Two Potential NBA Close-out Games Are Previewed
THE NBA PLAYOFFS -- WE PREVIEW THUNDER-MAVS AND BULLS-HEAT IN POTENTIAL "CLOSE-OUT" GAMES
It's really no great secret how the NBA Conference Finals arrived at this point with both the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat leading three games-to-one while heading into the Wednesday/Thursday night action:
In both cases, megastar players -- that Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Miami's LeBron James -- surged to the forefront with monstrous finishes in their respective Game #4 tilts.
However, the real central theme on both sides was lockdown defensive efforts late in those earlier-week Game #4's.
Hey, the Mavs held then-host Oklahoma City to a mere four points in overtime in the 112-105 extra-session tilt in OKC the other night while the Heat totally shut down league MVP Derrick Rose both late in regulation play and than right into the OT of that 101-93 win/cover.
In fact, one might be prone to say that the NBA's MVP ran out of g-a-s in that Tuesday night clash in South Beach and so it's potential elimination games both in the West and in the East even before we ever get to Memorial Day Weekend.
We'll break down both Game #5 Previews in just a moment but first this ultra-important reminder:
Jim Hurley will release his NBA-MLB TV Parlay of the Month tonight, and NBA Conference Final Play of the Year tomorrow for the Eastern Conference showdown in Chicago. Just call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here online and get both plays along with the Major-League Baseball too. Don't miss out -- Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have been ripping up the NBA Playoffs this spring and there's no stopping now.
THE NBA PLAYOFFS
On Wednesday, it's the.WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
OKLAHOMA CITY at DALLAS -- Mavericks lead series 3-1
No doubt that you would really have to search the memory banks to find out the last time any playoff team blew a 15-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in a game but that's the "distinction" the Okie City Thunder found itself in this past Monday night. And, truth be told, it's not as if you could see it coming!
The Thunder -- who suffered its first back-to-back home losses in six months -- was rollicking along behind the likes of ace scorer Kevin Durant (29 points on 9-of-22 FG shooting) and surprise offensive force Serge Ibaka (18 points) when suddenly all the "little things" went wrong such as point guard Russell Westbrook missing two free throws and the aforementioned Durant coughing up the ball while pressured by Dallas
point guard Jason Kidd.
When the dust finally settled the Mavs had out-scored Okie City 17-2 to close out the fourth quarter and then Dallas won the OT session 11-4 as Nowitzki (game-high 40 points) hit twisting, turning shots despite some excellent defensive coverage by Nick Collison.
Folks, Nowitzki's been hitting these contortionist-type shots all series long -- remember his 48-point showing in Game #1 of this best-of-seven series -- and now the $64,000 question is what can Scott Brooks' club do to get Nowitzki out of his shooting rhythm?
No question the media's been bugging Brooks about not showing Nowitzki more double-teams here in this series (and we agree!) but than it's difficult to ignore the fact that other Dallas veterans have shot daggers threw Oklahoma City's collective hearts too as Kidd launched a critical triple in the OT in Game #4 (he finished with 17 points) and both Jason Terry and reserve Peja Stojakovic are quite capable of heating up beyond the three-point arc despite the fact the Mavs canned just 8-of-25 trifectas in that last game.
One major key here will be just how does Dallas come out of the starting gate as Rick Carlisle's club really has OKC's kids down in the mouth right now -- does Nowitzki and Company roar right from the get-go and put their feet on the Thunder's tight throats or will Durant show the leadership lacking late in Game #4 and make this a series once again?
Keep in mind that the Thunder shot just 2-of-13 from distance in that last game plus the OKC bench only got to the foul line a grand total of four times in 71 minutes of game action ... not good enough!
On Thursday Night, it's the EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS --
MIAMI at CHICAGO -- Heat leads series 3-1
Is this the year that King James finally wears the crown? The two-time winner of the NBA's Most Valuable Player award winner surely has been haunted by past playoff failures when a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers but this is a whole new deal down in the Sunshine State: James -- who scorched the Bulls for a game-high 35 points in Tuesday's overtime win in Game #4 -- might not make every crunch-time shot these days but he's sure made enough of 'em in this year's
post-season and let's not forget that he finished that last tilt a perfect 13-of-13 from the charity stripe.
Still, James' biggest contribution in that nailbiter Game #4 win was his defense on Bulls' big shot Rose who misfired on 18 of his 26 field-goal attempts en route to a rather pedestrian 23-point outing.
Rose couldn't shake James on that final possession in regulation play - and can someone please tell us why teams don't run plays anymore at the end of the games and instead always rely on their superstar players to win it on a one-on-one battle? -- and then the 2010-11 MVP staggered throughout the extra session and was stripped of the ball on a couple of occasions while heading down the lane.
No doubt the Bulls -- a prohibitive underdog in this best-of-seven series (see +165-to-$100) despite sporting the East's #1 seed -- showed plenty of guts in that Game #4 loss in Miami but Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau's team cannot shoot it straight from downtown (see 6-of-23 this past Tuesday night) and the lack of offensive pop from the likes of Kyle Korver (5 points in Game #4 including 0-for-3 from three-point land) and Taj Gibson (zero points in 10 minutes in Game #4) off the Chitowners' bench was a real killer. If Chicago's bench brigade can't supplement the scoring of Rose and big man Carlos Boozer here in Game #5, then there'll be shutting out the lights for the Windy City's pro hoops team sooner rather than later.
Here's a couple of things to watch for here in Game #5: The Heat wants/needs Dwyane Wade to get into the flow early on after he connected on only five FGs in that last tilt en route to a 14-point effort. True, Wade's overtime defense -- that included a pair of hellacious blocked shots -- were critical in the Miami win but the Chicago native must show a gallop to his game here because it is obvious that the Bulls are tightening up the defense 'round Chris Bosh (22 points but only six FGs in all).
Secondly, the Bulls have to make their runs "count": In Game #4 there were too many instances where Chicago scoring spurts were answered right back by the Heat. If/when Rose and Company spurt here they must stabilize the game at that point and not allow James/Wade/Bosh to rush back in a hurry.
No question we all hear the phrase do-or-die way too much in sports -- but in these cases the Thunder and Bulls better "do" or they, in fact, are dead.
NOTE: Get more NBA Playoff coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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