Whoever faces San Antonio Spurs in trouble

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A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation of the Miami Heat as NBA Champions for a second straight season – the Indiana Pacers.

A week ago it was expected this column would be devoted exclusively to previewing this Thursday’s start of the NBA Finals between San Antonio and Miami.

The Spurs were up three games to none heading into last Monday’s game at Memphis. San Antonio took care of business with a solid 7-point victory to complete a second four-game Playoff series sweep, earning a berth in the NBA Finals. Earlier the Spurs had eliminated the Lakers in four games in the Playoffs’ opening round before an entertaining six-game series against Golden State.

Regardless of which team the Spurs will face in the Finals they will be playing a team that has been through a physical series. Both possible scenarios are intriguing, although the network execs are hoping for a Spurs/Heat matchup rather than a Spurs/Pacers series due to the star power of Miami’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

For much of the Pacers/Heat series it seemed as though we were watching an episode of “Two and a Half Men.” While James was at the top of his game, either Wade or Bosh was often a non-factor. Credit Indiana for devising game plans to take the two supporting stars out of their game. Perhaps the Spurs will have spent much of their off time breaking down film, devising strategies and plays to mirror what succeeded for the Pacers.

Late last week it was speculated the Heat would be between -250 and -300 against the Spurs to win the NBA Title. As it became more possible that the Pacers could pull the upset, it was thought the Spurs might be the slightest of favorites over Indiana if such a Final materialized.

A look at the results from the regular season shows Miami won both meetings with San Antonio. But, in fact, the two teams have yet to meet with their true starting lineups.

In late November when the teams met in Miami, San Antonio coach Greg Popovich had sent his star players home so Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili did not play. The Spurs gave a game effort, leading much of the contest before bowing late 105-100.

When the teams met in San Antonio on March 31, Miami returned the snub by resting James and Wade. Bosh did play and the Heat pulled the upset, winning 88-86.

The Spurs did win both meetings with Indiana but both were played way back in November. San Antonio won at home by 22 points and by 7 in the rematch 2½ weeks later, covering in both games.

The Spurs have a real shot at winning their fifth NBA Title in franchise history whether they face Miami or Indiana. They certainly will make for an attractive underdog against the Heat and would be playable at a futures price of +200 or more.

San Antonio is the one Western team that can match the Heat in terms of experience. The core of the Spurs – Duncan, Ginobili and Parker – plus Coach Popovich – have multiple NBA Titles. Duncan and Popovich have been part of all four prior Championships.

San Antonio clearly would have that edge over Indiana and would be justified as solid favorites. And although Miami would have the home court edge against the Spurs, San Antonio would enjoy that edge over Indiana. As such the Spurs could be played as up to -150 favorites over Indiana to win such a series.

By next week’s issue of GamingToday the first three games of Finals will have been played. Look for San Antonio to at least split the first two in Miami, making for an attractive underdog at +5 in Game 1 and, if they lose the opener, again in Game 2.

Should the Spurs pull the upset in Game 1 then Miami becomes the play in Game 2 if laying seven points or less.

Miami would be playable in Game 3 at San Antonio if trailing two games to none but the Spurs would be the play if down 2-0 and laying three points or less. If the series is tied at a game apiece, the Spurs would be the play if priced at pick ‘em or as an underdog.

The best play over the first few games of a Spurs/Heat series would be to look UNDER in Game 1. The Spurs could well be rusty following 10 days of inactivity, while Miami might be both physically and emotionally spent from their seven-game series with the Pacers. We could see both teams play more deliberately than normal and also see some sloppy basketball.

In a Spurs/Pacers series San Antonio would be the play in Game 1 if priced at -6 or less. They will be well prepared to face either the Heat or the Pacers but the extra time off is more likely to be an edge against Indiana than the Heat. As will be the home court.

The Spurs are more likely to take the first two games at home against Indiana than is Miami to take both at home. The Spurs match up nicely against Indiana and are a better offensive team than the Pacers.

Indiana would be playable in Game 2 if getting +7 or more if they did lose Game 1. If down 0-2 returning home for Game 3 the Pacers would be the play if laying 4 or less.

The Finals will be revisited next week but the prediction is for San Antonio to defeat either Miami or Indiana in the Finals. Paying homage to the long history that shows NBA home teams with a huge edge in Game 7’s, winning roughly 80 percent of the time, the call is for San Antonio to defeat Miami in 6 or to defeat Indiana in 7.

In each case, they would win the series at home.

Of course, if the Spurs do face the Pacers it means Indiana will have been one of those rare teams to win a Game 7 on the road against Miami.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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