Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM
Fair, unfair ... or just a fact?
Now that the NBA Finals Game 1 is in the books, it must be pointed out that LeBron James is 2-9 SU (straight-up) in his championship round career.
Okay, so James - who scored a Miami Heat-best 30 points last night in that 105-94 loss at 5-point favorite Oklahoma City - wasn't exactly a shining star in the fourth quarter as he scored just two points in the game's final eight-plus minutes but the real mystery following the Game 1 result was what happened to the Heat's defensive integrity?
Not only did the OKC Thunder nail nearly 52 percent of its field-goal attempts (see 40-of-77 made FGs) but many of the shots were uncontested jumpers or easy lay-ins or drive-bys that caught the Eastern Conference champion Heat in a stop-and-stare mode. Duh!
The $64,000 question is was Miami merely run down in the second half of the game following that rough-and-tumble seven-game set against Boston or is it merely time to heap more praise on an Okie City team that outscored the Heat 58-40 after intermission? The Thunder was super-quick as James and mates couldn't stay with Scott Brooks' squad for a full 48 minutes and that's got to be in Miami's heads right about now.
We'll find out soon enough in Game 2 come Thursday night (see our Jim Sez preview in tomorrow's column) what adjustments can be made but let's examine some of the Game 1 keys to a Thunder "hold serve" victory that pushed NBA Playoff Betting Favorites to a resounding 45-32-3 ATS (against the spread) after the first 80 games of this 2011-12 post-season (and that's a .584 winning rate for playoff chalk sides thus far, folks):
Oklahoma City - as proven throughout this post-season - is not afraid of having to make monumental comebacks and here was a case where Miami built up a 15-point lead (it was seven at the half) - and yet the Thunder showed zero panic signs as Kevin Durant scored a game-best 36 points with an array of shots including a snapshot dunk over two Heat defenders while point guard Russell Westbrook brought his usual high-octane passion to the floor and finished with a snazzy stat-sheet stuffing line of 27 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds.
No doubt those Durant/Westbrook numbers were the biggest story on this night but supporting role folks such as ace defender Thabo Sefolosha (he did a wonderful job quieting James in the second half) and banger Nick Collison (10 rebounds including 5 on the offensive end to go along with 8 points) deserve a round of applause and how about the fact the Thunder won Game 1 while getting just 5 points from NBA Sixth Man Award winner James Harden?
Hey, we said in our NBA Finals Jim Sez preview the other day that Miami had to score its share of "cheap points" so that James and Wade (a combined 49 points in Game 1) didn't have to shoulder all the load but instead it was OKC that scored lots from in close (see 13-to-8 in second-chance points category) and we're still wondering why Miami didn't send a couple of Thunder players to the floor with hard fouls ... think GM Pat Riley was thinking that up in the stands while watching with one-time Heat star Alonzo Mourning?
Finally, the end result of this Game 1 win for the Thunder is simply that it played harder and with more of a sense of urgency while James floated about in the fourth quarter and Wade - who may or may not be suffering with big-time knee pain these days - settled for far too many jumpers while seemingly looking to avoid contact at the rim.
Did it seem like a double-digit win here? Not necessarily, but if OKC was given another five minutes on the clock it would have won by 20 ... or more!
First blood goes to the new kids-on-the-block Thunder.
Gotta an answer, 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|
NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD STANDINGS
(thru Tuesday, June 12 - NBA Finals Teams in CAPS)
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 Thursday night in Oklahoma City -- plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too. Now 13-4 in baseball the past week!
NFL NEWS & NOTES
Hope you enjoyed our little pointspread foray into the National Football League's Week 1 games in our recent editions of Jim Sez ... let's keep the pigskin roll going with some ATS (against the spread) figures regarding Week 1 games in general for many of the league's 32 teams here:
ARIZONA - The Cardinals are a solid 3-1-1 versus the vig in their last five season-opening tilts and note that includes a 28-21 "push" against 7-point underdog Carolina last year. The Redbirds open up the 2012 regular season at home versus Seattle;
ATLANTA - True, the Falcons have failed to cover their season-starting games each of the past two years but this NFC South club is a decent 7-4 spreadwise in Week 1 affairs while dating all the way back to the 2001 campaign. Atlanta is at Kansas City in one of the league's four interconference games slated for Week One play;
BALTIMORE - Hats off to the Ravens for owning a 5-1 ATS mark in season lid-lifters the past six years and that includes last year's rollicking 35-7 home win against 1 ½-point pup Pittsburgh. Note that Baltimore hosts AFC North rival Cincinnati in one of the NFL's two Monday Night Games in Week 1;
CAROLINA - No one's getting rich wagering on these Panthers in Week One affairs as this NFC South squad is an ugly 2-6-1 juice-wise the past nine seasons. Let's see what Carolina does in Tampa Bay in Week One action!;
CLEVELAND - Get this! The Browns are 0-6-1 spreadwise in season openers since 2005 and did you realize that includes an 0-6 ATS mark in Week One home games? We'll see if the Brownies can reverse those rotten fortunes in a Week One home game against Philadelphia this Sept. 9th;
DALLAS - The Cowboys have cashed wagers in five of their last seven season-openers including a cover in last year's 27-24 loss at the 6 ½-point favorite New York Jets. Now, the 'Boys return to the scene of that 2011 Week One "crime" with an NFL Kickoff tilt on Wednesday, Sept. 5th against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants;
DETROIT - Hey, the Lions were a big story league-wide last year but they've been a big deal in season-opening tilts for years as evidenced by a snazzy 7-2 ATS mark in openers. Now, the Motowners will be laying a heavy-duty price tag in a Week One bash against lowly St. Louis;
INDIANAPOLIS - With or without current Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning, the numbers are not good for Indy in Week One play as the Colts are 0-4 ATS in these tilts since 2008 and this time they'll open in Chicago;
MIAMI - The Fish have floundered in many pointspread roles in recent years and Week One games have been a problem too as this AFC East squad is 2-6-1 spreadwise in openers. Miami opens this upcoming campaign in Houston on Sept. 9th;
MINNESOTA - Let's hear it for the Vikings who own a chest-thumping 7-2-1 spread log the last 10 years when playing season-opening games. The Vikes host rebuilding Jacksonville in this year's 2012 debut game;
NEW YORK GIANTS - The Jints have failed to cover five of their last eight openers and did you know they've flopped spreadwise in Week One games in both of their recent Super Bowl-winning seasons (see 45-35 loss at 7-point fav Dallas back in 2007 and last year a 28-14 loss at 1 ½-point home dog Washington)?;
PITTSBURGH - The Steelers are a steely 6-3 spreadwise in their last nine openers and this time they travel back to Denver for a Week One outing and it's only the third time in the last 10 years that Pittsburgh's playing on the road to start a season;
SAN DIEGO - Don't look now but the Chargers have dropped each of their last four season-opening games versus the vig and that includes last year's 24-17 non-cover win against 9 ½-point pup Minnesota. The 2012 campaign starts for San Diego with a Monday Night Football road tilt in Oakland on Sept. 10th;
WASHINGTON - Go back the past 10 years and you'' discover that the Redskins are a funky 5-3-2 against the prices in season-opening affairs and this NFC East crew will open 2012 in New Orleans.
NOTE: We will preview 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 sdays and weeks ahead!