2012 NBA Picks: Oklahoma City @ Miami Odds and Predictions – Free NBA Picks 4/4/2012:The top team in the Western Conference will meet one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference Wednesday night, when the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-13) heads to South Beach to take on the Miami Heat (38-14) in a potential NBA Finals preview. The game will showcase some of the most athletic players in the league, and for Miami’s LeBron James and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the head-to-head meeting is chance to stake a claim to this year’s MVP Award. The Thunder rolls into the matchup having won six of seven games, but the Heat is 22-2 at home this year. Miami is a 3-point favorite, but something has to give between these two heavyweights.
With young, explosive players littering both rosters, it is no surprise that both teams play remarkably similar styles. Both sides want to push the tempo and play at a faster pace, scoring as many transition baskets as possible. It shows on the stat sheet, and Oklahoma City enters the game scoring an NBA-best 103.5 points per game, while Miami ranks fourth in scoring at 100.7 per game. The two teams are also first and second in team field goal percentage, with the Heat holding a slight edge. It is likely going to take triple digits to win this game.
The two teams actually met not long ago, with the Thunder earning a dominating 103-87 victory in Oklahoma City in March 25. Miami actually shut down Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, but Durant scored a game-high 28 and nearly had a triple double. Meanwhile, the Heat’s frontcourt had no answer for Thunder big men Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka. Both players had one of their best offensive games of the year, combining for 35 points on 16-of-21 shooting. Meanwhile, James had one of his worst for Miami, finishing with just 17 points.
Unfortunately for the Heat, the disadvantage inside isn’t going away. Forward Chris Bosh is the team’s top big man, but he is averaging less than eight rebounds per game and is more of a glorified jump shooter at times. Miami really doesn’t have the big bodies down low to contend with the physical play of Perkins and Ibaka. Normally, James picks up the slack on the board for the Heat, but against Oklahoma City, he is forced to spend more time on the perimeter defending Westbrook and Durant. Needless to say, this is a serious matchup problem for Miami.
If Miami is going to change the outcome Wednesday night, James and Dwyane Wade have to have big games offensively. Wade had a respectable 22 points in the March 25 loss, but he attempted just 10 shots. In order to keep up with the high-powered Thunder offense, both Wade and James need to go for 20-plus points. However, their typical slashing style is somewhat limited with Ibaka and Perkins waiting around the rim to block or alter shots. There is no better time for both Wade and James to showcase their back-to-the-basket moves that have been very effective at times throughout the year.
The X-factor in the game could be Miami’s point guard duo of Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. The two young players have run hot and cold throughout the year, but they have an inviting matchup Wednesday night. As explosive as Westbrook is as a scorer, he has yet to turn himself into a good defender. He has been lit up by points guard around the league, and while neither Chalmers nor Cole is Miami’s primary scoring option, they can certainly help out. Facing Oklahoma City, Miami will need all the points it can get.
Playing at home where Miami has been almost unbeatable, a repeat of the blowout loss at the end of March is very unlikely. However, the Thunder is a tough matchup for the Heat. Oklahoma City not only has two physical big men to take advantage of Miami’s weak frontcourt, but Durant and Westbrook can cancel out the athletic edge that James and Wade typically give the Heat. Throw in the fact that the Thunder has been playing much better of late than Miami, and James and company could be in trouble.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder (+3) Covers the Spread
Current Odds: Favorite – Miami -3 Total – OVER/UNDER 197.5
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