Holy Dirk Nowitski! The 7-foot German put on a shooting display for the ages last night, hitting an NBA-record 24 of 24 from the foul line and finishing with a game-high 48 points. Add in JJ Barea’s explosion in the fourth quarter, and you would be hard pressed to find a game where two more physically opposite individuals dominated a game for the same team on the same night.
It was definitely an entertaining way to begin the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder certainly need to find some more creative ways to keep Dirk from catching the ball on the right block all night, but they aren’t the only ones who should be concerned with their defensive efforts. Kevin Durant had a “quiet 40” last night in a losing effort, keeping the Thunder within shouting distance all night long.
If the Thunder can get a little better shooting effort out of Russell Westbrook (3 of 15 from the floor), and do a better job bumping Dirk off the block (and get some more liberal officiating – the whistles were really loose last night), they can still win this series. It’s going to be a heck of a good watch either way.
Let’s get on to today’s free picks.
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Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Miami Heat @ Chicago Bulls -2.5 (Total: 181.5)
The Heat were embarrassed in the second half of game one; outhustled, outrebounded, and in some cases involving Taj Gibson, flat-out posterized. The Heat entered the series as the favorites despite the Bulls sweeping the season series 3-0. The Heat still remain only tepid underdogs tonight, even after Chicago’s impressive game one performance – only a two and a half point dog on the road. Figuring in the 3.5 to 4 point swing for home-court advantage, Vegas STILL thinks the Miami Heat are the better team.
It might be foolish – but I do too. Sometimes we fall into stubborn traps of “pride-bias”, where we anoint one team as superior, and then refuse to loosen our grip on that opinion, no matter how soundly it has been refuted on the court. So – mindful of that, I took a step back to take a better look at some of the matchups in this series.
The Heat still have the clear edge at three of the five starting positions, and are a basic ‘push’ at another. Despite the nice showing in the opener, I would rate their benches about even, with perhaps a slight nod to Chicago.
So, now the next important question: Is Eric Spolstra completely outmatched by NBA Coach of the Year, Tom Thibodaux? Through one game? Absolutely. Watching the Bulls pass and attack while the Heat were passive and content to settle for difficult shots off isolation plays, it was difficult not to wonder if the Heat could have been turned up a notch if a certain man decided to come out of the front office for one last title run.
Tonight is a big game for the Heat. It is a defining game for ‘Coach Spo.” It has significant legacy implications for Mr. LeBron James. All the momentum and statistics seem stacked against them.
And that’s just the way LeBron and Company like it. The Heat thrive on the collective negativity and doubt of others; the media, fans, and in their minds – the world. I think they will use that fuel for a huge effort tonight and get the series back to even before flying their talents back down to South Beach.