Heat can start looking to Finals as West goes down to the wire
Eastern Conference champions elect Miami Heat (62-16) have already guaranteed homecourt advantage throughout the play-offs, which looks ominous for their playoff rivals considering they are currently 34-4 at American Airlines Arena. Eric Spoelstra’s men are 10/11 favourites to win the NBA Finals.
It is increasingly difficult to see any Eastern side offering a sustained or convincing threat to the Heat’s drive towards a third consecutive Finals; just two other sides in the Conference currently hold records of 60 per cent or better, compared to six in the West.
The New York Knicks (51-27) perhaps present the most creditable challengers.
The Knicks may have just seen their 13-game win streak end, but they appear to be hitting form at the right stage of the season. In addition, they are 3-1 against Miami this term; the most recent fixture saw them end Miami’s 27-game win streak.
However, that was a Miami side deprived of Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, two players who were simply too much for the New Yorkers in last season’s playoff 4-1 hammering. At 16/1 the Knicks are the joint-second shortest price in the East – quite an endorsement for Lebron James et al.
From the West, last year’s losing finalists Oklahoma City Thunder (58-21) are 7/2 to right that wrong of last time around, and have the edge in the betting over playoff staples San Antonio Spurs (57-21), who themselves are 6/1 to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Despite these two splitting their four encounters this term, the Thunder are deservedly ahead in the betting having overcome Gregg Popovich’s Spurs 4-2 in last season’s Conference final; with a far younger squad and fewer injury concerns few would go against a repeat this time round.
The race for Conference honours is equally intriguing. The Thunder represent good value at 5/4 to win the West, while the Spurs are 7/4 to do the same. None of the Thunder’s remaining three games – two of which come at home – are against teams with winning records, while the Spurs face two sides in their remaining four matches above that mark.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing