The Mavs have won at least 50 games in 11 straight seasons but have no titles and only one trip to the NBA finals to show for it. Worse yet, the Mavs lost that 2006 appearance against the Heat, after taking a 2-0 lead in games. The Mavericks led the Heat 89-76 with 6:30 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 3 in that series as well, but Miami came back to win the game 98-96 and take the series with four straight wins. Dallas then went out the next season and after winning a league-best 67 games, became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed in the opening round since the league expanded those series to seven games. Dallas has not lived down those back-to-back seasons, since.
Could this be the year that all changes? The Mavs (and in particular Dirk), are sure giving us plenty of reasons to think that this is the team's year. The Thunder opened last night’s game by making their first nine shots (Durant opened 5-of-5) and when Durant nailed a three-pointer with 5:06 remaing in the game, Oklahoma City led 99-84. However, the Thunder would convert just one basket the rest of the way, as the Mavs outscored them 17-2, sending the game into OT at 101-all. Dallas’ first lead of the game wasn’t until Nowitzki hit two free throws, 16 seconds into overtime. The Mavericks never let the Thunder back in, winning 112-105.
The Mavericks are the only team in the last 15 seasons to win a playoff game in which it trailed by 15 or more points with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Amazingly, the Thunder outrebounded the Mavericks 55-33 (plus-22) in the Game 4 loss, the largest rebounding advantage in a postseason loss since the 76ers lost to the Bullets (now Wizards) April 18, 1986 despite outrebounding them by 58-29 (plus-29). It marked the Thunder’s first consecutive losses this postseason and the team’s first back-to-back home losses in six months. The Mavs now lead 3-1 in games and the Thunder face the realization that only eight teams in NBA postseason history have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit, including just two teams having done so without the benefit of home court advantage in Game 7 (Houston did it in the 1995 Western Conference semifinals vs the Suns and Boston in the 1968 Eastern Conference finals vs the 76ers).
Nowitzki scored 12 points during the Mavs' closing 17-2 run, including the game-tying free throws with 6.4 seconds left in regulation. He finished with 40 points, the seventh 40-point game of his postseason career. Terry added 20 points (has averaged 22.0 PPG in Games 1 & 4 but has scored a total of just 21 points in games 2 & 3) and Kidd added 17 ( has averaged 14.3 PPG the last three games). Durant finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Thunder while Ibaka had his best game in a quite awhile (18 & 10) and Westbrook added 19-8-8. However, the Thunder made just 2-of-13 threes, following their Game 3 effort in which the they made only 1-of-17. That won’t cut it. The Mavs are now a remarkable 13-1 ATS this postseason.
The Dallas win dropped home teams in the second round to 3-4 SU and ATS. Home teams are now 49-23 (.681) this postseason, going 34-35-3 ATS. The game went over, giving us 36 overs and 36 unders through 72 postseason games in 2011. “Zig-Zaggers” lost with the Thunder, leaving them 27-28-3 ATS (minus-3.8 net games) this postseason. The play tonight would be on the Bulls, who visit the Heat in Miami for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals at 8:35 ET on TNT. Miami is favored by five points and the total is 179. The Thunder could have easily won and not covered last night but Dallas, which closed as a four-point underdog, did win outright in OT. We’ve now gone 33 consecutive postseason games in which the SU winner has also been the ATS winner (last team to win and not cover was Oklahoma City in its Game 5 win over Denver back in the first round). That streak has to end sometime, right?
We expected Miami/Chicago to be a defensive-oriented series, as the Bulls (43.0) were No. 1 in FG percentage allowed and the Heat No. 2 (43.4), during the regular season. Chicago won Game 1 by the impressive score of 103-82 but Chicago has managed just 160 points in Games 2 and 3, its lowest two-game total of the season. The Bulls led 26-19 at the end of the first quarter of Game 2 but over the next seven quarters, have been held to an average of just 19.1 points per quarter by the Heat ‘D.’ It’s true that the Heat rely almost exclusively on their “Big 3” to score the points but Miami’s team D has been outstanding all season. Rose, the regular season MVP and easily Chicago’s leading scorer this postseason at 27.6 PPG, has made just 15-of-42 (35.7%) from the floor in the last two games, as Miami’s defensive schemes have really bothered him while the Bulls just haven’t found “other scoring options” since the first quarter of Game 2. Boozer had his best numbers of this postseason with 26 points and 17 rebounds in Game 3 but couldn’t contain Bosh (34 points), who has been outstanding during the Eastern Conference finals, shooting 65.9 percent and averaging 24.7 PPG.
Is it good news or bad news that Chicago held LBJ and Wade to a combined 12-of-30 from the floor in Game 3? It was clearly an outstanding effort but the Heat won by 11, despite their best scorers NOT playing their best. Are the Bulls in trouble here?The Heat are the only unbeaten team at home in these playoffs, having won all seven games while going 5-2 ATS. However, both non-covers were eight-point wins, a margin which would be enough to cover this number. The Bulls lost back-to-back games for just the 5th time this season on Sunday night. However, they have yet to lose three in a row. Chicago has won the next game following a two-game losing streak the previous four times. That sets the stage.