Oklahoma City Thunder at Miami Heat -3.5 (Total: 192.5)
This series has been one of the few Playoff series in 2012 that has unfolded fairly close to script. The line for each game has moved next to none from game to game. The spread has been as wide as -5 and as narrow as tonight’s -3.5, but never any more. The total has shrunk a bit, and is down all the way to 192.5 tonight, but even that is not a large move from the 196 we saw early in Game One.
The lines are a reflection of what every sports fan had hoped for; this is a really good series and a tight, even matchup.
So can the Heat take an enormous step towards capturing their coveted NBA Championship and relieve the galaxy of pressure and scrutiny that has weighed down on Lebron James’s enormous shoulders, or can the young Thunder find the poise they lacked in Game Three and even this series at two game apiece?
In order for the Thunder to win, several key things have to happen tonight. First, Durant has to stay out of foul trouble. It sounds simple, but the Thunder just isn’t a very good team without him on the floor. With Durant saddled with foul trouble, and Coach Scott Brooks perhaps leaving him on the pine a little too long, the Thunder saw their ten point lead quickly evaporate and turn into a two-point deficit. They were unable to recover in the fourth quarter.
The second big key, and perhaps the most underrated one, is the Thunder MUST get better production from James Harden. The NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year has been a non-factor in the last two games, and they have sorely missed his offensive production. Of course, the fact he is being hounded frequently by LEBRON certainly plays a large role. Most main stream media were enamored with the possibility of Lebron matching up on Durant (which he did in the final pivotal four minute stretch in Game Three), but the fact he is eliminating Harden is every bit as crucial.
For Miami, they simply need to do what they have been doing; POUND the paint. Aside from the please-don’t-wake-me Shane Battier, this is not a jump shooting team. They are an interior team, despite having the worst collection of centers in NBA Finals history. Wade and especially Lebron have been merciless in attacking the rim. In Game Four they made 19 more free throws than the Thunder. If they can continue this trend of getting inside the paint and attacking the rim, they are nearly impossible to beat.
I’ve picked the Heat twice in a row and been rewarded, and it would be very easy to play the numbers (which favored the Thunder all series long) and play the odds and go back to OKC with the points. But I’m sticking with my guns and backing the Heat one more time. I think they win tonight at home and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
Free Pick: Miami Heat -3.5