Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 9:00 AM
So, you NBA fans wanted some drama in these playoffs - now you got it!
After the first two rounds of NBA post-season play produced just a pair of Game 7's (see the Los Angeles Lakers 96-87 win against Denver way back on May 12 in round one play and Boston's 85-75 triumph over Philadelphia on May 26 in Eastern Conference semifinal action) we could well be headed to a pair of long series in these Western and Eastern Conference Finals and one thing we know for sure is that winning on the road in this very round has turned into a next-to-impossible task.
Last night's 109-103 win/cover by 3 ½-point home fav Oklahoma City against San Antonio - you know, the team that once had a 20-game winning streak and now has lost two in a row - evened up this donnybrook set and anyone that doubted three-time league scoring champ Kevin Durant was a certifiable mega-star in the hoop universe now instead may be asking themselves if Durant's one of the four or five-best NBA players we've seen in the past 20 years!
Durant's 36-point performance in Game 4 was the stuff of legends - he scored half of them in the game's final seven minutes and had the TNT announcing crew going ga-ga -- but let's not forget that power forward Serge Ibaka (26 points on 11-of-11 FGs to go along with a perfect 4-of-4 free-throw stat line) was magnificent and really had to be on an evening when gunslingers Russell Westbrook and James Harden shot a combined 6-of-23 and no doubt some of that Spurs' sticky defense threw both of these guys off their game.
Still, the $64,000 question is what's happened to San Antonio?
The Game 3 loss by 20 points had a bit of "white flag" to it but last night the Spurs fell down by as many as 15 points and while Gregg Popovich's crew made a hearty fourth-quarter comeback there was no life on the glass (OKC out-boarded 'em 41-to-31) and the fast break disappeared entirely as SA scored all of three fast-break points.
We'll examine what San Antonio has to do back home in Game 5 in tomorrow's action-packed Jim Sez column and we'll give you some real "X" factors too!
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
#2 MIAMI at #4 BOSTON - Game 4 is tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET
No doubt prior to the start of this best-of-seven series, you couldn't find all that many folks that thought this was going to be a very competitive set:
Yet three games in you could very well make the case that the heavy-duty underdog Boston Celtics (+ 425 to 100 at series start) have been the better team - if not for some wacky technical fouls called against the C's in Game 2 and some phantom foul calls in that tilt, Doc Rivers' squad might well be the ones holding the hammer right here while heading into this evening's Game 4 bash.
Alas, that's not the case and the Celtics are after yet another home win - so far home sides are a perfect 3-and-oh SU (straight-up) in this series - and the recipe for success wasn't a bad one at all in Friday's dominant 101-91 triumph in Game 3.
The Celtics registered a whopping 58 in-the-paint points and overall Boston shot an incredible 50 percent (that's 38-of-76 made FGs) against one of the league's best defensive units: Throw into the mix the fact Boston snared a dozen offensive rebounds and looked quicker/fresher than Miami and maybe we all were wrong to bury the Celts before their time.
If Miami is gonna take a three games-to-one series lead here (and note the Heat's a one-point betting favorite at press time) than Dwyane Wade must play his usual hell-bent style of hoops ...how is it that he didn't attempt a single free throw in Game 3 (and don't blame the refs!) plus someone's gonna have to get to Shane Battier and tell him to stop shooting altogether following that 0-for-6 FG outing that included four missed triple tries. Battier may be a defensive stopper, pick/screen guy and the like but here in Game 4 Miami boss-man Erik Spoelstra needs LeBron James (game-high 34 points on Friday) and the aforementioned Wade to attempt 50 FGs here ...or else!
Hey, our NBA Playoff Pointspread Standings are below (see chart) but how about the fact now Boston's covered its last three consecutive post-season home games after a 1-4 ATS (against the spread) home playoff start while Miami is now just 3-3 vig-wise on the playoff road this year ...doesn't sound like the stuff of champions, if you ask us!
Here's how the Heat-Celtics playoff series has gone so far (note that all home teams are in CAPS):
|5-28||MIAMI||- 8||Boston||MIAMI 93-79|
|5-30||MIAMI||- 8||Boston||MIAMI 115-111 (ot)|
|6-1||BOSTON||- 2.5||MIAMI||BOSTON 101-91|
NBA PLAYOFF POINTSPREAD STANDINGS (thru Saturday, June 2)
Here's the pointspread breakdown this playoff campaign for the four still-alive NBA teams:
NOTE: Catch our NBA Playoff Conference Finals coverage plus get MLB and NFL News and Notes right through the summer of 2012!