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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, June 11, 2012 at 9:32 PM

The NBA Championship round matching the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat tips off tonight on ABC. I promised you I’d be back in plenty of time to outline Advanced Handicapping strategies for this much anticipated battle.

I told you last week that I believed the Oklahoma City Thunder were the best team left in the playoffs…and that was before they had wrapped up their Western Conference Finals with San Antonio. The main reason I believed that was because of a factor I’m always emphasizing to you. PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS!

Let’s look at the two teams squaring off in the finals…who happened to be blessed with some of the best talent this league has seen in years.


Playmakers and Gamebreakers

LeBron James (Miami)

Dwyane Wade (Miami---who may be favoring a bad knee)

Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City)

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City)

James Harden (Oklahoma City)

When healthy, all of those guys are capable of taking over a game simply by flying at the basket and daring you to stop them. If you think Dwyane Wade has recovered from prior knee issues, then it’s a 3-2 edge for Oklahoma City. If you think that Wade is still hobbled, which his poor shooting through much of the Boston series would suggest, then maybe it’s an edge of 3 to 1.5 for Oklahoma City. However you slice it, Oklahoma City has an edge. This is why I think they’re the better team. This is why the market has them at -5 in the first game and at -170 to win the series.

Of course, Las Vegas doesn’t pay me any bonuses for knowing who the better team is in a series. As a handicapper, it’s my job to beat the number. They’ve aggressively posted numbers designed to discourage Oklahoma City money, and encourage Miami money. I may be on record saying OKC was the best of the final four. That doesn’t mean I think they’re automatic to cover aggressive spreads…or that they’re such a sure thing that you should be laying -170. Oddsmakers are trying to play it smart. You have to use Advanced Strategies to outperform their numbers.

Here are the stats I’ll be using in my personal analysis once the games begin:

*Rebounding. I always want you studying this stat because the team that wins this category usually wins the series. Every defensive rebound is the same as a steal in that it ends the other team’s possession. Every offensive rebound gives you another chance to score. In what is likely to be a competitive matchup where every possession matters…rebounding could be huge.

*Assisted Baskets. Both of these teams like giving the ball to their stars and getting out of the way. It’s interesting to note though that Oklahoma City took its game to a higher level when they passed the ball around more and got the whole team involved. They found role players who could hit 15-footers. They found bench guys who could make treys. Should the Thunder revert back to their old ways, they lose that extra edge that had suddenly made them more powerful. You may never have looked at this stat before in your life. Let me tell you…Power Ratings, trends, and systems aren’t good enough to beat the market any more. Think out of the box for meaningful edges that tell you the true story of a series. This stat does just that, and studying this stat makes you an Advanced Handicapper.

*Turnovers. Again, every possession matters. The team that does a better job of treasuring its possessions is likely to cover the most spreads. Use the boxscores and the eyeball test to evaluate which of the two teams is in more control on offense.

There are some strategies I have to save for myself. And, I’m not even going to talk about “intangibles” yet to protect my clients up front. If one or two intangibles become so clear that everyone’s talking about them after this first set of games…then I’ll discuss them for you in greater depth later in this series (probably next Tuesday, when we’ll have the first three games under our belts). I’ll talk about the impact of intangibles after the market is adjusting for them, but not before. I’m sure you can understand the need for that.

If you’d like some help picking winners in the NBA Finals, my plays can be purchased on game days at this website with your credit card. I also have a discounted package available that gets you the entire round for one up-front payment.

I’ve currently scheduled a baseball report for Friday to talk some more about Interleague play. But, if developments warrant, I’ll switch that to another NBA Championship update on the fly. We’ve been reading and reacting through the postseason…and that’s not about to stop.

Thanks again to all of you regular students in my College of Advanced Handicapping. The educational process of a handicapper never comes to an end. And, the course work gets even more exciting when great teams are playing for championships.

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