NBA Finals Odds: Surging Miami Heat Take Aim at One Last Favorite

No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets cruised to its first-ever Western Conference championship, eliminating many of the top players in professional basketball along the way. Now comes a whole different challenge: the No. 8 seed Miami Heat.

Miami has already slain a giant multiple times this postseason, eliminating No. 1 Milwaukee in the first round of the playoffs and No. 2 Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. Those two teams traded in and out of the top spot in the NBA Championship odds table throughout the season. 

Nuggets supporters will argue that those odds were disrespectful to Denver, and they may have a point. The evolved two-man game between Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray looks like the most potent offensive weapon currently in the NBA. The Nuggets have cruised to the Finals.

But the Heat are no stranger to beating the odds during these playoffs. That means these 2023 Finals will be both classic and cliche, as Denver’s unstoppable force meets Miami’s immovable object. 

NBA Finals Odds: Nuggets vs. Heat 

At BetMGM, the Nuggets are -400 favorites to win the final playoff series of the year. Miami is +300. 

In the series spread market, Miami +2.5 games is priced at -145, whereas Denver -1.5 games is priced at -165. That means the market feels that Denver in 5 is slightly more likely than Denver in 6. That’s also backed up in the Exact Series Result market, where Denver Wins 4-1 (+230) is priced as the shortest of all eight outcomes. 

Denver Wins 4-3 is the second shortest price, at +325. 

As of Tuesday morning, about 41% of the early Exact Series Result tickets were on a Denver sweep, priced at +450. 

Miami has been in this same situation before. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the betting market liked the Celtics to win in roughly five games. The overall series prices were deeply tilted in Boston’s favor, with the Celtics priced around -550 shortly before the tipoff for Game 1.

At -400, Denver is obviously a big favorite, but it’s not quite as big a favorite as Boston was a couple of weeks ago. Bettors are reluctant to lay heavy juice against the Heat again, even though Denver appears to be a better team than Boston. That could indicate some buyer’s remorse on the part of sharp bettors who have been fading the Heat, thanks to regression principals, historical indicators, and other factors. 

Public bettors, for their part, have actually grown fond of Miami and its positive ROI throughout these playoffs. At BetMGM, 81% of the ECF Game 7 moneyline tickets were on Miami +240.

The Heat Are Underdogs. What Else Is New?

The Heat have been treated like a major longshot bet in the NBA championship odds market for months. Bettors who had faith in the Heat infrastructure have been rewarded with some ludicrous numbers.

Prior to the Play-In games, the Heat were 150-to-1 to win the title. That’s actually understandable, considering the likelihood of a Play-In team winning the title. For college basketball fans, it’s a little bit comparable to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, when VCU went from the First Four to the Final Four. What were the chances of that happening?

However, the odds remained slow to evolve once the Heat eliminated Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in the first round. 

While teams like the Celtics were +140 after the first round – with three rounds still to go – Miami was all the way down the table at +2500. Only the Knicks (+3000) were lower. And they got to play against each other!

The disbelief continued even deep into the Celtics series. Early in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, with Miami up 3-1 in the series, there were only three teams left alive for the championship. The Nuggets were a clear favorite at -200. 

The Celtics, despite the fact they needed to hold their lead in Game 5 and then win two more games after that, were +350 to win the East and subsequently beat Denver. Miami was +450.

Prior to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics were +140 to win the NBA Finals; Miami was +1200.

It’s this kind of total disrespect from the odds board that Miami bettors will point to as a way to justify one last series bet on the Heat. The odds have remained painfully long throughout the spring, and Miami has continued to deliver. Why would anything change now?

Dominant Denver

Denver will enter the NBA Finals with a big reward for its Western dominance: 10 full days of rest between the end of the Western Conference Finals and Thursday’s Game 1 of the Finals. The Nuggets will be healthy and ready to test Miami’s long-running Game 1 winning streak. 

Jokic and Murray have been outstanding, accounting for 49% of their team’s entire offensive production. 

It’s worth putting Denver’s methodical playoff success in historical context. Not only did the Nuggets dominate a deep field of Western contenders, but they advanced to the Finals after a mere 15 games. No team had reached the Finals faster than 15 games since 2017, when both the Warriors and the Cavaliers were a combined 24-1 in Pre-Finals playoff games. 

If history matters at all, Denver should dominate Miami. The only No. 8 seed that has ever advanced to the Finals was the 1999 New York Knicks, who won the East in an atypically short season. 

NBA Finals MVP Odds

More often than not, the NBA Finals MVP award is given to the best player on the winning team. It’s unsurprising that the odds-on favorite to win Finals MVP this year is Nikola Jokic. He’s -300 at BetMGM. Nearly 40% of the market handle is behind Jokic. 

Jimmy Butler, the most likely choice in the event of a Miami victory, is +350.

Mathematically, the odds imply a 5% chance of a scenario where the Nuggets win the championship, but the award is given to someone other than Jokic. There’s also an implied 2.8% chance that Miami upsets Denver, but the Finals MVP is given to someone besides Jimmy Butler. 

It’s hard to imagine Finals MVP going to anyone other than Butler in the event of a Miami win. We even have evidence for this claim now since the Eastern Conference Finals MVP was given to Butler, despite the fact that many NBA analysts felt that Caleb Martin was the best player on the court in the series.

If you agree with this line of thinking, a Jimmy Butler Finals MVP bet could be equivalent to a Miami Heat championship bet with more lucrative odds.

For Denver, Jamal Murray remains a figure who’s both talented and involved enough to be in the Finals MVP conversation. To win the award, Murray (+1200) would likely need to shoot so well from behind the arc that it overpowers the fascination with Jokic’s playmaking and inevitable triple-doubles. 

Murray shot 15-for-37 (41%) from deep against the Lakers. He might need to shoot north of 50% to be live for the award.

You can view updated NBA championship odds and more online sports betting opportunities at the BetMGM online sportsbook.