NBA Finals Game Three Preview

OUR NBA FINALS GAME #3 PREVIEW IS HERE

THE SERIES IS DEAD-EVEN AT A GAME APIECE BUT CAN THE HEAT NOW BOUNCE BACK FROM THAT HAUNTING GAME #2 LOSS?

By Jim Hurley:

Okay, so the scene and venue has shifted in NBA-land:

Games #3, #4 and #5 of this NBA Finals are being played this week in Dallas where the beloved Mavericks are 7-1 SU (straight-up) in this year's NBA Playoffs but betcha bottom dollar that the Western Conference champions haven't faced the ire of a team quite like the one coming into town from South Florida:

The Miami Heat - from all published reports - are not shell-shocked or hurt because they were outscored 22-5 in the game's final seven-plus minutes this past Thursday night en route to a 95-93 loss. Instead, Miami's miffed - really, really angry - that it blew a 15-point lead in the final frame the other night and now LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (a better-than-decent combined 25-of-51 shooting from the floor in Game #2) want another opportunity to step on the Mavs' throats when/if they have a late-game lead.

This could get nasty, ladies and gents. We'll dig into our NBA Finals Game #3 Preview - tip time is shortly after 8 p.m. ET tonight - in just a moment but first let's give you this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NBA Finals action - that's both the Sides & Totals, folks - as the Heat and the Mavericks hook up tonight in Game #3 action from the Lone Star State. Just remember to call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here and make sure you're all aboard for the ground-breaking hoops winners. Plus, make sure you stay with us right through the summer with all our Major-League Baseball winners! The calling/check-in times are as follows: After 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays; after 11 a.m. ET for weekday Baseball and after 1 p.m. ET for all the weeknight action in the NBA Finals and MLB.

THE NBA FINALS - IT'S A GAME #3 PREVIEW

MIAMI at DALLAS -- Series tied 1-1

Now that we've all been chewing on and digesting the opinions from everyone including Magic Johnson to Charles Barkley to the man on the street the real key strategic question here is what does the Heat do when Dallas megastar Dirk Nowitzki (24 points on 22 FG tries in Game #2) gets his hands on the ball ... does Miami show an instant "double-team" or does Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and Company allow the likes of Bosh and/or reserve forward Udonis Haslem to play him one-on-one?

No doubt that Nowitzki absolutely torched the Heat in the final 57.2 seconds of Game #2 when he registered a pair of driving, left-handed lay-ups that sandwiched his three-point bucket but at least Miami learned the hard way that Nowitzki's damaged digit on his non-shooting hand isn't all that troublesome to him after all. The gut feeling here is that Miami cannot afford to allow Bosh or Haslem - or anyone else for that matter - to stand out there on a proverbial island and try to handle the sport's best scorer in this year's post-season and the end result there just might well be more free-throw attempts for Nowitzki who canned all three of his charity stripe tosses in Game #2.

On the flip side, the Mavs made their bones on defense for much of the second half of the 2010-11 regular season and right into the playoffs but save for some brain cramps by the Heat (see those foolhardy 30 attempts from beyond the three-point arc) the fact of the matter is Miami shot it pretty well there in Game #2 while going a collective 25-of-43 from two-point range (that's 58.1 percent, folks) and so clearly the Heat must "push it" more (only 16 fast-break points in Game #2 while Dallas scored 13 fast-break points in that clash) and get those alley-oop plays working where James is either being the passer or the receiver for some mighty slam dunks.

Now, how about some under-the-radar strategy here for Game #3 tonight?

The Mavs must get their bench guys involved here to a high degree - note that in the Game #2 win the Dallas reserves including G Jason Terry sported a 23-to-11 scoring advantage but something tells us that both backup point guard J.J. Barea and three-point specialist Peja Stojakovic (see a combined 5 points in 19 minutes) must rev up their engines after respectively rotten showings in that last game. Heck, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle was so annoyed at Stojakovic's lazy defense that he benched him for perennial bench-warmer Brian Cardinal for a minute. Didn't you almost fall off your couch when that "sub" happened?

If you're searching for the bench keys here than Barea and Stojakovic must score 15 points between 'em - and maybe even more - and they must supply the Mavs some much-needed energy when Nowitzki's getting a blow. Stay tuned to see if Dallas can get a handle on Miami reserve G Mario Chalmers whose three-point corner jumper late in the fourth quarter in Game #2 was a beautiful/clutch shot. Hey, Chalmers can be an instant-offense guy for the Heat when either James or Wade is getting a few minutes of rest and so be advised of his importance in the scheme of things.

Now, note the first two games of this year's NBA Finals with home teams in CAPS:

DATE FAV SPREAD DOG RESULT
5-31 MIAMI - 4.5 Dallas MIAMI 92-84
6-2 MIAMI - 4.5 Dallas Dallas 95-93

Finally, note that Dallas is an NBA-playoff best 14-3 ATS (against the spread) this year and that's an .823 winning rate while Miami isn't all that far behind at 11-6 versus the vig for a .647 winning percentage. Yes, it's still hard to believe that these teams are a combined 25-9 spreadwise in this post-season - awww, wish Shaq was here right now to say something witty!

NOTE: Get more NBA Finals Updates in the next edition of Jim Sez as we bring you the Game #3 in Review and Game #4 Preview.

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