NBA Finals Betting Trends, Stats: Action Network’s Nuggets vs. Heat Betting Primer
NBA bettors and fans, we've finally made it: Welcome to the NBA Finals!
Let's take a few minutes to go through the nuts & bolts. Between futures, betting systems, trends, sportsbooks, the public and more — here's the NBA Finals edition of Action Network's betting primer.
All data, stats and trends are updated as of Wednesday, May 31, 12 p.m. ET.
The Comforts of Home and Rigors of the Road
- The Nuggets' home-court advantage is something to note.
42-7 SU (best win % in NBA) | 30-18-1 ATS at home (second-best in NBA behind Warriors)
23-25 SU | 23-25 ATS on road
In the playoffs, it’s even more distinct of a difference historically:
31-20 SU at home since 2005
14-38 SU on road since 2005*
*Won three straight road playoff games for the first time in franchise history.
Nuggets at home this season:
vs. East: 11-4 SU | 7-8 ATS
vs. West: 31-3 SU | 23-10-1 ATS
- The Nuggets are under .500 straight up on the road this season.
Denver had 22 losses entering the playoffs and is 4-3 SU on the road in the playoffs.
In the 3-point era, no team has won the NBA title with a sub-.500 road record.
The most road losses for a title team in the 3-point era is 20 — Spurs in 2005 and the Heat in 2006.
(The Heat were 17-24 SU on the road in the regular season and are 5-5 SU in playoffs.)
First Time For Everything
The Nuggets are making their NBA Finals debut as a franchise. Since 1990, 14 teams have entered an NBA Finals off 20 or more years since their last appearance and 10 faced a team that was not in the same situation (Bucks vs. Suns in 2021 and Heat vs. Mavericks in 2006 were the exceptions).
Those 10 teams went 4-6 in the NBA Finals, winning the past two with the 2019 Raptors and 2015 Warriors. In those 10 NBA Finals, the franchise with less experience won 23 games and lost 30 total Finals games.
Looking even deeper, the Nuggets will be the 17th franchise to make their first finals appearance since 1970.
Twelve of those franchises didn’t face a team in the same situation.
In those 12 NBA Finals, those teams went 4-8, with the franchise making its debut winning 27 games and losing 38.
- As a side note, with the Nuggets making their first NBA Finals appearance, when was the last time a franchise making its debut has been favored to win it all? And by this much?
The answer is the 1999 Spurs, who were -900 against the Knicks and won in five games.
The other franchises since 1970 to make their first Finals appearance and be listed as the favorite:
- 1995 Magic -150 over Rockets (lost in 4 games)
- 1991 Bulls -200 over Lakers (won in 5 games)
- 1978 Sonics -140 over Bullets (lost in 7 games)
MVP, MVP, MVP
Nikola Jokic has -125 odds to average a triple-double in the NBA Finals against the Heat — a feat only accomplished once in Finals history, by LeBron James in 2017 against the Golden State Warriors.
James' 2017 averages vs. Warriors: 33.6 PPG | 12 RPG | 10 APG
Because of those absurd triple-double expectations, Jokic is listed as a -333 favorite to win NBA Finals MVP — the highest price for an NBA Finals MVP over the past 20 years.
Largest Favorite to win NBA Finals MVP Last 20 Years
- -333: 2023 Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
- -300: 2009 Kobe Bryant, Lakers (Won)
- -250: 2013 LeBron James, Heat (Won)
- -200: 2008 Kobe Bryant, Lakers (Lost)
- -182: 2010 Kobe Bryant, Lakers (Won)
- -160: 2020 LeBron James, Lakers (Won)
- -160: 2015 Stephen Curry, Warriors (Lost)
- -135: 2018 Kevin Durant, Warriors (Won)
- -135: 2012 Kevin Durant, Thunder (Lost)
- -133: 2019 Stephen Curry, Warriors (Lost)
- -130: 2016 Stephen Curry, Warriors (Lost)
- -130: 2006 Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (Lost)
- -125: 2003 Tim Duncan, Spurs (Won)
- -110: 2022 Stephen Curry, Warriors (Won)
- The Nuggets have played 21 Game 1s at home in their franchise history and are 18-3 SU in those games, including 3-0 SU during this year’s playoffs.
- Nuggets are 8.5-point favorites in Game 1 of the NBA Finals vs. the Heat. The nine teams to be listed as an 8-point favorite or higher in Game 1 of the NBA Finals ended up winning eight of those series, with just the 2004 Pistons beating the Lakers in five games.
