Despite what the oddsmakers say, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel does not see the Miami Heat as underdogs in their upcoming NBA Finals series.
The Heat, seeded fifth in the Eastern Conference, made an unlikely run to the NBA Finals after sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round, then stunning top overall seed Milwaukee in the semifinals. They then dismissed the Boston Celtics in six games to advance to the championship round for the first time since 2014.
There, they are considered as underdogs to the Lakers, who rolled to the NBA Finals after victories over Portland, Houston, and Denver in the West. SportsBetting.com has the Lakers at -400 and the Heat at +320 to win the NBA Finals.
For Vogel, however, those odds don't mean much.
"I really don't view them that way (as underdogs), to be honest," Vogel told reporters after the Lakers' practice in Orlando, Tuesday (US time).
"They're 12-3 in these playoffs, just like us," he pointed out. "They've beaten three teams -- Milwaukee on pace for a 60-win season and Boston and Indiana with plus 50-win seasons."
"So, they've beaten three games teams in these playoffs," he added.
Miami's upset over Milwaukee was particularly notable, as the Bucks steamrolled through the regular season and featured two-time Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo. But the Heat limited the "Greek Freak," and Jimmy Butler came through with clutch performances that gave them the edge.
And though the Heat lost both their regular season games against the Lakers this season, Vogel knows that the playoffs are a different scenario entirely.
"I think they're a great basketball team that we're going to have to play great to beat," he said.
Meanwhile, Butler said that he is not at all concerned with being branded as underdogs in the series.
"Not going to say that we're any better than anybody else, but I just don't think that we're underdogs. I don't," he said. "So what that nobody picked us to be here. That's okay. Pretty sure nobody is picking up to win, either. That's okay."
"But we understand that. We embrace that, because at the end of the day we truly don't care," he explained. "We're just going to go out here and compete, play together like we always have, and I'm going to see where we end up."
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set for Thursday morning, Manila time.