It’s not as simple as “The Heat have LeBron, the Pacers don’t” but yet in some regard, it really is. Was Chris Bosh terrific last night? No doubt. Was Dwyane Wade great again, as he has been this entire series? Certainly. Are the Heat one hundred times more mentally tough than the Pacers who looked confused, sloppy and lost? Yup.
But at the end of the day, the Heat have LeBron.
And it looks like they will have him in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season. Maybe the “not four, not five, not six…” talk of several years ago is a lot more prescient than most pundits wanted to admit…
The Western Conference resumes tonight, and if the series doesn’t start until the road team wins, then I guess we are still waiting for this series to commence. But in the interim, it’s been a wildly-swinging narrative; from terrible to wonderful for the Thunder, and the converse for the Spurs.
So will the home dominance continue tonight at Chesapeake Arena where the Thunder have beaten the Spurs nine straight times? Let’s break down tonight’s enormous Game Four.
Western Conference Finals – Game Four
San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder -2.5 (Total: 207.5)
If the Heat series can be simplified by “we have LeBron, you don’t” then perhaps the Thunder series can be reduced to “We’ve got Serge.” His return caused an immediate impact, both defensively with his rim protecting (4 blocks) and his mid-range shooting ability loosening up the defense for Durant and Westbrook (and Reggie Jackson). No disrespect to Nick Collison and Steven Adams, but the game was completely different with the Serge-Protector back patrolling the paint.
If Coach Pop has sown us nothing over the last two decades it is a fantastic ability to adapt from game to game. So will they be able to make the necessary adjustments tonight? If they do, it will have to start with Tony Parker. Their offensive catalyst struggled in Game Three and the Spurs team followed suit. They need Parker to have a big game; a 25 point, 10 assist-type game to offset the offense the Thunder are likely to put up at home with their explosive backcourt.
Another big difference in Game Three was the Thunder making eleven more free throws than the Spurs. I like that trend to continue tonight, as they continue to be the aggressor. They drive to the basket with more intensity and tenacity. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Thunder have beaten the Spurs nine straight times at home. Now that they are back at full strength (presumably, assuming Ibaka is fully healthy tonight), there’s no reason for me to see that trend ending tonight.