice in the Finals.
That’s not surprising considering this is the championship round, but the accumulation of minutes played, plus the extra effort that has been exerted will almost certainly have an impact moving forward and could determine whether this series ends in five games or continues on.
Minutes Impact on Key Players
Looking at the two highest-usage players for each team in this series through four games, Butler has easily played the most minutes of the group and has shouldered close to the same load that James has for the Lakers.
You can see in this chart below that Butler’s minutes have steadily increased early on in each round. He has already played more minutes through four Finals games than he did through four games of any of his other series — two of which included overtime games. Butler has also seen the biggest jump in usage rate from the Conference finals to the NBA Finals (+6.1 percentage points) of the four players listed.
Total Playoff Minutes Through Four Games – Round by Round
Another interesting thing that stands out for the Heat is how much higher Tyler Herro’s usage rate is in the Finals with Dragic out — it increased by 4.2 percentage points compared to the Eastern Conference finals. It has been noted that Herro is the youngest player to ever start an NBA Finals game, but those young legs might not be much of an advantage.
Herro has already played at least 30 minutes in 16 games this postseason after logging just 22 such games in the regular season. He’s also averaging nearly seven more minutes per game in the postseason.
James is the oldest of this bunch, but his usage rate throughout the playoffs has been steady (it is actually slightly lower in the Finals than it was in the first two rounds) and the Lakers have only played him 40 minutes once this postseason. He also has the reputation of closing out games when his team has the chance to clinch the series, which will likely incentivize him to play more minutes in Game 5.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, James is 38-10 (79.2%) in closeout games, the best win percentage of any player who has played 25 such games in their career.
Notable Betting Trends for Game 5
Both teams were able to dispatch their early postseason opponents with ease and benefitted from plenty of rest between series. The Heat have been outstanding with more than one day off, going 4-1 straight up and against the spread in those situations during the playoffs, according to our Bet Labs database.
One of those wins came during a series (Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals) and the Heat’s lone loss after extended rest was in Game 1 of the Finals.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have been slow starters coming off extra rest. They are 3-2 SU with two or more days of rest between games and 2-3 ATS with two losses coming in Game 1 of a series. They are also 2-3 ATS in the first half of those games, an area where the Lakers typically excel (9-5 ATS with one day of rest in the playoffs).
The extra day off may seem like more time for the Lakers to plan their post-Finals celebration to those on the outside, but it’s clear that the Heat have been more aggressive to start when they’re rested. The Heat have a great opportunity to push this series to Sunday if their trend holds true in Game 5.