USA Today Sports

Books, bettors keeping close eye on LeBron's knee

The entire basketball world gasped as Miami Heat forward LeBron James fell awkwardly during the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the New York Knicks.

James, who stayed in the game and seemed OK down the stretch, is having his left knee examined by team doctors ahead of Monday’s road game with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Oddsmakers opened Miami as a 9.5-point favorite which has been bet up to -10 as of Monday afternoon.

"I was able to finish the game strong but things are always a little worse the next day," James told reporters following Sunday’s 99-93 victory. "We've got to fly to Minnesota, but I believe I'll be in the lineup (Monday), though."

James’ status for the game is currently listed as probable but bettors should keep a close eye on the news wires and Twitter as Monday’s 8 p.m. ET tipoff draws near. The Heat could choose to rest their star player, giving James two full days off before Wednesday’s home date with the Orlando Magic.

Oddmakers at online book CarbonSports.ag don’t expect too much of a line swing if the reigning NBA MVP does sit out versus the T-Wolves. They estimate the 10-point spread would drop as low as -8, citing the numerous injuries to Minnesota’s roster.

“If he didn’t play yesterday, the Knicks would have been favored just because of the two previous meetings (both Knicks wins over Miami). But today against Minnesota, maybe 1.5 to two points just because Minny has so many injuries themselves and is on a current five-game losing skid,” says one CarbonSports.ag oddsmaker.

The Timberwolves have been bitten hard by the injury bug this season, namely all-star forward Kevin Love. Center Nikola Pekovic (abdominal) and forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf) are both doubtful for Monday, leaving Minnesota with nine healthy players.

The Heat, on the other hand, have the horses to absorb James’ absence. With all-stars like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, along with bench players like Ray Allen, Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis, LeBron’s worth to the spread is not as high as some of the other top players in the league.

“He is the best player on the planet right now, but he might not be the most valuable to the spread. That would probably go to Kevin Durant and Kobe (Bryant),” says CarbonSports.ag’s oddsmaker. “It’s hard to compare. The opponent makes the difference.”

The Heat enter Monday on a franchise-best 14-game winning streak, having gone 9-5 ATS in that stretch. Minnesota has dropped five in a row with a 2-3 ATS mark and is 1-4 ATS in its last five meetings with Miami.

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