Miami Heat 1.44 San Antonio Spurs 2.80 (Spurs lead 2-1)
There’s one obvious reason why San Antonio are, deservedly, 1.40 favourites for the NBA title headed into Game 4 of the Finals on Thursday.
It’s not that they utterly extinguished the Miami Heat 111-92 in Tuesday’s Game 3, setting shooting records in the first half and opening quarter. Or that Kawhi Leonard has looked more like a MVP than LeBron James. Or that the Spurs are 15-3 in best of seven series since Gregg Popovich.
The huge key is that, so far, it’s been nine against eight with San Antonio’s bench out-scoring Miami’s 100-55 and providing the bedrock for the way in which the Western Conference champions have rendered the Heat almost impotent when James has been off the floor.
In Game 1, the Spurs’ victory saw their bench out-point their rivals 34-20. Even in Miami’s Game 2 bounceback, the Heat’s subs were out-gunned 37-12. In Game 3, the advantage was just 29-23 but Ray Allen, who had 11 of those, had a nightmare +/- of minus-19.
It’s allowing Gregg Popovich to push the pace and throw a multitude of looks in short bursts at Miami, who are having to field their Big Three for over 33 minutes per night.
What a contrast to Erik Spoelstra, who has little appetite for his second stringers with Greg Oden, the former number one Draft pick, and Toney Douglas, seeing no action other than junk time at the close of Game 3.
That lack of depth doesn’t bode well for the Heat, who are currently 4.50 to lose the Finals 4-1. Add to that the fact that their two point guards, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, have been missing in action (totalling ten points apiece) and it’s easy to see the glaring flaws.
You still sense this is a series that will go the distance with Miami still-capable of levelling at 2-2. But if they want to beat the odds and claim a three-peat, the supporting cast needs to deliver a noteworthy performance.
Best bet: Take Kawhi Leonard for NBA Finals MVP at 8.00