Just when this series looked like it might be getting away from the Mavericks and entering “foregone conclusion” territory; the Mavs staged a comeback for the ages and absolutely stunned the Miami Heat and their home fans.
A little too much has been made about Dwayne Wade “posing” after hitting a seemingly-crushing three pointer to put the Heat up 15 with less than six minutes to play, but nearly every single Maverick player has cited that as part of the impetus for the furious rally. I find it hard to believe professional athletes on the verge of going down 2-0 in the NBA Finals need a superstar’s exuberance to inspire their efforts…but hey, who am I to argue?
So will the Heat turn down the antics in Game Three? More importantly, will the Mavericks turn up the offensive output for a consistent 48-minute effort? Let’s move on to tonight’s free pick…
Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Miami Heat @ Dallas Mavericks @ -2.5 (Total: 188.5)
Any concerns about Dirk’s “injury” have been put to sleep; much like Chris Bosh apparently was during the final defensive possession of Game Two. Dirk blew by for the easy game-winning lay-up, and the Mavericks blew up the notion of an easy coronation for the Heat. We’ve got a real battle on our hands now; and if history is a guide – tonight’s winner will likely be hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in less than nine days.
Think that’s hyperbole? Try this stat on for size; since the NBA has gone to the 2-3-2 format in the NBA Finals, teams have split the opening two games 11 times previously (this year makes 12). The winner of Game Three has gone on to win the NBA Championship all eleven times!
The Vegas sentiment is still slightly in favor of the Miami Heat. Miami was a 4.5 point favorite at home, Dallas a slightly slimmer 2.5 favorite in the initial home game – even coming off a stunning series-equalizing win on the road.
It is hard to predict psychology, which in an NBA Finals series is as important as any of the physical matchups on the floor. The begging question is, HOW will Miami react to their epic collapse in Game Two?
The Mavericks had to answer a similar question after Brandon Roy’s spectacular fourth quarter burst, leading the Blazers back “into the series” against Dallas in Round One. The Mavs responded by winning their next seven playoff games (excuse me defending-champ Lakers!) Miami’s makeup is similar; they are tough and resilient – and actually have grown to enjoy the negativity and ill-will surrounding them. They have embraced the villain role with surprising aplomb and often LeBron James seems downright fueled by the media and public’s venom.
I like Miami to come out very strong tonight, as I do the Mavs at home. This is going to be a great game. I’m going to err on the side of recent Playoff history and stick with the Heat. Yes, they collapsed spectacularly in Game Two. They have also been the one’s causing those collapses all post-season in the Bulls, the Celtics, and even clamping down the Mavs in Game One.
The road won’t bother them as much as some other teams, because defense travels a little better than jump-shot reliant teams. It’s going to be a battle tonight, but I’ll take LeBron and Co. in a thriller; to win as well as with the 2.5 points.