The NBA Finals are officially at hand. In one corner, the Western Conference juggernaut that stood atop the standings for most of the season: the Los Angeles Lakers. And in the other, the little No. 5 seed that could, the Miami Heat. I offer no other preamble than this: it is the Finals. Throw out the regular season. Throw out your preconceived notions. Remember that the Heat are here for a reason. They are not to be trifled with. This will not be easy, no matter how much you believe in the Lakers. Here are your Game 1 best bets.
All lines via William Hill Sportsbook
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat: Heat +5
For whatever reason, LeBron tends to struggle in Game 1's. The Lakers lost their first two before beating Denver in the Western Conference Finals. For his career, he's 28-20 in Game 1's. Not bad, but remember, he's 35-13 in Game 2's. In series that don't end in a sweep, he is only 16-18 in Game 1's. LeBron figures his opponents out as playoff matchups progress, but he usually needs to feel them out for a night or two before he truly dominates. There are exceptions to this. Game 1 of the 2018 Finals stands out. This is LeBron we're talking about, after all. But broadly, this trend has held true.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat: Under 217.5
The last few Finals have been an anomaly considering the level of experience present when the same teams and players make it over and over again, but generally, there are jitters early in Game 1. The Heat rely heavily on 3-point shooting. Their mental toughness is not in question, but it only takes one early cold stretch to throw off this line, especially with two defenses as sharp as these. The stars will be up to the task, but expect the role players to need a game to adjust to the moment, even without fans in the building.
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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat: Lakers -380 (series)
I cannot in good conscience suggest that you actually make this bet. The Lakers are my championship pick, but at -380, the value isn't nearly good enough. It would make more sense to either bet the series game by game, or wait a bit and hope Miami steals an early game (very possible). The Heat at +300 should tempt those that believe this will be a close series if for no other reason than that it provides such a simple hedge if Miami manages to steal even two games, but I can't justify betting on a team I expect to lose either.
So I'll present two compromise options. The first would be to bet an exact series outcome. Say, for example, you think the Lakers are going to win, but it will be close. You can get good value on betting multiple options (say, Lakers win 4-2 and Lakers win 4-3) on those lines. The other option would be to hope that Miami takes one of the first two games (ideally Game 1). That would lower the line to a more palatable level, but would still require three Laker losses for you to lose your bet.