As we go to press on Monday morning the Miami Heat have taken a 2-1 lead over the Mavericks heading into Tuesday night’s Game 4 in Dallas.
The Mavericks were able to split the two games in Miami and temporarily claim the home court advantage. But the Dallas edge was short lived as Miami held on to defeat the Mavs last Sunday night in Big D.
As expected all three games have been extremely competitive and decided late, although that’s not to say sizeable second half leads have not been squandered. They have, especially by Miami in Game 2 when seeking to take a 2-0 advantage and leading by 15 points with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Dallas outscored the Heat 22-5 to steal that win and even up the series. The first three games have also been defensive struggles with the first and third staying UNDER the total by 12 and 15 points respectively.
Game 2 landed on what was pretty much a consensus closing total of 188.
After scoring 201 and 194 points in their only two regular season meetings the Heat and Mavs have combined to score just 176, 188 and 174 in the Finals.
On Monday morning the line for Game 4 opened with Dallas a three-point home favorite over Miami. By mid-morning some early money showed on the Heat, dropping the line at some books to 2½. The total opened and remained at 186½ several hours after the first number appeared.
There’s little reason to expect we shall witness a huge increase in offense from a pair of teams whose philosophy begins at the defensive end of the court. Even at a total lowered by a buck or so from the first three games, there still is some room for a play on the UNDER.
Dallas is playing with a greater sense of urgency in Game 4 as a loss would put the Mavs in a position of needing to win three straight games to win the title. The last two games would be played in Miami.
At the same time the Heat are eager to win this series in as few games as possible. They’d like nothing more than to return from Dallas after Game 5 for a victory parade in Miami rather than a Game 6.
Expect this series to go back to Miami for at least a sixth game in which either the Heat or Mavericks will be looking to clinch the title. As such, even as a slight favorite Dallas is well situated to be the play in Game 4 – especially if the line stays at 2½ or drops down to a deuce.
The play in Thursday’s Game 5 would depend on what happens Tuesday.
If Dallas squares the series at two games apiece, Miami would be attractive as a small underdog Thursday night.
Should Miami win on Tuesday and Dallas’ season be on the line Thursday, then the play would be on the Mavs to survive and head back to South Beach down three games to two.
Miami would be the play if there is a Game 6 Sunday. The Heat would either be looking to wrap up the title or pull even at three games apiece to force a deciding Game 7 next Tuesday.
Such a play on Miami would be risky if the line is -5 or higher.
As expressed last week, Miami has more late game options than does Dallas and thus is better able to overcome cold shooting by one of its stars.
Defense continues to be the prevalent theme in this series and at totals of 186 or higher the UNDER remains the preferred way to play.
Should there be a Game 7 next Tuesday the early preference would be to play Miami if the line is -4 points or less. Dallas would be playable at a line of +6 or more.
And if there is a Game 7, there will be a final NBA column that will revisit these early such thoughts. Be sure to pick up your copy of GamingToday when it hits the sports books on Tuesday in plenty of time to get to the windows for what will be the final game of the 2010-11 season – and perhaps the last NBA action we’ll see for quite some time to come.
last week season PCT
2-1 41-34-2 54.7