Vegas Odds Oddly Shift Against Heat 3-Peat

According to Las Vegas, the Heat entered the Conference Finals with a 43% chance to win the title while the Spurs had the second best chance at 29%. After struggling through four games last week for an average 105-102 win the Spurs odds are now 26-points better at 55% while the Heat's odds only increased 2-points to 45% despite averaging a 103-92 win. The following table reverse engineers the odds going into Thursday's 9 p.m. opener on ABC.

Series Spurs chance Heat chance Thunder Chance Pacers Chance
Odds of title before Final 4 29% 43% 20% 8%
Odds in Conference Finals 59% 83% 41% 17%
Odds in NBA Finals 55% 45%    
What should odds have been? 32% 37%    
Change during last series plus 3 minus 6  

The table above converts the odds to percentages and takes out the gamblers mark-up. 

Part of the shift in the odds makes sense because Vegas gave the Heat an 83% chance of beating the Pacers, so winning an "easy" series does not increase their odds that much of taking the whole thing.

On the other hand, the Spurs accomplished a lot more in the Western Conference Championship, beating the Thunder after only being slight favorites at 59%.

However, the math still does not add up. If the Spurs had a 59% chance of beating the Thunder and a 55% of beating Miami then they would have had only a 32% chance of winning both series. So in retrospect, they should have been no higher than a 29% chance to win the whole thing before the series except for the small chance that they would face the Pacers instead--so 32% would be about right.

However, if the Heat had an 83% chance against the Pacers and then a 45% chance against the Spurs in the finals then their chance at the outset should have been only 37% when they started--and even after considering the chance of drawing a slightly weaker Thunder team they should not have been as high as the 43% at the beginning.

In short, there appears to be a shift toward the Spurs during the series. With Dwyane Wade looking so healthy and strong, one would think it would go the other way, but the only other explanation appears to be that Vegas simply believes the Spurs provide a better match-up against the Heat. It could also be that the Heat were expected to take care of the Pacers quicker than they did (it took six games), while the Spurs winning in six games was more impressive.

On the face of it, the math does not make sense. But when the math does not make sense in a shift in the odds it often means Vegas--with infinite resources and intel--has learned or figured something out that we have not. While 55% is still almost a toss-up, the Spurs now have the edge for some reason.


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