Miami nice: Sportsbooks are rooting for the Miami Heat, Florida Panthers title

The players of the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers certainly believed in themselves during the NBA and NHL seasons. Of course, the coaches believed in their roster. And die-hard fans always believed, even this year, when these two teams made the postseason field finals in their respective leagues.

However, from a gambling perspective, bettors definitely don't believe in the Heat or the Panthers. And bookmakers can take it to the bank if Jimmy Butler and Matthew Tkachuk help bring a pair of championships to South Beach.

Caesars Sports leads NBA trader David Lieberman and NHL trader Thomas Foster leads the upstart hit in the NBA Finals odds market and the surprising Panthers in the Stanley Cup Finals odds market.

Let's dive into its action.

feel the heat

Miami finished the regular season 44-38, seventh in the Eastern Conference. This meant that the Heat had to go through the play-in round to make the playoffs.

After losing to Atlanta in the play-in opener, Miami was on the brink of a playoff berth. But the Heat bounced back to beat Chicago and take over the East's No. 8 seed. And they've been making the opposition pay for it ever since.

Miami pulled off a reverse gentlemen's sweep against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, winning the series 4-1. Then Butler & Co. took care of the Knicks in six games. Now, against a Boston Celtics team that has favored NBA championship odds for significant parts of the season, the Heat hold a 3-0 lead and a chance to close out the series at home.

“All season long, nobody could bet on the Heat. They were probably one of our best results,” Lieberman said. “As they won the play-ins, we started to see some action in the Championship futures market because their prices were still quite high.”

In fact, after a play-in loss to Atlanta, Miami could be +25000 to win the title, meaning a $100 bet could yield $25,000. After winning Game 1 but losing Game 2 in the first round against the Bucks, the Heat were +20000.

But the Heat took Games 3, 4 and 5 against Milwaukee and have been rolling ever since. And they've climbed the NBA Finals odds board in the process, now sitting as the +270 second choice at Caesars among the three remaining teams. Only the Denver Nuggets are smaller, as -280 favorites.

“But no one was betting the Heat to beat the Bucks, and no one was betting the Knicks to beat them. And against the Celtics, they were a pretty good result for us,” Lieberman said. “Maybe now, (bettors) can accept that the Heat are a better team than many people think.”

At this point, though, that hasn't happened in Caesars' NBA championship futures market.

“The Lakers were the ones customers were rooting for. And the Nuggets, who were the second best result for customers,” Lieberman said.

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Florida seeks form

From March 29-April 8, Florida seemed to be in playoff hockey form. The Panthers won six in a row during that span. The streak ended on April 10 against Toronto, but Florida still got a point, as the loss came in overtime.

That late-season surge helped the Panthers slide into the eighth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.

“The Panthers were in playoff mode about a month before the end of the regular season. These teams are always dangerous, especially in the first round,” Foster explained.

Still, four games into the first round, against the record-setting, top-seeded Boston Bruins, the Panthers found themselves in a 3-1 series hole. But Florida won the next two games — including two in overtime in Boston — to advance. The Panthers then jumped out to a 3-0 lead against the Maple Leafs en route to a 4-1 series win.

Now, in the Eastern Conference Finals, eighth-seeded Florida holds a 3-0 lead against Carolina. The Panthers took the first two games on the road in overtime, then took a 1-0 Game 3 win at home on Monday. Florida now sits just one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

“The Panthers got some attention earlier in the year for the conference title and the Stanley Cup, because of the moves they made in the offseason and their performance in the playoffs last year, when they beat the Capitals in the first round,” Foster said. “When they underperformed during the year, interest went down, and then it picked up again when they made their drive to the playoffs.”

But like the Heat, the Panthers weren't nearly enough to make Florida a concern behind the counter.

“We don't have a big liability with the other four teams in the playoffs,” Foster said of the NHL's four conference finalists, with the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars out of the field.

Hard in the hoops

Foster and Lieberman agree that the Heat's run is perhaps the more surprising of the two Miami-based franchises, though both have been nothing short of impressive.

“I was more surprised by the Heat's success than the Panthers, given the way the NBA playoffs usually go,” Foster said. “NHL teams are notorious for coming late and making deep runs. One that comes to mind is the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009-10. They made the playoffs in a shootout against the New York Rangers on the last day of the season, and went on to the Stanley Cup Finals as the No. 7 seed.

“The NHL playoffs are more closely compared to the NCAA basketball tournament than the NBA playoffs, which is a little ironic.”

Lieberman added: “In hockey, it's a lot more common. But it's a huge blow for the Panthers, because they had to go through the Bruins.”

While some futures bettors hit or panther, especially at long odds, there are definitely some tickets out there. Few customers will cash out handsomely if either team gets the title.

“As an 8-seed, the hit was one of the longest shots. And any time that happens, there's always going to be some bettor who plays the long shot,” Lieberman said. “There are probably some pretty big tickets with the Heat to win it all – even a hundred bucks on a 60/1 shot would pay out handsomely.”

As mentioned above, the Heat were as long as +25000, and when the Panthers trailed Boston 3-1, they were +15000 to lift the Stanley Cup.

Lieberman said, “There's something to bet on the Heat making it to the Finals.

Regardless, both the Heat and Panthers are on stunning runs.

“I was very surprised, even as a fan of both sports. It's really fun to follow the similarities between the two teams,” Lieberman said. “They've had similar feats to get to this point. It's exciting to see these two teams pull off the same Cinderella story. Personally, I'm rooting for the underdogs, and these two are the biggest to make it in a while. , especially in the NBA 8- It's very rare for seeds to go that far.”

It's all part of what has been an incredible few months in South Florida, both in the fan and sports betting space. Remember Florida Atlantic and Miami reached the Final Four in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

“It's a great time to be a South Florida sports fan,” Lieberman said. “The past few months have been a magical run for the region.”

Patrick Everson is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and senior reporter for He is a prominent journalist in the national sports betting space. He is based in Las Vegas, where he enjoys golf in 110-degree heat. Follow him on Twitter: @Patrick_Vegas.

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