The Dallas Mavericks suddenly find themselves just one win away from capturing their first ever NBA Championship. Not bad for a team than many experts predicted would lose in the first round to Portland!
Meanwhile the Miami Heat, despite their 3-2 hole, need only to avoid doing something they have only done once in the Playoffs, lose at home, in order to do the exact same thing.
So, will anyone be hoisting the trophy tonight, or can the Heat force a rare NBA Finals Game Seven??
Let’s get on to tonight’s free pick
Today’s Free NBA Picks:
Dallas Mavericks @ Miami Heat -5.5 (Total: 186.5)
I was quick to defend LeBron James after Game Three, even while most of the media was piling on about his fourth quarter inefficiencies. After Game Four, it is getting harder to maintain the tenuous position that LeBron wasn’t shrinking from the moment, because at some point, the stats begin to tell the truth.
For LeBron, the truth is; eleven points combined in five Finals fourth quarters. That is an average of just 2.2 points per game. Not exactly the stuff that legendary performers are built on. Especially when on the opposite side, Dallas’s Dirk Nowitski is making a serious bid for “most dominant force in the NBA”, completely carrying the Mavs to the precipice of the ultimate prize.
The key to tonight’s game for Miami is to get out to an early lead like they did in games one through four. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle made a brilliant move, inserting JJ Barrea into the starting lineup to help kick-start the first quarter offense that had been so sorely lacking. Now it is on Miami and Coach Spo to respond.
Perhaps it is more oddity than rule, but since the 1994, the home team in the Finals returning home with a 3-2 deficit has gone just 3-7 in Game Six. Meaning, that while conventional wisdom says that the favorite SHOULD be down 3-2 having played three games on the road and two at home, and that it doesn’t mean there is any cause for alarm – in truth, it has rarely worked out that way. Home court advantage has proved a little less helpful than the momentum of the series that shifts to the team entering with a win or two under their belt.
This doesn’t bode well for the Heat tonight, though it appears Vegas doesn’t agree. Even with Wade’s bumps and bruises and James struggling through an ill-time slump, the line still opened strongly on the Heat side, at -6. The line has since narrowed to -5.5 (and appears to be creeping to the 4 to 4.5 range before tipoff tonight).
I think the Heat, who have grown accustomed to dealing with doubt and criticism, play an excellent game tonight and stay alive to force an incredible Game Seven Tuesday night, however, I am not comfortable laying 5.5 on either team given the tenor of this series. The Heat can handle the pressure, but I am just not convinced they will play loose enough to blow out Dallas.
Expect yet another brilliantly close and hard-fought contest tonight, with the Heat narrowly holding off the hungry Mavericks.
Tonight’s Pick: Dallas +5.5