Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 9:27 PM
Wow…this is shaping up as one of the greatest championship series of all time. That may sound like an exaggeration because Oklahoma City is new to the scene title-wise, and because Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are so young. Just remember that all the greats were newcomers at one time or another…and the classics they played helped foreshadow history that was about to be made.
There will never be another Michael Jordan. But, in Durant and LeBron James, we’re looking at two players of historic magnitude who may not have even reached their peaks yet. Westbrook may be a major force on the championship scene for years even if the future has him playing for another team (he’s from LA, and you know they’re looking for their post-Kobe star). The first two games have been fantastic…setting the tone at least for a series that basketball fans may be talking about for years.
What’s been most interesting to us so far is how Miami was able to turn around so many weaknesses from Game One and turn them into strengths. This matchup very much has a chess match feel to it…where both coaches are going to make adjustments from game to game…and the star players are as well because they want so badly to win.
*Miami got killed in fast break points in the first game, losing that stat 24-4 in a game they lost by 11 on the final scoreboard. In Game Two, they were more aggressive themselves when opportunities arose, and they did a much better job of getting back and defending. Note that OKC didn’t score a single fast break point in the first half. That’s making an adjustment…and making it stick!
*Miami lost rebounding badly in the series opener, 43-35. A decision to get people back to prevent fast breaks could hurt the stat even more. Boston has horrible offensive rebounding stats because they just send everyone back when a shot goes up. Miami sent “most” everyone back, but let Chris Bosh attack the glass. He almost single-handedly led the Heat to a rebounding win in Game Two…becoming much more of an impact player inside than we had seen in awhile.
*Miami didn’t do a good job of attacking the basket offensively in Game One, shooting just 18 free throws. This is a team that regularly coasts into the high 20’s in attempts, and often gets even more when refs are whistle happy. Tuesday, Miami was 22 of 25 from the charity stripe, winning the stat by three points instead of losing it by six.
Adjustments…all over the place. Now it’s Oklahoma City’s turn. They lost as a favorite…and they showed off several potential headache areas on the process. Here are adjustments we’ll be looking for in Game Three.
*OKC must de-emphasize the role of Kendrick Perkins. He’s not a good fit matchup-wise in this series…and he’s been on the floor through both sluggish starts. It’s very hard to miss that OKC has been digging holes for themselves when Perkins was on the floor…then exploding all over the court when he’s out. The early hole Thursday Night was too big to climb out of.
*OKC must bring more overall team intensity in the first quarter. Young, talented teams sometimes get complacent early because they figure they’ll just win the game later. You can get away with that in the regular season when many opponents are going at three-quarter speed. You can even get away with it in some playoff games if you’re talented enough. But, when playing for a championship, your opponent is eventually going to make you pay. If the Thunder start slowly AGAIN in Game Three, we’re going to be very skeptical about their chances to win this series.
*OKC must get Russell Westbrook thinking more about passing than shooting. That worked out great in the San Antonio series, where Westbrook started playing like a truly dynamic point guard who could go to the hole and score or dish it out to a three-point shooter. Thursday Westbrook did too much shooting (missing 17 shots) and not enough distributing. There’s a sweet spot that will get Westbrook his points but will also put the team at 40% on treys because they’re getting so many open looks. OKC need to find that sweet spot.
Let’s get to the numbers…
OKLAHOMA CITY vs. MIAMI
Game Three Vegas Line: Miami by 4, total of 193.5
Series tied 1-1
The market has moved the number 9.5 points from Game Two. That’s mostly a reflection of changing sites. But, we can tell you that many of the Oklahoma City enthusiasts from before the series are re-thinking their one-sided positions. You’ll recall that the Game Two line went UP from -5 to -5.5 when history would normally have it moving down. That represented strong OKC sentiment. The clinic Miami put on in Game Two made it clear that this probably won’t be a one-sided OKC series even if the Thunder get their bearings back in Game Three. The current series price is pick-em…which is a monster drop from the -280 we were seeing on OKC after Game One.
The total has come down from what we saw in OKC because sharps tend to bet Unders the deeper a series goes, and because there’s an assumption that defenses will intensify while three-point shooting cools off a bit. The first two games went Over, landing on 199 and 196…making this market reduction very interesting.
GAME TWO SUMMARY
MIAMI 100, OKLAHOMA CITY 96
Field Goal Pct: Miami 47%, Oklahoma City 43%
Three-Pointers: Miami 6/14, Oklahoma City 9/26
Free Throws: Miami 22/25, Oklahoma City 19/26
Rebounds: Miami 40, Oklahoma City 36
Turnovers: Miami 13, Oklahoma City 10
Vegas Line: Oklahoma City by 5.5, total of 196
A very clean game from Miami outside of the turnovers they committed in the final minutes. They won shooting percentage. They didn’t make as many treys as OKC, but they didn’t miss nearly as many either. Better aggression in the areas of earning free throws and grabbing rebounds even as they were backing off the offensive boards with some of their personnel. THIS was championship basketball from Miami. They only won two games last year vs. Dallas…so we don’t’ know yet if the Heat can keep this up enough to earn three more victories. There’s no doubt that the Heat at their “best” are a championship caliber team.
Of course, Oklahoma City’s Game One boxscore proved the same thing about the Thunder. Both of these teams are champions…but only one will lift the trophy at the end.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources to get a read on potential changes OKC might make as the series heads East. If they DON’T work on the issues we outlined earlier, then Miami can cover this spread. If the Thunder do address problem areas…then this line is probably too high. We’re looking at nailbiter potential whenever these teams take the floor. Plus OKC has proven they can run away and hide in the fourth quarter thanks to the younger legs on their stars…and they did win a road game in San Antonio that few had given them a chance to steal.
Face it, this game could go either way. So, don’t make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!
You can purchase his selections (3-0 so far in this series by the way) right here at the website with your credit card Sunday afternoon. Be sure to take care of business EARLY so you can add day baseball into the mix. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
The TV ratings have been huge. The sportsbook handles in Las Vegas have topped past championship matchups. You know you’re going to watch. You want to win while you watch. Don’t ever forget that…when championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!