After surviving a very good Charlotte Hornets team, staring elimination in the face on the road and then dominating Game 7 at home, the new-look Miami Heat is worth putting a few bucks on as a 50-to-1 shot to win the NBA title.
Skip a buffet. Don’t go see that movie. Pull something up on demand instead and use the savings to back the Heat’s quest for a third title in five years.
Oh, it’s a long shot, but definitely one worth taking a shot on.
The Cavs are overwhelming favorites 4-13 favorites to win the Eastern Conference according to the WestgateLV Superbook and are still led by former Miami star LeBron James, but considering the venom that would be directed his way in South Florida, the Eastern Conference finals could be intriguing as the James’ worlds collide. The Heat began the week with 7-to-1 odds to get out of the East.
Standing in the way of that potential matchup are the Hawks and Raptors, teams that have had good seasons, but lack the it factor to trust in going all the way. Atlanta probably won’t get swept again like it did in last season’s conference finals, but winning four of seven with the Cavs owning homecourt seems like a stretch.
The East finals will feature LeBron for the sixth straight season, but it’s determining the team that lines up against him and the Cavaliers that packs the most intrigue in the semifinal portion of these NBA playoffs.
Toronto didn’t have the look of a No. 2 seed throughout its first-round survival against Indiana. DeMar DeRozan had a few monster games and rose to the occasion against Paul George in Game 7, but largely struggled with his shot and now has to deal with Luol Deng and Justise Winslow, agile, physical defenders.
Kyle Lowry struggled himself, but should have an easier time against Goran Dragic and rookie Josh Richardson than he did against George Hill.
Still, Toronto will have a fight on its hands in this 2-3 series, and it remains to be seen whether clearing the first-round hurdle will be enough to take the next step in reaching the conference finals for the first time in franchise history.
If the Raptors barely survived the Pacers, eliminating Miami is going to be quite the chore.
Since adding Joe Johnson, the Heat have been one of the league’s most efficient offensive teams. Wade looks rejuvenated. Hassan Whiteside, the NBA’s leading shot blocker this past season, is a game-changing presence when he’s able to avoid foul trouble.
Both Deng and Dragic have really stepped their games up this postseason. Rooks Winslow and Richardson should still think twice before they shoot, but have been invaluable defensively and consistently bring energy.
And then there’s the Chris Bosh curveball, an x-factor bubbling beneath the surface that may impact the East race significantly. The All-Star forward hasn’t played since Feb. 9, right before the break, due to blood clotting issues, but has been flying with the team on their road trips and is pushing to get back out there.
While Miami has smartly protected him from himself thus far, if Bosh is successful getting an independent doctor to clear him, he’s going to utilize the players’ union in order to try and force his organization’s hand.
Bosh has been working out in an effort to keep himself in playing shape, so despite the fact that it’s far-fetched that he’d be able to pick up where he left off – he was averaging 19.1 points and 7.4 rebounds before going down – he’d surely be able to give the Heat minutes off the bench that are currently going to Josh McRoberts and Udonis Haslem.
No team remaining in the race would be bringing such a talented big man off their bench.
It appears he’s serious about playing and taking the risk, and Bosh has the support of his family. He posted a Snapchat video of himself last week raining 3-pointers in an empty American Airlines Arena, boasting “I still got.” Wife Adrienne has been spotted with T-shirts with the phrase “#BringBoshBack.”
With May just underway, there’s certainly a shot that Bosh could get his way and participate late in the series against his former team, not to mention facing ex-mate LeBron James, challenges he badly wants to meet.
As is the case with the Heat, don’t write Bosh off. Like Miami’s basketball team, he’s awfully determined. As far as 50-to-1 shots go, this one already has a Cinderella feel tied in.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].