San Antonio Spurs 1.51 – Miami Heat 2.60 (Game 1)
The NBA Finals tip off on Thursday with the San Antonio Spurs heavy favourites to draw first blood in a best-of-seven battle royale with the Miami Heat that most expect to go the full distance.
Talk of avenging their loss 12 months ago has been quietened down in recent days by the Spurs. Instead, the focus has simply been on how their execution and the strength of their bench can prise the title away from their foes from the East.
Tony Parker is fit, a massive plus for the Game 1 host. Plus, unlike in 2013, they will have home advantage in the new 2-2-1-1-1 format, a key differential that could swing the series if we end up with a winner-take-all decider in South Texas on June 20.
However the Heat will point to a much healthier Dwyane Wade in their corner, averaging almost 19 points per night. And the presence of the sport’s omnipotent superstar in LeBron James, who has notched 26.7 points and 10.6 rebounds over his last two victorious Finals appearances.
The rivals split their two regular season clashes with the Heat prevailing 113-101 in Miami and the Spurs delivering a 111-87 rout on their own floor. That, however, means little amid the defensive storm normally thrown up with a championship on the line.
In last year’s finals, the average total points in the seven clashes between these two was 181.3. Even with San Antonio are averaging six more per game in this post-season than 2013, and the champions, two less, it suggests a punt on going under the line of 186.5, available at a snappy 4.10, is worthy a punt.
And with the Spurs never ceding Game 1 in a Finals in their history, and James 0-7 in Finals openers on the road in his career, it all points to the Spurs gaining an early edge.
Best bet: Take San Antonio over Miami on the handicap of -6.5 at 2.23