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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, May 28, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Oddsmakers knew that there was going to be a lot of interest in betting on the Miami Heat in their Eastern Conference Finals showdown against the Boston Celtics. The only question was…what numbers could they put up to defend against all the Miami money?!

Why the interest in the Heat?

*The public loves betting favorites…loves betting on LeBron James even as they’re bad-mouthing is so-called lack of clutch ability…and loves betting when they smell blood in the water.

*Boston was bleeding in the water. The Celtics looked slow and beat up in the latter stages of the Philadelphia series. Avery Bradley, the key to their great second have surge during the regular season is on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Squares (the Vegas term for public bettors) wanted to bet “against Boston” as much as they wanted to bet on Miami.

*Sharps were in agreement that Miami was likely to be the dominant side. After getting everyone back on the same page in Game Four in Indiana, the Heat have looked like the best team in the East by a mile. This meant oddsmakers weren’t dealing with split sentiment in the series. This wasn’t going to be squares betting the chalk while sharps bet value on the dog. Sharps were looking for value on the favorite at opening numbers.

Early scuttlebutt had oddsmakers looking to open Miami around -400 or so to win the series. That’s a bit high for a conference final…but did it reflect the reality in this series? A line of -400 means Miami is likely to win the series 80% of the time. Given how strong Miami has looked the past few days, and how slow and banged up Miami looked, even that seemed low. Some early-bird places went up in the -400 or low 500 range, only to get pounded by sharps. Once more stores went up, the consensus opener was around -600, meaning Miami was expected to win about 86% of the time. THAT did the job. Sharps either passed the series or bet Boston for value. We’re now seeing prices in the -550 to -600 range as of early Memorial Day.

The Game One line opened at Miami -8.5 and stayed there. You have to pay a premium to bet the Heat. Sharps decided not to pay that premium. And, we hear that some are waiting to see if they can get Boston at +9 if the public bets the Heat in the hours leading up to tip-off. Oddsmakers warded off that potential onslaught of Miami money by posting numbers higher than you’re normally see in a conference finals. Remember that Miami closed at -8.5 in Game One of their series vs. Indiana when Chris Bosh was in the starting lineup), and was cheaper in subsequent home games.

For you totals players, an opener of 177.5 has been bet up to 179. Sharps tend to prefer Overs early in a series, but then Unders once the defenses really clamp down in later games. That approach didn’t work in Game One out West though. You’ll recall that Thunder-Spurs was bet up from 201 to 204 in a game that needed a ton of late points to get to 199. Of course, this is a much lower total. And, Miami’s last three games have landed on 198, 198, and 194. Some sharps have told us that betting the Over is a creative way to bet that Miami will play well without laying that high team side price.

We’ve been monitoring early action for Game Two out West for you. As we go to press, sharps haven’t made their indications clear on opening lines of San Antonio -4.5 and 201.

Remember that basketball selections from the sharpest minds in handicapping are available here at the VegasSportsMasters website every day. We trust most of you baseball fans have already taken care of business because of all the holiday action under the sun. Note that Jim Feist is offering a basketball special for just $69 that gets you all plays from the Conference Finals AND the championship finals at a great price. Check out the “buy picks” pulldown for complete details on all daily and longterm offers from our handicapping legends.

If you’re going to beat the market, you need to THINK LIKE A SHARP and BET LIKE A SHARP! There’s no better place to develop those skills than VegasSportsMasters!

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