Highest Game 1 Spreads for NBA Finals Since NBA-ABA Merger in 1976-77
- -13 — 2018 Warriors vs. Cavaliers (GSW, 124-114; GSW 4-0 sweep)
- -11.5 — 2001 Lakers vs. Sixers (PHI, 107-101; LAL 4-1 in series)
- -10.5 — 1987 Lakers vs. Celtics (LAL, 126-113; LAL 4-2 in series)
- -9.5 — 1999 Spurs vs. Knicks (SAS, 89-77; SAS 4-1 in series)
- -9.5 — 1996 Bulls vs. Sonics (CHI, 107-90; CHI 4-2 in series)
- -9 — 1997 Bulls vs. Jazz (CHI, 84-82; CHI 4-2 in series)
- -9 — 1986 Celtics vs. Rockets (BOS, 112-100; BOS 4-2 in series)
- -9 — 2023 Nuggets vs. Heat
- -8 — 2004 Lakers vs. Pistons (DET, 87-75; DET 4-1 in series)
- -8 — 2000 Lakers vs. Pacers (LAL, 104-87; LAL 4-2 in series)
- Nuggets have done very well against the second half spread this season, going 49-36-1 (58%) overall — the fifth-best team in the NBA. Almost all of that damage has come at home as Denver is 32-15 against the second half spread at home and just 17-21-1 ATS on the road.
When trailing at the half, the Nuggets are 25-12 against the second-half spread (68%), covering by 3.5 PPG. They are the second-most profitable second-half team ATS after a loss this season behind the Thunder.
- Mike Malone has faced Erik Spoelstra 18 times in his career and the Nuggets are 12-6 ATS in those games, making Spoelstra his most profitable opposing coach of the 76 he’s faced as Denver's coach.
- The Nuggets are -450 series favorites over the Heat in the NBA Finals.
Since the merger in 1976-77, there have been 14 teams listed as a -300 series favorite or higher entering the NBA Finals. Those teams are 14-1 in the series with all 15 teams having home-court advantage.
Here are the only teams since the merger to have a NBA Finals series price of -450 or higher:
- 2001 Lakers (-2000)
- 2018 Warriors (-1075)
- 1996 Bulls (-950)
- 1999 Spurs (-900)
- 2000 Lakers (-800)
- 2002 Lakers (-750)
- 2004 Lakers (-700)
- 1986 Celtics (-700)
- 1997 Bulls (-600)
- 1987 Lakers (-600)
- 2007 Spurs (-450)
Strong No. 8 Seed
The Heat are just the second No. 8 seed in history to make the NBA Finals, joining the 1998-99 New York Knicks, who did so in a shortened season.
The Knicks lost Game 1 and ended up losing the series in five games.
In seeding history, only three teams seeded sixth or worse have made the NBA Finals:
- 2023 Heat (No. 8)
- 1999 Knicks (No. 8) — lost in five games
- 1994 Rockets (No. 6) — won in four games
- 1980 Rockets (No. 6) — lost in six games
- The Heat beat the Bucks, Knicks and Celtics, all as series underdogs, to get to the NBA Finals.
They are the third team to win three straight series as underdogs in the past 35 years:
• 2023 Heat
• 1999 Knicks
• 1995 Rockets
The Heat would join the 1995 Rockets as the only champs in that span to win every series as underdogs en route to a title.
- The Heat just pulled off a massive upset in the Conference Finals. Since 1985, 31 teams have been -400 series favorites or higher in the Conference or NBA Finals and those teams are 29-3.
The other upsets?
- 2009 Magic over Cavaliers
- 2004 Pistons over Lakers
- The Heat and Erik Spoelstra are dangerous underdogs:
- Heat are 196-292 on the moneyline as an underdog w/ Spoelstra. A $100 bettor would be up $7,860, the best among 138 different head coaches since 2005.
- As an underdog of six points or more in the playoffs, the Heat are 14-5 ATS under Spoelstra.
- Overall Spoelstra is 104-76-1 ATS in the playoffs with the Heat, the most profitable coach in the Bet Labs database since 2005. That's over a $1,000 better than the second-best coach, Lionel Hollins.
- The Heat entered the playoffs with 125-1 odds to win it all — the longest odds of any team to make an NBA Finals since the merger in 1976-77.
The other teams to enter a Finals at 18-1 odds or higher haven’t had the easiest road — they are 2-5 in the series, with all four teams at 20-1 or higher losing in six games or less.
- 125-1 2023 MIA — ?
- 100-1 1981 HOU — lost in six
- 30-1 1999 NYK — lost in five
- 27-1 2020 MIA — lost in six
- 25-1 1976 PHX — lost in six
- 18-1 2021 PHX — lost in six
- 18-1 2011 DAL — won in six
- 18-1 1995 HOU — won in four
- The underdog in Game 1 of the NBA Finals has struggled historically, even though the Celtics found a way to beat the Warriors by 12 points in Game 1 last year. Game 1 NBA Finals dogs are 2-16 SU and 3-15 ATS since 2005 and 4-23 SU and 8-19 ATS since 1996.
- The fatigue factor: Teams coming off a seven-game series — like the Heat — are 36-50 (42%) in the following series over the past 35 years. In Game 1 of the following series, they are 33-53 (via @iamrahstradamus).
