After Miami and Oklahoma City split their first two games of the NBA Finals in Oklahoma City, the series became a best of five with the next three all to be played in Miami. This gives the Heat the chance to win the Championship on their home court.
Despite mid-game fluctuations each of the first three games of the series came down to better fourth quarter execution. Miami has had the halftime lead in each of the first three games.
The Heat were unable to hold a 7-point halftime lead in the opener, losing 105-94 in a game that was a one pointer after three quarters. Game 2 saw the Heat lead by 12 at halftime and by 11 after three quarters. But the result still came down to the final possession as Miami led 98-96 with under 20 seconds remaining and Oklahoma City in possession of the ball in Miami’s 100-96 win.
Game 3 was much tighter throughout with Miami up by just a point at the half before OKC seized the lead in the third quarter. Still, Miami led by 2 at the end of the third quarter and outscored the Thunder 22-18 in a sloppily played fourth quarter by both teams.
Miami’s 91-85 win gave the Heat a 2-1 lead heading into Tuesday night’s Game 4. The Heat opened a 3½ point favorite with the total at 192.
Since the NBA changed its sequencing format for the Finals from 2-2-1-1-1 to 2-3-2 in the 1984-85 season, only twice has a team been able to sweep all three home games in the middle of the series. Miami did it in 2006 and Detroit likewise two seasons earlier.
These teams remain evenly matched and we shall continue to see a series of adjustments both as the series goes on and within each game.
Both coaches – Eric Spoelstra of Miami and Scott Brooks of OKC – will keep in mind those matchups that worked and those that failed when designing plays and matchups at critical stages of games.
The coaches and players are very familiar with one another and there should be few, if any, surprises to be sprung over the remainder of the series. Ultimately the result will come down to which team is more successful at executing their plays and likely the team that is most aggressive at going for the hoop will be that team.
Miami’s LeBron James is the most versatile player on the court and his net successes or failures will determine who wins this series.
Although a one-sided game, wire-to-wire, is a possibility the percentages favor closely contested games with outcomes in doubt deep into the fourth quarter.
Taking points with a trailing underdog makes sense and thus the preferred play in Game 4 would be on Oklahoma City plus the points.
The Game 5 play would depend on the result the previous contest. Should Miami take a 3-1 lead then Oklahoma City would be the play facing elimination.
Should the Thunder pull the upset Tuesday night to square the Finals at two games apiece then Miami becomes the play, likely as 5 to 6 point favorite. The Heat would need a victory to have a realistic shot at winning the title. A loss would put them down 3-2 with any remaining games to be played at Oklahoma City.
The favored scenario has Miami winning both Tuesday’s Game 4 and Thursday’s Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead on the road for the conclusion of the series.
Should this be the scenario that unfolds the preferred play would be to lay the points with OKC in Sunday’s Game 6. If there is a Game 7 take the points with Miami to win the Championship next Tuesday.
The first game of the series went OVER the total but by only a bucket or so due to a late game flurry of scoring. The game was on an OVER pace at the half but scoring slowed considerably in the third quarter.
Game 2’s total landed virtually right on the number as it fell 196. During the hours leading up to tip off there were possibilities of playing OVER 195½ and UNDER 196½. There were exactly half that number of points (98) scored in the first half.
Game 3 stayed well below 193 with just 176 points scored. Prior to this, most recent games had the Heat and Thunder combining to score 190, 191, 199 and 196 points – producing a very narrow range.
The forecast from here on out would be for contests in Miami to be lower scoring than potential Games 6 and 7 that would be in Oklahoma City. The selection remains Miami in 7.
Whether it will be the first in a LeBron James’ promised long line of titles remains to be seen. But perhaps when this column returns next fall James and his Miami Heat teammates will take the court as defending NBA Champs.