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Bettors back Heat over favored Lakers in NBA Finals

Led by two of the league’s top five players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the heat is on the Los Angeles Lakers to win their first NBA title since 2010.

But bettors are all over the Miami Heat in their first NBA Finals appearance since 2014, James’ final season with the franchise.

The Lakers opened as -450 series favorites and the Heat as +375 underdogs at the Westgate sportsbook. But heavy action on Miami caused those numbers to drop Tuesday to -335 and +275.

“So far, 80 percent of the tickets are on the Heat and 75 percent of the money is on the Heat in the series,” Westgate vice president of risk Jeff Sherman said. “The trend on these series prices in the bubble format has been a lot more underdog money than favorite money. People are leery to lay the price with no home-court advantage.

“They think taking 3-1 odds is worth a shot no matter who’s playing.”

The Westgate took $5,000 series bets on Miami at +375 and +300.

The line and total on Wednesday’s Game 1 also have dipped. Los Angeles opened as a 5½-point favorite, but the line dropped to 4½ on Tuesday. Likewise, sharp money on the under caused the total to dip from 218 to 217½.

“The totals have been going over,” Sherman said. “We’ve had liability on the over and needed the under in each game.”

The Lakers have gone over in their past three games and four of five. The Heat have gone over in four straight and five of six.

Both teams are 12-3 in the playoffs, with Miami going 12-3 ATS and LA going 9-5-1 ATS.

Heat (+5) over Lakers, Game 1

Professional sports bettor Erin Rynning, who picked the Heat to win the East in the Review-Journal before the postseason began, bet on Miami +5½ in Game 1.

“The Lakers have started slow in losing Game 1s in series against the Blazers and Rockets, while the Nuggets were in a tough predicament off a Game 7 upset win over the Clippers,” Rynning (@ersports1) said in an email. “The Lakers have garnered an easier road with defensively flawed teams as well, while the Heat’s level of play has been high with series wins against the Bucks and Celtics that have them finals ready.

“The ability of the Heat to throw a wrench at the Lakers with their zone defense could take some time to adjust.”

Books need Miami

Las Vegas sportsbooks have a large liability on Los Angeles to win the title, including six figures at the Westgate

“People have been betting the Lakers at short odds as far back as last summer, when we took a $10,000 bet at +175,” Sherman said. “There’s been bets like that all season and persistent support. The Heat are a decent winner for us.”

That said, Sherman expects the Lakers to prevail and tie the Boston Celtics for the most championships in NBA history with 17.

“The Lakers have two superstars, and it’s a superstar-driven league. I expect them to get some calls that might go their way,” he said. “If LeBron and Anthony Davis are healthy, I expect the Lakers to come out of the series.

“It will be a hard-fought series. The way I would approach it is to take the Heat with the points in each game.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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