Following Wade, Heat look too tough

Migraine headaches are about all that can debilitate Dwyane Wade and keep the Miami Heat from moving on to the final four of the NBA playoffs. That’s the bad news for Heat haters.

Wade has played through the extreme pain, and as long as he’s on the floor in the lead role, the Heat will be tough to beat. Philadelphia is obviously no threat, and Boston probably isn’t tough enough, either.

But the key is Miami is much better when Wade is the leader. It is not LeBron James’ gang, no matter how badly the self-appointed King wants to run the team.

Wade took charge Thursday, compiling 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists as Miami, a 4½-point favorite, covered and cashed in a 100-94 victory over the 76ers. James was superb, too, with 24 points and 15 rebounds.

It was the type of grind-out postseason road win James seldom delivered with Cleveland. It was about this time a year ago when he quit on his Cavaliers teammates. But Wade has won a championship, and he’s showing James how it’s done.

“If I had to guess who’s going to win right now, I’d say the Heat and Oklahoma City,” handicapper Lee Sterling said.

A week ago, the Chicago Bulls were sitting in the top spot in the Eastern Conference with the Lakers clear favorites in the West.

Yet flawed favorites and live underdogs have turned these playoffs upside down, for the most part. Through Wednesday, underdogs were 12-4 against the spread and 10 of 16 games stayed under the total, blowing up most of the public’s favorite-and-over parlays.

“All the smart money is on the ‘dogs, and all the square money is on the favorites,” Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller said. “We’re going back and forth, pretty much breaking even.”

The Sixers, down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series, appeared to be live ‘dogs in Game 3. Miami was fortunate to cover, and some bettors on the Bulls got even luckier.

Derrick Rose blew by three defenders for the go-ahead layup with 17 seconds left, Indiana’s Danny Granger missed a 3-point attempt, and Ronnie Brewer was fouled and made two free throws with 1.1 seconds to go to lift Chicago to an 88-84 victory. The Bulls closed as 4-point favorites after the line sat at 4½ for two days — another reminder to always try to bet the best number.

Rose was a solo show in the first two games of the series. He scored 23 points in Game 3 but shot 4-for-18.

“I just think with Chicago, eventually Rose is going to need some scoring help, and I don’t think he has it,” Sterling said.

But the Bulls are not the only money-burning favorites in the playoffs. The Lakers, and especially Pau Gasol, have looked almost abysmal. They lost the opener to Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets and failed to cover as double-digit chalk in an 87-78 win Wednesday.

“All the squares have been all over the Lakers,” Miller said.

It would be too risky to back the Lakers as 5-point favorites at New Orleans today, but I’ll give the New York Knicks consideration as 3-point home favorites over the Celtics.

The Knicks, down 2-0 but deserving of a better fate, were blatantly robbed by the officials in Game 1 and blew Game 2. Amare Stoudemire is probable to play today, but point guard Chauncey Billups is somewhere between questionable and doubtful.

The Celtics will win this series, which turned with the officiating blunders in the opener. But it’s doubtful they get by the Heat, who made a wise late-season adjustment by moving James to power forward late in games and putting the ball and control of the team in Wade’s hands more often.

Why Wade continues to get migraines is a mystery. But if he has been watching the George Lopez talk show, that would explain everything.

■ BOTTOM LINES — Vic Salerno, a leader in the Nevada sports book industry for more than three decades, said the changes that are coming will mean progress, and he’s staying on for the ride.

William Hill, Britain’s biggest bookmaker, agreed last week to buy American Wagering Inc. for $18 million and the Club Cal Neva books for $21 million. William Hill’s state license is expected to be completed within a year.

Salerno, chief executive officer of American Wagering and Leroy’s sports books, said bettors will benefit from what William Hill eventually brings to the 50-plus Leroy’s books.

“They are not coming in trying to upset anybody. They’re going to bring a lot to the party as far as technology and in-game betting,” Salerno said.

Rumors also continue to fly about further expansion by Cantor Gaming and other possible deals on the horizon, so it appears the Las Vegas sports book business is in a transition phase.

Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the “Las Vegas Sportsline” weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and

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