Hats off to the San Antonio Spurs for returning to the NBA Finals for the first time in six years with their core group, hard to imagine this could happen, but luck, health, shrewd front office decisions and coaching made it happen. Of course the Spurs Big 3 deserves the credit for engineering the feat. It was not a good series for Memphis or contrarian sports betting thinkers who figured the Grizzlies (1-3 ATS) had to play better. Is San Antonio really off until June 6 for the start of the NBA Finals?
Heat vs. Pacers Matchup
Moving ahead to the other Game 4, we have Miami attempting to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series after a near perfect outing on Sunday. Think about this, the Heat has not lost consecutive games since Jan 8 and 10 and is 47-4 (28-23 ATS) thereafter.
LeBron James is starting to enter into discussions of the greatest players ever and his detractors are falling by the wayside daily. James brings so much versatility; coach Erik Spoelstra can be very imaginative in making adjustments. Miami proved in the last encounter what they are capable of when the entire team plays with confidence, no matter the venue.
The basic Heat game plan does not figure to change much, rather, having tweaks where James is a passer-first, looking to find open shooters, as invariably, Indiana will look to double him when he is around the paint area. Depending on what happens, James will most likely look for his offense later in the game once he understands what his team needs, like all the great one’s do. It is amazing what Chris “Birdman” Anderson has brought to Miami, having made 35 of 41 shot attempts in the playoffs is unheard of, even if most are dunks and layups.
Indiana has little reason to fret coming into this conflict. They could just as easily be up 2 to 1 in the series. The Pacers have to take back the tempo and defend like they usually do. Based on the last battle, not letting James catch the ball in the lane is important, force him out five feet further and make him operate from distance. For all the talk about Indiana’s defense, the Heat has averaged 50.6 PPG on 67 percent shooting in the paint in this series. Coach Frank Vogel has to counter this immediately or the series ends on Thursday.
What Indy has to do is make the Heat start thinking what they have to do to score, not react. The Pacers know how to defend the three-ball and they have to back the Heat up outside the paint and make them jump shooters, contested by quality defenders.
California Championship Game
It would seem this is a no-brainer, take Los Angeles to beat San Jose and move to the Western Conference Finals. The Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champions, while the Sharks are more known for wilting with the pressure on. In addition, the home team is 15-1 in this series, so why not take L.A. at -160 and count the cash later?
Let’s start with it is a Game 7 and while the home team does deserve the edge, they do not always win as Florida, Pittsburgh and Vancouver can attest in just the last two years. San Jose has players with far more experience in these situations than Los Angeles (though not always positive results) and they have won three of the last four to place themselves in this spot. The Sharks players are convinced their experience and playing for one another, they can knock of the defending champs. After years of expectations, San Jose is not burdened this season and is looser.
However, Los Angeles also believes, having won a lucky 13 straight at the Staples Center. “We’re a confident group, we know we can get it done; we’ve done it a bunch of times already,” said the Kings Anze Kopitar.
This promises to be quite a contest.