NBA Finals: Conspicuous Absence Informs Game 2 Positioning
Adebayo's Unavailability Implies Value on LA Lakers 1H o58.5 -110
Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic will sit game 2 of the 2020 NBA Finals, in response to a shoulder strain and plantar tear, respectively. These absences do not bode well for Miami. However, the potential for LA to run up early and rest the stars later, possibly relinquishing the cover in garbage time, leaves us reticent to lay the 10.5. We do though perceive modest value with the Lakers 1H total, and are are backing the OVER.
ESPN's Real Plus-Minus statistic makes Bam Adebayo the sixth most valuable power forward in the game. Adebayo's offense is estimated to be a slight drag on overall team performance, but his "D" saves 3.06 points per 100 offensive and defensive possessions, by ESPN's reckoning. Adjusting for the third year big man's average minutes played this year and Miami and LA's average number of possessions, and assuming Kelly Olynyk will assume Adebayo's workload Friday evening, we estimate the Lakers should pad the scoring column to the tune of an additional six points versus if Bam were active.
We reduced this number slightly after considering that Kendrick Nunn is likely to play in Dragic's stead. Nunn is nine years Dragic's junior, and (not surprisingly) is the better, more spry defender. Accordingly, the Heat are about one point better on defense with Nunn on the floor.
Even after this relatively modest adjustment, the bottom line remains that LA is probably meaningfully more productive on offense facing a compromised Miami squad.
Separately, the Lakers are among the best in the League at first half scoring, averaging better than 59 points per game during the regular season. Sportsbooks algorithms have not kept pace, as this prolific early offensive output has translated to an impressive first half O/U rate this season, including a stellar 11-5 playoff run so far.
We are betting on more of the same tonight as Miami will be absent their second-best defender (surprisingly, sharpshooter, Duncan Robinson, actually boasts the highest defensive real plus-minus on the Heat roster, besting Adebayo by a few pennies). Back the Lakers' offense to exceed expectations early.
For bettors wary of the totals arena, we submit the Lakers 1H -6.5 -110 as an alternative. In aggregate, ESPN RPM implies something like a 7.5 point swing in the full game spread, assuming Olynyk and Nunn take the place of Adebayo and Dragic. We think the Lakers might struggle to remain committed to delivering maximum effort later if LA assumes firm control early. Playing the first half spread addresses this potential for lapse.
Inline with this thinking, we note that the Lakers have proven profitable versus the first half chalk this year, including a 10-6 ATS stint in the playoffs.
Worth mentioning though, 1H ATS profitability materialized against Western Conference teams. LA is a meager 12-13-1 versus the first half number this year facing the East. But we think the specific deficiencies the Heat will have to contend with tonight justify laying the first half chalk in this case.