It was turn-back-the-clock night for Dwyane Wade, and as a result, a wild series is right back where it started. But maybe it’s not that wild, because this is what was expected.
The zig-zag pattern the NBA Finals followed through three games held true for Game 4. The trend of the Miami Heat responding from a loss with a win and point-spread cover has been money since mid-January.
Bettors unleashed a one-way attack on the sports books Thursday. The bookmakers were blown out along with the San Antonio Spurs, who were on the tail end of a 109-93 butt-kicking.
The Spurs opened as 2-point home favorites, but by closing time, the Heat were 1- to 2-point favorites. Every once in a while, when everyone is on one side, it’s the right side.
“This is definitely one of those times when the money is moving with the point spread,” South Point sports book director Bert Osborne said before tipoff. “Both the sharps and public are moving on the Heat. We definitely have a decision. We need the Spurs.”
How lopsided was the action? The one guy in Las Vegas who bet the Spurs must feel like an idiot. He was on an island, but even Gilligan and the Skipper would have had their money on Miami in this spot.
The trend was too strong to ignore. Since mid-January, after a loss, Miami had won and covered the next game 11 consecutive times, with an average victory margin of 19.8 points. Make it 12-0 after a 16-point win.
“The general public has picked up on that,” Osborne said.
Humiliated and turned into the Washington Generals in Game 3, a 36-point massacre, the Heat were more determined to respond and tie the series. It’s what they do. After losing the series opener, they won Game 2 in a blowout.
“It’s just crazy how it’s been zig-zag, zig-zag,” Sportsmemo.com handicapper Erin Rynning said. “That was Miami’s home-run game off an embarrassment. I wouldn’t read too much into it.”
Most playoff series become a back-and-forth struggle, yet this one has been extreme. Miami went into the Finals as a minus-220 favorite, and the price shifted to San Antonio minus-130 going into Game 4. The favorite’s role has traded hands after each of the four games.
The adjusted series price now shows the Heat at minus-270, which appears on the high side. But in the 2-3-2 format, Miami has reclaimed home-court advantage, at least until Sunday. The must-win rhetoric applies to the Spurs in Game 5, and the line opened pick-’em.
“I’ll be looking at playing San Antonio,” said Rynning, who plans to follow the profitable zig-zag theory.
I’ll stick to my original prediction, that the Spurs win two of three at home and take a 3-2 series lead back to Miami. I bet the Heat in Games 2 and 4, but will side with the home team Sunday.
If you watch ESPN, and if you’re reading this you probably do, the same analysts who trashed Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh after Tuesday’s game were singing their praises Thursday night. It’s natural to overreact, and, as Rynning said, “People jump from side to side.”
Wade and Bosh were ghosts, and James was as passive as a kitten in Game 3, when he had no free-throw attempts. It’s as if they had a group therapy session with Dr. Phil and emerged to rediscover their Big Three identity.
James finally was the aggressor, hitting 15 of 25 shots, scoring 33 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The proposition total for James’ points was 27 at the LVH sports book, and he topped it with his first 20-point game of the series. Bosh played with the confidence he has lacked and totaled 20 points and 13 rebounds.
But it was mostly about Wade, who took over and quieted a growing group of critics who called him too old. Wade’s prop for total points, rebounds and assists was 23, and he crushed it with 32 points, six rebounds and four assists. He added six steals.
The Heat made a lineup adjustment, inserting red-hot shooting guard Mike Miller as a starter for Udonis Haslem. It didn’t matter much. Miller went scoreless in 21 minutes, and Ray Allen hit the big shots off the bench.
“The pace was much faster. The Heat had to make it small-ball and more up-tempo, and the Spurs didn’t get it done defensively,” Rynning said. “San Antonio is going to have to adjust somehow.”
In this series, the losing team has found a way to adjust each time, and no coach plays chess better than Gregg Popovich. It’s his turn to make a big move in Game 5.
So the Finals is back where it started. It’s all tied up, and for the Spurs to win again, Tony Parker will need to be the best player on the floor Sunday.
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.