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Oklahoma City Thunder @ Miami Heat (Mia -3, 193.5)
The Pick: Oklahoma City +3
The Miami Heat have won 3 consecutive games to put the Oklahoma City Thunder on the brink of elimination, which is an outcome that seemed very improbable a week ago. How have they done it? Well, Lebron James has been the best player on the floor, but the real story has been their play on the defensive end. They have held the Thunder below 100 points for 3 consecutive games, which is especially impressive when you consider that the Thunder had topped 100 in 9 of their last 10 and hadn’t failed to score 100 for 3 straight games all season long.
The reason Miami has been able to have so much success is because for all of Oklahoma City’s offensive brilliance, the Thunder lack an inside scoring threat. They are a perimeter-oriented, jump-shooting team, so they’re unable to hurt the Heat where they’re vulnerable: the frontcourt. Indiana’s Roy Hibbert looked like an All-Star against Miami, and Kevin Garnett looked like he was 25 again. The Heat may be undersized in the frontcourt but they have a plethora of long, athletic perimeter defenders, and the Thunder have All-Stars on the perimeter and two big men, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, who are offensively challenged. That has made for a great matchup, and, indeed, the series has been entertaining and competitive.
I lost betting on Oklahoma City in Game 3 (an agonizing loss), so I was initially a little gunshy about going with them again tonight. However, all things considered, I think it’s the right play. The Thunder outplayed the Heat for much of the last two games, frittering away opportunities to win with careless turnovers and a general lack of poise. Lebron has been an absolute monster in the series, but he was hobbled in Game 4 and couldn’t finish the game, and I’m not sure I entirely buy the “cramps” explanation that Miami is using. He’s expected to play tonight, but there’s certainly some concern regarding his health. I look for the Thunder to be in full attack mode from the opening tip, and it’s going to take another Herculean effort from Lebron to stop them. I’m not sure he has it in him tonight. I’ll take Oklahoma City and the points.