Robert Ferringo NBA Handicapping: NBA Finals Spreads A Clinic In Reading Lines
By Robert Ferringo
One of the most important skills for any sports handicapper or gambler is the ability to read a line. I always say that gambling isn’t magic, it’s mathematics. And these NBA Finals spreads have really been a clinic in how the books work and how being able to interpret the odds can lead to successful sports betting.
Let’s start with Game 1. Miami was installed as a 5.5-point favorite to defend its home court and open the series with the win. That was a steady number, conducive to a -250 moneyline, which the books also offered.
But what tipped me off about this spread is that it was thick compared to the series odds. I was seeing the Heat series price at -210 at a lot of books. Now, the team that wins Game 1 wins the series over 70 percent of the time. So the odds on this first game (-250) weren’t exactly in line with the odds for the series (-210) even though the two things – a win in Game 1 – aren’t exactly mutually exclusive.
So the books were jacking up the spread a bit. That’s not uncommon. They knew the public would be pouring money into the Heat. But this little deductive reasoning by a professional handicapper, namely, moi, led to a winning bet on the Spurs because the books were essentially offering me a free point on the spread. (The odds should’ve been 4.5).
So let’s move forward to Game 2. San Antonio won the first game, seized control of the series, and had stunned the Heat and their backers. The Spurs were now favored to win the series (-120) and had stolen home court advantage. And they did all this despite having to overcome a nine-day layoff and a sluggish first half. You’d think the books would lower the price on the Heat, maybe decreasing the odds down to 4.0 or 4.5 where they probably should’ve been in Game 1.
Well, the books responded by making the Heat a six-point favorite. They were actually a stronger favorite in Game 2 despite losing. Well, they responded with one of the best halves of basketball of the season, winning 103-84 and evening up the series.
I figured the Spurs would be 4.5-point favorites in Game 3. After all, I still think they are a better team and that they are playing better at the right time. San Antonio has a sizeable home court advantage of its own, on top of the experience and coaching edges. That’s gotta count for something to counteract the Heat hype, right?
San Antonio was a steal at -2.0. The public probably felt that Miami had righted the ship after Game 2. And the images of them running off a 33-5 run to dominate bumbling San Antonio in the second half were fresh in people’s mind. (That’s the recency effect in full force.)
Well, the Spurs won by almost 40. So that was easy.
Which leads us to Game 4. San Antonio is coming off one of its best postseason performances ever. Miami looks to be in full-blown meltdown mode. And at this point we can admit that the Spurs are the better team, right?
The spread for Game 4 is -1.5. The Spurs won by almost 40 and they are favored by even LESS in this next game.
So now it is decision time for bettors. If we read the tea leaves here, it looks like this bet should be on Miami. Just like the counterintuitive movement after Game 1 – instead of the spread going down, it went up – we have a counterintuitive movement after Game 3. This spread, by all logic, should go up. The Spurs should be 4.5-point favorites in this game, right? At least. But the spread has moved the other way.
Or is this still just the books playing into the public’s stubborn refusal to abandon the Heat? Early betting has 60 percent of the action in Thursday night’s contest on Miami. Is this sharp action? Are bettors seeing what I see? Or is this just squares doubling-down on Miami despite all the obvious signs pointing to the fact that they are going to lose this series?
That right there is where the decision lies. Good luck with whatever you choose – as long as it isn’t the opposite side of what I choose!