Critical Game 3 Of NBA Finals


If the Miami Heat are able to bounce back from their Game Two debacle and win tonight in Dallas to take a 2-1 series lead, then it's very likely that they'll be lifting the O'Brien trophy in short order. They'd have regained home court advantage. And, they'd have established that they could easily win one of the remaining two games in Dallas as well.

If the Dallas Mavericks are able to build on their fantastic finish and take Game Three, then they'd be looking at a 2-1 series lead with two more home games coming up Tuesday and Thursday. Perhaps most importantly, they would have erased the Miami swagger that's been so omnipresent against the likes of Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner will lead to indigestion in South Beach because they tried to jump the celebration stage a few days to soon.

We'll run the numbers from that dramatic Game Two comeback in a moment. Everyone's had a few days to think about it and reflect on what it all might mean. These factors seem clear to us from a handicapping perspective.

*Miami has the edge when both teams are focused at 100% intensity. Either team can score in bunches QUICK if the other loses their defensive focus. Miami was up 1-0 in the series and 15 points on the scoreboard in Game Two before relaxing too quickly. The game got away from them in a finger snap when they stopped racing around on their defensive rotations.

*Dallas has more guys who can catch fire off the bench with little notice. Jason Terry had done nothing for most of the first two games before nailing everything in the final minutes. Maybe Peja Stojakovic is next. Or, maybe it's J.J. Barea. This could become an area of importance if Miami gets tired later in the series. A fresh, motivated player who can hit shots can easily prove to be a tie-breaker when the frontline guys start to lose their legs.

*Despite pre-series indicators that Dallas would probably win three-pointers, and Miami would probably win free throws, we've seen the reverse so far. Miami has made five more treys (on 15 more attempts) partly because Dallas is packing their defense in so much. Dallas has shot there more free throws because they're getting the ball to guys who can draw fouls in danger positions. It will be interesting to see if that holds up or not. The sign that the series is starting to move forcefully in one direction might be Dallas stringing together some treys, or Miami marching to the line. That would mean either defense has lost its ability to disrupt the other team's strength.

Let's get to the numbers…

Series tied 1-1
Vegas Line: Dallas by 2.5, total of 188.5

The line has moved seven points from where it was sitting in Miami. That suggests that oddsmakers believe home court advantage is worth 3.5 points right now. We will probably see an adjustment after Game Four though, with the line moving against the Game Three loser. Should Miami lose, this line may come down to pick-em or even Miami -1 with the Heat in a must-win situation. Remember Miami moved to a small favorite at Boston at similar prices. Should Dallas lose, then you've got the home team in a must-win spot, which might nudge the line to -3 or -3.5 depending on how competitive the Mavs look tonight.

The total hasn't moved much from Game Two. Thursday steam lifted the total from 186.5 all the way up to 189. The 95-93 finish landed on 188. No reason to tweak the number off that result.

Shooting Percentage: Dallas 48%, Miami 47%
Three-Pointers: Dallas 6/17, Miami 9/30
Free Throws: Dallas 17/21, Miami 16/24
Rebounds: Dallas 41, Miami 30
Turnovers: Dallas 18, Miami 12
Vegas Line: Miami by 4.5, total of 189
Notebook: Both teams shot a lot better after a sluggish series opener that saw 37% and 39% for Dallas and Miami respectively. Both teams got worse on three-point percentage, but sailed past 50% on two-pointers. Dallas fixed its rebounding problems. It's quite a feat indeed to outrebound Miami by 11 on the road! But, they gave most of that back with turnovers. Dallas lost the ball 18 times. And, Dallas turnovers tend to lead to immediate opposition points because the Mavericks aren't very quick getting back.

If you watched, you know that this wasn't really a game where the boxscore numbers were going to tell the story. Miami was in command. Miami started celebrating too early. Miami's offense kept settling for 'I'll be the hero' three-point attempts late in the shot click. Miami's defense lost a step because they figured the game was already in the bag. We can't say it would have been a statistical blowout without that historic last six minutes. But, Miami was clearly the better side, and the stats would have represented that.

The key to us from this point forward will be how hell Miami handles this adversity. It's the first time in the playoffs that they've been down a service break in a series. They always been the series favorite. They've never had to make up for a lost home game. Gut check time!

If the Heat brush off the loss and bounce back strong, they would still seem to be prohibitive favorites. It's nice to have two home games in your back pocket if needed, particularly when you've got superstar talent. That being said, this isn't a group that responded quickly to adversity in the regular season. Remember that they lost a string of games (many at home) to quality teams during a very poor stretch. They showed the same problems in that slump that they did late Thursday. The offense stopped attacking. The defense didn't cover the arc well, or rotate inside. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took turns trying to do everything themselves rather than playing as a team. If THAT Miami team shows up again, the Mavericks can definitely win this series.

JIM HURLEY will be working very closely with his sources to get a read on the Miami mindset. We've talked about this so much during the playoffs already. But, you've seen week-by-week and series-by-series that mindset really is that important. The tangibles are known. That's why they're tangibles! We know the strengths and weaknesses of each team. We know to a strong degree how the coaches are likely to respond to various challenges. The Vegas lines reflect the tangibles. Winners and losers in Vegas are determined by who best anticipates the intangibles.

THAT'S WHY YOU SHOULD SIGN UP WITH NETWORK! You can purchase our NBA Championship plays every game day with your credit card. We know there are at least three games left, and there may be four or five. We have discounted rates for those of you willing to make the commitment for the whole round at once. If you have any questions, or you want to discuss combination packages with baseball, or early bird rates for football, call us at 1-800-323-4453.

The basketball game may go tonight. But, we want you to take care of business EARLY so you can build your bankrolls with some Sunday baseball. Among the games of interest today: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis on TBS, NY Yankees at the LA Angels, Oakland at Boston, and the LA Dodgers at Cincinnati.

Another huge Sunday in the world of sports. DON'T MAKE A MOVE UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by and For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.


Today’s Hot Plays