NBA FINALS GAME PREVIEW
No. 2 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
at No. 2 MIAMI HEAT
Game 5 - Miami leads series 3-1
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:05 p.m. ET
Line: Miami -3, Total: 193½
After two straight comeback wins from double-digit deficits, the Heat can claim the NBA Championship with a fourth straight victory over Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
Miami was able to erase a 10-point, third-quarter deficit in Game 3 to win 91-85, and Tuesday’s Game 4 was even more frustrating for the Thunder, who squandered away a 17-point lead in the first quarter and lost 104-98. Now Oklahoma City is faced with trying to become the first team in NBA history to win the title after trailing 3-1 in a Finals series. Despite suffering through painful leg cramps down the stretch and having to sit for the conclusion of Game 4, LeBron James finished one rebound shy of a triple-double (26 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds). Miami’s starting backcourt was also stellar, as both Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers scored 25 points apiece. The Thunder dynamic duo of Kevin Durant (28 points) and Russell Westbrook (43 points) combined for 72.4 percent of their team’s points, and were the only Oklahoma City players to score in the final 16:46 of the game. The team stats were pretty even in Game 4 as the Thunder shot 48.8% FG with 40 points in the paint, while the Heat connected on 48.1% FG and 46 points in the paint. Can the Heat close out this series on Thursday? For the answer, connect to NBA Playoffs Best Bets for all the Expert picks for every playoff game during the 2012 postseason. Since May 18, StatFox Dave is on a stellar 21-7-1 ATS (75%) run, going 11-2 ATS since May 31, with a whopping 10-1-1 mark in his past 12 Best Bets.
With Tuesday’s home win, the Heat are now 38-7 SU (84%) at AmericanAirlines Arena with a 26-18-1 ATS mark (59%). In the 2012 playoffs, Miami is 10-2 SU (9-3 ATS) at home, scoring 99.1 PPG and giving up only 88.1 PPG. Even with the two straight road losses, the Thunder are still the NBA’s third-best road team at 25-17 SU (60%) and are a solid 23-18-1 ATS (56%), including 5-3-1 ATS in playoff road tilts. They have also been resilient after an SU loss this season, going 18-6 SU and 15-9 ATS (63%). Both teams have nearly identical records with just one off-day in between games -- Miami is now 36-16 (26-26 ATS), while Oklahoma City is 34-16 (25-24-1 ATS).
Since the league adopted the 2-3-2 format in 1985, no NBA team trailing 3-1 in a series has even forced a Game 7. However, very few teams have lost three straight in such close fashion as the Thunder who have fallen by four, six and six points. Durant has had a monster offensive series with 30.3 PPG on 55% FG (37% threes) and 82% FT (23-for-28), but he has just 4.8 RPG, eight assists and 12 turnovers. In the first three series of these playoffs, Durant tallied 7.9 RPG, 4.2 APG and 2.9 TOPG. Westbrook has come up big in all facets in the NBA Finals with 29.0 PPG (48% FG), 7.0 RPG, 6.8 APG and just 2.3 TOPG. The one negative is his poor long-range shooting, as he’s just 3-for-17 on threes. Speaking of poor shooting, SG James Harden can’t find the ocean in Miami, making just 4-of-20 shots, including 1-of-9 threes in Games 3-4. He had scored in double-figures in each of the 15 games comprising the first three rounds of the playoffs, but has been held to single-digits in three of the four NBA Finals games. The Thunder are still looking for someone else to help out with the scoring load, as no other player eclipsed six points in Tuesday’s loss. PF Serge Ibaka and C Kendrick Perkins combined for just eight points and 10 rebounds in 44 minutes in Game 4, while SG Thabo Sefolosha posted a game-worst minus-19 rating, giving him a minus-30 mark in the two contests in Miami.
James is still dealing with soreness in his left leg, but the pain has diminished considerably since he suffered leg cramps in Tuesday’s Game 4 and had to be carried off the court. He will start and try to build on his gaudy numbers in the NBA Finals: 29.3 PPG (47% FG), 10.0 RPG and 6.0 APG. Wade hasn’t shot the ball particularly well in the Finals (41% FG), but he’s still posted impressive numbers of 23.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 5.8 APG. He has scored at least 22 points in each of his past nine home games in these playoffs. The good news for Miami fans is that PF Chris Bosh certainly has room for improvement on the offensive end, as he’s tallied a mere 12.3 PPG on 39.6% FG in the Finals, a big drop-off from his regular season numbers of 18.0 PPG on 48.7% FG. But Bosh has done a great job staying out of foul trouble (eight fouls total) and has attacked the boards, averaging 10.0 RPG. SF Shane Battier is coming off his worst game of the Finals (four points on 1-of-4 FG), but he had to cool down sometime after making 14-of-19 shots (74%) including 11-of-15 threes (73%) in Games 1-3. Chalmers was just the opposite, shooting terribly in Games 2-3 (2-for-15 FG) before making 9-of-15 shots in Game 4. His ball distribution has been lacking though, with just seven assists and five turnovers in the past three contests. Miami’s bench has been quiet throughout the series, but one reserve that stepped up on Tuesday was SG Norris Cole who scored eight points (2-of-3 threes) and posted a +12 rating in just seven minutes of action.