NBA Finals Game 1 Preview & Pick: Heat at Spurs

The first NBA Finals rematch in 16 years begins on Thursday night when the San Antonio Spurs host Game 1 against the Miami Heat. The NBA also returns to the 2-2-1-1-1 format for the first time since 1984 and that could play a role with two veteran teams having endured the grind of the postseason. This series is filled with superstars, deep benches, and two of the most efficient teams in the league. The best team in the NBA this season will truly be decided by who wins this series. The Spurs are a four-point favorite for Game 1 on Thursday.

Home-court advantage may be the deciding factor in this series as the Spurs and Heat are a combined 17-1 at home. The Spurs enter this series shooting 50.6 percent at home and the Heat led all playoff teams at 50.9 percent. The Heat are also leading the pack in road shooting at 48.4 percent, while the Spurs are pack towards the middle of the pack at 45.4 percent. The Spurs shot below 40 percent from the floor in two of the three games in Oklahoma City in their last series.

The big three for each team, with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobli for the Spurs, and Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh for the Heat, are going to be productive and are going to get their points, assists, and rebounds, but the supplementary players will go a long way in deciding a winner. The Spurs have outscored their opponents by 1.52 points per possession with Danny Green on the floor, which is the best rate in the league. Green has played strong defense and is shooting over 48 percent from three-point range. Kawhi Leonard has the best plus-minus of any player at +111. Only one player, Marco Belinelli, has been a minus player for the Spurs.

The Heat, meanwhile, have gotten plenty of contributions from their bench guys as well. With Ray Allen on the floor, the Heat have scored a playoff-best 1.197 points per possession. Rashard Lewis had the best plus-minus of any player in the conference finals and Chris Andersen has had the largest jump in defensive rebounding from the regular season to the postseason.

These two teams faced off twice during the regular season and the home team was victorious each time. Last year’s NBA Finals went the full seven games as the Heat prevailed. Tony Parker had an off series, shooting just 11-of-42 outside the paint. Dwyane Wade was a factor last season, but for all the wrong reasons, as the Spurs outscored the Heat with Wade on the floor and did just the opposite with Wade on the bench.

Looking to Game 1, the Spurs have never lost the first game of the NBA Finals and a Lebron James-led Heat team has never won a road Game 1. San Antonio has won Game 1 in the Finals by an average of more than 10 points per game. These are not only the two best teams in the NBA today, but have been for quite some time. Since the start of the 2005 Playoffs, the Spurs led the NBA with 92 playoff wins and the Heat are second with 89. The next closest teams have 59.

The Spurs are 11-3 at home in NBA Finals History, while the Heat are just 4-7 on the road. The Spurs are 4-0 in the NBA Finals when they have home-court advantage. However, the Heat are 2-0 in the NBA Finals when they start the series on the road, and they lost Game 1 both times.

Entering this series, the Spurs are 9-1 straight up and 7-3 against the spread at home with a streak of seven straight home covers. The Spurs have been favored in all 10 games at home. The Heat are 4-3 straight up on the road and 4-3 against the spread. Game 5 in Indianapolis snapped a string of 14 consecutive games as a favorite for the Heat, however, they opened a favorite. Game 1 of the NBA Finals will mark the first time the Heat are an opening line underdog since April 14.

Including the postseason, the Spurs are 27-24 against the spread at home and the Heat are 23-24-1 on the road. The Spurs are 4-0 ATS in their last four as a favorite, however, they are 0-4 in their last four as a favorite of 0.5-4.5 points. They are 7-0 ATS in their last seven as a favorite of 5.0-10.5 points, so keep an eye on the line movement if you believe in trends. The Spurs are 15-7 ATS in their last 22 in the NBA Finals.

The Heat are 0-4-1 ATS in their last five as an underdog of 0.5-4.5 points. Rest has been good to the veteran Heat, as they are 5-1 ATS in their last six on three or more days of rest. The road has not been good to the Heat. They are just 1-5 ATS in their last six as a road underdog.

For totals bettors, the Game 1 total is currently at 198.5. The over was 4-1 in the last five games of last season’s Spurs-Heat NBA Finals. The over is 17-7 in San Antonio’s last 24 as a favorite of 0.5-4.5 points. The Spurs have also turned momentum into offense as the over is 8-3 in their last 11 following a win and 7-3 in their last 10 after scoring 100 or more points in their previous game. The over is 7-2 in Miami’s last nine overall and 19-7-1 in their last 27 games played on three or more days rest. The over is 4-1-1 in Miami’s last six as an underdog in the playoffs.

Free NBA Pick: San Antonio Spurs

This series projects to go seven games because neither team loses at home. The Spurs have been dominant at home since Game 7 of the first round against Dallas. The time off has allowed both teams to rest up injuries and nobody needed the time off more than Tony Parker. Coming off a lackluster performance in last season’s Finals loss to the Heat, expect Parker to have a big game for the Spurs in an attempt to set the tone for the rest of the series. The Spurs have shot so much better at home than they have on the road and that confidence will come through in Game 1.

Adam Burke

Adam Burke

Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.

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