Nuggets On Track To Be More Than 2/1 Favorite Over Heat In NBA Finals

After starting postseason at +30000, Miami could be longest shot ever to win major pro title
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Bust out the brooms — and use them to sweep piles of cash your way if you bet on either the Miami Heat to win the Eastern Conference or the Denver Nuggets to win the West.

Even in this year’s relatively unpredictable NBA playoffs, few saw sweeps coming in either conference final. Granted, no sweeps have been completed yet; the L.A. Lakers are between -152 and -162 favorites on the moneyline at U.S. mobile sportsbooks to stave off elimination Monday night, while the Boston Celtics range from -105 to +110 to win Game 4 in Miami on Tuesday.

But a pair of conference finals sweeps are currently on the table (much to the dismay of the networks broadcasting the games and the sportsbooks seeking as much action as possible), and it would take some minor miracles to prevent a Nuggets-Heat NBA Finals matchup, whether that gets clinched by Tuesday night or not.

That’s right, it’s shaping up to be the top-seeded Nuggets, the best team in the West all season, against the eighth-seeded Heat, a team that won just 44 regular season games, lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first play-in, and trailed the Chicago Bulls entering the fourth quarter of the single-elimination second play-in.

And based on the odds, the Heat are drawing live to become the longest shot ever at the start of a postseason to win a major North American pro team sports title.

What will the odds be for Nuggets vs. Heat?

None of the regulated books had, as of Monday morning, posted a market on a Nuggets vs. Heat finals. It’s not unusual for those markets to go live early — you can often begin betting on the next week’s NFL playoff game while one of the teams in question is still draining the clock in the fourth quarter — but nobody’s posting this one with each team still one full victory away.

The title odds with four teams remaining, however, give us a solid sense of how a Nuggets-Heat series would be priced. Here are the figures, as of Monday morning, with an octet of major operators:

FOX Bet-227+250+1200+3000

The prices on the Nuggets and the Heat are more bettor-friendly now than they will be once the finals are set, because the faint chance of an 0-3 comeback by either the Lakers or Celtics has to be baked in.

Averaging the sportsbooks’ prices, Denver sits at -220, Miami at +239. Once only two teams remain, the minus number will be larger than the plus number. We know that much.

US Bets spoke to veteran oddsmaker Dave Sharapan on Monday, and he guided us through the potential thought process at the sportsbooks as they determine their opening lines for the finals. Sharapan noted that it will vary from book to book, largely depending on their respective futures liabilities on the two teams. But he doubts many of them have too much to worry about with either Denver or Miami.

“I’m guessing the books are real good with either one of these teams winning it all,” Sharapan said. “If there’s no Lakers and there’s no Celtics, then the books don’t really care. They’re good.”

The Nuggets went 2-0 head-to-head against the Heat this season, which Sharapan said could influence how some people bet the series but shouldn’t influence where the true odds are.

“In this case, you can throw out head-to-head,” he said. “Miami’s playing better right now than at any time all season.”

The best estimate from US Bets as to the average odds, factoring in the current pricing, Sharapan’s input, and Denver’s home-court advantage in the theoretical series: Nuggets -240, Heat +200.

Bottom seeds have won before …

If the Heat win it all, they won’t be the first 8-seed to win a major pro championship. That honor belongs to the 2012 L.A. Kings, who won the Stanley Cup despite being the last team to qualify for the playoffs in the Western Conference. But the NHL playoffs are traditionally more wide open than those in any of the other team sports, so the Kings entered the postseason with odds of just +2200 to go all the way.

No 8-seed has ever won the championship in the NBA. The 1999 New York Knicks came damned close, though. After a lockout-shortened season, the Knicks, who started the playoffs as +3000 longshots, went on a tear, only to lose in five games to San Antonio in the finals.

The NFL doesn’t have 8-seeds, but twice the league has seen a 6-seed win the Super Bowl. In the 2005-06 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the last wild card team in, started the playoffs at +800 to win the Super Bowl, and rose to +1200 after winning a round (such was the perceived strength of the top-seed Indianapolis Colts they were playing next). In 2010-11, the Green Bay Packers pulled off the same feat after starting the postseason at +1200 to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

The list of MLB wild card teams that have won the World Series is a lengthy one. The Florida Marlins did it first, in 1997, after entering the playoffs at +2500, and the 2019 Washington Nationals did it most recently, after beginning the playoffs with +1200 odds.

A Heat championship in 2023 would exceed any of those longshot numbers. Heck, Miami was still +1600 to win the title at DraftKings entering the Eastern Conference finals! Going into their first-round series against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, the Heat were as high as 125/1. And before the play-in round, Miami was +30000 at DraftKings.

The Heat are not your average 8-seed. After Tuesday night, they may be mere 2/1 underdogs to do what no team as lightly regarded as them has ever done.

Photo: Eric Espada/Getty Images


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