NBA Playoffs: The Miami Heat Have Bookmakers Sweating

Michael Savio pic
By:
Michael Savio
05/24/2023
News

Highlights

  • The Heat opened the NBA Playoffs at +25000 to win the NBA Title
  • Miami would be the biggest underdog to win an NBA title in history
  • Miami was a still a distant fourth place to win after going up 2-0 against Boston

Nobody expected the Miami Heat to survive the first round of the playoffs this year, with event their own fans thinking they may not even advance out of the play-in tournament. Now, the Heat are just one win away from returning to the NBA Finals and possibly becoming the biggest underdog ever to win an NBA Championship.

Until this past week, US sportsbooks have greatly undervalued the Heat. Even as Miami advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, their odds stayed far behind the other three remaining teams. That went counter to feeling of many NBA fans, meaning the sportsbooks could now be vulnerable.

Below we will review how the Heat got to this point and why bookmakers will be cheering hard for the field to take home the NBA Championship.

Miami’s Playoff Journey

Miami was a very different team at the end of the season. They won four of their final five games to lock in their spot for the play-in tournament (especially after Tyler Herro was injured), but they lost to Atlanta in their first game. At that point, all the NBA had written them off as they faced a future of either immediate elimination or a first-round matchup with a dominant Bucks team. 

Miami would win their second play-in game and was able to get into the playoffs as the eight seed. While they were expected to be eliminated quickly, they instead shocked the league by winning the series 4-1. They did it through aggressive defense and the incredible play of Jimmy Butler. While many celebrated the historic upset, they believed it was more of a case of the Bucks playing poorly than the Heat playing well.

Next up, the Heat faced the New York Knicks. The Knicks were coming off an impressive first round as well, eliminating the Cavs in five games. Miami once again stunned the league by taking the first game at Madison Square Garden and would go on to win the series in six games. They looked like the same team that had just eliminated the Bucks, defying expectations that they would falter.

Their series win against the Knicks earned them a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals against a Celtic’s team many thoughts was the best in the league. Experts wrote the series off as lopsided, but that has since changed as the Heat currently lead the series 3-0. They have relied the play of Jimmy Butler and their defense, but now other Heat players are stepping up on offense. While they still need five more wins to be crowned champions, the Heat certainly have felt like the best team in the NBA this postseason.

Why Bookmakers are Getting Nervous

No one that has a better read on the NBA than bookmakers, but they aren’t perfect. There are times where they focus on stats and data instead of recent performance, and it can result in paying out a lot of money. Usually, bookmakers are quick to catch and adjust their odds to prevent heavy losses, but they were slow to do that in this season’s NBA playoffs despite public sentiment. While Miami still needs to win five more games, basketball betting sites are suddenly in danger of having to pay out some big winnings.

Before the play-in tournament started, the Heat were +25000 to win the NBA Championship. This didn’t garner too many bets considering how poorly the Heat played during the season. That changed after they beat the Milwaukee Bucks, but Bookmakers still had them at +2500 to win the title.

After beating he Knicks, bookmakers dropped their odds again, but only to +1200. That was far below the other three teams, with the Lakers being the closest at +300. They remained stubborn even after the Heat went up 2-0 on the Celtics, moving them to +700. 

They now have the Heat’s NBA Championship odds down to +220, but the move comes long after public sentiment shifted towards Miami. While there wasn’t much action on Miami before the playoffs started, there was after they beat Milwaukee, which could mean some massive payouts in June. If the Heat can pull this off, it would make them the biggest betting underdog in NBA history to win a title.

Michael is an avid sports fan and a veteran bettor from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He learned the trade from his grandfather in Las Vegas as a kid. As an adult, Michael started picking games for a small sports betting site and has built it into a career. His experience allows him to provide tips and information to help other bettors improve their game. Michael cheers for all Wisconsin pro teams, the Arizona State Sun Devils (his alma mater), and the Ottawa Senators. He specializes in baseball betting but has extensive experience in football, basketball, and hockey. When he isn’t pouring over stats, he’s spending time with his two young children or hiking and enjoying the outdoors.