Spurs and Heat Look to Advance to the Conference Finals

Nicolas Batum had the type of performance in game four the Blazers have needed.

Normally in this spot I’m lamenting yet another poor choice in the world of sports gambling but not today! I felt really confident about Miami winning game four and I said that LeBron James was due for a breakout performance.

What we got was exactly that as Miami rode the 49-point game from James on Monday night to take a 3-1 lead in the series and effectively put it away. I can’t tell you exactly how I felt that James was ready for a big night other than he just seemed ‘due.’

What I won’t mention in this spot is the fact that I completely missed on San Antonio who I was sure would wrap things up against Portland on Monday night. That didn’t happen but you didn’t hear it from me…. On to the games.

LeBron had 49 points but Chris Bosh hit the key shot to give Miami a 3-1 lead.

Brooklyn (+7) at Miami, Heat Leads 3-1 – While LeBron James tied his career playoff high with 49 points, it was a three-point shot by Chris Bosh that was ultimately the difference in the 102-96 win over the Nets. That’s no dis on James who assisted on the clutch shot but you have to give Bosh credit for draining the tough three from the corner.

Should Brooklyn go on to lose the series, they will look back on this one as the one that got away. The Nets were able to limit the Heat to just seven fast break points while beating them 44-42 in points in the paint. They also led in points off turnovers by a margin of 15-13.  The place where Brooklyn can really point to is shooting where they hit on just 43% of their shots and only 22% from three-point land.

The Nets will really need to improve in both of those areas if they are going to extend this series any further. I expect the Heat to close out this series in Miami tonight but a better performance from Dwyane Wade would help that cause. He was not god down the stretch on Monday.

Take Nets getting the seven points but I like Miami to advance.

Portland (+8) at San Antonio, Spurs Lead 3-1 – The good news for the Portland Trail Blazers is that they were able to stave off elimination on Monday night. The bad news is that the Spurs were able to rest both Tony Parker and Tim Duncan as neither played saw action in the fourth quarter. That might not sound like a big deal but at this point in the season, any rest that veterans can get is welcomed.

San Antonio was outscored 62-44 in the paint but one could argue that wasn’t the real issue. The Spurs also shot just 16% from three-point range on 3 of 18 shooting and then were nearly just as abysmal from the charity stripe going 11 of 19 for 57%. The irony there is that the Spurs were a perfect 25 of 25 from the foul line in game three.

Both Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge had very solid games on Monday but they received the type of help they’ve been looking for all series. Nicolas Batum had a double-double for the Blazers with 14 pints and 14 boards while Will Barton pumped in 17 off the bench.

In order for Portland to get this series back to Rip City for a game six, that type of balance will be necessary. For the Spurs, they had unusually poor games from several guys and I can’t see that happening again. While I expect the Blazers to put up a fight, take the Spurs to win and move on. I will even take them to cover in this game.