Often times we find a tough decision in Game 4 of a playoff series. The Mavericks are down 2-1 and home. Obviously it’s must-win and the zig-zag clearly points to them.
I have no doubt the Mavericks will play a rousing game with a full all-out effort. But once again I’m backing the Heat just like in Game 3.
The perception going into this series was the Heat are the better team. That perception is reality. Except for an inexplicable half-quarter in Game 2, the Heat have proven superior to Dallas. The Heat have outscored the Mavericks by a combined 25 points during the other 11 1/2 quarters.
Miami has repeatedly built double-digit leads. There are reasons for this – huge matchup edges, better rebounding and more superstars.
No one has performed better than Dirk Nowitzki during the playoffs. Nowitzki can match any superstar – LeBron James included. But the Mavericks don’t have the second and third stars like Miami does in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
It might have been different for Dallas if Caron Butler didn’t get hurt, but he did. Jason Kidd, at his advanced age, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion can’t compare to Wade and Bosh when it comes to playing second fiddle to their superstar. Wade rates right there with Nowitzki and James as one of the top seven players in the game.
Miami is stronger on the boards than Dallas and tougher inside with the return to health of Udonis Haslem. The Heat outscored Dallas, 40-22, scoring in the paint in Game 3. The Mavericks are depth shy in the frontcourt with Brendan Haywood, their only solid big man reserve, questionable and limited by a hip flexor.
The Heat captured Game 3 on the road despite shooting 12 fewer free throws than Dallas, having a lower free throw percentage and surprisingly being out-rebounded by six.
James had a sub-par game with only 17 points. He shot only four free throws. Bosh missed 11 of 18 shots from the floor. Miami isn’t supposed to win on the road when these things happen.
The Mavericks have proven resilient. They have kept games close in this series, but it’s too much to ask of them to win by any kind of margin. They have yet to successfully deal with Miami’s defensive team speed being held to an average of 12 points per game under their regular-season scoring average.
At no point through the first three games of the series have the Mavericks ever led by three points in the fourth quarter. And now the oddsmaker is making you lay three points if you want the Mavericks in this game. No thanks.
Miami has won four of its last five road games, including the past three, as away ‘dogs at Boston, Chicago twice and Dallas. The Heat are 8-1 ATS when playing on one day rest.
The Heat are healthier than Dallas right now and are the superior team. James can raise his game. Nowitzki already is playing at peak form. Marion has done an excellent job defending James, but keep in mind he logged 43:08 minutes on Monday. That’s the most minutes the 33-year-old Marion has played in a non-overtime game in four years. Marion is going to be weary having only had one day of rest.
Until proven otherwise, Miami still has to be backed taking this many points.