- Playoff teams off a loss are 43-33 against the first half spread this year and 91-67-1 1H ATS over the past two seasons.
- The over is 16-9 in Heat games since April 1, but only went 3-4 in the Conference Finals.
- The Heat are now the third team that ranked last in PPG during the regular season to reach the NBA Finals:
• 2023 Heat
• 1964 Warriors (lost in Finals)
• 1956 Pistons (lost in Finals)
NBA Finals Unders
- In NBA Finals since 2005, home teams (51-46-1 ATS; 61-37 SU) and favorites (54-49-1 ATS; 68-36 SU) have a small edge.
In terms of the total, the under has a small edge, going 54-46-4 (54%) and going under the total by 1.5 PPG. Since 2020, it’s 10-7-1 to the under in the NBA Finals.
- The profitable angle in the NBA Finals has been the first half under, which is 57-43-4 (57%) since 2005, including 9-3 over the past two finals.
It's not just the Finals. Over the past two seasons, the first half under is 106-69-3 (61%) in the playoffs, including 49-35-1 in 2023.
Over the past two seasons, the majority of the damage has come in Games 4-7 of a series in the playoffs, with the first half under coming in at 52-25-2 (67%).
Where's The Public Betting?
- Overall, the public has struggled betting the NBA Finals. Teams with 51%+ of betting tickets are 42-57-1 ATS (42.4%) in the NBA Finals since 2005, a $100 bettor would be down $1,694.
Public sides of 60%+ in the NBA Finals are 8-15 ATS (34.8%) since 2005.
- When looking game-by-game in our Bet Labs database, here are some thresholds to be aware for the entire NBA Playoffs:
- Only six teams since 2005 have closed with 80%+ of the spread tickets in the NBA Playoffs. Those six teams are 4-2 straight up, but 0-6 against the spread, failing to cover the number by 5.4 PPG.
- Looking for a public underdog? Since 2005, only two teams have closed with 75%+ of the spread tickets while listed as the underdog. Ironically enough, Kevin Durant was involved in both games:
2022 Brooklyn Nets in Game 2 of their series against the Boston Celtics. Nets lost 114-107 in Boston.
2010 Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Lakers won the game 95-94 in OKC.
- Beware of public dogs in the NBA Finals. Overall since 2005 they are 21-32 ATS and since 2010, they have only been above .500 ATS in the NBA Finals once in 13 years.
In the second round or later, public dogs are 129-161-4 ATS (45%) in the NBA Playoffs.
- The first round of the playoffs has actually been profitable for public bettors over time (+$3,124), but the second round, Conference Finals and NBA Finals have a combined -7% ROI for public bettors, down more than $5,000 in total since 2005, with all three rounds in the red.
- Since 2005, here are the biggest public sides in an NBA Finals game:
- 72%: 2022 Warriors (-4) vs. BOS; Game 1. BOS, 120-108.
- 72%: 2022 Warriors (-5) vs. BOS; Game 2. GSW, 107-88.
- 71%: 2021 Suns (-3.5) vs. MIL; Game 5. MIL, 123-119.
- 71%: 2019 Warriors (+2.5) at TOR; Game 2. GSW, 109-104.
- Only one time since 2005 has the line moved more than three full points from the opening to closing lines in the NBA Finals.
In 2006, the Mavericks moved from +3.5 to -1 on the road in Game 4 of the Finals in Miami. The Heat won at home by 24 points.
Only nine times has the line moved more than two points from the opening to closing lines in the NBA Finals and the team with the move in its direction (ex. -3 to -5) is just 3-6 ATS vs. the closing line.
Rest vs. Rust
Most days off before an NBA Finals Game 1
11 — 1982 Lakers
- 8-0 SU in playoffs entering Finals (won 11 straight games).
- LAL ended Conf Semis 5/15/82, Finals started 5/27/82.
- PHI ended 5/23/82 — on 3 days rest after 7-game series (won G7 on road after up 3-1).
- LAL +1 in Game 1 vs. Sixers on road. Lakers won by 7 (LAL lost Game 2 | won series in 6 games).
10 — 2003 Nets
- 12-2 SU in playoffs entering Finals (won 10 straight games).
- NJN ended Conf Semis 5/24/03, Finals started 6/4/03.
- SAS ended 5/29/03 — on 5 days rest after 6-game series (won G6 on road after up 3-1).
- NJN +7 in Game 1 vs. Spurs on road. Spurs won by 12 (NJN won Game 2 | lost series in 6 games).
9 — 2023 Nuggets
- 12-3 SU in playoffs entering Finals (won 6 straight games).
- DEN ended Conf Semis 5/22/23, Finals started 6/1/23.
- MIA ended 5/29/23 — on 2 days rest after 7-game series (won G7 on road after up 3-0).