Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2013-2014 NBA Finals Preview (sport, gambling)

This is it. The NBA Finals rematch. This is the first rematch since the Lakers and Celtics battled it out in 2008 and 2010, and the first rematch in consecutive years since the Jazz lost to the Bulls back in 1998. Unlike last year, the Spurs come into this final with home court advantage. However, the advantage is smaller this year as the NBA has reverted back to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. Can the Spurs get revenge?

San Antonio Spurs (1) at Miami Heat (2)

The Matchup:
Both rosters are pretty much the same as last year's, and it seems like none of the Heat's off-season moves look to have panned out. The Spurs matched up well last year, and it'll really come down to what lineups each team uses. Due to a rash of mid-season injuries, the Spurs have experimented with many different lineups, which should be very advantageous for them.

The Key Players (who will need to step up):
Dwyane Wade - Wade shot an impressive 55% for the Indiana series, as Indiana just let him do his thing in the paint so Lance Stephenson could focus on what he does best. The Spurs will focus on keeping him out of the paint, and it will be up to Wade to hit mid range jumpers, something he didn't do well last year when he wasn't as healthy.

Boris Diaw - Diaw should get a fair amount of playing time as he provides interior size while being more mobile than Splitter. Diaw did a fairly good job defending LeBron last year, but LeBron is an even better shooter this year, and it'll be up to Diaw to step up his ability to both clog the lane and contest shots. His versatility will be very important against Miami's smaller lineups. He posted up a bit against Durant when OKC went small, and while LeBron is a much bigger body and tougher defender, Diaw should be able to post up successfully if they switch LeBron over to guard Parker or Leonard.

Rashard Lewis - While he may not provide the defense that Battier does, he provides three point shooting without giving up interior size. I have a feeling that Spoelstra will just go with the hot hand as the series unfolds, but Lewis' size provides versatility similar to what Diaw provides the Spurs. A lineup with both Lewis and Allen would have plenty of three point shooting without really giving up rebounding size.

The Coaching:
It seemed to me that both Popovich and Spoelstra clearly outcoached their opponents in their respective conference finals series. Both are excellent coaches, and while Miami has the best player in the series, the Spurs are much deeper and will be more pliable for different coaching strategies. I give the edge to the Spurs here just because they have more options and looks they can go with.

The Intangibles:
The Spurs seem to be playing better as the playoffs have gone on, while the Heat haven't really been tested, even playing an Indiana team that seemed weaker than last year's. Miami's defense, however, is probably tougher than any the Spurs have faced so far in the playoffs, and the Spurs have only been 2-4 during the playoffs when they've scored less than 100 points.

This series is really really close, and it'll probably come down to who has the hot hand. The upside lies with San Antonio in that case, as they have more options and scorers. The Spurs are also more likely to be able to adapt to whatever pace the games end up being played at, while I'm not sure Miami, especially their second team, can keep up with a high scoring pace.

Prediction: San Antonio 4-3
Possible bets: Bet San Antonio to win the series 4-1. Current price around +375, which represents pretty good value. While the series seems pretty even, I can see San Antonio winning easily if their league-leading bench outperforms at home while they steal one on the road.

Let's look back and see how my conference finals predictions went.

Overall Series Predictions vs Actual Result:

Prediction San Antonio 4-1, Actual San Antonio 4-2
Prediction Miami 4-2, Actual Miami 4-2

I think I did a pretty good job. I got both winners right, and nailed the Miami series exactly. If Ibaka didn't make a miraculous comeback from his calf injury to play (and play well), i might have nailed that series exactly too.

SAS to win the series. Win one unit.
Parlay Under and IND SU in MIA@IND games. 1-2 for the series, win +.7 units

Overall results: 2-2 +1.7 units

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