Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Once again we find ourselves asking what a Game Three meant in a Conference Championship series in the NBA Playoffs. In yesterday’s edition of the NOTEBOOK, we pondered the consequences of Oklahoma City’s blowout of San Antonio in its home opener of the series. By the time most of you read this, you’ll already know what happened in Game Four…and you’ll know if there were or weren’t any important consequences. As we preview Game Four in Miami/Boston, these questions arise:
*Is Miami just too shorthanded to string together great games? They looked very strong in the latter stages of the Indiana series, then in three of the four quarters of Game One in the Boston series. But, they had to rally in Game Two to comeback from a horrible first half. Then, in Game Three…it was mostly a full night of horrible except for garbage time. At their best, Miami is tops in the East even without Chris Bosh. Why are they having so much trouble playing their best?
*Is Miami too short inside to deal with Kevin Garnett? He sure owned the floor Friday Night. But, he wasn’t anywhere near that kind of factor in the first two games. Did Miami just take a night off from tough internal defense (they showed no sense of urgency in guarding the paint, which you surely noticed if you watched)? Miami really can’t have any notions about the league championship if Garnett is going to keep dominating them like that. The winner of the West will have guys who can score in the paint.
*Is Rajon Rondo the most important player on the floor because he gets everyone involved? LeBron James is certainly the greatest individual talent on the floor. But, he’s been having to do so much himself. If he drives and dishes, he’s probably dishing to a guy who’s afraid to shoot. Rajon dishes to guys who are READY to shoot. Big difference.
*Is this truly a toss-up series regardless of what the market prices were before it got started? That may seem premature to ask because home teams have only held serve…and Miami’s got home court advantage. But…we’re talking about a clean win for each team, then a game that was tied at the end of regulation. And, that overtime game was in Miami. If you account three points for home court when assessing the regulation margins, you get Miami by 11, Boston by 3, and Boston by 7. Considering the hoopla about free throw differential in Game Two…it’s really not an outrageous case to make that Boston’s been the better team so far.
Plenty of drama heading into Sunday Night…
MIAMI vs. BOSTON
Game Four Vegas Line: Miami by 1, total of 180
Miami leads 2-1
That’s a big market move from Boston by 2.5 in Game Three to Miami by 1 in Game Four at the same locale. Clearly the market is reacting to the tendency for people to bet bounce backs, particularly when the series favorite is coming off a loss. And, the fact that we didn’t see a very big move in SA/OKC tells you that oddsmakers and professional wagerers see a much bigger difference between Miami and Boston than they do the Spurs and Thunder. Given the questions we were asking a moment ago, is that too much of a move? Boston’s had the better results so far, and is playing at home. On the other hand, the Miami team from late in the Indiana series should probably be about -5 at this site over the Boston team from late in the Philadelphia series. Who’s going to show up?
The total went down a point even though Game Three went Over by double digits. That’s not something you normally see in the playoffs…because totals tend to chase the last game that was played as a general rule. The fact that we’ve seen a drop from 181 to 180 suggests that Miami support is keyed to an expectation for a much better defensive effort. The Heat only played good defense in the fourth quarter Friday Night (and part of that was because Garnett was on the bench resting for Boston). The market things Miami will bring more defensive intensity this evening.
What does JIM HURLEY think? You’ll have to purchase the Sunday card to find out! He’s been working with his trusted Boston sources all weekend…and he’ll have something special on either the side or total here (maybe both!).
GAME THREE SUMMARY
BOSTON 101, MIAMI 91
Field Goal Pct: Miami 49%, Boston 50%
Three-Pointers: Miami 5/17, Boston 5/17
Free Throws: Miami 10/20, Boston 20/26
Rebounds: Miami 32, Boston 44
Turnovers: Miami 10, Boston 12
Vegas Line: Boston by 2.5, total of 181
The stats look very even, which is misleading because Miami made some headway in garbage time after getting routed through three quarters. If you take the boxscore at full value, then it seems that Miami gagging free throws is what cost them the game. What was more true is that Boston had good intensity while Miami was barely there through three quarters. The Celtics would build their lead to 24 points early in the fourth before Miami made some treys and Boston calmed down with Garnett on the bench.
Keys to us in this game were:
*Boston owned the paint. It was a landslide victory when the game was being decided. And, they maintained a huge rebounding edge even while losing much of their scoreboard margin in garbage time.
*Miami looked TIRED. They weren’t moving on defense. Missing free throws is a sign of fatigue. And, that 5 of 17 mark in treys included a 3 of 3 run from Mike Miller during the garbage time rally. That means treys were clanking off the rim most of the night. If Miami’s going to stay tired, this is going to be a long and fascinating series. If that was just “taking the night off” because of an overtime hangover, then we won’t see replays of this boxscore.
*Miami has played bad defensive first halves two games in a row, allowing 53-55 points. That will be something to watch tonight. If they’re playing a good defensive first half, then everyone is back on the same page with fresh legs. If it’s another poor defensive first half…then Boston may be the value side from this point forward.
*Boston was able to post a great result even without Rondo being superman. That’s an important sign. It was bad news that they lost when he had a historic game. Teammates stepped up, and they won when he was mortal.
We know you’re looking ahead to Sunday Night’s Game Four. Remember that there’s great BASEBALL on the Sunday card as well. The TV highlights are:
NY Yankees at Detroit (TBS)
St. Louis at NY Mets (ESPN)
But, as we’ve been talking about all weekend, there are interesting matchups all over the schedule that will impact divisional races. It’s a great time for YOU to get back into baseball because the basketball schedule will be winding down soon.
If you have any questions about NETWORK’s basketball or baseball service, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include race day at the upcoming Belmont. We’re now less than a week away from the big race, where I’ll Have Another will go for the Triple Crown. You can sign up in advance for the big race itself, or the full all-day schedule at Belmont. Remember that JIM HURLEY has more horse racing clients than most places have sports clients!
Back with you Monday to preview Game Five of the Oklahoma City-San Antonio series here in the NOTEBOOK. Very soon the league will be crowning Conference Champions in preparation for the League Finals. When championships are on the line, you need WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!