Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, June 4, 2012 at 9:58 AM
Let's face it, folks:
We here at Jim Sez are not usually in the mind-set to "beat a dead horse" but how can you resist one night after the Miami Heat couldn't drain a big shot at the end of regulation and than at the end of overtime in that white-knuckler 93-91 win by the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Finals series?
No doubt the Heat stepped up its star-studded defense after allowing a whopping 61 first-half points versus the C's (plus Boston missed a slew of jump shots and in-close gimmes too in the second half and OT!) and the tiring Celtics were ripe to be had here but instead of going hard to the hoop at the end of the fourth quarter there was a rather timid LeBron James dishing off a wild pass that resulted in a tough missed shot by Udonis Haslem and when the game went deep into OT - with James long gone after having fouled out for the first time ever in a playoff game - there was erratic Dwyane Wade insisting on hoisting up a three-pointer after an albeit brilliant shot fake and yet clanking the potential game-winning shot off the iron.
We know, we know.
Everyone's piling on still-young Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra for his late-game mis-steps but shouldn't James and Wade know enough to go hard to the basket in hopes of drawing a foul or getting a higher percentage look at the hoop?
The Heat has been making similar late-game miscues all year long - hats off to ESPN studio analyst Jon Barry for pointing out this factoid because apparently game analyst Jeff Van Gundy didn't want to be too critical of James and/or Wade for these flaws - and now here it really rose up and bite 'em as this best-of-seven series is knotted at two games apiece and the folks who've really been paying attention say the Celtics have outplayed the Heat in three of the first four games.
No argument here!
You could make the case that the most important folks on the floor in this Game 4 were the three officials - no doubt they were all a bit too whistle-happy for our tastes as both James and Boston's Paul Pierce fouled out and funny that we should bring up fouls (and free-throw shooting) 'cause that remains a major problem for Miami:
The Heat committed some silly fouls under the hoop and continued to struggle at the charity stripe - hey, it sure felt as if the Heat shot even worse than 17-of-24 (that's 70.8 percent) from the line - and the fact James missed half of his eight free throws was a major problem again.
If you are the three-time league MVP and you score a game-high 29 points in Game 4 than can you at least drill 80 percent of your foul shots? C'mon, King, that's why everyone keeps saying you're not clutch!
Why is something telling us that these playoff free-throw woes by both James and Wade are gonna cost 'em at least one more game in this series - and maybe even cost 'em an NBA title this year!
One final note here as Boston-Miami Game 5 creeps closer and closer to us on this first Tuesday in June:
The Celtics have to show that old get-out-and-go fast break - in Sunday's tilt the Celtics scored a mere 7 fast-break points and more than once there was PG Rajon Rondo (15 points and 15 assists) imploring his veteran teammates to get down the court faster or maybe fill a lane quicker or get a "numbers" break against the Heat.
Our fearless forecast here for Game 5 is that Boston must score close to 20 points on the fast break ... or else risk getting stuffed a few times in the half-court set that continues to bog down unless the Celtics shoot it early in the shot clock.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to bash Las Vegas with this year's NBA Playoffs and there's lost more Side & Totals Hoop Winners straight ahead this 2012 post-season plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too - so go ahead and sign up today and get it all as that's NBA and MLB winnin' action every day! Just be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the daily and nightly NBA and MLB winners.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
#2 OKLAHOMA CITY at #1 SAN ANTONIO - Series tied 2-2
Game 5 is tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET
As stated in our headline, home teams are playing 1.000 ball SU (straight-up) in this particular playoff round but raise your hand if you really thought that neither San Antonio nor Oklahoma City would break through for at least one road win in the first four games of this post-season set.
We'll admit to being quite surprised that home folks have rolled here (and note home teams have covered three of the first four games with the lone road cover thanks to a three-point buzzer shot by OKC's James Harden in Game 1) - but now everyone wants to know if this is strictly gonna be a "home team series" right through a potential Game 7?
Well, based on what we all saw last Saturday night when the Thunder snagged a 109-103 win/cover as 3 ½-point home favs it's those "non-star" or supporting role players that seemingly always play better in their own backyard and while OKC's Kevin Durant was absolutely brilliant en route to his 36-point game that included 16 consecutive fourth-quarter points for his side we maintain that Serge Ibaka's stat-sheet stuffing night (see 11-of-11 FG shooting and 4-of-4 FT shooting) that saw him produce 26 points in 41 Hall-of-Fame type minutes was the real difference here because Ibaka picked up AWOL offensive star teammates Russell Westbrook (2-of-10 FG shooting for 10 points) and the aforementioned Harden (4-of-13 FG shooting for 11 points) and that's what championship teams do ... no ands, ifs or buts about it!
If San Antonio is gonna hold serve with a home win this evening than the players not named Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili (a combined modest total of 46 points in Game 4) must shine and we're keeping an especially close eye on reserve PG Gary Neal (8 points in 15 minutes in Game 4 but just one made triple) along with power forward Boris Diaw whose 12-point, 7-rebound performance in Game 4 was solid but he may have to bulk up those numbers even more to allow the 5-point Spurs the win (and cover) here.
Here's how the Thunder-Spurs best-of-seven NBA Western Conference Finals series has gone so far:
|5-27||SAN ANTONIO||- 5.5||Oklahoma City||SAN ANTONIO 101-98|
|5-29||SAN ANTONIO||- 4.5||Oklahoma City||SAN ANTONIO 120-111|
|5-31||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 4.5||San Antonio||OKLAHOMA CITY 102-82|
|6-2||OKLAHOMA CITY||- 3.5||San Antonio||OKLAHOMA CITY 109-103|
NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD STANDINGS (thru Sunday, June 3)
Here's the pointspread breakdown this playoff campaign for the four still-alive NBA teams:
Okay, so in recent days we have been presenting a daily look at these up-to-date NBA Playoff Pointspread Standings but let's dig a little deeper here as we begin a new week:
In the East ...Boston heads into Miami for Tuesday night's Game 5 with the Celtics sporting a dead-even but vig-losing 4-4 ATS (against the spread) mark on the road in this year's playoffs while the Heat is 5-2-1 spreadwise at home this post-season.
In the West ...Oklahoma City is 4-1-1 against the juice on the road in these playoffs while San Antonio is 5-1 ATS at home and note the Spurs went a combined 4-and-oh spreadwise at home earlier playoff foes Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers ... in case you had forgotten!NOTE: More NBA Playoff action plus MLB and NFL News and Notes this week right here in your daily Jim Sez columns. Get 'em while they're hot!