Oklahoma City Thunder @ Miami Heat -3 — Total: 196.5
First off, for those of you who heeded my advice and backed the Pacers -5 last night hosting the Knicks, you are welcome… and sorry for the stress! The Pacers did in fact cover, notching us another victory, but man did they take a daring route path to victory. The Pacers trailed by fifteen points at the end of the third quarter before closing with a 42-18 fourth quarter to steal both the win and the cover. A win is a win, but for those of you who watched it while it unfolded, it was pretty dramatic. I almost tore up my ticket at the end of third, assuming defeat, but as we all know, the real NBA action kicks in the last six or seven minutes. Everyone makes a run…
Alas, on to tonight’s fantastic matchup (in my opinion, a Finals preview), Oklahoma City at Miami. The Heat have been taking a beating recently; both on the court and in the media for their play on the road since the All-Star break. Meanwhile Oklahoma City’s home-loss to Memphis notwithstanding, the Thunder have been on a “we’re the best team on the planet” tour, beating the Lakers, Bulls and Heat in the span of seven days. Tonight the Heat get a chance to avenge last week’s loss – just the sort of challenge that usually wakes up this sometimes-sleeping giant.
Miami has been dominant at home all season, posting a league best 22-2 record. And as good as OKC is, I don’t see the Thunder beating them tonight in Miami’s building. The Heat are sometimes frustrating for a handicapper, not because they aren’t the best team on Earth, but because they are one of the most enigmatic. They are capable of being the first team in NBA history to win three road games in three consecutive nights. They are also capable of being the team that loses at Golden State, Milwaukee and Utah. You can’t ever be 100% what you are going to get.
Of course, that pertains to the road only. At home? Nearly automatic. They’ve won 93% of their home games and have won their last four home games by a comfortable margin (six points or more). Lebron James will also have a little extra incentive tonight, as most people agree the MVP race has become a two man battle between he and Kevin Durant. It never hurts to stack an emphatic chip in your favor a mere three weeks before the season concludes. If Lebron’s last outing against Philadelphia, an excellent defensive team, is any indication (41 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) then you can expect him to be at his dominant best tonight.
It may be somewhat overshadowed locally with the simultaneous opening of the Marlins new stadium tonight, but I don’t be surprised the Heat to compete for their fair share of the headlines with a message-sending performance tonight against the Thunder.
Free Pick: Miami Heat -3