Pricing the Series

May 31, 2023

Betting the Nuggets-Heat title bout

By Jason Schlefsky

The oddsmakers and bettors have spoken loud and clear; they’ve already said the NBA Championship is the Denver Nuggets to lose. Based on the odds, they’re telling you this is a forgone conclusion. Here’s how they see it:

Nuggets -425. Heat +325.

In other words, heading into the Finals, which begin Thursday night in Denver, the Nuggets are an overwhelming favorite.

So, if you’re a Nuggets fan, that’s great news. If you’re a Nuggets fan wanting to wager on the outcome, it’s, well, just news. Forking over 425 bones just to win your $100 back? Not quite as exciting as the parade in Denver might be.

If you believe in the Heat, well you’re in luck. Let that Ben Franklin ride all the way to your better-than-3-to-1 payday.

The real skill – and perhaps fun – is picking the exact series result. If you’ve got a feel for that, you can really cash in. So, how do you feel? Let’s play a little game: Match the description that most closely resembles how you see the NBA Finals play out, and bet accordingly.

HEAT IN 4: +5000

You like the Heat to sweep? Certainly, you’re in the minority, but hey, building a fortune is not for the timid. If you’re correct, your investment would pay handsomely. Forget for a moment the unpopularity of this prediction. If – hypothetically – the Heat did sweep the Nuggets, how would it look? Perhaps Miami can summon whatever it did against Boston, a team that many believed to be just as formidable as the Nuggets. And in many ways, this series “looks” very similar. Like Boston, Denver is a favorite. Like Boston, Denver has homecourt advantage. What happened in the Eastern Conference Finals? Miami jumped out to a 3-0 series lead. Whether they can do that against Denver remains to be seen, but they’ve done it once. And if the Heat learned anything about being up 3-0, it’s that they better not leave anything to chance by losing Game 4 in Miami. Will it happen that way against Denver? It’s doubtful, but Miami shocked everyone in Boston when they nearly swept the Celtics.

HEAT IN 5: +2500

Much of the aforementioned logic just mentioned could be applied here as well, but perhaps you’re just a bit less delusional. The Nuggets are a good team, one that’s unlikely to be swept. But what if the nine days off hurts them out of the gates? What If Miami storms into Denver on a high and steels Game 1? Perhaps the two teams split in Denver before Miami takes both at home. Again, we’re painting hypotheticals, which is the key to collecting on your +2500.

HEAT IN 6: +850

If you think these two teams are much closer to even than the oddsmakers, Miami winning in six games conceivably makes the most sense, as Game 6 would take place in South Beach. Assuming it’s a hard-fought battle in which Miami has somehow swiped home court advantage, Game 6 would be the most likely scenario in which the Heat is crowned the champ. Keep in mind, it’s priced accordingly at +850, the lowest payout should you put your money on the Heat for an exact series prediction.

HEAT IN 7: +1200

Scrap what was just written about the “Heat in 6.” Did you watch the game on Monday night? Who in their right mind would have ever predicted that Miami – a team that literally snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at home in Game 6 – would storm onto the hallowed parquet floors of the Gahhhdenn and whip the Celtics in Game 7? Most assumed that when the Heat choked away their 3-0 lead and failed to close out on their home court not once, but twice, that beating Boston on the road in Game 7 was a pipedream. Well, here we are. A similar path to a title against Denver would be miraculous, but clearly, Miami has a strange ability to summon their best when it’s least expected. Heat in 7? Why not.


NUGGETS IN 4: +425

Just how confident are you in the Denver Nuggets, a team that has literally and seemingly just been introduced to the national media? Considering that the Nuggets sweeping the Heat has a better price than any scenario in which the Heat win the series, there’s clearly a lot of confidence in Denver. Consider this: If Miami center Bam Adebayo were to be inserted into the Nuggets starting lineup ahead of anyone who was shorter than him, he’d still be the second shortest person in Denver’s starting five. Now, consider that the same Bam Adebayo will be tasked with stopping two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, and you can begin to see how the Heat don’t match up well – on paper – with the Nuggets. Denver just swept the Lakers; don’t think for a second they can’t do the same to the Heat.

NUGGETS IN 5: +190

Regardless of how big of an underdog Miami is against the Nuggets, it’s impossible to dismiss Jimmy Butler or Erik Spoelstra – two of the very best in the NBA. Butler is a winner, plain and simple; players like him can’t be stopped entirely. And Spoelstra is one of, if not the, best coaches in the NBA. Perhaps his 2-3 zone gives Denver a tricky puzzle to figure out. Even if Miami is outmanned – and realistically they are – they’re in the Finals, too. Respectfully, the Heat aren’t going to be swept, even if the Nuggets are the superior team. If this is your line of thinking, you’re not alone – the price tag of +190 is accordingly steep considering its an exact prediction.

