National Basketball Association
Miami nice: Sportsbooks rooting for Miami Heat, Florida Panthers titles
National Basketball Association

Miami nice: Sportsbooks rooting for Miami Heat, Florida Panthers titles

Updated May. 23, 2023 3:52 p.m. ET

Players on the Miami Heat and Florida Panthers surely believed in themselves over the course of the NBA and NHL seasons. Of course, the coaches believed in their rosters. And die-hard fans always believe, even this year, when these two teams squeaked into the final spots in their respective leagues’ postseason fields.

However, from a gambling perspective, bettors most certainly did not believe in the Heat or the Panthers. And bookmakers just might take that to the bank, should Jimmy Butler and Matthew Tkachuk help bring a pair of championships to South Beach.

Caesars Sports lead NBA trader David Lieberman and lead NHL trader Thomas Foster chime in on the upstart Heat in the NBA Finals odds market and the surprising Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final odds market.

Let's dive into the action.


Feeling the Heat

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

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

Miami pulled the reverse gentleman’s sweep against the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, winning that series 4-1. Then Butler & Co. took care of the Knicks in six games. Now, against a Boston Celtics team that for significant portions of the season was favored in NBA championship odds, the Heat are up 3-0 with a chance to close out the series at home.

"All season long, nobody was betting on the Heat. They were probably one of our best results," Lieberman said. "As soon as they won the play-in, we started to see some action in the championship futures market because their price was still pretty up there."

In fact, after the play-in loss to Atlanta, Miami could be had at +25000 to win the title, meaning a $100 bet could net $25,000 in profit. 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 shorter, as -280 favorites.

"But nobody was betting the Heat to beat the Bucks, and nobody was betting them to beat the Knicks. And they’re a pretty good result for us against the Celtics, too," Lieberman said. "Maybe now, [bettors] might accept that the Heat are a better team than most people thought."

To this point, though, that hasn't been the case in Caesars' NBA championship futures market.

"The Lakers were who the customers were rooting for. And the Nuggets, who are the second-best result for customers," Lieberman said.

Is Jimmy Butler the most impressive part of Heat's run?

Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor, LeSean McCoy, and Ric Bucher debate the most impressive part of the Heat’s run.

[RELATED: LeBron James hints at retirement]

Florida Finds Form

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

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

"The Panthers were in playoff mode for about a month before the regular season ended. Those 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 at Boston in overtime – to advance. Then the Panthers staked 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 is up 3-0 on Carolina. The Panthers took the first two games on the road in overtime, then ground out a 1-0 Game 3 win at home on Monday. Florida now sits just one game away from the Stanley Cup Final.

"The Panthers got a little bit of attention for the conference title and the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the year, due to the moves they made in the offseason and their performance in last year's playoffs, when they beat the Capitals in the first round," Foster said. "When they underperformed during the year, interest waned, and then it picked up again when they made their drive to the playoffs."

But much as with the Heat, the Panthers pick up hasn’t been nearly enough to make Florida a concern behind the counter.

"We don’t have any major liabilities with the four teams left in the playoffs," Foster said of the NHL’s four conference finalists, with the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars rounding out the field.

Harder in Hoops

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

"I am more surprised with the Heat’s success than that of the Panthers, due to the way NBA playoffs typically go," Foster said. "The NHL is littered with teams getting in 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 ended up making it to the Stanley Cup Final as a No. 7 seed.

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

Added Lieberman: "In hockey, it’s a lot more common. But it’s a huge shock for the Panthers, because they had to go through the Bruins."

While few futures bettors got on the Heat or Panthers, particularly at longer odds, there are certainly some tickets out there. A few customers will cash out nicely if either team gets a title.

"As an 8-seed, the Heat were one of the longest shots. And anytime that happens, there are always a few bettors who’ll play the long shot," Lieberman said. "There are probably some nice big tickets with the Heat to win it all – even a hundred bucks on a 60/1 shot would pay out nicely."

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

"Some bettors might be hedging out if the Heat get to the Finals," Lieberman said.

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

"I’m very surprised, even as a fan of both sports. The similarities between the two teams are really fun to follow," Lieberman said. "They’ve had similar feats to get to this point. It’s pretty exciting to watch these two teams pull off the same Cinderella story. Personally, I’m rooting for underdogs, and these are two of the biggest to make it in a while, especially in the NBA. It’s very rare for an 8-seed to get this far."

It’s all part of what’s been an incredible couple of months in South Florida, in the fan and sports betting space. Keep in mind Florida Atlantic and Miami reached the Final Four in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

"It’s a good time to be a South Florida sports fan," Lieberman said. "The last couple of months have been a magical run for that region."

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

Play FOX Super 6 every week for your chance to win thousands of dollars every week. Just download the Super 6 app and make your picks today!


Get more from National Basketball Association Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more