NBA Finals Picks: Thunder at Heat Game 4 Odds and Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 6/18/2012
I didn’t play in the NBA or coach in The Association, but it sure seems like Oklahoma City Coach Scott Brooks is being handed his hat by counterpart Erik Spoelstra so far in the NBA Finals as we head into Tuesday night’s Game 4 in Miami.
Spoelstra switched to a small lineup before Game 2, moving Chris Bosh to center, and it has resulted in back-to-back Heat wins to take a 2-1 series lead. If the Heat win the title, they will easily be one of the “smallest” teams to do so in the modern era in that currently they are only using one player who is listed taller than 6-foot-8 and that’s Bosh. Despite having three near 7-footers in the starting lineup in Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder have been outrebounded and outscored in the paint in the past two games.
In addition, Spoelstra finally allowed LeBron James his defensive crack at Durant. And in the fourth quarter of Game 3, Durant was held to just 1-for-5 shooting and two points when guarded by James (2-for-6 overall in the quarter). He had been guarded mainly by Shane Battier in the first two games and Durant totaled 33 points in the fourth quarters of those.
The Thunder better win Tuesday as only eight teams in NBA playoff history have rallied from 3-1 deficits. But a victory in Game 4 assures this series heads back to OKC for at least one game.
Thunder at Heat Betting Story Lines
Brooks also made what appeared to be an egregious error in Game 3. He sat Durant down, wisely, with 5:41 left in the third quarter and the Thunder leading by six. OK, that makes sense. But then Brooks also sat Russell Westbrook, who wasn’t in foul trouble, with 5:01 left in the quarter. The Thunder led 60-54 when Westbrook joined Durant on the bench. When they returned at the start of the fourth quarter, the Heat led 69-67 and they had the momentum. Why Brooks chose that time to essentially teach Westbrook, who had committed a few bad turnovers, a lesson is beyond me. Durant has had foul trouble in each of the past two games and doesn’t seem to be getting the “superstar” calls that LeBron is getting.
The Thunder seem to be playing nervously. They shot just 4-for-18 from three-point range and were inexplicably 15-for-24 from the free-throw line in Game 3. This team was an NBA-best 80.6 percent from the line during the regular season and had been even better (82.3 percent) in the playoffs. In addition, something is off with NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden. He scored just nine points (on 2-of-10 shooting), his second game of this series with single digits, while missing on all four of his three-point attempts. He has been terrible pretty much all series other than the first half of Game 2. During the regular season, he shot 39 percent on threes and a stellar 57.9 percent on two-point shots, numbers that have become 33.3 percent and 44.4 percent, respectively, during the Finals. It might be time to start him (he has been good defensively).
Meanwhile, Miami’s Big 3 of LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Bosh accounted for the Heat's final 15 points and played tremendous defense that kept Oklahoma City scoreless over the final 90 seconds. LeBron was brilliant with 29 points and 14 rebounds, just the fifth player in the last 10 seasons with at least 29 points and 14 rebounds in an NBA Finals game. In last year’s Finals he averaged 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. This year: 30.3 and 10.3, respectively. In the final five minutes of the fourth quarter with the score margin within five points in this year’s Finals, LeBron is 3-for-5 shooting from the field. Durant is 1-for-6 with zero free-throw attempts in such situations. Just like in Game 2, LeBron iced Game 3 with a made free throw.
Thunder at Heat Betting Odds and Key Trends
Miami opened as a 3.5-point favorite with the total at 192 (lowest of series thus far) on Bovada. The Heat are 8-3 ATS at home in postseason and 6-5 ‘over/under’. The Thunder are 5-2-1 ATS on road in playoffs and 5-3 O/U.
OKC is 1-5-1 ATS in its past seven games as an underdog of under 4.5 points. The Thunder are 2-5-1 ATS in their past eight games after an ATS loss. The Heat are 4-1 ATS in their past five games as a favorite of less than five points. Miami is 1-8 ATS in its past nine Tuesday games. The over is 4-1 in Miami’s past five games after a win. The under is 4-1-1 in the past six meetings.
NBA Finals Picks: Thunder at Heat Betting Prediction
I predicted before this series that the Heat would win in six and I still like that. It’s obvious their defense is something that the Thunder are having trouble with, with OKC going from 105 points scored in Game 1 to 96 in Game 2 and then 85 in Game 3. The Thunder have totaled just 23 points on fast breaks combined in the past two games, which is fewer than what they had in Game 1. The Heat, meanwhile, have converted the Thunder's 25 turnovers into 29 fast-break points over the past two games.
But on the bright side for OKC, they held the Heat to just 37.8 percent from the field shooting and 33 percent in the second half. They also forced a whopping nine fourth-quarter turnovers by Miami, four of them by Wade. I would think that Brooks takes better advantage of his team’s superior size. He actually played 37-year-old guard Derek Fisher more minutes (28) than big man Serge Ibaka (23) in Game 3. Ibaka was plus-8 when on the court while Fisher was minus-9. And why did reserve big man Nick Collison only play 13 minutes?
The Heat obviously won’t take a 2-1 Finals lead for granted after blowing that last year vs. Dallas. They win and cover (like the over) to set up a possible clincher on Thursday.
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