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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 1:08 AM

As often happens in a competitive best of seven series, a very close matchup is just a few plays away from blowing up into a decided advantage for one team. Through three games, the composite score shows Oklahoma City leading by one measly point (an 11-point win followed by losses of 4 and 6). But, the Miami Heat are up two games to one and have the next two games at home. Plus, they may have solved the riddle of how to slow down the Thunder’s once potent offense.

 

Look at these scoring totals for Oklahoma City.

Game One: 105 points

Game Two: 96 points

Game Three: 85 points

 

Now, let’s do the same thing for shooting percentage.

Game One: 52%

Game Two: 43%

Game Three: 43%

Those are very disturbing trends if you’re an Oklahoma City fan. Your offense that looked like it was unstoppable through the last four games of the San Antonio series and the first game vs. Miami has suddenly hit an iceberg. Some of you might be thinking that scoring reduced because tempo went down. That’s not the case at all. In fact, Game One was slightly slower than the next two. Miami has made some very smart defensive adjustments…and Oklahoma City has failed to come up with solutions.

Among those:

*Miami has basically eliminated Oklahoma City’s fast break. Shooters are getting back very well. And, the inspired offensive rebounding of Chris Bosh has prevented OKC from grabbing misses and racing out with them. A great way to reduce your opponent’s shooting percentage is to stop giving them dunks and layups off the fast break!

*Miami has done a much better job of clogging the middle in the halfcourt game, which has reduced the danger that guys like Russell Westbrook and James Harden usually provide. Westbrook has struggled at the rim, and Harden was horrible from everywhere in Game Three. Miami turned a “big three” into a big one (Kevin Durant) with smarter and more intense internal defense.

*Miami is avoiding the potential foul trouble that can happen to any OKC opponent. The Thunder aren’t marching to the free throw line by any means. In fact, there’s a similar decrease here to what we saw above with shooting percentages and scoring volume. The Thunder’s attempts have gone 27-26-24, while their makes have gone 20-19-15. Downward trends, and no explosions into the 30’s that can happen when a game gets out of control and OKC is just running roughshod over an opponent.

So…Miami’s making adjustments. And, Oklahoma City is disappointingly settling back into isolation offense and “hero ball.” Assist totals are way down because nobody’s trying to get assists. Everyone’s just taking turns trying to beat their man one-on-one and make a shot. Hey…these guys are great at that in general. Versus Miami’s highly regarded defense, particularly after smart adjustments were made…that’s just not going to work. If Westbrook is driving and dishing, his teammates (particularly the role players) are going to get good looks. If nobody’s driving and dishing, only tough shots get launched.

That’s what we mean about a close series also being close to conclusion. If Oklahoma City doesn’t play smarter on offense, this series may be over already. The Heat will take the next two home games and finish off a surprising 4-1 victory. The Thunder must get back to what worked so well against San Antonio and in Game One of this series if they want to even things up tonight, and give themselves a chance to win a title on their home floor.

 

OKLAHOMA CITY vs. MIAMI

Game Four Vegas Line: Miami by 3.5, total of 191.5

Miami leads 2-1

The line has dropped because of the natural tendency to bet the bounce back spot. Plus, Oklahoma City was initially the series favorite, which carries even more weight in a bounce back. Thunder backers in Game Two (which was also a bounce back) must feel like they were in position to cash their tickets in the last game. OKC had a 10-point lead in the third quarter. And, the final minutes of the fourth quarter were right on the number. Tough loss if you were rooting for OKC…but an earned win from the Miami perspective because of that great defense.

The total has dropped some more, after a drop in Game Three. You’ll recall that the Under was hit pretty hard in Miami…and those bets cashed very easily. Oddsmakers chased down to 191.5 to follow the direction of the series. Will the Wise Guys be on the Under again? If you see Over bets come in, that would suggest faith in OKC’s ability to make the right offensive adjustments.

 

GAME THREE SUMMARY

MIAMI 91 OKLAHOMA CITY 85

Field Goal Pct: Oklahoma City 43%, Miami 38%

Three-Pointers: Oklahoma City 4/18, Miami 4/13

Free Throws: Oklahoma City 15/24, Miami 31/35

Rebounds: Oklahoma City 38, Miami 45

Turnovers: Oklahoma City 11, Miami 12

Vegas Line: Miami by 4, total of 193

Note how Oklahoma City shot better than Miami, but lost because of a huge discrepancy from the free throw line. Miami was +11 in attempts, but +16 in makes because OKC kept missing from the charity stripe. We’re not suggesting there was anything questionable about the officiating (beyond the standard number of borderline calls that are common to every game). Miami attacked the basket and was rewarded. Oklahoma City kept running into traffic in a way that wasn’t drawing contact. And, when they did, they missed their free throws anyway!

Let’s also note the big advantage in the rebounding category for the Heat. They were 45-38 in this game, after winning Game Two as well (40-36). We always tell you that defense and rebounding wins championships. Miami has really kicked it up in those two areas. In fact, you could argue that it was second chance points off offensive boards that ultimately put them over the top.

JIM HURLEY has been in constant contact with his whole TEAM of experts and sources since Game Three ended to make sure he’ll have Tuesday’s winner for you. The final call (at least a team side, and maybe both a team and a total) will be up available on this website Thursday afternoon for credit card purchase. If you have any questionsa bout basketball or baseball, call the office at 1-800-323-4453 for more details.

Note that baseball highlights tonight include:

Atlanta at NY Yankees

Cincinnati at Cleveland

St. Louis at Detroit

Tampa Bay at Washington

Baltimore at NY Mets

Miami at Boston

San Francisco at LA Angels

The American League has re-established dominance so far, but there’s still time for the National League to save some face in high profile matchups like these. Interleague ends Sunday, so enjoy all the unique battles and rivalry wars while you can. We hope you’re aiming for big money SEVEN DAYS A WEEK in the bases, the single most profitable wagering sport because a busy schedule lasts for so many months.

Back with you Wednesday for an important baseball article. The next hoops report will be Thursday when we preview Game Five of Oklahoma City-Miami. Will the Heat be trying to wrap things up? Or, will that be “game one” of a “best of three” that will ultimately determine the champ?

Hey, when championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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