After waiting seemingly forever for the resumption of the NBA Finals, basketball fans are finally treated to yet another exciting game on the horizon this evening, as the Miami Heat get their turn to host the Oklahoma City Thunder for Game 3 of what has already been a hugely entertaining Finals series thus far. With the series knotted at 1 game apiece and tip-off set for 8:00 PM ET at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida, there is little doubt this showdown will be the most-watched, and the most exciting options for online sportsbook betting tonight at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here at CR.
With Miami effectively eliminating Oklahoma City’s home court advantage by splitting the two games played at Chesapeake Energy Arena this past week. That should bode extremely well for the Heat’s confidence, as they head back to their home court, where they’ve been dominant all throughout the playoffs, as well as the regular season. Going 28-5 to tie for the best home record during the shortened 66-game year, plus adding an 8-2 record during the playoffs, Miami backers have to like their chances at taking the Heat to push forward this evening with a 2-1 advantage. In order for them to do that however, they’ll need to once again focus on the key takeaway from their 100-96 win over the Thunder on Thursday: holding OKC’s powerful offense to under 100 points, and making sure there’s very little contribution outside of the stars such as Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Though the Heat themselves truly didn’t get a ton of depth in scoring, with 4 players in double figures but no one else on the team providing more than three points, what they did get were some hugely needed big efforts from the likes of Chris Bosh and Shane Battier, who gave excellent scoring support to LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. We’ve been waiting for Chris Bosh to start clicking again in the paint, and he didn’t disappoint in Game 2, going for 16 points and 15 rebounds to help the Heat win the rebounding margin (40-36) and dominate in the paint (48 pts vs. 32 pts.). It’s amazing to see how well the Heat were able to produce with a smaller lineup against the Thunder, with the main factor being a highly productive 40 minutes from Bosh around the basket. While it seemed as though Miami needed to have step-up efforts from their big men across the board, including Bosh, Udonis Haslem and either Ronny Turiaf or Joel Anthony, it’s plainly evident that that is not necessary (Haslem was the only one who played out of these three big men, with just 2 points and 4 rebounds, -10 for the game on the +/-). What does that tell you heading into tonight? Chris Bosh is the key once again for the Miami Heat, and the Heat can get away with only using their other forwards and centers when Bosh needs a rest. Expect to see another big-minute game from Bosh, and with another night like he had in Game 2, a great opportunity for Miami to push ahead in this series.
For the Oklahoma City Thunder however, they evidently have to have contributions from someone other than their Big Three, in order to stay in the ballgame against the Heat. While the Thunder produced a strong rally in the 4th quarter once more in Game 2, they were forced to rely solely on Durant, Westbrook and Harden to drop in the key shots. The biggest difference from the Game 1 victory to the Game 2 loss was that battle on the inside, in which the Thunder completely flip-flopped on. Serge Ibaka, while being a block machine with 5 in Game 2, was just 2-for-5 shooting (7 points) and had only 4 rebounds. Kendrick Perkins was just 1-for-5 from the floor, and led the Thunder with 8 rebounds (tied with Russell Westbrook). These two big men have simply got to step up to counter the resurgence of Chris Bosh, and work together to make sure he isn’t as effective on the glass, and is also negated on the scoring front. If Perkins and Ibaka can collectively outscore and outrebound Bosh, the Thunder should have the advantage throughout the rest of their line-up. But if Bosh once again produces more rebounds and more points than the two Thunder players, Miami will be able to run small and keep to their style of play. Physical play is key for OKC tonight, and it starts with being strong around the bucket, and getting back into the advantage on points in the paint, and rebounds.
With home-court advantage on the line for the winner of Game 3 tonight, this match-up is especially crucial for the Thunder, who could find themselves struggling to avoid a 3-1 deficit with a loss, or getting a huge boost with a 2-1 lead, guaranteeing no worse than another evened-out series before they head home for Game 5. Speaking with ESPN earlier this week, Kevin Durant summed it up as well as anyone could, saying, “We have no other choice. We lost at home. Tough loss. We’ve got to get over it, get ready for a tough Game 3. You know, the series is going to be tough. We know that. You’ve just got to be ready. It’s going to be a fun one.” There is no doubt that Miami will be fully prepared to continue their game plan, centered on big nights from their Big Three, and for OKC to respond, they’ll need to be ready across the board to have a better group effort and run away with the scoring. If the Thunder can keep the pace hot, and move the needle past the 100 points mark, they should be able to pull out a win tonight. If the Heat hold them under their playoff scoring average of 103.1 points, it’ll again come down to the waning minutes and seconds of the 4th quarter, in which Miami should have the advantage in playing at home.
Betting lines for the Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Game 3 at Bovada Sportsbook.
At home, the Miami Heat return as the favorite to win tonight’s Game 3 match-up, with -175 odds going their way on the money line. The visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, 4-3 on the road in this year’s playoffs, get +155 odds as underdogs.
Against the spread, the margin is set at 4 points, with Miami needing to cover to earn -110 odds for spread pickers, and OKC getting 4 points to play with as a cushion for underdog spread pickers. Interestingly enough, in OKC losses during this year’s playoffs, they’ve only been beaten by more than 4 points once, coming in a 120-111 loss at San Antonio, in which the Spurs shot 55 percent from the floor. Keep set on a very close finish, and a tricky play against the spread here this evening.
For the total points line, 194 sits as the line drawn for the over/under, with both bets getting -110 odds at Bovada. Both of two games so far in this series have been right at the over/under, going over on each occasion. However, with the Heat focused on improved defense as the key to victory, this may be the one game that falls short of the mark for over total points bettors, so again take caution when deciding on this match-up tonight. Though risky, we’re putting our loot down taking the over wager once again, hoping for an exciting, high-scoring affair amidst a rockin’ and star-studded South Florida atmosphere.