NBA Eastern and Western Conference Finals have 7 look

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Prior to the start of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals both Miami and San Antonio were solid favorites to face one another in the NBA Finals.

Neither team was expected to be extended to the full seven games by either Boston or Oklahoma City respectively, although many thought the Thunder would be more of a challenge to the Spurs in the West than Boston would be to the Heat in the East.

But, to quote ESPN football commentator (and ex-college coach) Lee Corso, “not so fast my friends”

Both Conference Championship series are tied at two games apiece following Boston’s overtime win over Miami this past Sunday night. Form, in terms of home/road performance, has held true as the home team has won each of the eight games played thus far.

The favored team has covered three of the four games in the Western Conference series while splitting the four point spread decisions in the East. Although the favored team has won each game straight up in the San Antonio vs Oklahoma City series the Spurs failed to cover the 5½ point line in their 101-98 opening game win.

Boston’s Game four win has been the only “upset” in which the underdog has won straight up. Boston did cover in their four point overtime loss in Game two as eight point puppies.

The series between the Spurs and Thunder has produced two OVER and two UNDER results while there have been three straight OVERS in the East Finals after the first game stayed UNDER. But Sunday’s game went OVER the total of 180 due to overtime as the game was tied at 89 at the end of regulation play.

The overtime featured just six total points as the Celtics outscored the Heat 4-2 in the extra five minutes. Miami’s Game two win also came in overtime, but the Total of 178½ had already been exceeded when regulation play ended with the teams tied at 99.

The NBA Finals are scheduled to begin next Tuesday, June 12 but should both series end in six games there exists the possibility that the Game one of the Finals could be moved up to Sunday, June 10.

Here are some thoughts on how both series may play out now that each has been reduced to a best of three.

Celtics-Heat

Miami is still favored to get by Boston even though the Celtics have been more formidable than expected. To nobody’s surprise the Celtics lost comfortably in Game one after having had just one day to prepare for Miami after defeating Philadelphia in Game seven of their second round series just two nights earlier. Boston did regroup and was very competitive in Game two, losing in overtime before winning both games back home.

Interestingly Boston has been the better team in the first half of these games, leading in three of the games at halftime and tied in the other. But Miami has outscored Boston in all four second halves with two of the second half “victories” by at least a dozen points.

Miami opened as eight point favorites for Tuesday’s Game five with rumors circulating that the injured Chris Bosh is set to return after missing nine games. He’s been listed as “probable” at some websites. His return would provide both a physical and emotional boost which could well translate to getting the Heat off to better starts in the first half than they have thus far.

As game time approaches and if Bosh is indeed going to play the public reaction will likely cause the line to edge up perhaps another point.

Miami is in need of a statement performance and that should come on Tuesday night in Game five. Miami is the better team and needs to psychologically inflict damage on Boston’s collective psyche. Expect a dominant effort from the Heat as they take a 3-2 lead back to Boston for Thursday’s Game six that will be an elimination matchup for one of the two.

Boston would be playable in Game six regardless of whether they are seeking to avoid elimination or if they are seeking to close out the Heat should the pull the upset on Tuesday. If the Celtics are looking to force a Game seven they’d need to be getting at least three. If they are looking to win the series they can be played as underdogs, pick ‘em or not favored by more than a bucket.

Should the series go to a seventh game Boston would be playable as underdogs of at least eight back in Miami on Saturday.

Thunder-Spurs

Either the Spurs or Thunder will be heading to Oklahoma City with a 3-2 lead and in position to wrap up their series Wednesday. The Spurs were five point favorites on Monday night and if they were able to win the preference would be to back them as underdogs of at least three to at least cover in Game six if not win outright.

If OKC pulled the upset Monday then the Thunder would be in position to end the series back home. They’d clearly have a much better chance at winning the series at home in Game six rather than trying for a second straight win Friday back in San Antonio.

Thus the strategy for Game sixwould be to play the winner of Game five to end the series.

San Antonio would be the play in a seventh and deciding game if favored by four points or less. Should the public bet the Spurs up to more than six then Oklahoma City would be worth playing.

If the series does go the distance, the Thunder would have shown they clearly are on even terms with the Spurs. And, getting more than just the normal few points for home court advantage, they would be in position to take Game seven right to the wire.

Next week the NBA Finals will be previewed as we’ll know if our earlier prediction of Boston vs. San Antonio will have come to fruition.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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