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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 15, 2012 at 9:53 AM


Okay, so we're not quite sure who took the most criticism following last night's 100-96 Miami Heat win at 5 ½-point favorite Oklahoma City in Game 2 of this year's NBA Finals:

Was it Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook who misfired on 16 of his 26 field-goal tries and didn't always get stud teammate Kevin Durant (32 points) involved ... or was it the three officials who- dare we say- swallowed their whistles on that late-game play when Durant appeared to be arm-ripped by Miami's LeBron James while attempting to knot up the game with a short jumper?

All we can say is James absolutely "got away" with a foul there but let's just say that this wasn't one of the best-officiated games of the post-season and that the zebras had problems with charge/block calls all night and probably- to be fair- cut the aforementioned Durant some breaks after he committed his fifth foul just moments in the fourth quarter.

So stop crying already, OKC fans!

No doubt Westbrook filled the stat sheet in Game 2 with his 27 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists but he was careless with the ball at half-court a few times and did jack up a batch of jumpers early in the shot clock and that's always gonna come back and bite a team- even a championship-caliber team -- but if you really want to know the underlying reasons why the Heat did manage to hang on to what once was a 17-point lead than know this:

Miami's megastar James (32 points) made more big buckets with his left (non-shooting) hand and that troubled a Thunder club that overplayed him to his right/natural side plus Heat teammates Dwayne Wade (24 points) and "new" starter F Chris Bosh (16 points and 15 rebs) stepped up big-time and not only provided neat stats but got to loose balls, long caroms off the rim, etc.

It sure seemed that for approximately 43 or 44 minutes in this game that Miami had way more energy than Oklahoma City- please don't ask why!- and Thunder boss-man Scott Brooks and his coaching staff must take a hit for that: Why the heck should a visiting team get out to an 18-2 lead in your own gym?

Two other key aspects to this Game 2 "get even" win for Miami:

The Heat won the board battle- okay, not by a whole lot but the 40-to-36 advantage was important and Bosh was a real monster on the glass all night;

Secondly, the Thunder didn't get any real offensive help from the non-star players as Durant, Westbrook and lefty James Harden (21 points on 11 FG shots) scored all but 16 of the team's points and that hurt with reserve G Derek Fisher (he missed all four of his trifecta attempts) pulling a real disappearing act here.

Miami has- indeed- now won all three of its playoff games when down in a series with triumphs over Indiana, Boston and now Oklahoma City but count us among the folks who believe the Heat played its "A game" and still barely hung on with some help from the officials ... and shouldn't that worry Erik Spoelstra's gang even though it is going home for Games 3, 4 and 5?

Just wonderin'!

We'll preview Sunday night's Thunder-Heat Game 3 clash in the next Jim Sez but first some more NBA Finals business here:

Here's how the Heat-Thunder NBA Finals Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):

6-14 OKLAHOMA CITY - 5.5 Miami Miami 100-96

Note that the Miami Heat is now 5-5 ATS (against the spread) on the road during this year's playoffs while the Oklahoma City Thunder is a collective 6-4 versus the vig at home in this year's post-season and that includes five pointspread wins in its last six home tilts.

(thru Thursday, June 14- only the NBA Finals Teams listed)

Oklahoma City 11 5 1 .688
Miami 11 8 1 .579

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to crush the folks in Las Vegas with this year's NBA Conference Finals action and there's lots more Side & Totals Hoop Winners straight ahead -note the NBA Finals will continue Sunday in Miami (we're 3-0 in the first 2 games of the Finals)-- plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too. Now 15-6 in baseball the past week!



To say that the first two-and-a-half months of this here-and-now 2012 Major-League Baseball Season has been on the topsy-turvy side would be a gross understatement:

Hey, did you think some 60-plus games into this 162-game regular season that the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Dodgers would be the only two teams playing better-than-.600 ball or that approaching this Father's Day weekend that the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies would be on the wrong side of the .500 mark?

It's been a wild ride so far and in today's Jim Sez we'll analyze the three biggest underachievers so far- hey, we just named two of 'em!- plus we'll venture a guess on where these three MLB teams will finish by season's end ... so here goes:

DETROIT (30-33) - If you happened to read all those preseason publications/articles than you would be correct in assuming that the Tigers would wrap up the American League Central crown by the Fourth of July but instead Jim Leyland's club (yes, just months removed from an appearance in the AL Championship Series against Texas) can't win at home (see 13-16 at Comerica Park) and has a tattered and worn-down bullpen to go along with an offense that ranks just seventh in the league in runs scored and eighth in the junior circuit in home runs.

Okay, so injuries have sapped the Motowners of much strength this year but even as Leyland said last week everyone in the bigs has injuries this year and it's not as if sluggers 1B Prince Fielder and 3B Miguel Cabrera haven't hit: The corner guys have combined for 23 home runs and 92 RBI.

Gut feeling is that this division will "come back" to the Tigers in the next three-plus months as both the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians are no more than .500-type teams and the Tigers should find a way to win 88-to-90 games (they were forecast to win 92 ½ games by the experts in Las Vegas).
PHILADELPHIA (31-34)- Granted, when you lose All-Star and MVP-type candidates such as 1B Ryan Howard and 2B Chase Utley (neither of whom has played a single minute this season, as you know!) than things are gonna turn south offensively but how does that explain the fact that the once pitching-proud Phils rank 10th out of 16 National League squads in team ERA (4.03 ERA at last check). No doubt the recent injury to ace RHP Roy Halladay has been a killer too but how to explain the fact that LHP Cliff Lee still does not own a win after 10 starts (variety of reasons there but it's still mind-boggling stuff) and that this team sports the NL's worst home record at 12 wins, 19 losses?

Utley's on a rehab assignment now and should be back within a couple of weeks while Howard also is allegedly close to getting back into the everyday lineup but right now there's some real bad karma up against Charlie Manuel's team and no doubt Phils fans better start seeing better defense too or this club could be headed to a .500 season at best.

Don't be shocked if Philadelphia finishes with only 81 or 82 wins and misses out on the expanded playoff party this season.

COLORADO (24-38) - Maybe the fact that the Dodgers have been wooing folks on the West Coast has distracted a national audience that should know this about the 2012 NL West: The Rockies have been a major disappointment with an eight-game losing skid at press time accentuating the problems for the Mile High City crew.

The Rockies- who are a dismal 9-17 on the road this year- rank dead-last in NL team ERA (see 5.41) and really cannot trust a single starter or the back of the pen these days.

Did you realize that Colorado's biggest winner among starting rotation arms is lefty Christian Friedrich (4-2) who actually has a higher ERA than the team average at a bloated 5.85? Please note the Rockies have a total of 11 saves in 23 save opportunities this year ... no wonder always-optimistic manager Jim Tracy is facing hot-seat questions these days.

Maybe the Rockies can get injured SS Troy Tulowitzki (groin) back in the lineup- although he suffered a setback in a rehab outing the other day- but odds are Colorado's headed to one of those 73- or 74-type winning seasons just like a year ago.

NOTE: Catch more NBA Finals News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez as we bring you a Game 3 Preview.

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