Whether he wins or not, LeBron James elevates the entertainment value of the NBA postseason. He called himself “The King” before winning a ring, and what kind of clown would do that?
It’s much easier to predict winning multiple championships than it is backing up the dancing and fireworks.
The critics who want to see James fall on his face got their wish last year with his spectacular flameout in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. Flip the script, and the Mavericks are done, while James’ title quest has just begun.
“After last year’s disappointment,” handicapper Jim Kruger said, “I think there is extra motivation for Miami.”
Phony favorites doomed to fail a year ago, the Heat are now set up for success, at least in the Eastern Conference, where the sad sight of Derrick Rose collapsing to the court has all but eliminated the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
Rose’s blown knee has crippled the Bulls and reduced the East to a two-team chase, at least by my count.
It’s obvious the New York Knicks have no shot of turning a fire extinguisher on the Heat, who rolled to an 87-70 victory Thursday while covering as 5-point favorites. James scored 17 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, when he usually disappears.
Maybe that’s a positive sign. But it’s only the first round, and it’s only the Knicks, who were without Amare Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert and a prayer.
Carmelo Anthony needed 23 shots to score 22 points, and the lack of ball movement on the offensive end and level of bad basketball displayed by the Knicks was sick. The total was 186, and the score was at 86 (43-43) with 5½ minutes left in the third quarter.
Before the series, I thought the Knicks could push the Heat to seven games. So at least one of my theories was correct: The more opinions you offer on the NBA, the more chances you have of looking foolish.
I also backed the Mavericks on Thursday. Down 2-0, after losing late leads in both games at Oklahoma City, Dallas showed the heart of a champion and got crushed 95-79 by Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder, who easily cashed as 3-point underdogs.
The Los Angeles Lakers, up 2-0 on Denver, are 4-point road underdogs today. The adjusted series price on the Lakers is minus-700, which indicates the Nuggets are headed for an early exit. But if they are going to get a game in the series, this is it.
Ultimately, the West will come down to the Lakers, Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, who still offer some value at 7-2 odds to win the championship.
studies offensive and defensive efficiency numbers the way lonely guys study Playboy centerfolds, and his pick to win it is definitive. “It’s the Spurs, no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Kruger said.
The impact of Rose’s injury on the Bulls is obvious in these numbers – Chicago was a minus-600 series favorite over Philadelphia before losing Game 2 by 17 points. The adjusted series price is minus-160.
“I think the Bulls still will take out Philadelphia,” Kruger said. “I’m not a fan of Philadelphia at all. But I just don’t see the Bulls really coming through in the East, and I don’t see any way Chicago can beat Boston.”
The Celtics, loaded with veterans who know how to persevere in the playoffs, are the only team in the East capable of taking down the Heat. That is my opinion. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett need some backcourt help, though. Rajon Rondo would be wise to stop chest-bumping officials, and Ray Allen must bounce back from an ankle injury.
Kruger’s opinion is to not count out Indiana. It’s just tough to envision Danny Granger upstaging James.
“The Pacers do have size, which can be a problem for Miami. If they can keep the Heat in a half-court game, they do stand a shot,” Kruger said. “But I don’t see my money going on Indiana to beat Miami.”
Is James destined to be a king or a clown this year?
The Celtics should get the first serious shot to answer that question. Win or lose, James will be entertaining to watch.
■ BOTTOM LINES – Cantor Gaming is set to unveil its remodeled sports book at the Palms at noon today, just in time for one of the biggest Saturdays of the year. Following the Kentucky Derby, Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand.
The unbeaten Mayweather is a minus-800 favorite, with the return on Cotto at plus-600. Most boxing bettors will be praying for an upset.
“A fight of this magnitude, when the line is this high, you tend to get one-sided action on the underdog. As good as Floyd is, I think people consistently bet against him and hope that he will lose,” said Cantor sports book director Mike Colbert, who predicted Mayweather will “go for the knockout and stop Cotto late.”
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).