Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 1:03 PM
It’s amazing how much perceptions of a championship series can change from day to day. Oklahoma City started as the clear favorites over Miami in the major legal betting markets, expanded on that impression by winning Game One by 11 points, but they are now a clear series underdog after losing and failing to cover the last two games.
Is Oklahoma City finished? Well, Miami led Dallas 2-1 last year in the Finals, and never earned another victory. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Oklahoma City was able to match what Dallas did and rally for the title. But, because Miami has made some very smart adjustments this year (the kind they weren’t making last year), I also wouldn’t be stunned if LeBron James and company close it out.
If you’ve been focused on the PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS for each team, you’ve seen how that’s happened. As I stated before the series started, Oklahoma City has more playmakers. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden can all take over a game by themselves. Miami has James and Dwyane Wade, though Wade still appears to be bothered by a sore knee. I’d call it 3 to 1.5 for OKC in terms of playmakers. Miami lost the first game but won the next two because they figured out how to disrupt OKC’s playmakers.
*Durant is still an awesome force…but he’s wearing down and getting frustrated from the physical defense that James is playing on him. You can see the mental fatigue showing in the ticky-tack fouls Durant’s been picking up. A great way to stop Durant is to make him sit on the bench with foul trouble!
*Westbrook has been out of control too often, forcing up too many poor shots and failing to find open shooters when they’re standing right in front of him. He’s made more bad passes than good ones, and has cut back on his drives to the hoop because he was converting so few of those.
*Harden had a huge first half in Game Two (after he barely made a ripple in their Game One win). This was just want the Thunder needed at the time because he helped them rally from way behind. But, Miami adjusted and now Harden keeps running into brick walls whenever he tries to drive.
That sums it up in a nutshell. Miami has put up a big brick wall in the paint. Oklahoma City’s playmakers keep running into it instead of shooting over it after good ball movement or flying over it for big dunks. Even if OKC has a 3 to 1.5 edge in playmakers at the opening tipoff, they’re not going to win if real world basketball makes it more like a 1.5 to 1 edge for Miami. The dynamic athleticism of OKC has been neutralized. That’s why the Thunder have scored 105-96-85 in sequence. You can see the success of Miami’s defensive adjustments right here.
Last Thursday I talked about the importance of rebounding in the NBA Finals. The team winning that category is 3-0 straight up and ATS so far. I also talked about the importance of assisted baskets. Oklahoma City has stopped moving the ball around, particularly in Game Three where every possession seemed to involve on of their stars forcing up a guarded shot. Be sure you’re paying attention to those categories every game…and within the game if you like betting in-game options or second half lines.
Because I’ve seen so many NBA Finals matchups over my long career, I’m very confident I have a read on what’s going to happen from this point forward. If you’d like some help making final decisions the rest of the way, you can purchase my game-day releases right here at this website for a very affordable price. Be sure you stay on the lookout for my 50-Unit baseball plays too.
My next class in the College of Advanced Handicapping will be posted Friday. I will determine the topic at the very last second depending on developments in the NBA Finals (both Games Four and Five will have been completed by then). We’re most likely to have an expanded basketball discussion on Friday, followed by a return to baseball next Tuesday. But, if we see a 7th game between Oklahoma City and Miami…I will DEFINITELY preview that game for the Tuesday edition.
It’s been a lot of fun reading and reacting throughout the full NBA Playoffs. I appreciate that so many of you have made it a point to study every single course lesson. As I’ve said before, I hope you’re printing out each report so you can create your own personal textbook of strategy and guidance. Handicapping does evolve, but many of the fundamentals stay the same. You can use the tips you read in my coursework for years to come in ALL sports. See you again on Friday!