In game one, The Heat had no answer for the Chicago Bulls and their relentless hustle. In game two; they had Udonis Haslem. The veteran co-captain made his long-awaited return for Miami and gave them the exact spark they needed to match the Bulls intensity.
His effort helped keep the game close until the final few minutes, when LeBron James played the roll of closer to perfection; scoring nine points in the final two minutes, helping the Heat even up the series at a game a piece.
Tonight, the Thunder will attempt to do the same thing in Dallas. Will they be able to even the series, or will Dirk continue to run wild? Let’s get on to today’s free pick…
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Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Dallas Mavericks -5.5 (Total: 200.5)
Any analysis of tonight game has to start with the obviously begging question; “How do the Thunder defend Dirk Nowitski?” If they can’t figure out an answer tonight, they’ll be going home with a 2-0 deficit.
The Thunder allowed Dirk to catch the ball on the right block all night long, a spot where he is at his most lethal best. I’d be surprised if they approach tonight without at least attempting to double down off the passer. I’d much rather take my chances with Jason Kidd hitting enough three-pointers to beat me than allow to Dirk to single-handedly put my entire team in foul trouble and score every time he touches the ball. Call me crazy, but that’d be my strategy…
The Mavs might just be a team peaking at the right time. They ripped rough-shod through the defending champs in the Semis, and despite an epic collapse in Game 3 against Portland, closed the series out with relative ease in six games. It’s been three and half weeks since the Mavs lost a game – a stat of course aided by the nine-day rest they earned by sweeping L.A. in such expedient fashion.
For Dallas, they need to do a better job defending Kevin Durant just as much as OKC needs to find an answer for Dirk…though if Russell Westbrook throws up another 3 for 15 shooting performance, it may not matter quite as much. For the Thunder, it’s a common refrain – Durant is the rock, and Westbrook is the X-factor.
An interesting stat; in NBA history thirty three teams have won seven games in a row and eighteen of them went on to also win number eight. I think the Mavs will make it nineteen tonight. The Thunder might change their defensive strategy a bit, but unless the refs let them get a lot more physical bumping Dirk off his position catching the ball – the Thunder really don’t have anyone who can match-up.