NUGGETS IN 6: +450

At +450, this is the best “value” one can get while betting on the Nuggets to win in an exact scenario. This was precisely what played out in Round 2 against the Suns, Denver’s most challenging series to date. Against Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, the Nuggets found things knotted up at two games apiece when they headed back to Denver for Game 5, where they proceeded to take care of business. A trip back to Phoenix with Denver holding a 3-2 series lead was merely a business trip for the Nuggets, as Jokic handed the Suns a 32-10-12 triple-double while leading Denver to a 125-100 game and series win. Perhaps Miami can follow a similar path, holding serve once the series heads back to Florida. However, if you’re of the belief that Denver is still the better team, they’ll figure out how to get one on the road before it’s all said and done. If this is anything like Denver’s series against the Suns, winning in six isn’t out of the question. 

NUGGETS IN 7: +400

A bet that the Nuggets will win, but that it will take them the entire length of the series to do so, suggests that this will be a slugfest for the ages. If the series goes the distance, Miami is better and tougher than everyone thinks. And that’s not an unreasonable assertion. The Heat are in the Finals because they are tough. They are resilient. They have beaten the odds already. If Miami can somehow take the Nuggets – a whopping -425 favorite to win the series – to the brink, that will be a miracle itself. But could the Heat do what they did to Boston again? That seems like a tall order, even for the gritty Heat. If this goes seven, you’d best believe the Nuggets will win at home, where 5,280 feet above sea level would be waiting for Butler and Co.  

Tonight’s Trio

Three bets worth considering on a Wednesday night

Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets
Citi Field – Queens, NY
7:10 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Philadelphia -120

This one doesn’t seem to make any sense. Hardly any of the signs would point toward the Phillies being the favorite on Wednesday night against the Mets.

New York has a better overall record this season, coming into the game at 28-27, while Philadelphia is 25-29. Plus, they’re at home, where they’ve gone 13-9 at Citi Field.

The Mets won the opener of the series, blanking the Phillies 2-0 on Tuesday night. They’ve won three of their last five, while Philly has dropped the same number of games in that same amount of time.

On paper, the Phillies have a slight pitching advantage. Aaron Nola is 4-3 on the year, with a 4.59 ERA. Meanwhile, Carlos Carrasco is just 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA. That’s an edge, but not a big one.

A deeper dive suggests there’s even less on Philadelphia’s side of the ledger. Everything seems to lean toward New York.

The Mets are 5-0 in Carrasco’s last five starts during the second game of a series. Tonight is game two.

The Mets are 5-0 in their last five home games. The Phillies are just 1-6 in their last seven games at New York.

There is value to be had here. The Mets are a good home team, while the Phillies are bad on the road, where they’re just 11-19. Expect those trends to continue tonight.

Richard DeMala’s pick: New York M/L (+104)


Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles, CA
4:10 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Los Angeles -250

Everything points toward this one being a mismatch. Well, almost everything.

The Dodgers are 34-22 on the season, boasting the best record in the National League. Meanwhile, the Nationals are just 23-32, the worst mark in the NL.

That discrepancy has been on display through the first two games of this series. Los Angeles has won both, outscoring Washington 15-4 in the process.

They go for the sweep today, with Noah Syndergaard on the mound. The righty has had a disappointing season thus far, as he’s just 1-4 with a 6.27 ERA. Perhaps he rights the ship today, as he’s facing off against Patrick Corbin.

The lefty has a 5.79 ERA on the road this season. He’s also struggled against the Dodgers during his career, posting a 4.37 ERA lifetime against L.A.

Los Angeles is on a bit of a tear at the plate. Four of the Dodgers’ last five wins have covered the run line, as they’ve scored 45 runs in their last seven games.

That bodes well heading into this mismatch. Look for the Dodgers to complete the sweep in dominant fashion.

Richard DeMala’s pick: Los Angeles -1.5 (-120)


Minnesota Twins at Houston Astros
Minute Maid Park – Houston, TX
8:10 PM ET
SuperBook Line: Houston -190

Tonight is the rubber match in this three-game set. The Twins grabbed the opener, winning 7-5 in extra innings. The Astros bounced back on Tuesday in a dominant performance, taking game two by a 5-1 count.

Who will win the series? The home team looks like a good bet.

Minnesota has been up and down all season. The Twins are sitting atop the American League Central, but that’s mostly due to the fact that the division is extremely mediocre. The Twins are the only team above .500, sitting at 28-27.

They’ve scuffled of late, bouncing back and forth between a win and a loss in each of their last seven games. They’re just 4-6 in their last 10 games.

Meanwhile, the Astros have been playing excellent baseball. They’ve won seven of their last 10 to move to 32-22 on the season. Unfortunately for Houston, they’ve lost ground in the AL West during that time, as the Rangers have gone 8-2.

It’s hard not to like the Astros edge on the mound tonight, as well. Hunter Brown gets the start, boasting a 5-1 record and 3.12 ERA on the season. Houston has won the righthander’s last three starts.

The Twins counter with Louie Varland. He’s 2-1 on the season, with a 4.24 ERA. But Minnesota has lost three of his last five starts, as the righty has given up 13 earned runs during that stretch.

Houston is the better team. They’re also the hotter team.

During their stretch of four wins in their last five games, the Astros have covered the run line in every victory. Expect that to continue tonight.

Richard DeMala’s pick: Houston -1.5 (+110)