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NBA Playoff Journal - June 14

   by Larry Ness - 06/14/2012

The Heat were expected to be drained from their seven-game series with the Celtics but that hardly looked like the case in the first half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Miami came out strong in the first half while OKC looked a little rusty and somewhat nervous. Miami would take a 54-47 lead at the half but it wouldn’t last long. Russell Westbrook led OKC with 12 points in the third quarter, one in which the Thunder won 27-19. Then in the fourth, Kevin Durant led the way with 17 points, as the Thunder outscored the Heat 31-21. When the ‘dust’ had settled, the Thunder won 105-94. OKC outscored Miami 58-40 in the second half with the dynamic duo of Durant and Westbrook outscoring Miami’s entire team, 41-40. Durant had 36 & 8 in his first Finals game and Westbrook’s line of 27-8-11 (just two TOs), was nearly as impressive. Harden only added five points (?) but Ibaka had 10 & 6 plus Collison had 8 & 10 (on 4-of-5 shooting), off the bench.

LBJ had 30-9-4 but Wade shot poorly (7-of-19) while adding a line of 19-4-8. Bosh played 34 minutes off the bench but spent his time roaming the perimeter, making just 4-of-11 for 10 points (added five rebounds). Miami did get a surprising 17 points from Battier (on 6-of-9 shooting) plus 12 points and six assists (on 5-of-7 FGs) from Chalmers but other than Bosh, only Miller scored (with just TWO points) off the Miami bench. Getting back to the two stars, LBJ didn't have the kind of game that lifted Miami to victories over Boston in Games 6 and 7 of the East finals but he did reach the 30-point plateau in an NBA Finals contest for the first time in his career. However, he is just 2-9 all-time in NBA Finals’ games. As for Durant, he became the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to surpass the 35-point plateau in a Finals game, knocking down four, three-pointers.

Moving on to Game 2, what can we expect? Home teams are now 53-27 (45-34-1 ATS) this postseason. EIGHT of the last nine games have gone over, leaving it 40 overs and 40 unders after 80 postseason contests (can’t make that up!). Those following the Zig Zag theory went just 4-7 in the conference finals and are 32-32-1 ATS this postseason, which is minus-3.2 net games (get their first chance in The Finals in Game 2, with the Heat). OKC is favored by 5 1/2 points in Game 2 (total is 196). The Thunder opened at minus-$1.50 to win the series and just before tip-off of Game 1, were up to minus-$1.70. After a Game 1 win, the Thunder are now up to minus-$2.70. Recent history is on OKC’s side, as only FIVE teams have come back to win the NBA title after losing Game 1 of the Finals.

The Thunder are 9-0 SU this postseason (only team undefeated at home in the 2012 playoffs) and they are 5-0 ATS their last five home games, averaging 105.8 PPG while winning by an average margin of 12.2 PPG. However, Miami’s played its best with its back to a wall. With the 2-3-2 format, winning Game 2 just may be considered a “must win” for the Heat. Consider this. In this format, just TWO previous teams (in 27 years) have been able to win all three home games, the 2004 Pistons and the 2006 Heat (note: the ‘95 Rockets went 2-0 at home against the Magic, finishing off a 4-0 sweep). In fact, three visiting teams have won all three games on the road in this format (‘90 Pistons at Portland, the ‘91 Bulls at the Lakers and the ‘01 Lakers at Philly), plus three more have completed 4-0 sweeps by taking the first two games on the road (’89 Pistons at the Lakers, ‘02 Lakers at New Jersey and the ‘07 Spurs in Cleveland), not even needing a fifth game!

That set the stage for Game 2. My next journal will be available on Saturday by 2:00 ET (Game 3 is set for Sunday in Miami).

Good luck...Larry

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