NBA Finals Preview & Pick Game 4: Spurs at Heat

So much for struggling to shoot on the road. The San Antonio Spurs made 19 of their first 21 shots and 25-of-33 overall in the first half to open up a 71-50 halftime lead and put it in cruise control to win Game 3 by a 111-92 score. The Miami Heat got within seven in the third quarter and held the Spurs to just 15 points, but they could get no closer and the Spurs opening things up to a comfortable margin once again in the fourth quarter.

Anybody who saw a performance like that coming is a liar and the Spurs probably even surprised themselves. It was Kawhi Leonard that stepped up, leading the way with 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Leonard was called out for his early series performance prior to Game 3 and responded in a big way for the Spurs. Five other Spurs were in double figures, led by Tim Duncan and Danny Green with 15 points each.

Lebron James did his part early in the game, scoring 14 of the Heat’s first 20, but he slowed down after that, finishing with 22 points to match Dwyane Wade for the team-high. Other than not getting a friendly home rim, the Heat had other problems. Chris Bosh was perfect from the floor, but took just four shots and scored only nine points. Mario Chalmers was replaced by Norris Cole for his ineffectiveness and Ray Allen struggled to find his shooting touch with a 3-of-8 performance.

Spurs vs heat pickThe Spurs shot just shy of 60 percent and got to the free throw line early and often with 26 freebies on 32 attempts. The blowout victory allowed both coaches to use everybody and get some crucial bench time to the key players, as Duncan played just over 30 minutes and both James and Wade sat out most of the fourth quarter.

An adjustment made by Gregg Popovich may have opened up the key to the series as Boris Diaw replaced Tiago Splitter in the starting lineup and it paid big dividends against the Heat’s small lineup. Diaw had nine points and just five rebounds, but was a team-high +20 in point differential while on the floor. It was his presence that seemed to key the hot start because the Spurs got plenty of open looks. The Heat registered stops on consecutive San Antonio possessions just once in the first half.

Tuesday night’s drubbing was the first loss at home this postseason for the Heat and it snapped an 11-game winning streak that dated back to Game 1 of last year’s NBA Finals. The Heat had also covered seven straight at home.

Looking ahead to Game 4, the oddsmakers have the Heat as a five-point favorite, the biggest number of the series to date. The Spurs are very, very unlikely to repeat the first half that they had in Game 3, but one has to wonder if they found something that gave them an edge. The shots were falling, but the shots were also wide open. The Heat have more problems than just defense, like trying to get Chris Bosh back into the game and figuring out what to do with Mario Chalmers.

How’s this for parity? In Game 4 of a 2-1 series, the team with a 2-1 lead is 179-178 in NBA history. In the Finals, the team with a 2-1 lead is 27-28. From a series perspective, teams that lead 2-1 after three games are 46-9 in NBA Finals history and 292-65 in playoff history. The road team is 17-20 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals with a 2-1 series lead.

In series that have gone W-L-W for the team with home-court advantage, they are just 1-12 in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. That’s a major historical negative for the Spurs as they look to have a shot at clinching at home in Game 5. The Spurs are just 10-12 in series with a 2-1 lead and have lost four in a row, while the Heat are 4-1 in Game 4 scenarios when trailing 2-1 in the series. They have won four straight games under that criteria.

The Spurs have not won consecutive road games in the postseason yet, nor have they covered in consecutive road games. The Heat have not lost consecutive games in the postseason and have one instance where they had back-to-back ATS losses, Game 5 against Brooklyn and Game 1 at Indiana. With the win and cover, the Spurs moved to 4-5 straight up and 3-6 ATS on the road, while the Heat are 8-1 straight up and 6-3 ATS.

For some trends, the Spurs improved to 3-7 ATS in their last 10 on the road. If the number stays where it is or goes up, the Spurs are just 2-7 ATS in their last nine as a road underdog of 5.0-10.5 points. The Spurs are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 following a straight up victory and 14-6 ATS in their last 20 following a win by 10 or more points.

The Heat are 5-0 ATS in their last five after a straight up loss and 6-1 in their last seven following an ATS loss. They are 7-1 ATS in their last eight following a double-digit loss at home and 24-9 ATS in their last 33.

For totals bettors, the total is now 2-1 to the over. Game 4 has a posted total of 197.5. The over is now 9-3 in Miami’s last 12 overall and 6-2 in their last eight played on one day of rest. Depending on where the line goes, the Spurs are 35-16-1 to the over in their last 52 games as an underdog of 0.5-4.5 points. The over is 9-4 in San Antonio’s last 13 following a win.

Free NBA Pick: San Antonio Spurs

Gregg Popovich might have cracked the code and Lebron James continues to get very little help in this series. Without his first quarter performance, the Heat could have lost this game by 40 and there’s only so much that Lebron can do. He had an enormous game in Game 2 and the Heat barely escaped with a two-point win. The Spurs are getting help from everybody and their balanced attack and precision ball movement are too much for Miami to handle.

Game 6 of last season’s series is still fresh in San Antonio’s mind and they don’t want to have to come back to Miami if they don’t have to and the first step of that goal is completed. The second step comes on Thursday night and they’ll be plenty motivated to have a chance to finish it on their home court in five games.

Adam Burke

Adam Burke

Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.