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NBA Playoff Journal - June 17

   by Larry Ness - 06/17/2012

The Heat opened an 18-2 lead on the Thunder out of the gate in Game 2 and led 27-15 at the end of the first quarter. The teams each scored 28 points in the second and OKC was able to inch just one point closer in the third period, entering the 4th quarter down 11. The Thunder made a strong closing run and Durant’s runner from the baseline had a chance to tie the game at 98-all with about 10 seconds left but he missed (most saw a foul by LBJ). The Heat held on for a 100-96 win to even the series. Each team’s respective “Big 3” dominated play in Game 3, as LBJ (32-8-5), Wade (24-6-5) and Bosh (16 & 15) combined for 72 of Miami’s 100 points (72%), while Durant (32), Westbrook (27-8-7) and Harden (21 on 7 of 11 shooting) combined for 80 of OKC’s 96 points (83%).

It’s really quite amazing how the first two games have been viewed and reviewed. 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. Heading into Game 2, the storyline was the HUGE advantage the Thunder owned in youth, athleticism and overall quickness. As for the Heat, questions abounded regarding the ability of Wade to regain his “big time performer” status and would (could) Bosh make an impact after a poor effort in Game 1. Then of course, there was always the “LeBron factor,” meaning could he lead a team to a championship, as the with that Game 1 loss, LBJ fell to 2-9 in career Finals’ games.

However, after a four-point Miami win in Game 2, all of a sudden it’s OKC with all the problems! Should Brooks shake op his lineup by starting Harden and then there the ONSLAUGHT of criticism heaped upon Westbrook. Someone NEEDS to explain this to me. Westbrook has scored 27 points in each of the first two games of this year’s Finals, grabbing 16 rebounds while handing out 18 assists against just four turnovers. According to Elias, Westbrook is just the FOURTH player all-time to record at least 50 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists in his first 2 NBA Finals games, joining Shaquille O'Neal (1995), Michael Jordan (1991) and Hal Greer (1967). So let me get this straight, Westbrook is OKC’s problem?

The series is tied at one-all and as I've often noted, the 2-3-2 format has seen just TWO teams (in 27 years) sweep Games 3 through 5 at home (2004 Pistons and 2006 Heat) plus the 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! Both teams are shooting 47 percent after two games, with each having made 14, three-pointers. The Thunder have grabbed four more rebounds, the Heat have been whistled for two more fouls. The Thunder outscored Miami by 16 points in the paint during their Game 1 win and the Heat ‘turned the tables’ by outscoring the Thunder by 16 points in the paint during their victory in Game 2. Seems like a pretty close series to me.

Game 3 is set for 8:00 ET on ABC from Miami. The Heat are favored by four points (maybe 4 1/2) and the total is 193 1/2. It’s interesting to note that OKC opened at minus-$1.50 to win the series and just prior to the tip-off of Game 1, climbed as high as minus-$1.70. After A Game 1 win, the Thunder went to minus-$2.70 to the win the series (note: only FIVE teams have come back to win the NBA title after losing Game 1 of the Finals). However, after Miami’s Game 2 win, this series is virtually a pick-em. Home teams are now 53-28 (45-35-1 ATS) this postseason. EIGHT of the previous nine games had gone over prior to Game 2 and the fair ‘grade’ on Game 2 is a push. That leaves it 40 overs and 40 unders (one push) after 81 postseason contests (can’t make that up!). Those following the Zig Zag theory went just 4-7 in the conference finals but won their first opportunity in The Finals with Miami, to move to 33-32-1 ATS this postseason. However, that’s minus-2.2 net games.

Good luck...Larry

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