Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 9:37 AM
The Miami Heat - maybe as much as any team in the NBA - knows that momentum in a playoff series can change faster than you can say Pat Riley.
After all, it was a mere 12 months ago when the Heat led the Dallas Mavericks two games-to-one in the 2011 NBA Finals only to discover that it wouldn't win again as the Mavs captured their first-ever NBA championship in six games.
So, could the Heat flick the switch on this best-of-seven series that goes back to Miami for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) ... or will Oklahoma City's home-court stranglehold - that's 2-0 SU (straight-up) versus Dallas in Round One of these playoffs, 3-0 SU versus the Los Angeles Lakers in Round II, 3-0 SU against San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals and so far 1-0 SU against Miami - prevail one mo' time?
Well, here's a look at how we things stacking up tonight in this Jim Sez game preview:
#2E MIAMI at #2W OKLAHOMA CITY - Thunder leads series 1-0; Game 2 is tonight at 9:05 p.m. ET
If the NBA Playoffs are all about "making adjustments" on a game-to-game basis, than here's what the Heat should be thinking about changing here:
No doubt Erik Spoelstra's squad needs LeBron James (30 points in Game 1 on 11-of-24 FG shooting and 7-of-9 from the foul line) to take a way more aggressive tact in the fourth quarter of this clash. James' only offensive contribution the other night in the last 8:15 was a conventional three-point play but otherwise he was MIA and so even if it means sitting James for a handful of minutes in the first three quarters so he can catch his breath, he must be turbo-charged come the fourth frame.
Next is the fact that Miami must sport a get-out-and-go approach and so that means getting extra bodies back to grab defensive rebounds (note the Thunder won the glass battle 43-to-35 in Game 1 and that included five more defensive boards) and than looking for those football-like passes with James or Dwyane Wade on the receiving end.
Yes, it would shock you to know that Miami scored only four fast-break points in Game 1 while Okie City scored 24 fast-break points and no doubt the Heat must pick up the pace here and not allow OKC's length on defense to effect 'em in a half-court game.
The final checklist note here for Miami is it must get physical with the Thunder "big three" of Kevin Durant (game-high 36 points on Tuesday night), point guard Kevin Westbrook (27 points on 24 field-goal tries) and James Harden (only 5 points in this series opener) who rarely felt a body on them in Game 1. Durant and Westbrook must - and we repeat, must - get fouled a couple of times here or else they'll frolic to the rim without any real resistance.
Okay, so what else must be watched for in Game 2?
Well, Oklahoma City didn't shoot it great from beyond the arc (see 5-of-17 triples for just 29.4 percent) and something tells us Westbrook (0-for-4 from trey-land) and/or reserve G Derek Fisher (he missed his only triple try) must make some long balls here and thus soften up Miami's paint defense. Plus, look for Okie City to shoot a bit better from the charity stripe after draining 20-of-27 FTs (just 74 percent) and some of those misses could well have been NBA Finals Game 1 nerves.
In fact, here's some "magic numbers" here for Game 2: Okie City needs to get to the foul line at least 25 times while the Heat - 14-of-18 from the line in the opener - also must get a minimum 25 FTs or else Miami could be sunk;
Plus, the other number to watch here are the "hustle stats" as Miami must get the edge in steals, blocks and garnering loose balls - and especially if the Heat's gonna lose the rebounding battle again.
The Las Vegas oddsmakers say the Thunder is a 5 ½-point betting favorite for this Game 2 and - with the way Oklahoma City's been sailing through the playoffs - you wonder if any spread is big enough.
Can you flick the momentum switch, Miami?
Here's how the Heat-Thunder NBA Finals Series has gone so far (note all home teams are in CAPS):
|6-12||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 5||Miami||OKLAHOMA CITY 105-94|
Note that the Miami Heat is now 4-5 ATS (against the spread) on the road during this year's playoffs including - of course - that double-digit loss two nights ago in Game 1 of these NBA Finals while the Oklahoma City Thunder is a collective 6-3 versus the vig in this year's post-season and that includes five consecutive pointspread wins.
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 tonight in Oklahoma City -- plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too. Now 15-4 in baseball the past week!
NOTE: We will recap the NBA Finals Game 2 between Miami at Oklahoma City in the next edition of Jim Sez plus there's lots of College Football and NFL News, Notes & Previews in the days and weeks ahead!