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Mavericks Thunder Spread Pick for Game 4

LeBron played the role of closer to excellence once again, but it was his other role that may have more to do with the Heat taking control of the series with their Game Three win; the role of point guard. The 6’8’’ 260-ish pound James displayed the blend of skills so unique it is impossible to find a historical equivalent with aplomb, distributing 10 assists to go with his 22 points, and more importantly, providing the steadying hand the Heat so desperately needed.

Not that all of LeBron’s assists were too difficult. Chris Bosh sent a loud notice that it is in fact a “Big Three” and not just LeBron and Wade who are making things go down in South Beach. The power forward played perhaps the finest game of his career, when factoring in both quality of play and necessity of situation, last night – scoring 34 points, on 13 of 18 shooting. Not only did he lead the heat in scoring, but his efficiency, often coming late in the shot clock, bailed the Heat out on numerous possessions where they looked to be coming up empty.

The win gives the Heat a commanding 2-1 lead with Game Four again in Miami Tuesday night.

Tonight, the Thunder are going to need to borrow some of Miami’s home-court defensiveness if they want to even up their series with Dallas. Falling down 3-1 after losing a pair at home would mean all but certain doom for the young Thunder.

So, will they be able to get the equalizer tonight at home? Let’s get on to today’s free picks and find out.

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Today’s Free NBA Picks:

Dallas Mavericks @ Oklahoma City Thunder -4.5 (Total: 196)

Russell Westbrook wasn’t the problem in Game Three. He was on the floor (yes, even in the fourth quarter) and scoring in bunches; thirty points worth on Saturday. However, the rest of his Thunder teammates struggled mightily, scoring only 57 combined in falling to the Mavs 93-87.

Tonight, they face one of the first true “must-win” games in their collective young careers. It will be fascinating to see how they respond to the pressure.

For starters, the Thunder must avoid falling in the early massive hole they dug in the first half of Game Three. Twenty three point deficits are rarely erased in the Playoffs (though Portland did in Round One against these very same Mavericks…). The Thunder actually made a valiant effort coming back – they were within striking range before a pair of missed three-pointers and a costly turnover finally sunk them in the final two minutes.

Dirk displayed unbelievable dominance in the first two games of this series, particularly in Game One, however, Game Three was a struggle for the big German. He shot an uncharacteristically poor 7 of 21 from the floor, which should be encouraging for the Thunder. However, the fact that he still scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and the Mavs won on the road in a game where their superstar struggled has to be a cause for even more concern.

In order for the Thunder to even up this series tonight, they are going to need to do another great defensive job on Dirk, but also get more consistency from their All-NBA tandem of Durant and Westbrook. Yes, the two combined for 54 points Saturday, but their 15 of 52 shooting (Durant was 0 for 8 from behind the arc) is more than this team can overcome against a usually efficient Dallas ballclub.

The Thunder have a great home crowd, a young exciting nucleus and a ton of offensive firepower… but I think the Mavs are just a little too cagey and poised this season. I liked OKC before the Playoffs started as my sleeper in the West – and it still could happen – but I am objective enough to look at the games and see that Dallas is a little more ready to earn a berth to the Finals than the young Thunder.

I like Dallas tonight with the points, and would not be the least bit surprised to see them win outright.

PICK: Dallas Mavericks +4.5