Miami Heat @ Oklahoma City Thunder -1.5
There is a very good chance we are getting a sneak-preview of the NBA Finals tonight in Oklahoma City, and I expect the intensity level of this game to ratchet up appropriately. So, after the NCAA Tournament games wrap up, you have plenty of time to scramble over to ESPN and keep the hoops flowing with as good of a game as the NBA regular season can offer up.
Oklahoma City has been in a bit of a malaise post-All Star Break, going just 5-4 in their last nine games. It has been somewhat unnoticed given the mediocre play of most of the teams ‘chasing’ them; San Antonio, the Lakers, the Clippers – no one has been able to make up any considerable ground and Oklahoma City still sits pretty comfortably in the catbird seat for the Western Conference playoffs. For all the speculation about the relationship between Westbrook and Durant, they remain effective and the most dynamic offensive duo in the NBA. They combined for a staggering 85 points and 11 assists in their last outing, a wild double-OT win over Minnesota (Kevin Love had 51 and 14, not relevant to this article, but DANG!)
Miami still trails Chicago by several games in the East and has been unable to close the gap even with Derek Rose on the bench with an injury. However, after watching what the Heat did to Rose in the Playoffs last year, I get the sense they aren’t too concerned with earning the top seed in the East. They are more focused on playing excellent basketball, which they have recently. They have won four games in a row, beating Phoenix in a home-and-home and beating Phily and Orlando, two possible second round opponents.
The Heat and Thunder have split this season, with each team winning and covering on their home floor. I like the same to happen tonight. As good as the Heat have been playing, the Thunder are nearly unbeatable on their home floor. Expect the frenzied crown to be in full voice tonight for a huge matchup.
This game takes on added significance for two more reasons: first, the MVP race has settled into a Durant vs. Lebron matchup. Tonight is a great chance for either or both to make a huge statement. It also could have reaching implications for home court advantage in the NBA Final, a HUGE difference with both games 6 and 7 being on the higher-seeded team’s floor (unlike the other rounds which have a 2-2-1-1-1 format).
I like OKC to play well at home and for Durant and Westbrook to combine for 60+, sending a nice message to the Heat and the league that they are in fact legit threats to capture the NBA title.
Free Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder -1.5 (click to bet)