The Miami Heat nearly let the Eastern Conference Final slip away but were able to hold on with a win in Game 7 vs. the Boston Celtics on Monday. Now, as the No. 8 seed, the Heat will be tasked with taking down Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, who have steamrolled their way to the Finals for the first time ever.
But going back to the Heat, this is a team that has been the underdog in pretty much every scenario this postseason. Jimmy Butler and Co. have relished these chances and have continued to surprise. Let’s look at how the Heat have done against the spread in the playoffs and how to approach betting them in Game 1 and beyond.
The Heat are 13-5 against the spread in the playoffs. Miami got out of the play-in tournament and defeated the No. 1 seeded Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the first round. Miami spent most of that series as underdogs. In the second round, the Heat took down the New York Knicks in a more even matchup on paper and on the court. In the East Finals, the Heat were dogs to the Celtics for most of the series, particularly on the road.
Three of the Heat’s five losses this postseason have come on the road, so the team is getting it done at home for the most part. Miami has also won Game 1 in every series this postseason and enter Game 1 of the Finals vs. the Nuggets on Thursday night as 8.5-point underdogs on DraftKings Sportsbook. As a result, Thursday afternoon, 51% of the bets are on the Heat to cover the spread. At +295 on the moneyline, Miami is getting almost 60% of the bets in that market. Most of the handle on the spread and ML is in favor of Denver.
In Game 1, the value is all over the Heat. Miami has had less time to rest between series but that could help with momentum and continuity. If there were a game for the Heat to catch the Nuggets off guard, it would be Thursday night. Stealing Game 1 should be a priority for the Heat. Miami has been great at home, so taking one of the first two games is key.
After that, the Heat could get Tyler Herro back, so depending on how the first two games go, keeping a close eye on Game 3 would be wise. The lines should open before we get concrete word on Herro’s status. If we know Herro is back, the books will adjust and the Heat should have shorter odds. That still could offer some value, though you’d think the Nuggets are maybe slight favorites on the road if Herro is back. Miami could even be favored at that point if it’s a split series or the Heat lead 2-0.