The 2012 NBA Finals were hyped as a LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant showdown as part of a bigger Miami Big 3 vs. an Oklahoma City Big 3, and the Thunder won on both counts in the Game 1 opener to take a 1-0 series lead. Thus, Game 2 Thursday night in OKC is almost a must-win for the Heat or else they know this series is going back to Oklahoma City even if they can somehow sweep the middle three games of the Finals’ 2-3-2 format.
But the two times the Heat have been down in a series in these playoffs they came back in style: winning the final three games of the East semifinals against the Indiana Pacers and the final two against the Boston Celtics. And in both those series (Game 4 vs. Indiana, Game 6 vs. Boston), Miami tied the series with a pretty dominant road win. So there is hope for my prediction of Heat in six games in these Finals. I also had Miami covering in Game 1 but did hit on the total.
Heat at Thunder Betting Story Lines
Durant, the Finals MVP favorite at even money, looked the part on Tuesday with a game-high 36 points (I recommended the prop of taking Durant in head-to-head points vs. LeBron), including a whopping 17 in an unbelievable fourth-quarter performance where he was so clearly the best player on the floor. Those 17 points are tied for the most fourth-quarter points in an NBA Finals game over the last 15 postseasons. The Thunder started slow, trailing by 13 in the first half and seven at the intermission. But Durant and Russell Westbrook, who finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, outscored the Heat by themselves 41-40 in the second half.
LeBron, who is now 2-9 in his career in Finals games, is going to draw a ton of blame. He had just seven points in the fourth quarter but still finished with 30 – his previous career-high in a Finals was 23. But if you divide 30 by four you get 7.5 points, so it’s not like LeBron wasn’t playing normally in the fourth quarter. For some reason, however, LeBron almost never guarded Durant directly – mostly it was Shane Battier. Durant did check LeBron much of the first three quarters before being relieved by Thabo Sefolosha so Durant could concentrate solely on offense. It worked.
The Thunder won despite just five points from their third member of the Big 3, James Harden. But Nick Collison was great off the bench with eight points and 10 boards. The Thunder showed their youth and athleticism, outscoring Miami 24-4 in fast-break points and shooting 51.9 percent overall. It was the first time in Miami’s Big 3 era that the Heat were outscored by 20 in fast-break points.
And the Heat lost despite good games from Battier (17 points, four-from-six from long range; he was a big reason the Heat led at halftime) and Mario Chalmers (12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and six assists). Blame Miami’s defeat on the fact that Dwyane Wade continues to struggle, shooting just 7-for-19 for 19 points. And Chris Bosh was not much of a factor with 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting and five rebounds in 34 minutes in his fourth game in a row off the bench. Look for him to start in Game 2.
LeBron (46 minutes played) and Wade (42) probably got worn down because if you throw out Bosh, the Heat bench was Mike Miller and Joel Anthony in Game 1 and they totaled 12 minutes and two points. Look for guys like Norris Cole and James Jones to get at least a few minutes on Thursday.
Heat at Thunder Betting Odds and Key Trends
OKC opened as a 5.5-point favorite (-245 on moneyline) and 196 on total at 5Dimes (it was 5.0 and 195 for Game 1). The Thunder are 6-3 ATS at home in these playoffs (covered last five; 9-0 SU) and 7-2 on the ‘over/under’. The Heat are 4-5 ATS on road and 5-4 O/U.
The Heat are 10-3 ATS in their past 13 games after a double-digit loss. Miami hasn’t covered in its past eight as a dog. The Heat have covered just once in their past five games after allowing at least 100 points in the previous game. The Thunder are 7-0 ATS in their past seven games after scoring at least 100 points in their previous game. OKC has covered nine of its past 11 after a win. The over is 4-1 in Heat’s past five after an ATS loss. The over is 11-2 in OKC’s past 13 as a favorite.
NBA Picks: Heat at Thunder Betting Predictions
I thought the Heat would win this series because I figured they were better defensively. But those 105 points allowed were their most given up in regulation during this postseason. The Thunder are playing offense at levels we haven’t seen in a while. They are averaging 113 points per 100 possessions, 9.7 points better than the league average during these playoffs. Since the NBA adopted the three-point shot in the 1979-80 season, only one team has scored in the playoffs at a rate that far above the league average: the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns. OKC scored on 21 of its final 29 possessions Tuesday.
Heat Coach Spoelstra is under the gun to make some changes for Game 2 as he was outcoached in last year’s Finals as well. According to ESPN, LeBron guarded Durant on only five plays in Game 1, which led to two missed shots and two turnovers. Against everyone else, Durant scored 34 points and shot 12-for-18 from the floor without turning the ball over once. Meanwhile, James scored 17 of his 30 points on 58 percent shooting against Durant, but was held to seven points on 29 percent shooting against Sefolosha.
I think the Heat sustain their first-half effort over the entirety of Game 2 – LeBron will be covering Durant much more -- and at worst cover. Take the over again.
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