Boston Celtics @ Miami Heat -6.5 (Total: 181.5)
A bounce here, a jumper there, one more rebound…there are a lot of what if’s when you lose a pivotal game four in overtime, then find yourself fighting for your postseason lives on the road just two days later. For the Boston Celtics, that is a reality they must now rebound and deal with, or yet another pre-season favorite will be an early exit from the NBA Playoffs.
For Boston, the difference between 3-1 and 2-2 is a million-mile wide chasm, but it is as simple as a few of the little things listed in the beginning that has been plaguing them. Paul Pierce has the right focus, saying “tonight it is just one game…one game to focus on, and it’s all on the line.”
In order for Boston to win that “one game” they are going to have to do a better job defending the Heat’s Big Three. To this point, Wade, LeBron and Bosh have been able to dictate the tempo and tenor of the series; no play highlighting it more than Bosh’s ferocious rebound and put-back, followed by his Braveheart-like scream as the final dagger in the overtime back-breaker.
My sentimentality cost me with the Lakers… yet I am going to the well once more. I don’t see Boston getting blowout tonight. They haven’t been horribly outplayed like the Lakers were – it’s been a narrow margin. I think it is narrow again tonight, so give me the C’s with the 6.5 points.
Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Total: 181)
Don’t let the “fatigue” argument lull you into wagering one way or another tonight; first off, both teams would be equally tired, and secondly – these are young teams. For many of these guys they were playing three and four games a DAY on the AAU circuit just a few years ago. No one will be “too tired” to play well tonight.
This series has been one of the most evenly matched series in recent memory. Not only is it tied 2-2, but the overall scoring margin is 440-438 in favor of OKC. Nearly dead even. When things are that even, a series often comes down to one difference maker. In the Bulls series, it is obviously Derrick Rose. In this series – even though Kevin Durant is inarguably the best player, the key to the series is his running mate, Russell Westbrook.
Don’t let the media hype fool you into thinking this is some kind of Kobe/Shaq fued in the making. Westbrook and Durant are good friends and enjoy playing together. Does Westbrook take a few too many shots? Perhaps sometimes, but what critics are overlooking from Game Four is that he MADE a lot of those big shots – they weren’t all misses. As a matter of fact, Westbrook plays a nearly identical game at times to Derrick Rose. The difference of course is that Westbrook has Durant, and Rose has… Joakim Noah? Luol deng? Carlos Boozer?
I think OKC rides the energy of their ferocious home crowd; eager for a birth in the Conference Final, to a huge emotional lift and another good early start. Tonight though, the ball moves a little more efficiently down the stretch, Durant gets himself a little more open, Westbrook looks a little more to involve the NBA’s reigning scoring champ a bit more – and everyone leaves happy as the Thunder storm to a 3-2 series lead.