Editor's Note: Kevin Rogers is on fire in the NBA, going 20-8 his last 28 plays! His Game 5 winner between the Thunder and Heat can be purchased on VegasInsider.com Click to win!
The Heat will play their final home game of the season coming up tonight as Miami hopes to finish off the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City. The Thunder threw away another double-digit cushion on Tuesday, squandering a 17-point first half advantage in a 104-98 defeat as three-point road underdogs, while getting pushed to the brink of elimination.
Miami jumped out to huge leads in each of the first two games of this series at Chesapeake Energy Arena, as the Heat managed to hold off the Thunder in Game 2. When the venue shifted to South Florida, Oklahoma City built a 10-point third quarter advantage in Game 3 before falling, 91-85 in Game 3. However, the Game 4 meltdown definitely hurts for Scott Brooks' club, who let a 33-16 lead evaporate in a four-minute stretch, thanks to a 19-2 Heat run to tie the game at 35-35. OKC managed to take a 49-46 advantage into the locker room at halftime, as the road team cashed first half bets for the fourth straight contest (Thunder as two-point 'dogs in Game 4).
The Heat built as much as a seven-point lead in the third quarter, including the final eight points of the period by LeBron James. OKC stayed in the game thanks to Russell Westbrook's career playoff high of 43 points, including 14 scored in the fourth quarter. However, the hero in the final 10 minutes turned out to be Miami's point guard, as Mario Chalmers put up 12 points to help the Heat overcome the loss of James in the last 58 seconds of regulation due to cramping.
The three-time MVP is expected to be at full strength tonight, while the same can't be said for Thunder guard James Harden. The Sixth Man of the Year is dealing with a bruised left hand, as the former Arizona State standout has shot just 4-for-20 from the floor in the last two games. Taking away Harden's ineffective performance in Game 4, the Thunder shot 52.2% from the field, while the team knocked down 15 of 16 free throws in the defeat.
Erik Spoelstra's squad easily cashed as four-point favorites in the second half by outscoring the Thunder, 58-49, while the total of 97 pushed at most books. The home team has now covered the second half in all four games of the series, as the Thunder will try to overcome what history says to be an insurmountable deficit.
Thirty times in NBA Finals history and eleven instances since the 2-3-2 format was instituted in 1985 has a team led three games to one. In all thirty opportunities, the club up 3-1 hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy, while the last home team in this situation looking to close at home was the 2004 Pistons. Detroit won the middle three games of the series at the Palace of Auburn Hills over Los Angeles, as Miami tries to avoid a return to trip to Oklahoma City for a potential Game 6 on Sunday.
VegasInsider.com's Chris David doesn't want this exciting NBA Finals to end tonight, "Personally, I'd like to see two more games between these teams because all of the first four installments have been very competitive. The difference in the series is Miami's execution down the stretch, which has been flawless the last three games. Despite the momentum, history is on the Thunder's side to extend the series. Since the Association switched to a 2-3-2 format in 1985, there have been only five teams to sweep the middle three games of the finals and only two of them did so at home, one of them being Miami during its 2006 championship run."
Depending on what which way you want to bet tonight, David suggests a series price wager on the Thunder, "If you believe Oklahoma City can keep the series alive, then I would advise a strong look on the series price, which is close to 4/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $400). If the Thunder get back home, you can come back with the Heat on the money-line, which will probably be hovering around a 3/2 price (Bet $100 to win $150). Or you can take the points with Miami in Game 6 and hope they lose, but cover the number. If OKC wins again, you can get hedge once again in Game 7. All these strategies depend on one thing, OKC winning Game 5."
From the totals perspective, David analyzes the Game 5 number, which didn't move much from Tuesday, "The 'over' improved to 2-1-1 after Game 4 jumped 'over' the closing number of 193. Miami drilled a series-high 10 triples from downtown, which certainly helped. Oklahoma City still hasn't been able to have a consistent game where it breaks 20-plus points in all four quarters. The stumbling block in Game 4 was a 16-point second quarter, which fortunately for them came after a 33-point first. Oddsmakers have kept the total in the same ballpark for Game 5 and I wouldn't be surprised to see the betting public close the number at 194. The pace hasn't been up-tempo but both teams have shown some serious surges."
"Knowing Oklahoma City has scored 96 points or more in eight of its nine road playoff games, it makes me believe a team total 'over' look of 95.5 has value, especially with elimination on the line. This isn't a veteran club that's going to get pulled by their coach. These young kids are going to keep hoisting until the final buzzer, plus we still haven't seen a great performance from OKC's offense. If this team ever hits a crazy percentage from the field, they'll cash this 'over' ticket early, leaving you plenty of time to buy drinks at the bar before the game ends, maybe even ask for a wine list!"
Miami will look to crack open the champagne with things tipping off at the American Airlines Arena at 9:00 PM EST, as the game airs nationally on ABC. As of this morning, the Heat sits as three-point home favorites to close out their second championship in franchise history, not their third, fourth, or fifth, according to James.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.