Game 5 of the NBA Finals is set for 9:00 ET on ABC. One could argue that the Heat look like the better team but Miami sure hasn’t been able to close out games. The Mavs outscored the Heat 21-9 over the final 10:12 of Tuesday’s Game 4, giving them an 86-83 win and tying the series at two-all. The Heat went 1-of-9 on FG attempts over the final 7:23 of the game and LBJ failed to score in double digits for the first time in his playoff career (90 games). He finished with eight points (3-of-11 on FGs), ending a run of 433 consecutive games in which he had reached double figures (regular and postseason, combined). LeBron was widely criticized for his play last year vs the Celtics in last season’s postseason (while with the Cavs) and he’s feeling the ‘heat’ again now. He blew off talk that he was taking a backseat to Wade during crunch time after Game 3 (a two-point Miami win) but there was no denying he made no impact at all offensively in Game 4.

Collapses in “crunch time” have been the norm for Miami in this year’s Finals, as the Heat saw the Mavs outscore them 22-5 to end Game 2 and almost let a seven-point lead get away late in Game 3 before collapsing again in the fourth quarter of Game 4. As for the Mavs, they have now won SIX games this postseason after entering the fourth quarter behind on the scoreboard (own two comebacks from 15 points down!). Dirk has played through a torn tendon in his middle finger of his left hand plus played Tuesday night with a fever of 101 degrees. He’s put all his playoffs ‘demons’ in the past this postseason and got enough help from the rest of his teammates Tuesday night to secure the win. Can he get enough help again in Game 5?

NBA playoff history says that the Game 5 winner of a series tied at 2-2 has gone on to win 134 of the 161 previous series or 83.2 percent of the time. In particular, in this 2-3-2 format in the NBA Finals, we’ve seen nine previous series tied at two-all but the Game 5 winner has gone on to win the series only six times (that’s just 67 percent). A closer look reveals that the road team has won a Game 5 four times, winning each series while home team winners of Game 5 are just 2-3 in those series. That makes perfect sense, as Game 6 and Game 7 (if necessary) are both played on the home court of the team which played the middle three games on the road (see last year when Boston won Games 4 and 5 at home but lost Games 6 and 7 in LA).

After Miami won 92-84 in Game 1, the next three games have been decided by three points or less. The last time three consecutive games of an NBA Finals were decided by three points or less came way back in 1948. Tuesday’s loss was Miami’s fifth this postseason and the Heat have followed each of the previous four losses with a win. “Zig-Zaggers” are a perfect 3-0 in this year’s Finals and Miami has gotten all the action so far, as the game is pick’em as of 1:00 ET (total is 184 1/2). “Zig-Zaggers” are now 31-30-3 ATS for the postseason but still minus-2.0 net games. Home teams are 53-26 (.671) this postseason, going 36-39-4 ATS. The Game 4 total stayed under leaving the over/under record at 37 overs and 41 unders and one ‘push’ through 79 postseason games.

Good luck...Larry