The two finals got there by taking different routes but after three games in each of the Conference finals, we have a 2-1 score line and there is everything to play for.
Miami hold a 2-1 lead after game three
Not for the first time, and not even for the first time in the Western Conference final, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade teamed up to give Miami Heat an all-important push in the right direction. These two players were pivotal components of the 99-87 victory in the 3rd game of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. In the end, James notched 26 points while Wade assisted the team with 23 points and 4 assists. With Ray Allen also delivering 16 points, with 4 for 4 for 3 points, the success of Miami is once again coming down to the fact that the big players know how to deliver when the pressure is on.
Much like the previous game, the Pacers were setting the early pace and into the second quarter, the Heat was trailing. The early deficit was 17-4 but the second half saw a score line of 37-22, which was the point when the Heat upped their game. If you are looking for turning points that change games, and potential Conference Finals, the improvement in performance of the defensive line is likely to be the point where this game altered from its original course.
Miami defence turns up the heat
Turning over five straight Pacer possessions was crucial in giving the Heat the upper hand and with around 7 and a half minutes left in the third quarter, the Heat snuck in front by a score of 52-51. James had dunked the Heat into the lead and there was no way they were going to relinquish it. In fact, they powered on from here, scoring strongly in the 3rd and 4th quarter.
The scoring for the quarters ran 14-21, 24-21, 33-22 and 28-33. While Paul George pulled in an important 17 points for the Pacers, he looked notably off the pace, especially in the early part of the game. Considering George suffered a concussion in the final quarter of Game 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals this isn’t too surprising but when the games come thick and fast, you need to have your top players roaring at all times. This is where the Pacers need to up the tempo and deliver more in Game 4 if they want to keep the Heat in easy reach for the final few games.
With Game 4 taking place in Miami again, there is a strong chance for the Heat to open up a 3-1 lead. Bwin thinks the Heat will achieve this, with the Money Line bet seeing the Heat ranked at 1.33. If you fancy the Pacers to tie the series at 2-2 going into the final three games, you will see odds of 3.40 on offer from Bwin. There is certainly all to play for but with the big name Heat players hitting a consistent form, will the Pacers find Miami too hot to handle once again?
Oklahoma Thunders Back Into Contention
Trailing 2-0 it was vital that Oklahoma City Thunder found their way back into the Western Conference final and a returning hero gave the team all the impetus they needed to clinch a 106-97 triumph at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
Serge Ibaka was returned to the starting line-up and he wasted no time in hauling the Thunder back into the tie. A calf injury looked as though it was going to rule out Ibaka for the final, and potentially the rest of the season, but with 15 points in a 6 for 7 shooting record, Ibaka clearly showed he had the desire and energy levels of this game. He also blocked 4 shots and managed to grab 7 rebounds as the Thunder prevented the Spurs from racing away with tie.
Another change in the Thunder line-up came with Reggie Jackson, the backup point guard, coming in for Thabo Sefolosha, the shooting guard. With Jackson delivering 15 points, this was another major factor in the outcome of the game. Jackson held a 6 for 13 record and although his 1 for 6 with respect to three pointers wasn’t the best, it shows that sometimes basketball games are won and lost by pre-game changes as opposed to what happens during the course of the game.
Big players score big points in big matches
It was a game for big players for the Thunder though with Russell Westbrook being the big player of the match. 26 points is going to grab you headlines but when you also add in 8 rebounds and 7 assists, you can be proud of yourself. Another big player for Thunder was Kevin Durant who delivered 25 points and 10 rebounds.
The high scoring nature of the Oklahoma players contrasts with the Spurs, who only managed to get three players into double figures for scoring. Manu Ginobili was the top man with 23 points but with 20 of these points coming in the first half, Ginobili wasn’t there when his team needed them the most. Tim Duncan notched 16 points and Kawhi Leonard grabbed 10 on a night when the San Antonio Spurs were blown away. However, while the offensive players may not have delivered for Oklahoma in the manner that their Thunder counterparts did, the head coach of the Spurs, Gregg Popovich, was most annoyed by his team’s defensive performance. This was a game where his team had an excellent opportunity to stamp their authority on the finals, as Popovich put it “a foot on the neck” performance, but they didn’t provide it. Ibaka and the rest of his Thunder team-mates ensured that the Spurs route to success in the first two games was blocked off, spurring the Thunder on to victory.
If you fancy the Thunder to tie the Western Conference Finals at 2-2, you will find that Bwin is offering odds of 1.70. If you fancy Spurs to be in the mood to make up for a poor performance by shocking the home crowd and take a 3-1 lead in the series, you’ll find that Bwin offers you odds of 2.20.
With both finals lined up at 2-1 going into the 4th game, there is a lot of life left in the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
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